The Scottish Coastal Rowing Association was formed in 2010 with the backing of The Scottish Fisheries Museum to encourage coastal rowing and racing around the Scottish coast. The aim of the project is to provide a relatively inexpensive entry to the sport by using a design which can be built by the communities who will be rowing the boats, rather than buying completed boats from professional boat builders.
A boat was designed for the project by internationally renowned small boat designer Iain Oughtred. The design is based on the traditional Fair Isle Skiff and it is known as the St Ayles Skiff. The name comes from the former chapel which now forms the entrance to the Scottish Fisheries Museum.
The St Ayles Skiff is 22ft, with a beam of 5’8″. The standard Crew is four rowers, each with a single oar, and a coxswain. Other crew combinations are possible. St Ayles Skiffs will be built using the Clinker Ply method, which combines traditional and modern methods of construction. The basic principle of this project is that the boats to be raced should be available at as low a price as possible. The estimated cost of completion of one of these skiffs is around £3500.
Some basic woodworking skills are required, along with patience. For the most part, the types of tools usually found in an averagely equipped home workshop will be all that is necessary.
The project has been a huge success, and already there are 50 boats launched in the UK, and many more either being built or planned. The first St Ayles Skiff World Championships was held in Ullapool in July 2013 and boats entered from across the Uk and further afield (America, New Zealand, Tasmania and the Netherlands).
There are now a good selection of skiffs closer to home: Isle of Seil, Kilmelford, Lochgilphead, Islay … and hopefully more being planned. The Seil Coastal Rowing Club recently held their own regatta, and travelled to Ullapool for the World Championships.