Talking about Oars


 

I hope that this post won’t be too technical, but at least it could provide something to talk about if anyone is out on a first date in Anstruther, North Berwick or Ullapool, where oars are the talk of the steamie.

 

At the last AGM the membership of SCRA approved a motion to set up a group of builders and trial rowers with a view to moving towards a standard oar that perhaps might at some distant future date become compulsory for use in racing. Because people are fond of their individual designs and skiffies tend to cherish the slightly anarchic nature of coastal rowing the latter was maybe only a remote possibility.

 

The group recently reported and SCRA has now decided to recognise the general feeling against compulsion, with the result that two choices are now offered to clubs for each of oar length, construction, type of blade and oarlock system. Clubs are now invited to offer to make a new set of oars incorporating these variations and allow members from other clubs to visit and try them out.

 

Our club had already decided to make a new set of oars and been accepted as a “testing” club, so we can now go ahead.

 

Every one of the recommendations would produce a significant improvement in terms of efficiency and comfort over what most clubs have been using.

 

Regarding length, some clubs are sold on short oars and the recommendation would be for these to be 3.5 metres, which happens to be the length of our existing oars.

 

Longer oars would be 4.3 metres, 14 feet 1 ½ inches, which is a bit shorter than what some have been using, but gaining efficiency by positioning the pins on the inboard side of the gunwale by about 70 mm. In this event the stroke oar would be 4 metres, a foot shorter. Avoiding the extreme lengths in excess of fifteen feet, that some clubs have gone for, keeps the oars manageable and reasonably light.

 

Your committee feel that we should go for the longer length.

 

Regarding construction, the choices are an all softwood oar or a mix of softwood outboard and hardwood inboard. The latter is what we already use and produces oars that are better balanced and that would be our choice.

 

Blades can be flat or spooned, in the latter case to a specified design. Spoon blades seem to be more efficient, in that they scoop and hold water better, but this comes at the cost of being a bit more difficult to use, because you have to learn to lift them at the end of each stroke to avoid catching a crab! Because we row so often with relatively inexperienced people it seems better to stick with the flat blades we are used to.

 

Finally, regarding oarlock systems, the choices are between an improved version of what we already use, giving a more positive entry angle to the blade and better control, or an innovative new idea, with the oar slotting over a special pin with a round top. In either case the pin will be made from a tough acetal, rather than oak, greatly reducing friction. Our idea would be to stick with what we are used to and benefit from the acetal pin.

 

The plan is to go ahead with oar workshops as soon as we have acquired the timber needed. The sketch shows the basic design that we will be working to.

 

Isle of Mull Regatta – 6 and 7 September 2014 – Call for Rowers

Selkie and Eala Bhan in Tobermory
At the launching of Eala Bhan earlier this year.

 

The first Isle of Mull Skiff Regatta will take place in September and looks like providing a fantastic weekend of racing and just enjoying the magic of Tobermory. Selkie is duly entered and booked on the Oban to Craignure ferry departing at 11.55 on Friday 5th September, so she’ll be there anyway with a nucleus of rowers. There’s plenty of scope for more of us to take part and it will be great if we can field more than just one crew. 

Our friends on Mull visited our regatta in force and showed us a thing or two, so it will be great to return the favour.

To date Selkie and her people have competed at several events, in Ullapool (twice), Otter Ferry, Loch Vennacher and Loch Insch. Those of us who’ve been have always had a really good time and enjoyed real hospitality and kindness.  If you haven’t tried you really don’t know what you’ve been missing. Please use the booking section of this site to register your interest and allow us to give the Mulleachs some real competition! 

 

 

Toberonochy Open Day

Toberonochy June meeting 2We set off from the Pontoon just after midday and rowed down against tide and wind to Toberonochy, arriving about 1345, where we were greeted by a good percentage of the population and enjoyed cheery chat, burgers and tea.

We were challenged to a race against the two Luing skiffs, a nice triangular course out across the Sound and back, about 1 kilometre. Selkie came in first, followed by the big Shetlander and Hinba third. This could count as Selkie’s first actual win!

Toberonochy racephoto courtesy of Iain Robb

The return trip entailed a brisk row up through Ardinamir against a tide that ran like a little river, followed by a real skoosh out through Cuan and a gentle row behind a nice Southerly breeze. Back on pontoon by 1715 in time for Selkie’s evening excursion.  

Thoughts on the AGM

Four of us attended the meeting in Callander, not the best thing for the legs after our energetic day on the water. Full minutes will appear in due course on the SCRA website, so this is just a brief report with comments on matters that affect us on Seil.

The main thing that struck us in the Chairman’s report was the huge expansion in skiffing with there now being 24 clubs affiliated to SCRA, nearly 60 skiffs in Scotland and another 40 or so planned or building. Of interest to us are Tobermory with one or maybe two and Oban with maybe one, (although we haven’t heard anything from them for a while). Outside the meeting we heard that Luing are building, apparently following the successful charity row round the island.

Next year there could be a mid-Argyll regatta with eight or nine local skiffs plus visitors.

The Treasurer reported that SCRA is solvent, so the subscription stays at £60 per club.

The Committee will be co-opting a couple of new members including one from Argyll – details to follow.

The main business was consideration of the measurement rules. New rules will prevent imaginative builders producing an unfair advantage, perhaps at the expense of safety. I won’t record all the detail here, but happily Selkie is well within all the new tolerances, so we don’t need to alter her in any way.

Sensible amendments include allowing polypropylene for the keel rubbing strip, which we already have, also plastic or similar strips to reduce friction between oars and pins, which we should consider adding. They also clarify that our seat positions are legal, as is our rudder, although it’s not to the shape in the plans.

It was agreed that the expansion of the class means these must be more rigorously enforced and we were reminded that spoon and asymmetric oars are not allowed.

Metal oarlocks, footrests etc remain banned, showing that Scottish skiffing is building its own ethos that some may consider mildly eccentric.

I’ll write a further post with my views about what we should be doing this winter to improve our competitiveness, mainly addressing the oars and footrests.

Most important is to recruit some younger members, as half us rowing at Loch Venachar had bus passes. Here are some further images to let people know what they’re missing.

The Crowd before the startThe Crowd  againAnster ladiesChippy McNishCox RaySelkie ladies crewSelkie ladies in action

 

Measurement Rules

The SCRA Measurement Rules Sub-committee recently reported and comments are being sought on the main website here http://scottishcoastalrowing.org/2013/09/04/measurement-rules-update/#comments

You’ll see that at the AGM a number of questions will be put to the membership based on the report, with new rules to be drafted later once decisions on the principles have been made.

Enjoyment of our unique form of recreation depends on carefully preserving a blend of keeping the rowing safe, healthy and comfortable on the one hand and respecting the heritage which produced the skiffs and developing the St Ayles spirit and style on the other.

We can take part individually in the online discussion on the main website, but we should also be discussing the various issues locally, so that when they go to a vote we have a view that we are all happy with.  

Gill of Melfort is ready to go! Oban gets started!

Pic from above in shed

finished boat in shed

We’ve been invited to the official launch of Kilmelford’s Gill of Melfort to take place from the boatyard on Sunday 18 August at 1400. There’s a rumour that there may be a BBQ to celebrate the event.

Meantime on Wednesday at the Oban Sailing Club a dynamic group of Oban rowers agreed to set up the Oban Rowing Club and since then they’ve got a website established -: http://www.obanrowingclub.org.uk/

Let’s all spread the news about and help skiffing to really take off here.