Community Rowing to Feature at 2016 Wooden Boat Festival

by Peter Doyle

The Royal Geelong Yacht Club has announced that this year’s Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong will include the inaugural St Ayles Skiff regatta. The Regatta will be rowed by crews from  Geelong/Bellarine communities and interstate groups in boats from the Royal Freshwater Bay Sailing Club of Perth, ‘Women on Water’ and the Living Boat Trust in Tasmania, the Warrnambool St Ayles Skiff Community Rowing Club and the Welsh Church of Melbourne.  This event will be called the ‘Spirit of St Ayles Cup’ and will be held at the biennial Wooden Boat Festival and as a stand-alone regatta every other year.


Chris Williams, Commodore of the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, said that this initiative reflects the club’s early charter that rowing events would be part of every regatta. The club is aware of the emergence of community rowing in St Ayles Skiffs and that it could become an exciting convergence point for the many cultures and community groups of the greater Geelong region. The participation of many crews from Diversitat communities in the St Ayles races at the Wooden Boat Festival is an encouraging example. It is also becoming an important platform for the Geelong community to back to the fun of  "mucking around in boats”.


These beautiful St Ayles Skiffs rowing boats were designed in Scotland by Australian-born boat builder Iain Oughtred.  Their heritage lies with the people of the North Sea coast of Scotland so they are magnificent in any water: easy to row and taking waves from any quarter with barely a drop over the gunwales.  The building and racing of St Ayles Skiffs has become a real phenomenon around the world with its focus on community and cultural groups.  There are now nearly three hundred of these light, stable and safe sea boats with community groups throughout the U.K., North America, Australia and New Zealand - sixteen St Ayles Skiffs in Australian waters and twelve in New Zealand.


All are built by community groups of men and women who’ve had little or no experience in boat building but great enthusiasm for knocking around in boats with great friends!  Skiffs are built from glued plywood clinker kits that provide laser cut marine ply components and hull moulds but leave plenty of room for creativity in the timers for thwarts, gunwales, knees and oars giving every boat its own unique character and beauty. 


The St Ayles Skiff movement is generating great pride in build, warm friendships (plus more than a little fierce rivalry!).  It is all enormous fun and an exciting new meeting point for the many cultures and community groups of the greater Geelong region.


The Royal Geelong Yacht Club would be delighted to welcome all-comers to the Yanmar Wooden Boatshop Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong to have a row in a St Ayles Skiff on Saturday 12 March and encourages Geelong community groups to put crews together for the regatta.  (No experience necessary!!)


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