On Saturday 18 May, Wormit Boating Club & Watersports Hub laid on the now-traditional Perth to Wormit Row, the Club’s contribution to the annual programme of regattas, and definitely Not A Race.  With the planned attendance of a wealth of visiting clubs, plus two of the home team’s skiffs and the welcome addition of transatlantic contender Scotland the Wave and her complement of femmes forte, all that was required – as usual – was for the weather to play ball.  Fortunately it did, and with a colourful gathering of skiffs at Perth Sailing Club under a blue sky, pennants fluttering in the light air and the Wormit skiffs’ dragon figureheads adding some extra oriental splendour to proceedings, the scene was set.  At twelve noon, precisely, a blast from the Perth race hooter announced the start of proceedings, with the flotilla setting course for Newburgh, seven miles and a range of navigational challenges away down-river.

Good initial progress was somewhat blunted by a stiffening easterly breeze on the bow, with the first few crews arriving at the Newburgh slip looking decidedly puffed. Nevertheless the sun continued to shine, skiffs were marshalled alongside and crews changed with a brisk efficiency, belying the reputation of the skiffing community as occasionally being a bit, well, faffy (though one or two crews did their best to keep the tradition alive; they know who they are).  By now the easterly had decided to make its presence felt, with less seasoned rowers having to dig deep to supress some understandable anxiety at a longish pull – nine miles – and in challenging conditions, downstream to Balmerino; the reassuring presence of safety RIBs Patrol and Vigilant and their salty old seafarer crews keeping a beady eye on proceedings was welcomed by all, as they cut about the now quite extended flock of skiffs like noisy sheepdogs, encouraging stragglers and guiding the leading boats away from the sandbanks now being revealed by the ebbing tide.

On past Flisk Point and Birkhill Point the skiffs rowed in a short chop, demonstrating their renowned seakeeping properties and making good time, arriving in good order at Balmerino with its little huddle of cottages and friendly locals.  Here they were greeted by warm sunshine and, on the grassy brae, the sight of new crews undertaking intensive final preparations for the last leg to Wormit.  To the untrained eye this might have looked like some folk lazing around in the sun, but as skiffies – fine athletes all – know, it’s all about getting focused, getting into the zone, or at least getting into the boat.

With the expanse of shingle foreshore increasing by the minute, crews were quick to embark, heading off into the thickening Haar and the passage down the widening Tay, under the High Girders of the famous railway bridge and on to the welcome sight of Wormit’s slipway and a reception party of yet more reassuringly salty old seadogs.  Skiffs and RiBs safely wrangled back (thanks to the gift of duct tape and black marker pens) onto the right trailers, rowers, helpers, supporters and kith and kin various repaired to the Clubhouse to make the most of the fabulous spread produced by the home team’s doughty galley crew and for the all-important comparing of tales: of sandbanks avoided, just; of wildlife spotted; of a cheeky RiB tow here and there; and of a challenge met, an achievement, er, achieved, and overall a jolly good day. And most definitely Not A Race.

Thanks are due to all of Wormit’s Club members who helped to make all this happen, serving up delicious food, directing operations ashore, delivering crews to the right place at the right time, manning safety boats, recording the event, putting up bunting (if there’s bunting, all will be well), and generally contributing their time and effort. Grateful thanks, too, go to Perth Sailing Club, for once again making a vital contribution.  But no participants, no event, and most of all, thanks are owed to all those, representing Broughty, Dundee, Elie/St Monans/Crail, Kinghorn, Loch Tay, North Queensferry, Portobello, Perth, St Andrews and Anstruther, plus the intrepid transatlantic crew, all of whom travelled from near and far to be part of the day: and all of them demonstrating in fistfuls the enthusiasm, endless good humour, kinship and alacrity of which the skiffing community is justly proud: hearty congratulations to one and all.