SCRA Freshwater Sprints – 28 October 2022

Even before the sun had made it over the surrounding hills, the sound of final preparations for the SCRA Freshwater Sprints 2022 drifted across the glassy surface of the loch; the noise of an outboard, muffled by the mist rising from the water, indicated that final adjustments were being made to the buoys marking the day’s racing course.  Early risers from Loch Tummel Sailing Club, generously hosting the event, were already busy with breakfast banjos, the smell of cooking bacon acting as an irresistible magnet for non-veggie skiffies from across Scotland as they began arriving for the day’s competition, the Sprints serving the dual purpose of marking the conclusion of SCRA’s formal regatta season and encouraging maximum participation for the Association’s Annual General Meeting.

This year’s event again featured a full programme of sprints, plus picnic boat races and longer distance races, with five regional teams, South West, North & West, North East, Fife and South East, competing for honours. Each region used a boat kindly provided by a club from within that region, providing lots of opportunities for participants to row with skiffies from other clubs and to cox scratch crews in unfamiliar boats.  WBC Catalina Rowing’s  elite (!) participants were in the Fife contingent which, under the reassuring captaincy of Kinghorn’s Chris Mitchell, was fortunate to have Loch Tay offering up the beautiful Red-Haired Lass for team skiff duties.  Throughout the day, her eponymous livery cut a crimson dash in an already colourful field, with skiffs Teal, Boatie Blest, Arthur Nicholl and Spirit of Ashton completing the runners and riders.

With races scheduled every 20 minutes throughout the day there was lots of purposeful striding about and jumping into boats, immediately rowing straight to the start – who needs a warm up when the race itself will soon get you warmed up? – while at the same time confirming the game plan and getting under starter’s orders. Phew! To add to the fun, the majority of umpires on the day were fresh from their umpire training the previous evening, and whether afloat in the safety boats, at the start line or in race control, were busy consolidating what they had learned while keeping in mind the umpires’ Big Three – Safety, Fairness and Enjoyment, easier to remember than to apply when rowers and coxes covered the full experience spectrum, from been-there-got-the-t-shirt old salts to nervous newbies; quite a challenge.

The racing itself was fast, furious and incident-packed, with oars occasionally clashing on the turns and once or twice boats finding themselves in adjacent lanes; plenty for the new umpires to get their teeth into.  The Fife Team put up a good showing with several 2nd and 3rd placings, but not quite enough to overly trouble the leader board, where the overall winners, North & West, managed to push North East into second place. Fife came in a creditable 4th, with Red-Haired Lass getting closest to the medal table in the long distance mixed open race, the final event of the day.  Overall it was a great fixture, well organised, superbly catered, full of activity, challenge and, most importantly, fun for all. Roll on next year!