Blakeney folks build the UK’s southern-most St Ayles skiff

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Photos by Ian Duffill

A rowing club set up under the aegis of Blakeney Sailing Club is well on the way to completing the UK’s most southerly St Ayles rowing skiff for racing under oars. Read about the smart-looking build here.

The Scottish Coastal Rowing movement imagined and then realised by kit manufacturer and boat builder Alec Jordan and Iain Oughtred, who designed the seaworthy four-oared plus cox, fixed-seat boat St Ayles skiff, continues to amaze with its success. For one thing, it has been remarkably popular – the number of kits sold for these good-sized community-built racing skiffs this month topped 100.

We’ve seen these boats built in other countries – there are now St Ayles skiff kit suppliers in the Netherlands, the Antipodes, and North America – but there’s something a bit special and unexpected about the movement extending itself to Norfolk.

The story of how it happened begins in 2012, when Dr Victoria Holliday, an avid and competitive sculler persuaded Blakeney Sailing Club to run an early morning race for a collection of sculling boats kept in the club’s boat park. It was evidently a success – more races were held, and, encouraged by the club led by Commodore Joe Carr,  CraBlakeney (Coastal Rowing Association Blakeney) has been formed under the sailing club’s umbrella.

The question of what the local coastal rowing history and traditions of  North Norfolk, but few answers were forthcoming, and the idea of building a St Ayles skiff and taking part in the Scottish Coastal Rowing movement came to the fore.

Dinghy sailor and would-be rower Ian Duffill joined forces with Victoria Holliday to sponsor a kit from Alec Jordan, and this has taken shape over the past five months in Ian’s workshop, where an enthusiastic group of 20 or so volunteers, mainly drawn from the sailing club are aiming to launch the boat on the 25th May, to exhibit her at the Beale Park Boat Show near Reading in June, and to take part in the Skiff World Championships at Ullapool in July.

The skiff has been named Hoi Larntan, a Norfolk dialect phrase used by seafarers to indicate a boat or skipper of superior quality. It’s also an example of the local taste for punning names – it also means ‘high lantern’ or ‘high learned one’.

After the skiffies’ world championship at Ullapool she will back at at Blakeney to be used for exercise and recreation.

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Photos by Ian Ruston

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