St Andrews – Section 10 | Day 5

St Andrews Rowing Club

A beach launch is the only option at low tide
St Andrews Harbour and the East Sands are the St Andrews’ Club home waters. As can be seen, the boats are stored right by the Inner Harbour. Providing the tide is right and the harbour gates are open, we can get out beyond the surf if necessary. Providing the conditions are OK, we can launch from the beach at any state of the tide. With a low tide, we get more exercise getting the boat to and from the launch!

Minding their heads moving between the inner and outer harbour!
Our embryonic club was able to purchase a kit, thanks primarily to the fundraising effort of Stephen Spackman. Nigel Ford, Martin Barkla and others built the boat in the upstairs room of the Sailing Club, for which we were very grateful, and was formally launched in April 2014 (Sandbay). The reputation, and as a result, the membership of the club grew, creating the need for a second boat. Kit 200 was launched in June 2016 (Blue Bay).

Bluebay, in its original livery, on the way to its launch and naming ceremony
Perhaps the most contentious decisions for the club’s founders was that of a colour scheme and a name! The colour scheme was a committee decision, with a strong input from the main builder, Nigel. The white hull, enhancing the elegance of its shape, and the blue shear strake, at the time, made it unique. The name Sandbay Century was the result of a competition by local junior schools. The club rows from a sandy bay and the boat kit was number 100.

Our second boat, Blue Bay, was the result of a members’ survey; the sand in the bay gets covered by the blue sea. As a result, the hull was painted blue. Although this was kit 200, adding Double Century would have made for too long a name.

Sandbay Century and Bluebay, sporting their original livery, in St Andrews outer harbour
As other clubs started to have white hulls, it was decided to go firm on a club livery of blue hull and white shear strake which, although no longer unique, works well.

To complete our ‘fleet’ we have a Wemyss, skiff, launched October 2018 (Puffin). Both Blue Bay and Puffin were built in a local garage that the club continues to use for maintenance and storage. Thanks to the Fife Coast & Countryside Trust we also have limited storage at the East Sands.

Due to the driving force of Julie and Clayton Hardisty, and with the support of members, the club has become enthusiastically involved with ‘adaptive rowing’. The aim is to give those with disabilities the opportunity to row and integrate into the club. With the support of the Harbour Trust, we have the use of a hoist when needed. Blue Bay was modified so that a supportive seat could be fitted when required. Our adaptive rowers have greatly assisted Julie in producing information on ‘adaptive rowing’ that will be available to all clubs. St Andrews University has also been instrumental in developing this project.

Sandbay Century and Bluebay in the established club livery, with St Andrews in the background
The Club has a very good relationship with the university; in fact, it was the Principal of the University who formally launched the Wemyss skiff. The event was timed to coincide with the town’s firework display at the harbour and had to be ‘modified’ due to unexpected police restrictions! The Principal was not fazed and performed the launch in style. Two members of our club, Nina and Jen, both researchers working at the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University, worked on a project, ‘Rowing the Waves’. They put in a lot of effort getting feedback from many clubs, as well as our own. Some of you might remember being grilled by them! The purpose of the project was to try and understand why Scottish Coastal Rowing took off in the way it did, (and continues to do so). One of the drivers for the success was a love of Scotland and community, whether they be born & bred locals or incomers, irrespective of nationality. It was also driven by its obvious appeal to middle aged females, as they are disproportionately represented as members. For further information, have a look at: Rowing the Waves website

Inclusiveness is an important tenet of our club and we aim to cater for the recreational rower as well as those who are competitive. It is working well, with each group supporting the other should the need arise. This is perhaps due to the common thread between the groups, that of, a love of the sea, fresh air, exercise, teamwork and companionship. This, we think, makes us more than just a rowing club. The ‘Worlds’ highlighted our ethos. The ‘over 60s’ crews were a mix of competitive and social rowers, all of whom wished to enjoy the experience of the event. The two groups, being retired, came together on a Friday morning between 10 and 12 and trained, albeit light-heartedly.

The session centred around a fun row that provided good exercise, followed by coffee and cake. The provision of the cake was on a rota basis and could be shop bought or home baked. If the weather was good, they would row and have coffee and cake, if poor weather, just coffee and cake. If sea conditions prevented the row, the coffee and cake would be preceded by an energetic row on the grass! In one session, eight lined up on the grass ‘rowing’ in unison, even the cox! It provided much entertainment to the passing public as well as themselves. Post the ‘Worlds’, the sessions have continued and any member of any age can come along.

Andrew monkeying around after a Friday row (Andy is the Safety Officer for RowAround – He’s the one in the monk’s habit)

To the memory of Martin Barkla – boat builder, social member and a gentleman

St Andrews to East Sands

OK when you can see them, but!
On leaving the West Sands and before we reach the castle, care must be taken to keep well clear of the rocks and skerries that project seawards from the cliffs.

St Andrews got its name, according to the legend, when some bones of St Andrew were brought to the town of Kilrymont in about the 8th century; subsequently the town’s name was changed. It is said that the relics were brought to the town by a bishop, St Rule (or Regulus), both names prominently associated with the town. The town became recognised as the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, with pilgrims coming to visit the shrine of St Andrew. This status ended with the reformation.

The Martyrs monument, seen from the sea
As well as being considered the home of golf, St Andrews is popular with tourists and has many attractions. As we continue our row, we pass the Golf Museum which is quickly followed by the Sea Life Centre, with its sea water pools housing the seals. Above the Sea Life Centre is the Martyrs Monument, erected to the memory of local reformation martyrs including Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart. One of the ‘sins’ against Papal rule committed by Patrick and George was to marry. For this, they were burnt at the stake. Some might say that marriage was punishment enough!

Rowing towards the harbour, the castle ruins come into view. There has been a castle on this site certainly since the end of the 12th Century. It became the residence of the Archbishops of St Andrews, one of whom, Cardinal David Beaton, was responsible for the execution of the protestants Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart mentioned earlier. However, in July 1546, he was to meet his own end at the hands of George’s friends who broke into the castle and killed him. During the Scottish Wars of Independence the castle was attacked, being held by the English on occasions and it needed to be rebuilt several times. The current ruins are based on the rebuild of 1400.

As the boats reach the entrance to the harbour, the cathedral is seen, dominated by St Rules Tower and its protective perimeter wall. Built in 1160 on the site of an existing church, the cathedral was at the time one of the most important in Europe, let alone Scotland. By the 17th century, post the reformation, the building was in ruins with some of its stone being used for the harbour and other buildings in the town.

By Royal Appointment?
Many of the buildings on the cliff top belong to the university, the oldest in Scotland and the third oldest in the UK, having received its Papal Bull in 1413. In term time, the students swell the town’s population by a third and it is still expanding. The university has had many well known alumni and visitors and, of course, it is where ‘William met Kate’! Sunday rowers from our club might see undergraduates as they walk the harbour pier in their distinctive red gowns.

As we row past the harbour pier, the East Sands and our club ‘home’ comes into view. After the baton is formally handed over, and both the Broughty Ferry and the St Andrews boats recovered from the water, the two clubs have the opportunity to socialise, all part of coastal rowing. With the drivers having consumed cups of tea and others something a little stronger, Broughty Ferry trailer their boats away and St Andrews prepare for the next day’s row.