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  • janenewaudby

Sildvik and us

Did I mention the rowing? The short(ish) version goes like this... In 2009, the Scottish Coastal rowing project was set up, to connect communities like us back to the water (no one uses boats anymore except for fisherman and the odd sailor like us). The project chose the St Ayles skiff for a rowing boat and it facilitates communities like ours to buy and build their own boats. In August 2016, Sheldaig launched its own rowing skiff. We call her Sildvik, which is old Norse for "Herring", which is also the meaning of our village name. Anyway, Sildvik launched 2 days before our own rowing regatta. Needless to say, we came last overall. At the fete the year after (while Jules and I was poddling back from the Arctic Circle), we did marginally better. In the Autumn of last year, something changed. A bunch of us mostly middle aged women decided to enter a couple of regattas. We discovered two things: Firstly, these heavy wooden boats are generally raced over 2 kilometers, which is an insane distance and our "training" had not really prepared us for that. Secondly, when we raced hard over a "sprint" distance, we discovered we were actually quite competitive..... We basically realised that we had potential. So this year we changed the training and "took it all seriously", if a bit apologetically. In July, we qualified for our first final at the Ullapool regatta, and although we were still mainly in the bottom section of the fleet, we were by no means last. We also watched the good teams, and learnt some more, and then modified our training again. Video analysis came to Shieldaig.... After so much hard work, I was really nervous about our regatta in August. Would we have improved again? Would all that training be for nothing? Our island course added to the drama because after the start and sprint to the end of the island, the skiffs disappear from view, and so noone on the beach can see how the teams are doing. They couldn't believe it when the decades ladies team popped out in second place, and so did the mixed team... We ended up fourth overall, missing out on 3rd by one point. Everyone was so very amazed and delighted, it was a magical feeling. The video is a edit from some of the races. We are the team in turquoise...

After all that, its fair to say the rowing has become a bit of an obsession.... I love having a reason to be fit, to be outside with friends, and to compete at something despite being a bit old. I really hope that next year we get better again (not competitive at all....). But I also hope we just carry on rowing. I have an actual dream that we can get a clubhouse, and more people and that the rowing club becomes another part of life here, for racing, for fun, for fitness and for community life. Its starting to happen If I am feeling down on a day, nothing lifts me like a row with the ladies. Always wise and wonderful and getting me to wind my neck in.... I feel very lucky.

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