Lottery helps rowing club launch second skiff

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A rowing club with an ex-submarine commander at its helm has won a lottery grant to launch a  second boat.

Thanks to a successful Lottery For All bid for £8,650, Kilchrenan, Inverinan and Dalavich (KIDs) Coastal Rowing Club hopes its new St Ayles skiff will be ready this summer.

It took former submariner Gordon Leveratt 800 hours to self-build Loch Awe’s first skiff Mingulay ‘as something to do’. The completed DIY project went on to inspire communities around Loch Awe to start their own rowing club.

The 72-year-old, who had command of nuclear and conventional submarines during his military career before becoming an itinerant evangelist, said the skiff project began when he fell in love with the St Ayles design and decided to have ago at building one himself.

‘It became a labour of love and after 800 hours I’d built Mingulay and people were asking me who was going to row it. It needed a crew so I advertised its launch and I was amazed when 40 people rolled up.

‘I didn’t know if it would float or capsize on the day. Being a submariner isn’t the best CV to build a boat! We ended up having two rowing sessions that afternoon and from then it was a natural progression to get people rowing together more often. People came from all along the loch and we started the club, hence our name KIDs, and from that we set up a constitution so we could get a bank account and raise funds to do more,’ said Mr Leveratt.

The club now has more than 20 members and is looking for more to come on board.

It put in four bids for funding to get its second boat. ‘One was turned down, the second was a winner with the Lottery and there are still two others outstanding, so fingers crossed,’ said Mr Leveratt.

Funds are still needed to buy an oars set and trailer for the new boat. There will be a sponsored loch swim in August and a big raffle at KIDs inaugural regatta at Dalavich next month welcoming skiffies from around Scotland.

Nine other skiffs from coastal rowing clubs countrywide, including neighbours Oban and Luing, will be taking part in what will be Loch Awe’s first regatta from April 26 to April 29.

The main event will be a 14-mile race on the Sunday from Dalavich to the Taychreggan Hotel on the north point and back. There will be parking and camping at the community centre and Dalavich Social Club, which is opening its doors and bar over that weekend for evening meals, a ceilidh and more music, is donating a race prize. The Wild Rowan Cafe will also be open every day for breakfasts, snacks and light lunches.

A social row on the loch near the community centre is planned for the Saturday when it is hoped participating clubs will run taster sessions for residents and visitors for a small donation.

Coastal rowing has taken off worldwide in the past few years with more than 70 clubs in Scotland alone and some 150 boats built by communities, including Seil’s Selkie.

The world championships will be at Stranraer in July and Mingulay will also be joining more than 100 boats, some coming from abroad, at the Castle to Finnieston Crane 13-mile race in September.

To find out more about KIDs or volunteering at the Loch Awe Adventure regatta, call 01866 833425 or email gordonleveratt@uwclub.net