We will row 1,000 miles ‘virtually’

RowAround Scotland would have seen rowers take their skiff up the scenic Loch Shiel. Photograph: Jon Gerrard.

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Rowers planning an ambitious voyage to circumnavigate Scotland’s coast are taking the challenge online.

The coronavirus outbreak could have left the multi-staged quest high and dry but determined organisers of RowAround Scotland 2020 came up with the idea of doing it by cyber-circumnavigation instead.

Until the rowers can venture back out onto the water in real time in their St Ayles Skiff rowing boats, the collaborative coastal challenge will go ahead in virtual form.

The big event, to celebrate 10 years of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association and Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, was due to start this weekend and involve at least 1,000 rowers and 70 plus clubs, including Seil.

Sue Fenton from Seil Coastal Rowing Club is one of the event’s organisers.

She said: ‘Our Virtual RowAround Scotland 2020 is about creating an opportunity from a disappointment, as well as celebrating 10 years of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association and Scotland’s celebratory themed year in a different way. A beacon in a sea of uncertainty.

‘As coastal rowers, we are well primed to expect the unexpected and we are hopeful we can pick up the live voyage when the time is right. However, for now it’s about bringing communities together, sharing stories and trying to recreate that camaraderie of being all-at-sea together, through our dedicated website.’

Participants from each leg of the planned voyage, which was due to include communities spanning from Mull to Orkney, Anstruther, Findhorn, Wick, Wigtown Bay, Arran and Annan, are now being asked to share their memories, stories and archive photos of the landscapes they would have been rowing through online.

The content, which will also include stories on each of the crews and clubs, will be published on rowaround.scot over the next few months to keep the excitement, pride and community spirit flowing.

Based on a boat from Fair Isle used routinely for fishing and trips to nearby Shetland and Orkney, the St Ayles skiff, which has room for four rowers and a cox, is enjoying a comeback with people building their own to get together and get fit.

In July 2019, Scotland hosted the Skiffie World Championships in Stranraer which welcomed participants and spectators from across the globe.