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Rowing event hits East Sutherland


By Caroline McMorran

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An online, open-boat row to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association and also mark the Year of Coasts and Waters is about to make its way down the east coast

Lindsay Watt of Golspie Rowing Club.
Lindsay Watt of Golspie Rowing Club.

The Virtual RowAround Scotland (VRAS) is due to arrive at Wick tomorrow and will travel through Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross before a virtual relay baton is handed over to the next section of the route.

The association’s ambitious plans for a physical, non-competitive event, called Row Around Scotland, and involving all of its 70 coastal rowing clubs, had to be abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

A route round the coast had been mapped out with co-ordinators or ‘pilots’ appointed to each section. There were exciting plans for regattas, group rows and other celebrations at the various communities.

It was also hoped the row would showcase Scotland with the Scottish Tourist Board involved and rowers intending to carry Go-Pro cameras to capture the country’s coastal beauty.

A link had also been formed with the Oban based Scottish Association for Marine Science and rowers were to have undertaken water sampling and research into plastic pollution.

Dornoch based Lindsay Watt was appointed pilot for the Wick-Avoch section in which there are seven rowing clubs including two in Sutherland, at Helmsdale and Golspie. The retired off-shore worker has been a member of Golspie Rowing Club since 2017 and says he cannot get enough of the exhilarating sport.

He said: “Covid-19 has kiboshed everything. The Golspie Club had planned to attend eight regattas this year. It is just so unfortunate we cannot get out at the moment.

“Plans for Row Around Scotland were well advanced on paper but just all fell apart.”

However, it was agreed to salvage something of the event by moving it online with the idea being that the section pilots would post daily live commentaries, pictures and links as the row passed through their areas.

Virtual RowAround officially started on March 25 at Annan in Dumfries and Galloway and headed east before turning to travel up the west coast of Scotland on June 3. After reaching Ullapool, Lochinver and Kinlochbervie, it swung over to Lewis, but is currently negotiating the north coast before moving to Orkney.

Lindsay is all set to take over the virtual baton tomorrow. His section comprises more than 130 miles of coastline, covering three counties with miles of sandy beaches and even more miles of rugged mountain cliffs, with sea stacks and arches, caves, rocky beaches and almost inaccessible harbours.

In his introduction, which will go live on Saturday and lasts until the virtual baton is handed over to Ardersier on July 12, Mr Watt writes: “There are seven skiff clubs covering this section and as we go through the next 14 days each club will have their own stories to tell.

“I have asked all seven of the clubs to provide some stories, history and information about their respective clubs and I hope you enjoy looking at this virtual row.

“As we all go through this difficult time we find ourselves in I hope we can give you just a little taste of what the far north east of Scotland has to offer as we go through our Virtual Row Around and hopefully sometime soon we can all get back on the water to enjoy our mutual pastime.”

To access VRAS, visit: www.rowaround.scot/

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