Blakeney Sailing Club builds skiff for world championship race

Coastal Rowing Association of Blakeney are making a St Ayles Skiff 'Hoi Larntan' boat to take part in the coastal rowing world championships from Ullapool in Scotland in July this year. Pictured, left to right, Ian Duffill, Adrian Taunton, Tom Green, Adrian Hodge and Andy Marczewski. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

It is a seafaring adventure which has brought together communities from around the world and allows amateurs to learn traditional boat building skills and enjoy coastal rowing.

And a group from Blakeney Sailing Club is getting involved with a hope of expanding the idea across other towns and villages in Norfolk.

At least 20 people have been involved in the Coastal Rowing Association of Blakeney project to build a 22-foot-long St Ayles skiff rowing boat from scratch.

It is hoped the plywood vessel, which is not yet built, will be complete by the end of May to take part in the four-day St Ayles World Championships off Ullapool, Scotland, in July,

Chief boat builder Ian Duffill, 67, from Thurning, said: 'I'm absolutely amazed how enthusiastic people have been. It is great fun. We are trying to take it seriously and we have got enough knowledge to get it right.'


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The group of volunteers first started building the boat - made on a plywood mould (main picture) - in November and is believed to be the first in the county to take up such a challenge.

It is being built in Mr Duffill's outbuilding and will cost £3,000 to complete.

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All the parts, including the mould, are made in a Scottish factory by computer laser technology and sent out as one kit with instructions.

When complete, the Blakeney group's boat will be called Hoi Larntan - named after an old Norfolk expression used by sailors who thought someone was acting superior to them.

'We are trying to get other volunteers to get involved in building their own St Ayles skiff,' Mr Duffill added.

During the world championships, four people with one oar will row the boat and a cox will sit at the back.

Races will cover a straight 2,000 metre course and about 50 groups will battle it out on the sea. All the boats need to be the same size.

Community groups involved will include amateur and experienced boat builders from Berwick-Upon-Tweed in Northumberland, Tasmania in Australia, Canada, Holland and the United States of America.

Mr Duffill, who used to race sailing dinghies, said: 'It is quite a nifty boat.'

Speaking about coastal rowing he added: 'There are waves and it is bumpy. It is a bit different from the rowing in the Oxford and Cambridge boat race because you don't have a sliding seat, you have a fixed seat. It is more sociable and you have more waves, tide and wind.'

Mr Duffill said building a skiff required the principles of traditional boat building but was simpler.

It is hoped that if more Norfolk groups build their own vessel a St Ayles skiff regatta can be held in the county.

'It is a bit of fun and gets people together,' Mr Duffill added.

Retired GP Adrian Hodge, 64, from Worthing, near Dereham, is one of the volunteers involved in the Hoi Larntan project.

He said: 'We are looking forward to getting the boat launched and seeing it on the water.'

It will be painted by the volunteers and will feature the blue and yellow colours of Blakeney Sailing Club.

The craze of building this kind of boat building started in 2009, following a demonstration project for the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Fife.

Nearly 100 kits have been sold since then and they have been built in community areas including church aisles from private money. Between 40 and 50 are currently in use around the world.

? To get involved in the project or row in the world championships ring Mr Duffill on 01263 862496 or visit http://crablakeney.wordpress.com.

For information about the world championships, visit www.scottishcoastalrowing.org or for information about Blakeney Sailing Club, visit www.blakeneysailing.co.uk.

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