Nineteen wooden rowing boats from Stornoway to Tyneside will take to the waters of the Moray Firth and battle it out in a bid to be crowned kings and queens of the waves. The Festival, now in its 19th year, takes place in the village of Portsoy on the North-east coast of Scotland and is the country's biggest celebration of maritime culture and heritage.

Skiffs

Roger Goodyear, chairman of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, says the coastal rowing races will provide one of the most exciting elements of the event programme. He adds, "This will be the third year that the Festival has staged a St Ayles skiff regatta, and the record numbers entered underlines the strength of the current coastal rowing resurgence.

"Coastal rowing is nothing like the modern public perception of rowing as a sport - these crews have no streamlined, lightweight boats and instead of a flat calm surface they have to contend with the unpredictable waves and swells of the open sea. It is an incredibly exciting sport to watch, and spectators will have some excellent vantage points around the harbour and the shoreline at Portsoy from which they can watch the action out at sea."

Coastal rowing was a popular pastime in Scottish communities in the early half of last century, with rival towns and villages often battling against each other in local regattas. However, the sport almost died out with the arrival of motorised boats and the decline in traditional industries which led to these communities becoming little more than commuter towns.

The Scottish Coastal Rowing Project was launched three years ago to help encourage communities to return to their roots. Groups come together to fund-raise around £3,000 to buy their own St Ayles skiff kit - a design commissioned from internationally renowned boat owner Iain Oughtred - which they then build themselves. The boats are used in a number of ways, from competitive sailing, to leisure rowing and as the focus for community events. Over 50 skiff kits have been sold to date.

Although 19 skiffs have registered to take part in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, each boat will be accompanied by several different crews as there are races for men, women, mixed teams and different age groups. There are classes for first year skiffs and more experienced crews and races will take place over a stunning 2km stretch of coastline before finishing at the historic 17th century Portsoy harbour.

Mr Goodyear adds, "It really is quite incredible how the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project seems to have captured the imagination of people up and down the country. The Festival has been a staunch supporter of the project since it was launched, so it is very fitting that it will play host to the country's biggest ever St Ayles skiff regatta.

"The Festival presents a great opportunity for communities to come together to celebrate the achievements of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project to date, and for communities interested in building their own skiff to learn from those who have been through the process."

The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival draws in excess of 16,000 people to the shores of Portsoy every year. The event attracts heritage vessels from far and wide, and has an extensive programme of events including displays of traditional boatbuilding and associated skills, a crafts marquee, music and dance performances, a food fayre and cookery demonstrations.

For further information about the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival visit www.scottishtraditionalboatfestival.org.uk Updates about this year's Festival are also on Facebook and Twitter - search for @STBFestival. An adult day ticket costs £8, children aged five to 18 and concessions are £5. Adult weekend tickets are priced at £12 and children and concessions at £8. There are also family tickets available which allow entry for two adults and three children for £25 for a day ticket and £35 for a weekend. Children under five go free and there is no charge for parking.

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