On Saturday 26th June a team of rowers from Clwb Rhwyfo Porthmadog headed to Pembrokeshire for one of the most exciting races of the season – the Ramsey Island race, organised by Porthgain rowing club.
This was the first time Porthmadog rowing club had taken part in this 7 1/2-mile race, which leaves Whitesands Bay near Saint Davids, circumnavigates Ramsey Island and returns to the bay. The weather conditions couldn’t have been better this weekend, with perfect sunshine and a Force Three southerly wind. The race started at 3 pm to take advantage of the incoming tide, with 21 boats on the start line – 18 Celtic longboats, 2 Cornish gigs and 1 yole. Porthmadog entered a Mixed crew, with two men, two ladies and a cox.
All boats first headed south from the beach to St John’s Point, where coxes had to navigate the rocks and choose the best line to hopefully pull ahead of the rest of the fleet. The Porthmadog Mixed crew had a strong start, quickly drawing away from the other Mixed and Ladies’ crews and even overtaking two Men’s boats within the first ten minutes of the race, before drawing level with Porthgain Men who were rowing in a Cornish gig and had six rowers.
Porthmadog entered some slow water when navigating the Bitch and Pups and Horse Rocks on the eastern side of the island, quickly learning that local knowledge would prove a big advantage in these complex waters. Despite Porthgain Men having taken a better line approaching the southern end of the island, Porthmadog gave a big push to pull ahead again before the most notorious section of the race, the Twll. Here, all boats have to pass in single file through a narrow channel between Ramsey and the rocky islets to the south. The channel is only wide enough for one boat, with tall cliffs home to nesting sea birds towering either side. As crews pull out of the Twll, a stopper wave presents a further challenge for both coxes and rowers.
Porthmadog navigated the hazards well, overtaking Tenby Men just west of the Twll. The Porthgain gig quickly managed to pass both Tenby and Porthmadog once through the Twll. Although frustrating, this actually gave the Port Mixed crew a considerable advantage, as our cox was able to use the other crew’s local knowledge of the water and race and follow the line the Porthgain boat took very close to the rocks on the west side of the island, while other crews stayed further out to sea.
This enabled Porthmadog to overtake Llanion Men who had held them off until this stage and also gain a lot of ground on the second Men’s Celtic in the fleet, Newquay. Our crew stayed strong to the finish, finally crossing the line after 1 hour, 11 minutes and 44 seconds as the first Mixed crew to complete the course, third Celtic longboat (beating four other Men’s crews and just twenty seconds behind the Newquay Men) and fifth boat in the fleet overall.
Llangwm Men took home the trophy, completing the course in 1:08:25, with Llangwm Ladies also taking home the ladies’ trophy. The final boat in the fleet was a Newquay crew, which took 1 hour and 27 minutes to complete this exciting and demanding course.
Congratulations to Cox Simon Pendrell and rowers Sarah Medcalf, Pete Hughes, Mark Hobley and Elaine Hackett on their achievement.