St Ayles Skiffs to compete in the Yanmar Wooden Boatshop Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong

by Peter Doyle

The St Ayles phenomenon has surprised everyone since they first took to the water in 2009.  Based directly on Scottish off-shore fishing boats of last century, these boats are not only beautiful to look at but they are amazingly stable and fast – even in very rough water.   They have been raced in high winds off the beach through 1m shore breaks and over a course with 5m swells with the only water on board being from the spray off the wave crests and the crew’s wet feet!  These characteristics encourage a friendly regatta style where boat owners make their boats available to scratch crews who’ve often never rowed or even been in a boat before and who simply register to race!

At the time of writing, there are well over 200 skiffs launched across the UK, the USA, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and New Zealand over the past ten years.  Nearly 100 more are under construction in these countries with skiffs now being built in Spain and France.  Our AUS/NZ fleet is growing like Celtic wild fire with five more now building in Australia, taking our AUS/NZ total to well over twenty boats.  

Easy to build from a locally-supplied stitch-and-glue kit, St Ayles Skiffs are typically built by community groups and charity interests who often have little boat building experience and are equally often women.  The build process seems to galvanise their builders around an exciting and enriching project that pulls their own cause together and leads to development of close relationships and friendly competition across continents and oceans.

The dawn of St Ayles Skiff racing on Corio Bay will be an exciting new spectacle for the Geelong.



Such has been the success of the design, and the enthusiasm of the people rowing them, that the first “Skiffie Worlds” took place in Ullapool in July 2013. There were 30 skiffs present, with rowers from the USA, Australia, the Netherlands, as well as England and Scotland.

Why the popularity?

There are a lot of different reasons why the St Ayles has become so popular in such a short time.

  • She is a beautiful design which seems to call, “Row Me” to everyone who sees one!
  • The cost is very attractive with the typical build cost around $8,000.
  • Stable and dry.  The St Ayles is a very stable boat.  They have been raced in Force 6 winds, with 4 ft waves over 13ft swells, and the only water that came in was from the spray off the wave crests!
  • Light weight.  Most St Ayles weigh in at around 155kg.  They have been built to a lighter weight.  At this weight, a St Ayles can be easily lifted on to a trailer or trolley.
  • A crew of five.  When you have a crew made up of working adults, it can be difficult enough to coordinate five people for a practise session.  Five is a lot easier than the seven of some other coastal boats.


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