On Water

Coastal Rowing

Traditional boat-building and coastal rowing in St Ayles Skiffs


In 2014, a project aiming to revive traditional boat-building and coastal rowing in St Ayles Skiffs was brought to the Strangford and Lecale AONB by the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership working with the PSNI.

This project was supported by the Down Rural Area Partnership, as part of a wider effort to regenerate communities through their maritime heritage.

Coastal rowing in this area has been a phenomenal success with 9 clubs established; many of whom have gone on to build more boats as their membership and active participation has grown with some clubs having built a second boat, and both junior and senior members rowing. Although each club is independent and all active in their own ways, they come together through a Rowing Association. The Down Coastal Rowing Association (DCRA) was founded in 2015, as the representative body of the affiliated coastal rowing clubs within County Down and is, itself, affiliated to the Irish Coastal Rowing Federation. The DCRA promotes the building and use of coastal rowing boats and stimulates healthy competition between communities and clubs by means of races, regattas and other organised events.

The Down Coastal Rowing Project was funded by the Down Rural Area Partnership (DRAP) as part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas and supported by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Newry , Mourne and Down District Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council. 

There are local clubs in Killyleagh, Donaghadee, Portavogie, Portaferry, Kircubbin, Sketrick, Strangford, Ardglass, and Dundrum. All of the clubs are membership based and actively seek and welcome new recruits. Members are mostly active as participating rowers, some are involved as race organisers and support, fundraisers, safety and welfare officers et al.  They would love to hear from potential new members!. 


Skiffy World Championships

SLLP secured and organised the 2016 Skiffie Worlds championships, for Strangford Lough, working closely with the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association. The event was backed by Newry , Mourne and Down District Council who hope to establish an annual event at Delamont Country Park. Amazingly Dundrum were the overall championships beating well established teams from all over the world including Scotland, Tasmania , the Netherlands and Canada.  

SLLP also organised the first regatta on Strangford Lough in 2013 won by Killyleagh CRC. This became established as the  “Narrows Challenges” and now runs as an annual event .   

In summer 2019 local clubs from Dundrum, Sketrick, Strangford, Portaferry and Killyleagh travelled to Stranraer, Scotland with their skiffs for the three yearly world championships, with great success!
At the end of the week three of these clubs finished in the top five, with Dundrum came home overall winners and World Champions for a second time winning the points competition and beating fellow Down club Sketrick into second place and Strangford (who had amassed the second highest overall points tally) into fifth.
Dundrum won a fantastic 6 gold medals in various race categories, Strangford won 2 and Sketrick won 3. And these are just the gold medal winners, there were many silver and bronze medals won by local clubs too!


All of the clubs offer access to rowing which is organised throughout the year, mostly at weekends although with the longer daylight periods boats can be seen training in the evenings also. Facilities supporting the boats does vary with some clubs associated with sailing clubs [Strangford, Kircubbin and Ardglass ] while others operating very independently. All the boats are trailered and kept on land when not in use. 

Area of Activity 

Each club has its own “home port” and community from which they operate but all would attract a membership and support from beyond their base. To date the boats extend from Belfast Louigh, Outer Ards Coast, Strangford Lough and Lecale. Regattas and racing takes all of the boats beyond home shores. 

Additional information

Good Practice & Safety

Good practices and safety protocols

Are followed in a variety of ways. With regard to boat and crew safety “designated officers” or coxwains are trained and supported in directing the use of the boats on the water. Due regard to weather, wind, tide, current and ability of each crew is the responsibility of the cox who would helm each rowing use. Buoyancy aids and radio/phone communication are integral to each rowing event. The welfare of young or vulnerable persons is supported through designated “welfare officers” with appropriate monitoring and reporting procedures in place. An outside body – the Sports Council[NI] provide a “Club Mark” assesssment for each club’s protocols and procedures for welfare and safety.

Race events are all organised using very experienced race organisers who typically have a Yacht-sail boat race pedigree. National Coastal Rowing Association rules and standards are applied to the setting up of rowing race courses and the rules of competition.

All of the rowing clubs get involved with the transportation of their boats on trailers between “home port” and other venues for the purposes of regatta race competitions, or in some cases simply a change of location for recreation or training. Aware of the potential to spread invasive species or contagion between different water bodies the boats and trailers undergo wash-down to avoid this problem. 

Standards support through  Accreditation Schemes  “Club Mark”

The affiliated rowing clubs have adopted good practice standards working with Sport NI and a range of Governing Bodies of Sport and Local Authorities to deliver this sports club accreditation programme. The programme aims to identify, develop, accredit and recognise high quality sports clubs and the contribution that they make to the development of sport in Northern Ireland.

Clubs, Opportunities, Disability Access

Many of the clubs are looking for new members and hold “taster” or “have a go” sessions. To find out more contact the individual clubs on the contact details below.

List of Clubs

Ardglass Boat Building Association ‘ABBA’. contact William Mulhall on or call him on 028 4484 1301

Donaghadee Coastal Rowing Club contact Kate McNeill on 07817333789 or     They have a facebook page here.

Dundrum Coastal Rowing Club contact Stephen Armstrong on 07976 133 532 or email him on  Check them out on FaceBook here

Killyleagh Skiff Rowing Club – Dougie Marr on 07860 891399 or email  Check them out on FaceBook here.

Black Neb Rowing Club, Kircubbin please contact Lynn Andrews on or call her on 0788 6249 429

Portaferry Rowing Club by contacting Maura Bettes 07894998809 or  Check them out on Facebook here

Strangford Coastal Rowing Club  James Elliott on 0797 4724 756 or email   Check out their Facebook Page here.

Down Coastal Rowing Association – Contact Len Lawson on

Portavogie Coastal Rowing Club

The list shows each club name and is indicative of the boats “home port. ” The membership is more often based out of the local community but all would attract support from beyond their base. Although the rowing activity is mainly specific to each local area which comprises Belfast Lough, Outer Ards Coast, Strangford Lough and Lecale,  regattas and racing takes all of the boats beyond home shores. Competitions have attracted the Saint Ayles Skiffs to Counties Cork and Galway, Clyde[Scotland]

Provision for Disability Access

Access to and participation in the rowing is available to all with due regard to any constraints of boat access. There is a lifting device provided through the Strangford Lough & Lecale Partnership which is allocated to regattas and similar events.

Care for our Coast

As part of their ethos the rowing clubs are sensitive to the natural environment which gives them their coastal playground. The choice of routes rowed both informally and formal race courses will take in to account any local issues regarding wildlife. Approaches to island bird nesting colonies, seal haul out sites are examples of where care would be taken with the routes rowed.