The Highest Tide of the Year

 Salty Coo dunking - Oriel Marshall


       Rare opportunity to see river used as a navigational space for craft

On 13 September, the highest tide of the year, over 2000 spectators, up to 50 sailing boats and a Salty Cow are expected to converge on the banks of the River Nith in Dumfries for Nithraid –  an annual sailing race.

Designed and organised by The Stove Network artists’ collective, Nithraid celebrates the past, present and future role of the River Nith in the flourishing of Dumfries as the Regional Capital of South West Scotland.

‘The dangerous race’ starts at 1.15pm from Carsethorn on the Solway Firth 10 miles or so up the River Nith, and finishes at around 3.45pm at the Caul on the Whitesands in the heart of Dumfries. A newly commissioned temporary artwork will be installed to mark the finishing line.

Competitors must negotiate the currents and obstacles, including three low bridges, on their way up the river to transport their art cargo. The journey is only made possible by the influx of salt water brought up the channel by the high tide of the Autumn Equinox.

The boats will be welcomed by Doonhamers (people of Dumfries) with a carnival band playing specially commissioned music to accompany the Salty Cow in a festive processiondown to the water around the bridges.

The Salty Cow will be raised on a sculptural platform in the middle of the river to await the winning skipper who has the honour of releasing it into the water where its salty shell will dissolve.

Designed by artist Stan Bonnar, the cow has been out to pasture since last year’s event but has been herded back to regrow its salty coat and take swimming lessons in preparations for the 2014 race.

Mark Zygadlo, Stove member and the race organiser says: “The Nithraid is a really exciting event for sailors. It was conceived as a sailing dinghy race, but any form of boat, and any form of propulsion except engines, will be allowed. The race symbolises the historic role of the River Nith as a trade route and communication link between Dumfries and the rest of the world.”

Brand new for this year’s Nithraid is a street market and food stalls on the Whitesands where, amongst many other things, visitors can try their hand at metal casting, knot-tying, wall climbing, carrying babies in a nautical sling, a fire engine and fire boat, skateboarding and Roller Derby

Nithraid is completely free of charge and is supported by Nithsdale Area Committee, Creative Scotland, Holywood Trust, ‘In Our Town’ and  Local Businesses. The event would not be possible without the involvement of local people such as Nith Navigation Commissioners, Sleeping Giants, Doonhame Derby Dolls, skateboarders, Scouts, Sea Cadets and sailing clubs.

Explains Linda Mallett, member of The Stove’s Curatorial Team: “The river is sometimes viewed in a negative light due to regular flooding. It’s a situation that has gone on for about 30 years and the town’s riverside has been left neglected.

“Our feeling is that we should start working with what we have by encouraging people to use the space as it is now. We are doing this by demonstrating the enormous potential of the areas around the river as public spaces and the beauty and potential of the river itself.

“This will bring about grassroots improvements and momentum for how the space ultimately develops.”

The Boat Race starts at 1.15 from Carsethorn. Activities start at the Whitesands at 2.30 pm with boats expected to arrive by 3.45pm with the event wrapping up by 4.30pm.



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