World Rowing Coastal Championships success in Canada

Though conditions were calm, there was plenty of drama on the water with a beach start and buoy turns as crews competed in the World Rowing Coastal Championships at Victoria, Canada from 11-14 October


Racing at the World Rowing Coastal Championships (c) Mark Mitchell

Conditions were decidedly ‘uncoastal’ for the 500 rowers racing in the World Rowing Coastal Championships last weekend with shimmering flat water off the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, producing fast times. For the first time in the event, crews had a standing beach start adding an extra dimension to the racing.

British crews acquitted themselves well, reaching six out of the seven A finals after tight racing in Thursday and Friday’s heats. Crews had to navigate around five buoys, turning sharply round each one, while avoiding other boats and keeping their competitive line.

First up in the A finals was the women’s double sculls with new combination Federica Molinaro and Eleanora Denich taking the medal for Italy in the 2018 Championships. The British crew of Alison Morris and Awel Williams, representing the Welsh Sea Rowing Association (WSRA), finished 16th in a high quality field.

Jo Johnston from Dover RC was delighted to finish fourth in the B final, despite experiencing an equipment failure earlier on in the competition.

She added, “Great atmosphere, fantastic experience, the weather was idyllic but not the coastal rough we would have liked.”

London-based Tyrian Club crew represented British interest in the men’s quad sculls with Jess Johnson coxing Guillermo de la Casas Vasquez, Pete Wells, Rich Clarke and Charles Clarke. At the head of the pack, Italian crews were again on form, winning back-to-back gold medals with Monaco and France close behind.

Afterwards, de la Casas Vasquez, said, “We came here for the win, we’re gutted to have come away in eighth place but the end goal has always been next year’s championships.”

Racing in the women’s solo A final, Bryony Jones, (WSRA) finished 14th, in a high quality field led by 2017 world coastal champion Diana Dymchenko, who defended her title ahead of Netherlands and France.

With Olympic rowers Julien Bahain and Mitchel Steenman in the final of the men’s double sculls, the racing continued to be fast. In one of the tightest finishes, Bahain and Steenman managed to nudge ahead of crews from France and Spain to seal the win.

British Rowing Offshore champions Mark Mitchell and Olympian Tim Male, representing Bexhill RC, came in seventh with crews from Southsea RC and a composite from Thames RC and Abingdon RC bringing up the rear.

“The event was fantastic,” said Male afterwards. “The conditions were glorious if a little ‘uncoastal’ so more like a lake race.”

Mitchell added, “It was really exciting and standards have really stepped up with Olympic and current World Championship and U23 medallists having a go.

“The race for us went well.

“There were plenty of crashes between crews as they fought for the best line around the turns.

“We dug in to hold off France and Canada, sprinting for the line at 38spm for the final 500m straight. Getting seventh exceeded our goal of top 10, so we are happy. Exhausted but happy.”

With an average age of 20, Guy Elder and William Mahoney were making their debut at the coastal worlds. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan for the Southsea rowers as their rigger pin came loose in the A final.

“It was really exciting and standards have really stepped up with Olympic and current World Championship and U23 medallists having a go”

“We didn’t get to put in our best performance,” conceded Elder, “But it was great to be part of the event. Everyone was very nice and couldn’t do enough to help us.”

In the women’s coxed quad sculls, Russia, Spain and Monaco took honours before British interest resumed in the men’s solo A final, where Tyrian’s Francis Highton was delighted with his seventh position in a contest won by Peru’s Eduardo Linares Ruiz.

Highton said, “I am not an experienced coastal rower, so was not sure what to expect, but I loved the experience and the new challenges that I faced. The sharp turns around the buoy markers made it very exciting – you had to hope to get around cleaner and faster than other crews!

“The beach start was also new for me – starting out of the boat and on ‘go’ having to jump in. Always a tense few moments, as you hoped your seat stayed in the right place and you managed to get your feet strapped up!”

Introduced to the event this year, the mixed double sculls proved popular with 31 crews keen to try the new format, including Caity Morgan and Thomas Brain from WSRA, who finished tenth in Saturday’s final.

Dutch duo Mitchel Steenman and Janneke van der Meulen added the inaugural title to their earlier wins in the men’s double sculls and women’s solo classes.

Reflecting on the Championships, Highton said: “The whole event was incredibly well organised, especially the boat hire facilities. A lot of crews had travelled very far so this made it possible for them all to participate fully.”

B finalist solo rower James Salkeld from Jersey RC, added: “Vancouver Island is a beautiful place to race and the whole event was done incredibly well. The people of Sidney, in particular, were so friendly, welcoming and helpful and it was great to see so many locals spectating as well.”

For full results, click here.