Coastal scullers seek sun, sea, sand and success in Devon
86 crews are due to compete at the 2023 British Rowing Offshore Championships in Exmouth from 28-29 July
If you’ve not seen coastal endurance events before – 4k or 6k races with a beach start and a ‘sea finish’ – then think head racing combined with orienteering and then add in the thrills and potential spills of a Formula 1 start and first corner. Oh, and don’t forget the added jeopardy of unpredictable waves, which racing drivers don’t need to worry about!
Despite the challenges of steering backwards around a marked course, the coxless events are once again by far the most popular, with 17 Open and 15 Women’s entries in the solos (which will require eliminators as well as finals), and eight Open, nine Women’s and 10 Mixed doubles. Eliminators use a 4k course, while finals are raced over a different, 6k course, challenging competitors’ navigation skills further. Open solos to watch include Paul Coutanche of Jersey RC, last year’s bronze medalist, as well as Bo Hughes and Charles Cousins, both from the 2022 GB Beach Sprint Team and now racing for Mumbles RC. The Women’s solo event is more wide open with none of last year’s medalists returning.
In the coxed quads this year, as well as Open, Women’s and Mixed senior and Masters D (for crews with average age of 50+) events, there’s also a new event for Mixed Ability crews, run under British Rowing’s AR3-PD – Adaptive Rower (Sliding Seat – Physical Disability) category. This has attracted three entries and will be raced over 4k.
In total, 86 crews have entered the Championships, up from 78 who raced in 2022. The competitors come from coastal as well as inland clubs all around the UK, the Channel Islands and even the Czech Republic (represented by regular competitor Vítězslav Huja of VK Slavia Praha in the Open coastal solo). As usual, there’s a large contingent from Jersey RC, as well as multiple crews from Coastal Barbarians RC, the University of St Andrews, Mayflower Offshore RC, Coastal Rowing Academy and numerous Welsh clubs plus local hosts Exmouth RC. Clubs traditionally associated with classic rowing who have embraced ‘rowing’s wilder cousin’ include Thames RC, Henley RC, Lea RC and Ardingly RC.
British Rowing Events Manager James Lee said, “We’re really pleased to see coastal sculling continue to build momentum after we hosted the World Rowing Coastal Championships at Saundersfoot Harbour, in Wales last year, and the fresh breeze that’s forecast for this weekend looks set to provide some lively racing, which should be fun for both competitors and spectators.”
Racing is scheduled to run from 11am to 4pm on Friday, 28 July and from 9am-12pm on Saturday, 29 July. Racing will then begin that afternoon in the shorter format British Rowing Beach Sprint Championships, which will run to 2.30pm on Sunday, 30 July.
Spectators are welcome all weekend, with access free to all. If you can’t make it to the beach, you can keep up with the results here on the British Rowing website and on our socials.