Reigning champions and new challengers poised to battle the surf at the British Rowing Beach Sprint Championships
Competitors will gather at Exmouth Beach from 29-30 July to race in a series of fast-paced, adrenaline fueled knockout rounds of coastal rowing
The ‘wilder cousin’ of river rowing is back in Exmouth this year in what is shaping up to be an epic battle of wills and waves.
The format is deceptively simple. One rower from each crew will start with a sprint down the beach (anywhere between 10 and 50 metres, depending on the tide) and leap into their boat, setting off into the surf to complete a 250m slalom path around several buoys. They’ll spin around the final buoy, carve a straight path back to the beach and finish with a final sprint to the buzzer.
What can go wrong? With conditions to rival even the white horses of Holme Pierrepont on a windy day, any change in the waves can lead to being blown off course, turning the wrong way around a buoy or a significant distance to run at the end if you surf the wrong wave back to the beach. Strength and power are as important as they are in any rowing competition, but technical knowledge and experience of reading and reacting to changing conditions cannot be underestimated in Beach Sprints.
The qualification process is ruthless. The 8 fastest scullers from Saturday’s time trials will move onto the knockout rounds, progressing in brackets as winners battle winners until the final fight for silver and gold.
The British Rowing Beach Sprint Championships also acts as part of the selection process for the GB Beach Sprint and England Beach Sprint teams for international competitions later this season.
CO1x (Coastal Open Solos)
20 scullers will be competing in the coastal open solos category this year, with 12 going through on to Sunday’s knockout rounds.
Some big names will be back in action, with Fishguard and Goodwick Jemima RC’s Jerry Owen and Mumbles RC’s Bo Hughes moving into the solo after their stint in the GB Beach Sprint Team quad last year. Another one to watch is Stirling’s Gregor Hall, who finished fourth for GB in the World for Sprints in 2022 and won the Commonwealth Regatta in Namibia for Scotland. So far this season he’s taken gold at both the Welsh and English Beach Sprint regattas – with Glasgow RC’s Sam Scrimgeour (who took the Scottish title) missing from the solo roster in favour of the mixed double, Hall is sure to have his sights set on the top spot.
Other GB rowers include Hall Flowerdew (Tynemouth RC) who was pipped to the post by the silver medalist from Spain in last year’s European Beach Sprint Championships, Olympian Charles Cousins (Rob Roy RC) who took silver at the 2022 Worlds in a double with Clare Jamison and James Cox of Agecroft RC, who last year brought home a World Championships silver as GB’s junior open solo rower.
University of St Andrews RC lead the entries with four scullers in the mix, followed by London RC, Jersey RC and Thames RC, all with two horses in the race. For Thames RC, longtime coastal competitor Til Andreesen will be joined by newcomer to the format Joe Bright, who this summer was victorious at both Met Regatta and Henley Royal Regatta in the Thames RC first eight.
CO J18 1x (Coastal Junior Open Solos)
18 scullers will compete for the 8 knockout round spots, including English Beach Sprint Regatta U19 solo champion Joshua Port of Lancaster Royal Grammar School BC. Two clubs will be represented by two competitors – Reading RC and sculling powerhouse The Windsor Boys’ School BC.
CW 1x (Coastal Women’s Solos)
GB Rowing Team alumni Ruth Siddorn will be battling the waves for Upper Thames RC against 18 other scullers in this stacked category. Last year’s powerhouses Clare Jamison and Helen Glover are missing from this year’s line up, along with the rest of the 2022 event medalists, so it’s all to play for. Jersey RC’s Llaima Pacekajute was the fastest British woman at the World Rowing Coastal Championships in Wales last year, finishing 9th overall in the endurance format – it’ll be interesting to see what she brings to Sprints this year as she doubles up, also racing in the Coastal Mixed Double Sculls event.
European Beach Sprint Championships bronze medalist Rosa Thompson from Leander RC will also be going for gold this time around.
CW J18 1x (Coastal Junior Women’s Solos)
The junior category sees the return of Izzy Lancaster of Bradford ARC, who at last year’s World Championships raced with Elisabeth Sekinger in the Junior double and narrowly missed out on a bronze when a rogue wave caught the bow of the boat right at the water’s edge and sent both rowers overboard. Another veteran is Lea RC’s Evelyn Pakule, who raced for GB in the Mixed Double at Worlds and won the English Beach Sprint Regatta in May.
Summer Harlow, who placed fifth overall at the European Beach Sprint Championships 2022 will also be racing.
CMx 2x (Coastal Mixed Doubles)
A staggering 16 crews will compete for the mixed doubles medals, with only half progressing through to the knockout stage on Sunday.
World and European flat water champion Sam Scrimgeour of Glasgow RC will be racing with Leander’s Laura McKenzie, who competed for the GB Beach Sprint Team in the quad last season. Jersey RC boast four crews in the category, with longtime coastal rower and club vice-captain Gary Briggs taking to the water again in the B crew behind Pacekajute’s double. Previous GB teammates Charles Cousins (who took gold in this category with Clare Jamison last year) and Ruth Siddorn are doubling up on their racing this weekend, along with plenty of other competitors.
CMx J18 2x (Coastal J18 Mixed Doubles)
Our final category sees only two crews battling it out for gold. Izzy Lancaster of Bradford ARC is racing with Joshua Port, and Summer Harlow is racing again with City of Bristol RC’s Jonathan Martini.