Coastal and ocean rowing

Coastal and ocean rowing

Coastal and ocean rowing is a type of rowing performed at sea. Due to the harsher conditions encountered, the boats are wider and more robust than those used on rivers and lakes.

International Competition

The sport of Coastal and Offshore Rowing is thriving across Europe, though at present most British sea rowing is "traditional" fixed seat rowing and competition is of a regional nature. France is leading the development of modern sliding seat sea going boats, "Yoles", and National Competition here is well established with FISA, the Worldwide regulatory body for rowing encouraging the expansion of the sport to other countries.

As the FISA World Coastal Rowing Challenge is becoming established the use of the French Yole is gaining in popularity and most European countries are beginning to adopt this standard class. From 2007 the competition will be renamed as the "FISA World Club Coastal Rowing Challenge" thus opening the event to all Club rowers without pre-qualification and acknowledging Coastal rowings very participatory nature. FISA is further committed to endorsing sea rowing traditions by encouraging rough water competition requiring seamanship and navigation skills in addition to fine technique.

North America

However, in North America the sport of "open water" rowing relies on typically longer, lighter and faster boats while sharing an emphasis on safety. Safety is ensured through the use of positive flotation, and self-bailing capacity, supplemented by rower's seamanship skills. North American boats do not conform to the minimum standards established by FISA, because they are too long and do not weigh enough. Open water racing in North America is very popular on theChesapeake Bay, in New England, California, and Washington. One very active open water rowing club is Sound Rowers and Paddlers, [ [ Sound Rowers ] ] and this club sponsors races from February until October around Puget Sound, Washington. Open water racing in the San Francisco area is supported by the Open Water Rowing Center in Sausalito, while ocean rowing in the Monterey Bay area is available through the Santa Cruz Rowing Club. The preeminent open water race in New England is the Blackburn Challenge and one may find monthly events on the Chesapeake Bay sponsored by a fast growing internet group called the Wave Rowers.

Since 2006. the North American Open Water Rowing Championship race has been contested at new locales each year. The first race was in Seattle, next at Cape Ann, Massachusetts, and then at San Francisco. The venue for 2009 will be announced during the Fall of 2008, and it is likely to return to the East Coast. This event brings together the best open water racers from across the continent to build among them a greater sense of community, to determine who's currently fastest, and to have a whole lot of fun together. Race reports, photos and results are posted at [ [] ] .

Great Britain and Ireland

The Cornish Pilot Gig Association is by far the largest British sea rowing group and preserves a tradition using both original and new boats made to a closely controlled specification. The CPGA has seen a huge continuing growth over the past decade or so and new boats are constantly being built to satisfy the demand. The Cornish Gig has been adopted by rowers in the Netherlands and there is a successful Gig club in Wales.

Celtic Sea rowers in Wales and Ireland have adopted modern designs of fixed seat boats, loosely based on the Irish Currach, [ [ Fáilte : Welcome to Naomhóga Chorcaí -Cork's currach rowing club ] ] which itself is still used by sea rowers in both countries.

The annual All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships involves up to 350 crews each year and is believed to be second in size only to the Cornish Pilot Gigs World Championships in the Scilly Isles. The Irish Coastal Rowing Federation [ [ Irish Rowing Irish Coastal Rowing Federation Rowing Ireland ] ] is the governing body for coastal rowing in Ireland. The Celtic Yawl boat, which was introduced in 2002, is used as a bridge to link the various Irish classes of boats from the East Coast skiffs, the Cork yawls, the Kerry four oars, Wexford/Slaney cotts to the Antrim gigs.

Other groups thrive throughout British coastal regions: from the Shetlands in the North, Whitby and Scarborough on the North Sea; Seine boat rowers on the Teign, to the Channel Islands where following some forty years of design development using plywood, they are importing superior pairs and singles washdeck fibreglass boats from France. Plywood quads, now double skinned, continue to be built in Guernsey as the French fibreglass designs are felt to be sluggish in comparison.2008 saw the production in Guernsey of carbon fibre doubles and a quad.The open "Welsh long boat" style craft introduced in the mid 70s has since the early 2000s evolved into a double skinned "washdeck" boat and now is the only design under construction. From 2006 FISA dimensions are followed in hull design.

Competition thrives, whether a League system, or "one off" Challenges. The convert|22|mi|nmi km|adj=on London Great River Race is the major British event for traditional boats attracting up to 350 crews, but there are many regular events throughout the long March to October season. A similar event takes place in Cork, Ireland every year, the Ocean to City [ [ Ocean to City | Are you up for it? 15 mile rowing race from crosshaven to cork city ] ] race is convert|15|nmi traversing Cork harbour. In 2006, 150 traditional boats completed the event.

The Welsh Sea Rowing Association, for instance, organises a total of 21 offshore and estuary events each year. These range from convert|5|mi|nmi km|adj=on league races to the convert|90|mi|nmi km|adj=on Celtic challenge rowing race, an epic Irish Sea crossing.

The annual Interceltic Watersports competition features, amongst other events, sea rowing using both traditional and modern craft. This has greatly helped in the development of open water competition amongst rowers from the ten Celtic nations and Welsh rowers now compete across Europe, representing Great Britain in France, Italy, and Spain.

Competitive sliding seat coastal rowing has taken place on the South coast of England since the late 19th century. It is regulated by two bodies, The Hants and Dorset Amateur Rowing Association [ [ Hants and Dorset Amateur Rowing Association] ] which regulates competition from Swanage to Southsea, and The Coast Amateur Rowing Association (Worthing to Herne Bay). Both bodies operate under the auspices of British Rowing's national governing body (the Amateur Rowing Association). In common with British flat water rowing, regattas are held in the summer months with races of around convert|2000|m|nmi, with longer processional head races held in the winter months in more sheltered river and estuary waters. The points system to categorise athletes is slightly different but compatible with the ARA's flat water points system, with the same separate statuses for sweep and sculling. Talented athletes from HDARA and CARA clubs have found their way into the ARA's national team programmes for flat water/ Olympic rowing, as the similarity in equipment used and race distance lends itself quite well to changing between the two disciplines. Most CARA and HDARA clubs have flat water boats as well as their coastal boats, and club members often also compete in river events.

Coastal boats used are coxed IVs, coxless Pairs and single sculls for championships, with Double Sculls and mixed crews used for non championship or fun events. All boats are wider than their river counterparts with higher freeboard to cope with coastal conditions. The fours are restricted to convert|30|ft in length (the dimensions of an old railway carriage which was used to transport the equipment before the use of cars and trailers) and the pairs to convert|22|ft|6|in. They have staggered seating to accommodate the rowers in the reduced length and spread the weight across the width of the boat for stability. The reduced dimensions of the boat also aid in the buoy turn, as unlike river races the start and finish points for these forms of coastal events are the same point and require a 180° "spin" around a marker (either a buoy, or a float with a flag on top called a 'dan'). Regatta races are typically conducted along the beach, round a buoy (one for each competitor, moored in a line), and back (convert|1000|m|nmi|abbr=on|disp=s both ways). Regatta locations vary from the rough and exposed, such as Bournemouth or Shanklin to the more sheltered, such as Southampton Water.


The sport of Open Water Rowing is in the early stages in Australia. The American model of lightweight Open Water boats is generally being adopted. Most Open Water rowing is done for recreation but competition will soon be established and the sport is expected to expand.
Surf boat rowing is very popular in Australia and New Zealand and to a lesser extent South Africa. Usually associated with Surf Life Saving clubs surf boat crews are trained in life saving skills as well as learning to be competent oarsman. The Australian form of the sport attracts wide media coverage and is often featured on mainstream sporting shows in the summer months. Surf boats are four-oared vessels with pointed bow and sterns. The boat is steered by a sweep who stands in the stern and uses an oar like rudder to control the boat. During competition surf crews start on the beach and row through the surf to then proceed to a certain number of turning points (often referred to as the can). Crews then race back to the beach. As the boat nears the beach oars are raised and the boat is literally surfed a shore. Surf boat races are conducted on a weekly basis through out the Australian summer. Hundreds of boat crews take part.


In this country there is a very vivid scene of "sloeproeien" which means rowing in lifeboats and Navy instruction longboats. This sport also means that traditional (original, old) boats are being preserved, restored and used in rowing races. As all boats are different, there is a system for correcting the time with a C-value to obtain more honest results.


* [ The World Rowing Network]

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