When you think about crew, you’ll probably conjure images of boats sweeping across the scenic waters of the River Thames, the Charles, or maybe even Sarasota’s own Nathan Benderson Park! Indeed, rowing is traditionally done on rivers or tailored, man-made waterways fit for the sport. But there is a variation that is quickly gaining popularity—coastal rowing.
What is it?
It’s all in the name. Instead of the restricted boundaries provided by an enclosed area of water, coastal rowing is done at sea. By “at sea”, we mean near the shoreline— open ocean rowing would be a bit too much. But even rowing close to the shore means that your boat is subject to the volatility of the ocean. In order to deal with the conditions, the boats themselves are typically lighter and faster than their flat water cousins. There are also several design changes that make them safer for the crew on board.
Is it new?
Yes and no. Boats meant for rowing at sea have been around for quite a while, and places like Spain and Scotland actually have a deep coastal rowing tradition. In many cases, these traditions are left over from a nation’s seafaring heritage. In Spain, for example, there are several types of boats that were initially designed for fishing, but have since been outfitted for racing on the open water.
However, organized competition is something that’s relatively modern. The first North American Open Water Rowing Championship was held in 2006. Across the pond, the Scottish held their first championships in 2013.
If you’re looking for the cutting edge in coastal rowing developments, France is the place to be. The well-engineered Yule is a near-perfect vessel for coastal rowing. It’s modeled after historic vessels from Northern Europe and Scotland, and has been adopted as the standard coastal rowing shell by FISA, the international governing body for rowing.