Swift Racing NZ National Beach Sprint Champs, Nelson, 2023

beach sprints, NZ Rowing, NZ Beach Sprints Champs 2023

The “Keys Family” coxed quad

Bright and early on January 3, Tahunanui Beach in Nelson was all action. Members of the Nelson Rowing Club converged on the beach from 5.30am to pitch tents, rig coastal boats, set up a buoyed course and prepare for the third edition of the Swift Racing National Beach Sprint Champs.

Over 90 Competitors signed up, representing Clubs from all over NZ*. Participants covered all stages of the rowing journey, from novices through senior school rowers, Club, Elite and Masters rowers. Some entrants had experienced Beach Sprints before, either in Nelson or (in the case of some elites) at World Champs in Wales last October. For many other entrants, this was their first foray into Beach Sprint racing. (more photos below)

Nelson turned on a perfect day – warm, lightly overcast, calm, with a small wave at the shoreline. This was the qualifying regatta for the Bali Beach Games, to be held in August. The Bali Games will include mens and womens solos, and mixed doubles. Emma Twigg qualified for Bali at the World Beach Sprint Champs last October, but there were still spots available for NZ mens’ solo and mixed double, and for all three boats from Australia.

The 2023 event was the third time the Nelson Rowing Club and Swift Racing NZ have delivered National Beach Sprint Champs. Each year has evolved, getting ever closer to World Rowing format. This year featured digital timing equipment, including ‘stop’ buttons, so that each racer had to ‘hit the buzzer’ to stop their clock. That made for some exciting finishes as runners would dive for the line.

A full complement of NZ Registered Race Officials were in attendance, helping deliver a fair and safe event. Mark Weatherall, Community Manager of Rowing NZ, spent the day on the water driving an Umpire boat. Mark also attended the aftermatch, at the Nelson Rowing Club, and presented the medals. Each year the medals are special to this event – in fact this year they were not medals at all, but pet rocks – schist river rocks, local, labelled and unique.

Special thanks to Karmyn Ingram Photography, who travelled over from Picton for the event. Karmyn has put many beautiful images up on Facebook. TVNZ published a short segment about the regatta on the 6pm news on January 3.

Th*Clubs included Avon, Shirley Boys, Canterbury RC, Cure, St Margarets, Cashmere High School, Star, Waikato, Rowing NZ, Cambridge, Wairau, Picton, Hawkes Bay, Nelson.

coastal rowing turning, coastal doubles race, New zealand rowing

Mens masters double from Star Club

Beach Sprint Rowing, Masters Rowing New Zealand,

Star Club mixed double scull

Womens Masters Quad

Womens Masters Quad composite

coastal rowing turning, coastal singles race, buoy turn coastal, NZ Coastal Rowing

Womens masters singles race start

A 70km row from Awaroa to Nelson

A 70km row from Awaroa to Nelson celebrated two of the Nelson rowing community’s ‘remarkable men’ over the weekend. 

The Golden Edge Nelson Rowing Club hosted the first Myles Sellers Memorial Row on Saturday in honour of Nelson man Myles Sellers, who died last year. 

Myles’ wife Margarette says the day was emotional, but she and her two daughters are so thankful for the support of the community. She says Myles had a long involvement in the club as a rower going back to his school days and had represented the club at a national level. In more recent times he had reconnected with past rowing friends and had been coaching at the club. “For Myles, it was a way of encouraging people to do a sport that they perhaps thought that they couldn’t do, and giving back to the rowing community.” 

Nelson Rowing Club president Grant Wilson says Myles was an outstanding member of the Nelson Rowing Club.

“Rowing was in Myles’ blood. His great uncle was Darcy Hadfield, the first ever NZ Olympic medallist.”

Darcy won the bronze medal in the single scull in 1920 and subsequently went on to hold the Professional World Sculling Championship title.

“When Darcy was a schoolboy growing up at Awaroa, he would often row a 14ft clinker dinghy across 35 miles (56km) of Tasman Bay for a day out in Nelson, sparking the inspiration for Saturday’s event,” Grant says. “The rowing club saw this as a very fitting way to remember Myles by following in Darcy’s footsteps and starting the event from Darcy’s home in Awaroa.” 

The memorial row followed the coastline from Wilsons Abel Tasman Meadowbank Homestead at Awaroa with accessible crew changeovers at Kaiteriteri, Ruby Bay, Rabbit Island and then back to the Nelson Rowing Club. Two five-crew coastal rowing boats completed the journey with safety support boats. Margarette rowed two of the legs including heading back into Nelson from Rabbit Island. 

Grant says coastal rowing is a new part of the sport and the Coastal Rowing Revolution opens up new rowing experiences in the Te Tau Ihu region. The boats are wider and more stable than flat-water rowing boats which make it easier to learn how to row. It is also attracting past members back into the sport. 

“The club is thankful for the support of Myles’ family, members, past members and the team at Wilson’s Abel Tasman that enabled this event to happen,” Grant says. 

The rowing club is holding more events in the region and welcomes new members to experience the sport.

coastal rowing NZ, Nelson Rowing Club

Wildlife alongside the rowers

coastal rowing NZ, Nelson Rowing Club

Coastal views

rowing coastal, nelson rowing club

Moving away from the beach

coastal rowing nz, Nelson Rowing Club

Getting boated

coastal rowing new zealand, Nelson Rowing Club

The squad launch in the dawn light.

Coastal rowing NZ, Nelson Rowing Club,

Last one in’s a sissy!

Coastal Rowing Safety – capsizing

With winter approaching and solo (unaccompanied) rowing more prevalent in the off season it’s a good time to spark some thought around how safe you are out there.

This article concentrates on capsizing and lifejackets, as there has been considerable discussion in coastal rowing circles about this lately.

Water Safety is a big subject and it’s a warning and scary fact that we have just finished the worst summer for drownings in many years here in New Zealand.

coastal rowing turning, coastal singles race, buoy turn coastal

Coastal Rowing buoy turn

I have put together some images and links to a couple of short video clips to give some insight into the water safety issues of capsizing with rowing skiffs, in particular coastal rowing which usually happens in very challenging conditions as you can see.

With all the links hover your mouse on the link then press and hold the ctrl button down and left click on your mouse to open the link.

The first link below takes you to a quick video on how to turn your skiff up the right way and then try to get in from the High side or upwind side in the waves rather than the lower or “leeward side “The reason for including this is because you have a limited amount of attempts available to get back in before you are too tired so it’s a good hint to get on the High side. Also don’t forget a Coastal boat is higher out of the water than a fine boat.

Turning your boat over and getting back in on the upwind side in rough seas [short video]

The next video shows a clever rope with a collar attached [short video] to make it easier to grab your sculls when preparing to get back into your boat after a capsize. This really helps in a coastal boat because they are so wide. Clever and simple modification to assist with re gathering your sculls after a capsize

This video is about 16 minutes long but very very informative and a must watch for anyone intending to row unaccompanied (by a support/safety boat) regardless of whether you are into coastal rowing or flat water. So please watch it.

Rowing Life Jacket Capsize Review [Facebook video]

This clip is brief footage of the race around the island in Hong Kong harbour and just gives a little insight into how coastal sea conditions can just add that extra degree of danger. Hopefully having watched the previous video on putting a life jacket on and inflating it in flat clam conditions this should be sobering when considering whether you could do it in big seas.

Coastal Waters challenging conditions [short video] (why safety equipment matters)

Finally, the post below refers to the last Coastal World Champs and this link takes you to what happened. In every race the first leg started off a beach in a calm bay but the turn 1 buoy was out in a strong tidal stream and the competitors all struggled to steer upwind enough to clear the buoy causing multiple crashes and boat damage as everyone concertinered on the turn.

The comment about the number of times you can re attempt to get back in your boat is significant. If you have no experience of capsizing and getting back in you should not go rowing without a safety boat. The adrenaline rush from hitting the cold water after exercising hard will instantly disorientate you and unless you are prepared it could end very badly.

Hopefully this information is of some benefit and you can enjoy your rowing confident that in the event of a capsize it will just be an amusing story to share with friends afterwards!!

Whanganui 25km Coastal Row

COASTAL ROWING – WHANGANUI by Judy Shadbolt, St Georges Rowing Club

On Sunday 27 February, a 25km event was held in coastal boats commencing from the Union Rowing Club, Whanganui. The course was to follow the shoreline along the coast, however,
due to a strong south easterly wind it was decided to row a 12.5km course twice on the river instead.

Four coastal quads were filled with eager participants from various rowing clubs around the country – Whanganui, Nelson, Auckland and Taupo, all ready to rumble by 7am Sunday.
Sunrise was spectacular with a cool breeze already evident as quads were slipped into the water. We were also joined by 3 waka ama crews from down river, a welcome addition to the

The course took us under one bridge down river towards to the river mouth where the winds were fairly strong with a reasonable swell, and around a safety boat before heading back up
river with the return leg being against the tide and wind making for a challenging journey. By the time we reached the homeward stretch on the second round the wind had increased quite
dramatically, making the last leg fairly challenging. The water at the final turn towards the river mouth provided sea swells giving us a taste of west coast surf boating – on a smaller scale of
course, nevertheless a sense of what they would experience.

For some members, it was their first outing in a coastal boat and by all accounts, one they would repeat. Coastal rowing allows crews to row in more challenging conditions as the boats
are built to handle bigger seas and the experience is one not forgotten in a hurry.

On behalf of the clubs who were represented, we wish to thank Union RC for their organisation and we look forward to further similar events.

Coastal rowing,  Crew boating

Coastal Crew boating

Coastal rowing sunrise

Coastal rowing sunrise on Whanganui River

Coastal Rowing sunrise

Coastal Rowing crew getting boated

coastal rowing crew see the sights

Coastal rowing crew see the sights of Whanganui

Types of coastal rowing boat

I have provided a focus on the basic dimensions of the boats used in this type of rowing.

Because the sport is so new to New Zealand it is unlikely many will be aware of what the sport is, and the boat differences between Coastal and traditional flat-water rowing in New Zealand.

In many aspects Coastal Rowing assists several areas of rowing that have been a challenge for rowers in the learning pathway to racing/rowing flat water boats as well as bringing a unique flavour of its own. This is a bonus over and above its racing in a category of its own.

Novice Rowing

They provide an easy pathway for novices learning to row. Their extra width provides stability which allows much faster technique coaching.

For Masters they provide instant stability that assists those with limited flexibility.

Tour/Adventure Rowing

The boats are designed to be “unswampable” allowing for greater safety when engaging in rowing adventures, they also accommodate a much larger range of the population because of their large volume. It is very difficult to adequately boat people over 100kg average in flat water boats.

This has opened up a much larger range of “adventure” possibilities because the boats’ sea-keeping abilities have significantly improved from the previous designs.

World Rowing Coastal endurance and Beach sprint racing

Here the boats come into their own, as previously mentioned the large volume means racing is held in very rough conditions and adds to the excitement and complexity of being a fast coastal racer, without sacrificing safety. Not only do navigation skills come into play but the ability to catch and ride waves as well as strength and endurance play a part.

Below is a chart giving the basic differences in size and weight to flat water boats. The Oars and sculls used are by and large the same both in size and design and this is true for most of the fittings, shoes, foot stretchers etc. It is valid to note however that these boats are relatively new to the rowing family and significant development is ongoing to customise them within the rules.

Please note also that the World Rowing (FISA) rulebook goes into greater detail on the minimum width rule to eliminate narrow boats with wide decks from attempting to compete with an advantage. If you have aspirations to design your own boat, check the rules!!

compare coastal flat water rowing boats,

Rowing Boat weights comparing flat water and coastal rowing boat specifications.

As always if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch. greg@customcarbon.co.nz

This article first appeared in the Legion of Rowers newsletter