A group of Nova Scotia rowers tested the waters at the Lunenburg Yacht Club this weekend, racing in their very first coastal rowing regatta.
It’s a twist on the traditional sport; wind and waves can knock even the strongest off course, and the course itself can take any shape, as opposed to the usual flat water lanes.
But they learned from the best – former Olympic rower and soon-to-be Sports Hall of Famer Guylaine Bernier flew in from Quebec to coach them. Known as the province’s “Grande Dame du Sport,” she spent the weekend training both athletes and umpires on the rules and technique behind coastal rowing.
“Today it was the test,” she said with a smile, after two days spent with the local rowing community.
“It’s a new version of rowing that is growing a lot, and there’s good potential of development across the country.”
Coastal rowing first made waves in 2007, and has since skyrocketed in popularity. Many of its rules are similar to sailing, and with open water comes additional regulations for navigating, said Bernier.
“The only thing that’s the same is the movement,” she explained. “Outside of that, coastal rowing is totally different.”
The most elite athletes currently compete at the World Rowing Coastal Championships, but that could soon be changing. It’s on tap to become an Olympic sport and will be included in the Pan American Games in Peru next month – developments that members of Row Nova Scotia have been following closely.
“We’re really on the ground floor trying to develop the sport as part of rowing here in Nova Scotia,” said Joan Backman, a board member of the non-profit organization, which promotes rowing across the province.
“Coastal rowing is ideally suited to Nova Scotia because the coastal boats are more rugged and tolerate wind and waves much better than the flat water boats you see racing in the Olympics… So it’s perfect for recreational rowing around Nova Scotia, but also for racing.”
Row Nova Scotia helped bring Bernier, and the introductory event to the Lunenburg Yacht Club this weekend. Backman said the idea was taken up with great enthusiasm by rowers across the province, and all 24 spots in the regatta were taken up in a matter of days.
Diane D’Arcy, a member of the Halifax Rowing Club, tried it for the first time on Sunday after more than 15 years of traditional rowing. Despite placing second, she gave the sport two thumbs up.
“It’s exciting, you know, to row in that wind, the waves, the whitecaps,” she said. “Normally in a racing shell, you’d be taken off the water, but in the coastal boats, they’re very stable. It was a good workout. It was fun.”
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