Coastal rowing might be in frame to become an Olympic discipline

Irish clubs have entered 26 competitors in 19 crews for weekend’s World Championships

An Olympic angle for coastal rowing might have seemed a very long shot, but recent developments have changed all that. Photograph: Getty Images

An Olympic angle for coastal rowing might have seemed a very long shot, but recent developments have changed all that. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Coastal rowing has been on the margins of the sport, but it is popular - and might just be in the frame to become an Olympic discipline.

This weekend’s World Coastal Rowing Championships are being held in Victoria in Canada. It involves a long trek for many competitors, yet the numbers are such that the organisers had to schedule a qualification event for the men’s single sculls.

Irish clubs from Cork to Wicklow to Donegal have entered 26 competitors in 19 crews. There are men’s and women’s coxed fours, a mixed double, two men’s doubles and 12 single scullers, seven men and five women. Ireland international Patrick Boomer represents Loughros Point of Donegal in the men’s single and may have a chance of emulating Killorglin’s Monika Dukarska and Kilmacsimon’s John Keohane, both of whom have been world champions in the single scull, in taking a podium place.

An Olympic angle for this sport might have seemed a very long shot, but recent developments have changed all that. The president of Fisa, the world governing body of rowing, spoke of this possibility at the Fisa congress just last month.

The International Olympic Committee has put pressure on Fisa, the world governing body, to cut numbers. This has manifested itself in a push to remove lightweight rowing for the Olympics in 2024 and beyond. However, the IOC is also asking sports to include new disciplines - while sticking to the reduced numbers of competitors.

Rolland told insidethegames that he was “extremely attentive to the general context of the Olympic Movement, to the challenges the IOC is facing and therefore we are thinking outside of the box for the future of the Olympic Games, watching carefully where the IOC leadership are taking the Games.”

He added: “We are following the television statistics carefully and know the trends. These points are regular conversations taking place in the Olympic Movement meetings.”

The IOC want quick, TV-friendly moments and mixed events. And, in the day’s ahead, the World Coastal Championships will bring on board a mixed double.

One attraction for Fisa would be that rowers who have been training for Olympic rowing can and do switch over. Competitors at Coastal Rowing events represent their clubs, but a good few of the top performers have rowed in Olympic-class events for their countries.

Patrick Boomer looked set to be part of Ireland team for the World Championships in Bulgaria this year, but his partnership with Andy Harrington in the pair did not perform to expectations and did not go forward. Boomer, who is determined to make the team for next year’s World Championships, opted to keep his focus by taking on the Coastal single and duly won the title at the Irish Championships.

Dukarska is Ireland’s most celebrated performer at this level, a world champion in the Coastal single in 2009 and 2016 and a bronze medallist in 2008. She chose not to go this year - though she thought about it. With her eyes on the 2019 season, she decided to prioritise rest after after competing in the Fisa World Championships last month. However she is a big fan of the offshore game.

“Coastal rowing is great fun; it’s actually good crack,” the Killorglin oarswoman says. She tells of how she crashed at the start of her heat in Monaco in 2016, but recovered and began to pass the competitors in front of her. Getting around the buoys, which mark turning points, makes for an interesting challenge. And rowers sometimes disappear behind a wave only to reappear again. While standard Olympic rowing is hugely intensive and of a high standard, Coastal Rowing is more spectacular.

“It’s like BMX is for cycling,” Dukarska says. She adds that she thinks Rowing Ireland should fully embrace Coastal Rowing.

If it becomes another way to qualify for the Olympics that might be sound advice. Early adopters might have an advantage in the run-up to Paris 2024.

The Cork Head of the River, originally scheduled for March, has drawn a big entry on its new setting on Saturday - or perhaps Sunday. The weather, which put paid to the original event, has forced the organisers to give themselves the option of moving the event back one day. A decision will be made today (Friday).

Glenn Paterson of Sligo Rowing Club was the fastest man at the Tullamore Time Trial last weekend, while Sheila Clavin of St Michael’s took both senior and masters women’s titles.

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