What is Offshore Rowing?
The Guernsey Rowing Club is an offshore coastal rowing club. To put it simply, offshore rowing is confronting the open sea in a rowing boat. This is not quite the same as Olympic river rowing where the requirement is to row in a straight line, preferable on very flat water and with very little wind typically over a distance of 2 kilometres.
Offshore rowing is a very different challenge than flat water and is becoming ever more popular internationally alongside Coastal rowing. Offshore rowing is often described as the mountain bike or snowboard of rowing, perhaps even the beach volleyball of rowing. It is exhilarating and as a non-impact sport can continue to keept you fit for far longer than contact sports. It is also more easily and quickly learnt than Olympic rowing due to the stability and robustness of offshore rowing equipment.
But knowing how to handle an offshore rowing boat isn't sufficient to become a good offshore rower. Crews must be aware of tides and currents, learn about the course's topography and know what to do in the midst of maritime traffic and in the event of bad weather.
Offshore rowing boats are significantly shorter and wider than those used at the Olympics and are designed to withstand rougher sea conditions. They can be categorised into two distinct classes:-
Coastal boats used by the Coastal ARA (covering Kent and Sussex) and the Hants and Dorset ARA. The boats used by CARA and H&D are largely similar to the fine boats but slightly wider and shorter with half staggered seats. These boats are suited to rowing and racing close to the shore and wide estuaries.
FISA standard coastal boats or French yoles. These boats are significantly wider than those used by the above UK associations and are designed to withstand rougher sea conditions.
The Guernsey Rowing Club adheres to the FISA standard of coastal rowing boats. FISA (“Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron” in French, or the English equivalent International Federation of Rowing Associations) is the governing body of the sport of rowing.
The French Rowing Federation (FFSA) standardised coastal rowing at a national level in 1997. This French model was adopted by FISA as a stepping stone towards the standardisation of boats at an International level. This meant coastal rowers from around the world could finally compete with each other on level terms.
In 2006 the Guernsey Rowing Club hosted the inaugural World Rowing Coastal Challenge. This was the first world rowing coastal event of its kind and was the predecessor of the current World Rowing Coastal Championships held every year in October. Boat categories include the single, double and coxed quad. The style of competition differs considerably from Olympic rowing. No lanes are defined and the racing distance for both men and women is between 6km to 8km.