Posted: 23 July 2021
The University of St Andrews Boat Club (UStABC) took part in their first ever coastal competition at the weekend. They sent us this report of their experiences from the British Rowing Offshore and Beach Sprints Championships in Exmouth.
Five athletes from UStABC attended the British Rowing Offshore and Beach Sprints Championships last weekend in Exmouth. As this was the squad’s first introduction to coastal rowing, the rowers travelled south two days early to train on the sea and learn about the sport.
The Offshore Championships began on Friday, with Harriet White and Jodie Cameron claiming the silver medal for St Andrews in the women’s double sculls. The race was held over 6km in open water, with the duo only narrowly being beaten by a local crew with the home water advantage. Harriet’s steering in this race was impeccable, navigating every turn with accuracy to keep our crew in contention for the medals.
Later in the day, Callum Clarke and Sam Winton competed in the men’s double sculls. In another straight final, our relatively inexperienced duo raced well, finishing in 8th position against a very good standard of crews. Racing this course was a fantastic achievement, with Callum only learning to scull this year and both members being required to adapt quickly to the unpredictability of coastal rowing.
The final race on Friday was Ryan Glymond’s qualifying event for the men’s single sculls. He navigated the 4km course whilst rowing against a quickly ebbing tide. Ryan steered a smart race along the final straight to overtake another boat, claiming 4th position and a place in the 6km final on Saturday. In the final, Ryan finished in 7th position against high quality opposition. This hard-fought race was a fantastic way to round off St Andrews’ first offshore competition.
The Beach Sprints Championships began on the Sunday. These events added elements to our sport which even the most experienced athletes in UStABC found challenging to learn and polish. Unlike flat water rowing, Beach Sprints start with a run to the boat, a quick entry requiring agility and smart boat handling, a 250m slalom around 3 buoys before spinning the boat and sprinting back to the beach. The rower is then required to jump out of their boat and run back up the beach to hit a buzzer which ends the race.
Our first mixed double (Jodie Cameron and Ryan Glymond) competed in the first race of the day and so were unable to watch the other crews for tips on how to race the course. A mistake at the finish line cost this crew valuable seconds in the time trial and they finished in 6th position; fortunately, this was enough to qualify for the quarter-finals. The second mixed double (Harriet White and Callum Clarke) produced a respectable row and would have finished in 8th position, however a penalty for a mistake at the third buoy sadly eliminated them from the rest of the day’s racing.
In the women’s single time trial, Jodie Cameron raced an exceptionally accurate line and finished in 1st position, qualifying her for the knockout stages. Ryan Glymond and Sam Winton competed in the men’s single event, finishing 5th and 14th respectively. In Ryan’s quarter-final, a mistake at the start led to him being behind at the first slalom buoy. Ryan then fought back superbly to level the race; however, a fast sprint from his opponent sadly knocked him out in a tight finish.
In the mixed double knockouts, Jodie and Ryan learned from the mistakes of the morning’s time trials and raced exceptionally in the quarter and semi-finals to beat the third and second fastest crews, which were both strong entries from the experienced Jersey Rowing Club. This performance guaranteed our first medal of the day. In the final, the duo were beaten by a strong composite crew from London Rowing Club and Crabtree Boat Club, taking home the silver medal.
Jodie Cameron then had a quick turnaround to get ready for her knockout rounds in the women’s solo event, producing controlled and composed races in the quarter and semi-final to guarantee St Andrews’ second medal of the day. In the final, Jodie won the gold medal by 3 seconds with an exciting sprint finish; a fantastic achievement which has given UStABC our first ever British Champion!
Jodie’s strong racing on Sunday led the GB selection panel to invite her to their testing day following the championships. Jodie won every race and finished the testing matrix with a faster time than any other athlete who attended the event. This is a superb achievement by our former President and Women’s Captain, who might be invited to attend the GB training camp in August to join a development squad which aims to compete next year at the 2022 World Championships in Wales. On the day, Ryan also registered as a cox for the squad and won his sprint test. He also hopes to be considered for the training camp later in the year.
UStABC Director of Rowing, Alan Sinclair, said: “The modest contingent of our athletes were entered to the Offshore and Beach Sprints Championships to gain experience and knowledge for the future of our coastal rowing programme in St Andrews.
“Scottish Rowing recognise both the enthusiasm and ambition the University has to become the centre of excellence for the UK and we look forward to continuing our work with them to move the programme forward.
“After winning a gold and two silver medals at the championships, St Andrews was the most successful club at the competition, claiming more sprints medals than any other club. This is a fantastic achievement for our club and shows incredible potential for the years to come."
Guin Batten (Olympic silver medallist and World Rowing Coastal Rowing Chair) said of the results: “It is fantastic to see Scotland doing so well!”
After the event Scottish Rowing caught up with Jodie Cameron to hear her thoughts on this new competition experience:
“I’ve been sculling since school, but this was my first experience of coastal rowing and I loved it! We spent two days in Exmouth before the competition to get to grips with the sea and the event formats. The Beach Sprints' knock-out system creates exciting racing which can sometimes be unpredictable. For us it was a steep learning curve: in the first time-trial of the day, I jumped out of the boat too early and almost had to swim to the beach!
“I raced in the lightweight single at BUCS and Henley Women’s Regatta this season, so I felt confident in my sculling ability going into the Beach Sprints. Rowing on the sea comes with new challenges though and with the Beach Sprints there are many other elements to get right as well as the sculling technique: a fast sprint on land, getting into your boat quickly and accurately navigating the slalom can cut precious seconds over the fast-paced course!”