Coastal Rowers do battle at the 2011 South Coast Championships

South Coast Championships

The cream of England’s coastal rowers converged at Eton Dorney earlier this month, for the 55th annual South Coast Championships.

Despite traditionally battling winds of up to 15 miles per hour and four-foot high waves, competing coastal crews were instead faced with the relative serenity of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic lake when they arrived for the day-long event on Saturday 10 September.

Over the coastal rowing summer season, crews from the Hampshire & Dorset, West of England Rowing, and Coast Rowing Associations raced each week in challenging and unpredictable conditions to win their association championships and earn their place at the flagship event of the season – the South Coast Championships.

Thirty-two junior events took place in the morning, with girls and boys in singles, doubles, and quads tackling a 1000m course on Dorney Lake.

Christchurch’s juniors looked strong as they claimed the first three heats of the day, but Plymouth’s juniors edged the Dorset club overall – taking four gold medals (in the Girls’ J16 2x and Boys’ J14 4x+, J16 2x, and J16 4x+) to Christchurch’s three.

There were also gold medals for junior crews from Shoreham, Coalporters, Itchen, Castle Dore, and Ryde, on a tremendous morning of racing in blustering condition in Buckinghamshire.

GB Rowing Team athlete Dan Ritchie was on hand to present the medals in the midday prize giving ceremony, fresh from his World Championship silver medal-winning efforts with the GB Men’s Eight in Bled, Slovenia.

With the Junior Championships finished, attention soon turned to the Senior Regatta as the South Coast Championships got into full swing in the afternoon.

Christchurch crews topped the podium four times after a frenetic afternoon’s racing on the regular 2000m Olympic course, picking up gold medals in the Ladies’ Novice Open, Veteran 40 Open, Men’s Junior/Senior Open, and Men’s Junior/Senior Championship.

There were also two gold medal-winning crews from Lymington – in the Veteran 50 Open and Men’s Novice Open – along with triumphs for Folkestone (Ladies’ Senior Open), Newport (Ladies’ Junior Open), Greenbank Falmouth (Ladies’ Senior Championship), Southampton (Men’s Junior Open), BTC (Men’s Senior Championship), and Coalporters (Men’s Senior Open).

Ritchie – who swapped his GB suit for the lycra of his home club Herne Bay – could only manage a silver medal in the Men’s Senior Open final, after a rousing row from the Coalporters A crew.

With Ritchie assuming the mantle of competitor for the afternoon, prize giving duties fell to another VIP guest – five time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave.

In all, crews from 37 clubs competed in what proved to be an enormously successful South Coast Championships on a memorable day for junior and senior rowers alike – competing at Eton Dorney less than a year before the London 2012 Olympic Games comes to town.

For more information on the South Coast Championships, as well as a full list of results from the day, visit the official website.