Five medals for Great Britain at the 2022 World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals
Stormy conditions in Saundersfoot Harbour, Wales, saw Helen Glover take home a silver medal based on the Last 16, as treacherous weather cut short the women’s solo finals at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals
Beach Sprint rowing is an exciting and progressive new format aiming for inclusion at the LA 2028 Olympics and, under the watchful eyes of the International Olympic Committee, athletes from 27 countries went stroke for stroke in incredibly challenging conditions.
Midway through the quarter-finals of the Coastal Women’s Solo (CW1x), the final event of the day, the sea swells became so strong that a marker buoy was moved off course. The racing conditions were also becoming incredibly challenging, resulting in the world’s best coastal rowers struggling to stay straight, and afloat.
The President of the Jury for World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals along with the Executive Committee of World Rowing decided that safety of athletes and officials was paramount and so decided to cancel the rest of the competition schedule.
Representing Great Britain for the first time since she finished fourth at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, three-time flat-water World Champion Helen Glover showed her class once again as she skillfully made her way through high seas in her CW1x quarter-final to safely secure a place in the semi-finals. Shortly after, the competition was brought to a close earlier than planned.
Due to the cancellation of racing before the quarter-final round, the results for the CW1x were based on times from the previous round for the Last 8 qualifiers. This meant Helen narrowly missed out on gold to Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion from New Zealand Emma Twigg, who was also competing at her first World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals.
In the Coastal U19 Men’s Doubles (CJM 2x), Robert Collen and James Purves‐Liddell bagged a bronze medal, finishing one second in front of France in their B Final.
“We’re feeling a mixture of exhaustion and utter elation at the same time,” said Robert right after their last race. “We saw the Spanish riding a big wave coming in and we did the same before I had to sprint. I just kept going, collapsed on that finish line and hit the buzzer as hard as I could.”
“I had a pretty good feeling that we’d won,” said James, after describing how he’d seen Robert throw himself over the finish line in an incredibly close race. “The commentators weren’t sure at first but I had a gut feeling.”
It was a tantalisingly close fourth place for the Coastal U19 Women’s Doubles (CJW2x) of Isabel Lancaster and Elizabeth Sekinger after a Last 8 rife with missed buoys, caught crabs and at least one slipped seat in each qualifying race. After strong victories in the quarter- and semi-finals, a rogue wave right at the water’s edge caught the bow of the boat, sending both Isabel and Liz into the water as USA took the bronze.
“We’re feeling very good,” said Isabel back on the sand at Saundersfoot Harbour. “I’m very pleased with our performance, especially as we’ve only done six days of training, and I’d never been on the sea before that.
“Being in conditions like these is quite scary but I think we coped well and we just kept going. Anything can happen, and it’s not over until it’s over.”
In the Coastal Men’s Solo (CM1x), Scotland’s Gregor Hall (Stirling RC) sculled through some of the worst of the conditions to finish with a very credible fourth place behind Finland’s Joel Naukkarinen. With the surf regularly forcing the boats off course, Gregor showed huge promise for the future and was happy to go stroke for stroke with some of the best coastal rowers in the world.
“It was extremely challenging conditions out there, the most difficult I have experienced but I am really happy with my performance and raced as best as I could.”
The Coastal U19 Mixed Doubles (CJMix2x) saw Evelyn Pakule (Lea RC) and Oliver Robertson (Newark RC) make the quarter-finals but lose narrowly to the eventual winners from Italy. Despite feeling disappointed at the time, Evelyn said of their top eight finish, “Even though the conditions were so bad, it was such an exciting race and I really want to come back next year.”
Coastal and beach sprint rowing is a fast growing area of performance rowing, having recently been included in the Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 2026 and British Rowing Director of Performance Louise Kingsley is hugely encouraged by what she’s seen over the last few days.
“I’m very pleased with the performances of all our athletes. Our objective for this competition was to test ourselves against the best coastal rowers in the world and we have performed brilliantly.
“The racing conditions across the weekend varied dramatically which allowed the athletes and their coaches to create race plans that reflected not only the competition but also the weather, which changed quickly at times.
“I’m proud of all our athletes as well as the coaches and boat handlers and am excited at how we build on this for the future.”
The final medal table saw Spain at the top, Tunisia second and USA in third place. Great Britain finished in a very respectable sixth with five medals out of nine events, equal in number with Spain.
Photo credit: Ben Tufnell (@benedict_tufnell)