Sidney has been awarded the 2018 World Rowing Coastal Championships and it will go down in the sport’s history as the first time the event has been in Canada — and North America.
Around 400 athletes from around the world are expected to come to Vancouver Island for the championships October 11 to 14, featuring specially-made boats, designed to withstand the rigours of racing on the open ocean water. Coastal rowing is not like the flat water rowing people may be more familiar with, but faces the waves and currents of the sea.
The sport has mainly been based along the Mediterranean Sea, in other European waters and in South America. The championship event has never before been held in North America.
Rowing Canada announced today that Sidney and Greater Victoria had won the bid.
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Brenda Taylor is one of the race directors and part of the bid committee that stepped in late last year to bring the event to Greater Victoria. The North Saanich resident was a double gold medallist in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in flat water rowing and stepped into an organizing role to get Coastal Rowing to Sidney.
“Victoria is a great location for it,” Taylor said Thursday, shortly after Rowing Canada announced the area had won the bid.
“The west coast of the Island is ideal for it,” she continued.
Coastal Rowing, Taylor said, is a relatively new discipline in rowing and athletes from France, Italy and Britain are typically the best at it. She said the World Rowing Federation, the body that oversees the sport, has been trying to break into the North American market for a while. Taylor said the opportunity to get a bid in for the event came last October, when a city that was supposed to bid for it, didn’t. She said the local committee — made up of members of the Victoria City Rowing Club, counterparts in Vancouver, Rowing Canada Aviron and others — got their initial bid in on Nov. 30 and their final submission in on Jan. 12 of this year.
Taylor said the event has a budget of around $200,000 to run — and that’s a bare-bones estimate. Organizers will be looking for additional sponsors between now and October. She said an initial estimate has the event bringing in between $1.5 and $2.5 million in revenue.
She said they chose Sidney as the host community because they knew they would have tremendous support, and says the town has not let them down in that regard.
The racing itself takes place over the four days over the event in Bazan Bay, along Lochside Drive in Sidney. Taylor added this is the first year there will be a beach start — meaning athletes run to their boats, launch them from the beach and hit the course out in Haro Strait. Each heat is a mass start, and boaters will row a predetermined, buoyed course over four to six kilometres. Winners in the heats advance to the finals on Oct. 14.
Taylor said organizers hope to grow the sport in Canada and North America and will start that process by showcasing it on the west coast. People can watch the races for free, she said, from anywhere along Sidney’s waterfront walkway in the area.
As well, the planned 48 boats being provided to the event will be available for purchase by rowing clubs afterwards.