Thousands participate in rowing during bumper weekend of events

Over 2500 people participated in indoor and outdoor rowing last weekend (Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 October) when the British Indoor Rowing Championships and the first set of GB Rowing trials coincided – a number that reflects the increasing number of people taking part in the sport.

Racing in age categories from under-18 to over-80, 1700 people took part in the British Indoor Rowing Championships, held on Sunday at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. Participants were a mix of standards from novice to experienced, and there were a significant number of entries from gym members who had started indoor rowing by using the machines in their local gym. 


Among the competitors was Helene Raynsford, who became the first ever Paralympic gold medallist in outdoor rowing in Beijing just a few months ago. Raynsford successfully defended her indoor rowing title in the women’s arms-only event. Meanwhile Graham Benton, an indoor rowing specialist who has only recently taken up outdoor rowing, won his fifth consecutive British indoor title.

Also competing on indoor rowing machines, or ergos, last weekend were over 300 of Britain’s up-and-coming rowers, who were taking part in the first of several trials for selection to GB Rowing’s under-23 and senior squads for 2009. The indoor rowing machine, or ergo, is one of several ways GB Rowing’s coaches test and measure development.

Following the ergo test, the hopefuls took to the water in Boston, Lincolnshire to race a five km time trial, which was won by 2004 Athens Olympian Ian Lawson.

The weekend also saw nearly 400 university students compete on the water in the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Small Boats Head, the first in a number of events this year for university- and college-based rowers. 

The quantity of entries across all three of these major events reflect the increasing number of people taking up rowing, either indoor or outdoor or both. 

The Amateur Rowing Association (ARA) has reported a definite surge in interest in rowing following the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, which they have monitored through their website and nationwide network of clubs.

Before the Olympic Games began, the ARA’s website got an average of 1,000 visits or ‘hits’ per day during July. This number rose to 2,000 hits per day in the immediate pre-Games period and during the Olympic finals it peaked at 3,800 hits daily. The website is now still receiving an average of 1,700 visits per day – a significant increase since July.

In particular the website’s Club Finder page, which enables members of the public to search for their nearest rowing club, has attracted an increased number of visitors. Before the Olympics started approximately 50 searches were made daily, but this increased to over 400 searches a day during the Olympic finals and the following weekend interest remained high with 250 searches made daily.

"Clubs across the country are reporting a significant increase in enquiries about taster sessions and learn to row courses. It is great to see that more and more people are trying and taking up rowing, both at a recreational and competitive level, and it is really important for us now to work with Sport England and government to meet the challenge in developing more facilities and coaches to provide a real and lasting legacy for London 2012", commented Rosemary Napp, National Manager at the ARA.