Irish luck in FISA World Rowing Tour experience

28/06/2013 - 14:05:00

The 2013 FISA World Rowing Tour of Carrick on Shannon – Limerick, Ireland ended in a bumpy ride for some after a number of boats had to head for shore when the weather changed for the worse.  
 

In its 22 years, the World Rowing Tour has become increasingly popular for recreational rowers as a way to combine rowing with sightseeing, being a tourist and forming friendships from around the world. This year’s Tour in Ireland was very popular with 18 touring boats participating – each with a rotating coxswain and four rowers.

The Tour, spread over one week, started in Carrick-on-Shannon and finished in Limerick with rowing days varying from 25 to 50km per day. On the final day of rowing the weather conditions changed during the afternoon row on the river Shannon at Lough (Lake) Derg with the wind increasing in strength and changing direction.

Being an outdoor activity there is always the potential for changing weather conditions, as was the case on this Tour. All crews handled the situation well with crews seeking shelter, says Rowing for All Commission member Warwick Marler who participated in the Tour.

The main concern, says Marler, was the amount of water coming into the boat. “The boats avoided this as best as they could by taking the waves head on, rather than taking the waves at an angle.”

“The crews responded magnificently to the situation. All crews, apart from the crew that was rescued from the water, and including my boat that sank, got themselves and their boats safely to shore and waited to be collected by the rescue services. No-one panicked. Each worked as a crew. All maintained good humour,” says Marler.

Guin Batten, who is a veteran of open water rowing including crossing the English Channel in a single scull and the only rower to do the 70km crossing of the Zero Degree Channel in the Indian Ocean, is the Chair of the FISA Rowing For All Commission. Batten is a keen advocate of open water and coastal rowing and is very much aware of the risk when weather patterns change.

Batten has a number of points to encourage safe rowing in the open water and she shares them here:

1. Know the experience and fitness of your crew to handle open water. Make sure you have practiced what will happen if the boat swamps, capsizes or needs towing. Make sure all of the crew have life jackets at hand and put them on before you need to.

2. Know your boat and the condition of your equipment. Make sure you have enough buoyancy in the boat to keep the boat afloat when swamped. Don’t just reply on the integrity of the compartments, use floatation bags or fill the space with large plastic bottles. Always have a small tool kit with you for emergency running repairs. In closed sterns make sure you have additional hand bailers to empty the water quickly.

3. Know your route. Make sure you know your route well and have planned safe exit routes off the route, beaches, coves or harbours. Make sure other people know your route and expected arrival times.

4. Know the weather and water conditions. Do some accurate weather planning and understand the impact of the weather on the tidal currents. Know the temperature of the water as this will affect your risk assessments considerably. Hypothermia is one of the biggest risks.

5. Safety. Safety is the single most important priority for any open water rowing trip. Always consider how you will self-rescue. Boats should stay together. Consider taking experienced support boats to accompany the trip. Always take some communication equipment with you, just in case you need to call for help. Mobile phones are ok at a basic level, but a marine VHF radio and flares are a must in the grab bag.

Top tip: if you are at the stage of thinking about cancelling or delaying your trip - it is probably the right time to make the decision not to go. If in doubt don’t go.

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