Masters rowing, for people aged 27 years and above, has hugely competitive athletes mixed with virtual novice rowers through to former Olympians.

The list of regattas for masters rowers is spread around the world with the World Rowing Masters Regatta being the main international event of the year. This year, a record number of 4,700 athletes tipped the scales.

Read on for highlights of the past year.

World Rowing Masters Regatta, Bled, Slovenia © Detlev Seyb/


2017 World Rowing Masters Regatta

Where and when… Lake Bled (SLO), 6-10 September 2017 
Number of athletes participating… 4,700 athletes
Number of boat entries… more than 6,000
Number of seats being raced… 18,000
Number of races taking place… more than 900
Number of races per hour… 20, with races scheduled every three minutes
Club with the most points won in men’s events… Dynamo Moscow Club (RUS)
Club with the most points won in women’s events… Upper Thames Rowing Club (GBR)
Number of age categories at the World Rowing Masters Regatta… 11, with the minimum age set at 27 years, and the highest age category at 85 years or more.
World Rowing Masters Club Trophy… presented for the first time to the top men’s and women’s club.
2017 World Rowing Masters Regatta report.
Next edition… Sarasota-Bradenton (USA), 27-30 September 2018

Getting personal. The lowdown on three remarkable masters rower…

Helge Refsum (Norway)
Started rowing… 51 years ago at 18 years old
First raced in Bled… at the 1966 World Rowing Championships
What has remained unchanged in rowing since then… “Much is the same: the mentality, the focus, the rowing, the muscles, the training, the systematic planning, going for it - all that is very much the same.”
What has changed in rowing since then… “The boats are lighter and the blades are bigger and lighter. I also think people are training better, more efficiently.”
How Helge stays fit…  “I think cross-country skiing is the Norwegian rower’s secret. Half the year we hide away and do a lot of cross-country skiing and then we turn up as rowers. That is our secret.”
And on retirement?… “When I retire I can be a coach and give more back to the sport that has given me so much.”

Sandra Kirby (Canada)
Started rowing… in 1975
Claim to rowing fame… Raced at the first Olympic Games in which women’s rowing was included, at the 1976 Game in Montreal.
Racing in Montreal… “The whole experience of racing at the Olympic Games, in your home country, in front of a home crowd, the first time that women ever rowed, was life-changing.”
Montreal was life-changing… “What it did for women, is it opened a door. For me personally, it gave me a voice. I’ve since gone on to be an advocate against child sexual abuse and harassment in sport. If I hadn’t gone to the Olympics I wouldn’t have had that strength of voice.”
Still involved in rowing… Sandra is an active rowing coach, a certified umpire and runs the umpire training programme for her region in Canada.
How the sport has changed… “I’ve seen countries I never thought would row, row. I remember the first time I saw a rower from Zambia, it was about 25 years ago.”
Masters rowing is important… “High performance is really important and it relies on the strength of the broad base to keep it thriving. The mass participation that I see growing, the countries that have rowing, the recreation base including the masters is where the health of the sport is.”

Igor Boraska (CRO) at 2017 World Rowing Masters Regatta, Bled, Slovenia © FISA


Igor Boraska (Croatia)
First competed internationally… 1993 at the World Rowing Championships in Racice, Czech Republic.
First time at a masters rowing regatta… 2007 in Zagreb, Croatia, but Igor did not compete. He was 37, but was still a competitive rower on the Croatian national team. “The guys who are masters in Croatia said, ‘come on, you shouldn’t do it. You are too young, you are too fit’. I scratched my entry for the single sculls and I waited all the way until this year, yeah ten years later.”
Any gaps without training… “Never more than a few weeks without an oar. Even when I stopped rowing for the national team. I find it just natural to wake up a bit earlier and do a training session.”
Comparing elite senior rowing with masters rowing… “It’s a different feel. No stress. When I am on the start, I don’t feel any pressure. There are really lots of (masters) crews that take it very seriously and if I want to beat them, I need to take my rowing more seriously.”
Why rowing is good… “Rowing helps your body, helps the muscles and helps your back to have better strength and actually to have less pain than ordinary people who are spending more hours sitting working. They probably have more back pains than the people you see here rowing at the masters regatta.”

Full interview here

Tor Ahlsand (NOR) at 2017 World Masters Games with former FISA President Denis Oswald © Lee Spear


World Masters Games

Where and when… Auckland, New Zealand, 21-30 April 2017
Rowing venue… Lake Karapiro
Racing distance… 1,000m
Number of participants… Nearly 1,200 athletes
Notable medallists in 2017…

  • ·         Rob Waddell (NZL), Olympic and World Champion in the men’s single sculls
  • ·         Rob Hamill (NZL), World Championship silver medallist and winner of the Atlantic Rowing Race
  • ·         Philippa Baker-Hogan (NZL), three-time World Champion
  • ·         Brenda Lawson (NZL), two-time World Champion
  • ·         Kent Mitchell (USA), Olympic gold and bronze medallist as a coxswain
  • ·         Tor Ahlsand (NOR), 9th place at the 1964 Olympic Games

2017 regatta report here
Next edition… 2021,  Kansai Region, Japan
More info on the World Masters Games here.