Beginner's Guide to Coastal Worlds, Tip #2

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While I haven't mastered the Coastal World Championships yet, now that I've survived a couple, I at least have a good idea of what's needed to train for these. For all those new rowers looking at Victoria 2018, here is tip #2 to get you prepped:

Tip #2: the Start

Beware the moving start!  FISA coastal rules require you to be behind the line until the starting command, but you do not need to be motionless. As a result, You may see rowers lining up well behind the starting line and getting a running start before the gun. This has obvious advantages, but is tricky, and there are huge time penalties if you go over the line too soon. But the point is, don’t be distracted if you see boats moving before the gun! Or consider lining up a few feet back from the line and just start squeezing on the oars a second or two before the start. For a beginner, I definitely don’t recommend trying for the full America’s Cup start with an attempt to hit the line at top speed just at the horn. Save that for next year…

That being said, in 2018 the race organizing committee has announced that they will do a beach start. However, they also said that if conditions do not allow for a beach start, it will be a floating start. Conclusion: it's likely to be a beach start, but it may be a floating start. Practice both!

A beach start would be very exciting, and something unique to prepare for. How quickly can you dash across a pebbly beach? How quickly can you get your feet in place and start rowing? Practice how you want your oars set for the quickest entry possible. I like mine across the boat, placing the handles by each opposite oarlock. This way I just slide them out and I'm off - nothing to reach for, shift, or otherwise fuss with. For your feet, see if you can get your shoes or straps preset to just the right tension so you don’t need to adjust them upon getting into your boat. They should be loose enough to slip your feet into but tight enough to allow you to row without slopping around. Make sure to practice all summer with the straps set to that tension! Do you row in socks? Hmm…can you run down a beach with your socks on? Specificity of training suggests you should row as you will race, so think about having no time at all to adjust yourself into your cockpit, and set your expectations accordingly.

The start is critical in coastal racing. Picture twenty competitive boats converging on the first hairpin turn at about 1000 meters into the race. If you get caught in the middle of that pack, you will spend the rest of the race trying to extricate yourself from traffic. Trust me, I’ve been there! You need to get to that first turn fairly high up in the ranks to be able to find clear water.

I think a beach start at Coastal Worlds would be fun, as it adds yet another unique skill to master. If you can really nail the beach sprint and quick boat entry, you will gain a serious advantage going into this--you could get that critical jump into a less-crowded front pack and maybe even stay ahead of faster rowers by gaining this initial advantage in position. 

Practice, practice, practice getting into your boat from a run and into the first stroke with as little transition time as possible. This skill is not a given, so if you have it down, you’ll knock a valuable handful of seconds off your time.