Rowing, paddleboarding put Sidney in spotlight

The town’s slogan is missing a word.

It should read Sidney-by-the-Sea-Sports because if it’s happening on water, it’s happening in Sidney.

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While the Canadian standup paddle-boarding championships were taking place Saturday in the water off Beacon Park, a news conference was being held at nearby Tulista Park for the World Rowing Coastal Championships to be held in Bazan Bay.

Both sports will be making their debuts in the Pan American Games next year in Lima, Peru.

Coastal rowing takes place in open water and the 14th world championships go Oct. 11-14.

It is the first time the event will be held in North America. Sidney is keeping ritzy company, as the event follows the 2017 worlds on Lake Geneva and is ahead of the 2019 worlds in Hong Kong. Past hosts have included Monaco and Istanbul. Sidney beat out 12.5-million population Shenzhen, China, for the 2018 world championships, which will bring more than 400 rowers from 25 nations to Greater Victoria.

Officials from FISA, rowing’s international governing body, are in town this weekend to look over preparations. The delegation is headed by Cameron Allen of Australia, events manager for FISA.

With the Island’s strong association with the sport — Rowing Canada is headquartered at Elk Lake, which has produced numerous Olympic medallists — the event seems a natural fit from waterways to technical expertise.

“There are so many national team and Olympic alumni rowers on the Island,” co-organizer Brenda Taylor said.

Leading the organizing committee are 1992 Barcelona Olympics double gold-medallist Taylor and 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze-medallist Julien Bahain, along with Marla Weston.

“This area is ideal for coastal rowing,” Taylor said.

Coastal rowing involves sculls racing of between four-to-six kilometres in singles, doubles and coxed quad. The sculls are self-bailing and wider, heavier and more stable than regular rowing.

“Anywhere you can go in a kayak, you can go in coastal rowing,” Taylor said. Rowers are always looking to stretch the boundaries of their sport. Case-in-point is Bahain, who has rowed across the Atlantic, open-water rowing in the extreme.

“Coastal rowing involves the same motion as [Olympic-style] rowing,” he said.

Deb LeFrank is a local rower who participates in all forms of the sport, from Elk Lake to open water.

“I also loved kayaking, and missed being on the ocean, so coastal rowing brings me back to that,” she said.

For more information on the 2018 World Rowing Coastal Championships, or to volunteer or help in sponsorships, go to wrcc2018.com

The Canadian stand-up paddleboard championships continue today off the Sidney waterfront, with national-team berths on the line for the 2018 world championships in December in Brazil and the 2019 Pan Am Games next summer.

The burgeoning sport is being considered for inclusion in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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