This year I traveled to Monte Carlo to take part in the Prince Albert II Challenge. A coastal rowing race that attracts close to 400 rowers from mainly Italy, France and Spain but also has teams coming from South Africa, USA, Canada and me from Sweden. I was in great shape hoping to get a good race and start of the 2013 season.
Last year I was invited to race amongst others the World Champion, Alberti from Italy and WC-silver medalist Exarte from Spain. It was an exciting race where Alberti and I were fighting for the win to the end. Alberti ending up winning by a boat length.
My hopes for a great race this year were however crushed when I got my rented boat. An old coastal boat with a frail wing rigger that looked like they belonged to a beginner’s boat for 12-13 year olds. I did some adjustments and gave it a test run thinking "Maybe it´s not as bad as it looks". It was worse. The rigger was clearly not built for strong rowers and for every stroke I took the rigger was bending. Lots of the energy I was putting into every stroke was wasted instead of making the boat go faster. I checked the speed. When I pulled everything I had (at 35+ strokes/min) I was barely going at the same speed as I usually do during a long distance piece (about 20 strokes/min) in a Eurodiffusion or a LeoCoastal boat. All the other competitors had received top material from Eurodiffusion. I protested to the organizer of course, but to no use. All other boats were occupied.
I saw it as an insult. I had wasted both time and money on going to the race in Monte Carlo. Being part of the "Öresund Coastal Rowing Race" for the last five years and also part of the "2013 World Rowing Coastal Championship" - to supply a rower traveling far to your race with inferior equipment is not even an option. We take pride and doing our absolute best to see that our guest will row with great material. That I am also the current World Championship Bronze Medalist and a favorite to win the race (not that it should matter) makes their decision even stranger.
Why give inferior equipment?
To loan or rent a boat is common in coastal rowing. To row with your own boat is always preferable but transportation coasts are often high, especially when traveling far. This is sadly not the first time I received questionable material in a coastal race. I can only wonder what the motives from the host are:
That they naively think all boats are the same quality
That they want to give the local rowers an advantage by giving the favorite foreign competitors bad equipment
or that they simply do not care
To be honest, I don´t know which is worse.
Responsibilities as a host
I find this to be a problem for the development of the sport. Why would you spend time and money to go to a race when you don´t know whether you´ll have a decent boat or not? Why would you go to a race when it could be over before it even started? As I see it, every host has a responsibility to the sport. We all want the sport to grow. The outcome of races should be decided on the water not on who gets decent boats.
Assure good boats at the WRCC in Helsingborg
I personally assure all rowers that are planning to come to World Rowing Coastal Championship in Helsingborg that the coastal boats available for rent will be of quality brands and top shape.