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Pensacola Set to Host First International Coastal Event in the U.S.

by Sarah Marshall, smarshall@usrowing.org | Nov 05, 2015
Athletes from Canada, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the United States will gather this weekend in Pensacola, Fla., for the first international coastal rowing regatta held in the United States.

Athletes from Canada, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the United States will gather this weekend in Pensacola, Fla., for the first international coastal rowing regatta held in the United States.

Hosted by USRowing, Rowing Canada and Pensacola Coastal Rowing Club, with0d938d680b9744307a5e7988845d1595 the support of Portofino Island Resort, the event will showcase the sport of coastal rowing using FISA-class singles and doubles racing on the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico at Casino Beach.

The regatta schedule includes practice sessions on Friday, Nov. 6, followed by a full day of international and domestic racing on Saturday, Nov. 7 beginning at 10:00 a.m. EST.

“Pensacola Coastal Rowing Club, Rowing Canada and the staff and management of Portofino Island Resort have joined together to create the first FISA-class coastal racing event in the U.S.,” said John Wik, USRowing's Director of Referee Programs. “From the start, their enthusiasm and commitment to creating a world-class coastal rowing event has been remarkable."

The event will start with the “International Invitational” a 4,000-meter course, featuring senior coastal rowers from each competing country. Competition will include men's and women's singles, doubles and mixed double events.

The Americans featured in the men’s event include James Dietz and Ben Booth, who are both from Massachusetts. Dietz was a member of the U.S. Under 23 National team and competed in the men's single at World Rowing Cup 3 in 2006. 

117769_12-SM-SD"We were looking for athletes with technical skill and experience. James has been competing at an elite level for several years. Ben designs, builds and rows boats in the North Atlantic. Combined, they provide rowing technique and experience reading coastal wind, tide, current and wave conditions to optimize boat speed,” said Wik. 

After the Pensacola event, Booth will be heading to Lima, Peru as the first U.S. athlete to compete in a World Rowing Coastal Championships.

New to coastal rowing, but not novices when it comes to hard work, the U.S. women’s crew will be represented by Sinead Fitzgibbon and Jen Gatz from East End, Long Island. Avid bikers and runners, the pair is eager for their coastal debut.

"Jen and Sinead are tremendous. Enthusiastic, engaging and ever-positive athletes, they have committed to coastal rowing with the acquisition of singles, a double and countless hours of workouts and open-water training," said Wik.

In addition to the international four-kilometer competition, the event includes an open boat class two-kilometer race and an afternoon 500-meter beach sprint race. 

"Competitors have been curious about the beach sprint event. This is a new form of racing for the U.S. Both the two-kilometer and the sprint racing will be open to any qualified competitors.

“Standing in the surf next to their boats at the start, the beach sprint requires the athlete to jump into the boat, row out 250 meters, slaloming between two buoys, turning around at the outermost buoy, returning straight to the shore and jumping out of the boat and running up the beach to the finish line. 

"The event is very similar to the lifeguard boat races seen along the coast of New Jersey,” said Wik.  

The Pensacola event will be officiated by senior officials from the United States and Canada. With minor changes, it will comply with the rules of coastal racing established by FISA, the international body for the sport of rowing.  

"We are thrilled to have such a high level, experienced team for our first U.S. Coastal Regatta," said Chief Referee Elaine Roden.

Portofino Island Resort has taken a major role in the new Coastal Racing event. The Resort is underwriting the cost of hosting the international athletes, officials, and several staff. 

In addition, the Resort will host the captains meeting (similar to a coxswain meeting) and the Awards Ceremony following Saturday's racing. Both of these will include food and beverages for all the athletes and their coaches. 

"We are excited to have the athletes in Pensacola and look forward to seeing the sport of coastal racing and rowing grow,” said Rob Babcock, general manager of Portofino Island Resort. “Portofino wants to be on the leading edge of this growth."

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