A thrilling weekend of rowing at the Western Canadian Beach Sprints Regatta concluded at Colwood Waterfront, with Canadian rowers Julien Bahain, Trish Mara, Aubrey Oldham, and Sarah Pidgen earning the opportunity to represent their country at the 2023 ANOC World Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia from August 5-12. The regatta, hosted by the Open Aviron Rowing Coastal Association (OARCA), showcased a strong field of experienced competitors vying for Worlds selection.
In the Men’s Solo final, three-time Olympian Julien Bahain (OARCA) faced off against seasoned coastal rower Aubrey Oldham (Don Rowing Club). Battling challenging waves and shifting currents, Bahain demonstrated remarkable skill and composure to secure victory, overcoming the rising waves and keeping his focus. His exceptional performance in the regatta, where he even assisted organizers with course set-up, showcased his dedication and earned him a well-deserved win.
The highlight of the regatta was undoubtedly the Women’s Solo final, featuring an intense race between Trish Mara (Victoria City Rowing Club) and former Beach Sprints World Champion Brienne Miller (North Star Rowing Club). After a close battle on the water, Mara managed to outpace Miller during the sprint on the sand, crossing the finish line just seconds ahead.
Both competitors showed tremendous sportsmanship and friendship as they embraced at the end, celebrating a hard-fought race. Mara, a former Canadian World Championship and PanAmGames representative in flatwater rowing expressed her joy at winning and her excitement for the upcoming World Beach Games, where coastal rowing will make its debut.
In another thrilling final, the mixed doubles event showcased a battle between experienced veterans of the discipline. Julien Bahain partnered with Michelle Truax (OARCA), while Aubrey Oldham teamed up with his long-time Mixed Doubles partner Sarah Pidgen (Don Rowing Club). The crews were evenly matched during the slalom portion of the race, but Pidgen and Oldham’s turning technique gave them an edge around the 250m buoy. They powered into shore, clinching the victory despite Pidgen battling a significant knee injury sustained in competition last month. The duo’s resilience and determination secured their place to represent Canada on the international coastal rowing stage once again.
The final event of the regatta was the Women’s Doubles event that saw emerging talents Abby Simpson and Ella Stemler claim the title ahead of their University of Victoria teammates, Presley Dickau and Marijn Butterfield. This marked the first official coastal rowing regatta for all four UVic rowers, with Simpson and Stemler impressively winning their semi-final race and then competing in the final just 20 minutes later. Their efficient slalom strategy helped them overcome the challenges and emerge victorious, showcasing the duo’s potential in this exciting discipline.
Coastal rowing continues to gain momentum and popularity on the international sporting stage. The discipline’s inclusion in the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria was announced in 2022, marking rowing’s return to the Games after 36 years. Furthermore, World Rowing has formally proposed coastal rowing to the International Olympic Committee for inclusion in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, which could lead to significant changes in the global rowing landscape. A decision on this proposal is expected in June 2023, heightening anticipation within the rowing community.
The Western Canadian Beach Sprints Regatta provided an exhilarating weekend of rowing that showcased the skill, determination, and camaraderie prevalent in the coastal rowing community. As the discipline continues to grow globally, exciting opportunities such as inclusion in the Commonwealth Games and potential Olympic recognition lie on the horizon, promising a bright future for this captivating discipline.
Men’s Solo (M1x)
1st – Julien Bahain (OARCA – Open Aviron Rowing Coastal Association)
2nd – Aubrey Oldham (Don Rowing Club)
3rd – Matthew Seaby (Peterborough Rowing Club)
Women’s Solo (W1x)
1st – Trish Mara (Victoria City Rowing Club)
2nd – Brienne Miller (North Star Rowing Club)
Mixed Double (MX2x)
1st – Aubrey Oldham & Sarah Pidgen (Don Rowing Club)
2nd – Julien Bahain & Michelle Truax (OARCA)
3rd – Sophia Regosa & Austin Page (Rowing BC Next Gen)
Women’s Double (W2x)
1st – Abigail Simpson & Ella Stemler (University of Victoria Women’s Rowing)
2nd – Presley Dickau & Marijn Butterfield (University of Victoria Women’s Rowing)
3rd – Maya Wilson & Angelica Allen (Salt Spring Rowing Club)