This is a question which we are often asked at Swift Racing. There isn’t a definitive answer, as it depends on combinations of many different criteria, from crew ability to weather and sea conditions.
Whilst Swift Racing builds its Coastal Boats to exceed FISA safety guidelines, there are always risks with the sport of coastal rowing. The good news is that here are some important things that you can do to reduce those risks:
1- Check weather forecasts and sea conditions
Before going out to sea, the first thing to do is to check the forecasts. Any forecast of thunderstorms or strong winds is a definite no go.
If you are rowing in a place you are not familiar with, always ask local rowers about the local conditions and idiosyncrasies, and work out beforehand how best you will cope with them.
Check the wave height, and very importantly the frequency of waves. Compare the direction in which you are going, with the direction of the waves.
Sometimes wave frequency is more important than wave height. This is because the closer the waves are together, the more difficult and challenging it becomes to row through.
Waves spaced by 10 seconds apart or more generally aren’t too much of a problem, even if they are 2 metres high or so. There is a great app to check weather forecast which is call Windy (https://windyapp.co/).
2- Know your crew’s abilities and limitations
Being realistic about your crew’s abilities and limitations is essential when it comes to crew safety.
If you are unsure, it’s always worth getting second-opinions from other experienced club members.
Don’t be overconfident, and always be minded that your crewmates might not be as confident or as skilled at dealing with the conditions you might believe.
Don’t be afraid to take the safe option, and to postponed or cancel an outing or race.
It’s very important to not try to test crew’s limits.
3- Check your equipment
Before every outing or race, always check the following:
- The boat is in good condition and that there is no major damage which could reduce buoyancy or risk safety
- That all nuts and screws are tight
- That bulkheads are empty of any water
- That one life jacket per rower and cox is on board
- That you recorded your outing on the outing book before going on the water (with at least date, time of departure, direction you will go and distance you will do, expected return time and details of crew members)
- That you have notified a coach or one of the other members about your planned outing.
Since the new European regulations, coastal rowing boats now fall into Category D, which is for waves up to 0.5 meters and wind up to Force 4.
In reality, daily outings and scheduled regattas often contend with more severe conditions, but the regulations need to be noted.
Ideally, every outing should be supervised by a coach who has experience with coastal rowing and with the conditions which you will be experiencing.
The Swift Racing Team wishes you safe and fun coastal rows!