Talking Coastal Rowing with Britt Wotovich (RSR Elite '22)
Britt Wotovich and Annelise Hahl (both 2022 RSR Elite athletes) will be representing the USA at the 2022 Coastal Rowing Championship. Britt will be racing the Junior Women's Solo and Junior Mixed Double Sculls and Annelise will be racing the Junior Women's Double Sculls.
RSR Coaches spoke with Britt about the sport and her experience on the USA Team!
What are the differences with coastal rowing compared to flat water rowing?
Beach Sprints is fast paced and a bit wild- you never know what the ocean is going to throw at you. Beach sprints involve sprinting from the start line, jumping into your boat, slaloming through a buoyed course, turning 180 degrees and sprinting back to the finish line on the beach.
What are the seasons for coastal rowing?
Coastal Rowing is a year around sport, but competitions primarily occur during the summer and fall.
Describe what a race is like in coastal rowing? What is the distance?
The race begins with a 50m run and at the end of the run, the rower must get into the coastal boat. The rower has two boat handlers to assist in getting into the boat. The course itself is a slalom with a 360° turn around a buoy after 250m. After the turn, the race is a straight line sprint back to the beach and a 50m run to hit the buzzer.
What types of boats have you raced so far in your coastal rowing career?
I have raced a single, mixed double, and a women’s double so far in my coastal rowing career.
What type of weather conditions would it have to be that boats could not go out on the water?
Boats cannot go out on the water when the surf is greater than two feet or when there is lightning in the area. Whenever we go out in large surf, we take extra safety precautions such as having more boat handlers to help the rower safely enter the boat (even though this would not be allowed in the race) and being followed by a launch boat.
Are there coxswains in coastal rowing?
Coxswains have one event in coastal rowing for the adults in the mixed coxed quad. The coxswain runs the opening leg to the boat and controls the boat through the slalom and the turn. Missed slalom buoys result in a thirty second penalty and a missed turn buoy results in a minute penalty. They have traditional rudder steering, and also have to take into account the changing currents and waves.
Have you had to develop a different type of "mental game" with coastal rowing compared to flat water rowing? If so, what is it?
Coastal rowing definitely has a different type of ‘mental game’ than flat water rowing. Each coastal race is a do or die proposition where the loser of the race is knocked out of the competition. Despite the race being a sprint distance, beach sprints also have a marathon component to it. As you progress through the quarter, semis and finals, each race begins 2-3 minutes after finishing your last race. Additionally, needing to slalom correctly through the buoys makes coastal rowing mentally challenging. I attempt to stay focused on the present and my own race.
What is the biggest risk in coastal rowing?
Coastal rowing often has many more injuries than flat-water rowing due to the fast paced events and the always changing currents. Often risky maneuvers can cut 1-2 seconds away from the athlete’s time, but have the potential to add a substantial amount of time and be dangerous for the rowers. For example, jumping out of the boat before the bow hits the sand will definitely decrease time if done correctly, but rowers can miscalculate the momentum and fall or be hit by the rigger.
What has been the most empowering thing you have done since RSR Elite? Why are you most proud of this?
The most empowering thing I have done since RSR Elite has been learning how to think positively in racing circumstances. In coastal rowing, anything can happen including missing buoys, various penalties, and flipping (even among excellent rowers). I have learned to focus on my own race because I can’t control anybody else’s race. I am most proud to have implemented a positive mindset into my daily life and while racing.
What are your new everyday habits/rituals you do that better support your path towards your goals?
Visualizing the race beforehand is a habit that I have recently developed which helps support my path. Especially due to the fast paced nature of beach sprints, it is extremely useful to have actions planned out for racing to go smoothly. Furthermore, journaling and reviewing drone footage after each practice is an essential part of our training. I can learn from mistakes and know how to get out of certain situations such as a misplaced seat while getting into the boat or the oar being caught on the buoy rope.
Taking the opportunity to be brave and vulnerable, what is a current obstacle you are working on overcoming? What are you doing to improve it?
I am working on overcoming my fear of the erg. To prepare for Wales, I have been doing daily erg sessions, and I am attempting to overcome the fear of failure in order to reach my full potential. To improve, I am changing my mindset and I have found myself excited to erg somedays.
Describe your worst sports performance. What did you learn from this experience?
My worst sports performance was at sculling states in 2021 when I beat the other competition in the seeding for lanes, yet the following day lost. While I have placed worse in other performances, I feel that this was my worst sports performance because I had the skills to accomplish my goals, yet I doubted myself. I learned that having a positive attitude throughout the entire race is essential and that I need to have confidence no matter where I am in the race.
Which strengths do you believe you have that make you a great athlete?
The mental skills that RSR Elite has taught me have definitely improved my performances and made me stronger. RSR Elite has taught me to be more confident and to have a positive mindset going into each race no matter what. Even when two races are back-to-back with around five minutes of rest, RSR Elite has taught me to trust that I am prepared and ready to perform.
Why are you so passionate about rowing?
I absolutely love the sport of rowing because of both the challenges you learn to overcome and the community that surrounds you. Both at my club team, and at RSR Elite, the rowing community is extremely motivating and supportive of everyone’s goals. I absolutely love how I have stayed connected to teammates from Ready Set Row, and believe that rowing cultivates friendships that will last forever.