Coastal Rowing Malmö – the Race of the Turning Torsos

The start in the C1xW. In the background is Turning Torso, the famous landmark in Malmö. Turning Torso was designed by Spanish architect, structural engineer, sculptor and painter Santiago Calatrava. The tower reaches a height of 190 metres (623 ft) with 54 stories and 147 apartments. Photo: Marie Barge.

9 July 2019

Text by Linda Holmquist Mengelbier
Photography by Marie Barge & Linda Holmquist Mengelbier

In late June, the Swedish Championships in Coastal Rowing were held in Malmö, Sweden. Linda Holmquist Mengelbier, a member of the local rowing club, Malmö Roddklubb, was there umpiring the regatta. Present was also HTBS photographer Marie Barge, whose beautiful pictures from the last year’s World Rowing Masters Regatta at Nathan Benderson Park in Florida, some of you readers might still remember.

(Left to right) Boat driver Anders and umpire and HTBS article writer Linda Holmquist Mengelbier after having laid out the buoys at the first turning point of the course. Photo: Thompa Bild.

Turning Torso is these days Malmö’s landmark and also the theme of the Swedish Rowing Coastal Championships (SRCC), which took place on 29-30 June at Ribersborg Beach in Malmö, Sweden. A necessity now and then in coastal rowing is to turn your torso to confirm directions to make sure that you still are aiming for the next turning point, a yellow buoy or two, and not at any obstacles on or in the water, in Malmö for instance a swimmer or stand-up-paddle board or so.

Ready for the start in C1xM. Photo: Marie Barge.

The Coastal Rowing Regatta in Malmö was part of SM-veckan/Svenska mästerskapsveckan, i.e. the Swedish Championship Week. Athletes representing 40 different sports compete during one week to become Swedish Champions in their specific type of sport. In addition, spectators got the opportunity to test new sports. At Ribersborg Beach, it was possible to try C1x.

The Regatta Office with Race Director Per Ekström in the middle. Photo: Linda Holmquist Mengelbier.

The championship week takes place in a different Swedish city every year. The first SM-veckan took place in Malmö in 2010 and this year it celebrated its 10th time. In 2010, flat-water Sprint Rowing on the canals of Malmö was part of the programme. This time rowing was represented by Coastal Rowing, a continuously growing genre of rowing in Sweden. Malmö Roddklubb, with President Per Ekström as race director, hosted the regatta together with several other rowing clubs from the Skåne area of Sweden. Helsingborgs Roddklubb has exceptional knowledge of organising Coastal Rowing. Peter Berg and Maria Pelvén, both from Helsingborgs Roddklubb, contributed with their vast expertise and engagement from the first day of regatta planning. On top of that, they raced in Coastal C1xW, C1xM and C2xMix. Maria became Swedish Champion in both C1xW and C2xMix.

Peter Berg and Maria Pelvén, of Helsingborgs Roddklubb, not only shared their expertise on coastal rowing, they also raced at the competition in Malmö. Maria became Swedish Champion in both C1xW and C2xMix (in the latter together with Peter). Photo: Linda Holmquist Mengelbier.

The regatta was also open to foreign crews. There were rowers from, for instance, USA, the Netherlands, Wales, Hong Kong, Denmark and Peru. In the Open class of C2xMix, Maria and Peter came second after a Netherlands/Peru combination of Janneke van der Meulen and Eduardo Gabriel Linares Ruiz. C1xM was won by Dennis Gustavsson, Höganäs Roddklubb, Sweden. For more results, see here.

The Race Course.

The race course was triangular and the rowers started their races by rowing 1,250 m straight out into Öresund, the narrow stretch of sea between Sweden and Denmark. According to FISA rules of racing, “Wherever possible, the organising committee shall design the [coastal] course so that the action of the race and competing boats can be seen by spectators on shore.” Yes, by hearsay (I was out on the sea) and beautiful pictures printed here, spectators from the Ribersborg shore could see the boats either finish their trial heats and finals, or rounding the fifth turning point, when racing two laps in the finals. In addition, one leg of the racing triangle was well seen from the Western Harbour where the building Turning Torso has its habitat.

There were many spectators at this coastal row at the Ribersborg Beach, both with and without bathing clothes. Photo: Marie Barge.
Some of the spectators came up close to the rowers racing… Photo: Marie Barge.
…. and some had their own race, but without boats. Photo: Marie Barge.

Not only were there spectators on shore but also in the water, swimming. The docks of Ribersborg and Ribersborgs Kallbadhus, an open-air nudist swimming bath, were crowded with people. Actually the best view of the race would be from the rooted raft belonging to the Ribersborgs Kallbadhus placed outside of the Kallbadhus dock. After passing the second turning point of the race, the race course ran straight outside this beautiful old wooden house. At the Crew Captains’ meeting, all participants were informed about important issues for the safe running of the event. In hindsight maybe there ought to have been a warning note at the meeting about the nudist swimming bath. Whether that would have hindered or further encouraged the Hong Kong C1xM who managed to row in between the raft and the nudist swimming bath, I do not know. For sure it was not only the naked sunbathers who turned their heads and torsos upon the sight of a coastal rower passing close by, but also the rower, and he got himself a story to bring home. The frequency of nudist swimming houses in Hong Kong harbour, the venue of the World Coastal Rowing Championship 2019, might be zero as far as I know.

The competitors in the C1xW cooling off after their race. Photo: Marie Barge.
The Ribersborg Beach is unique. It’s only two kilometres from the city centre of Malmö. Photo: Marie Barge.
In the background is Ribersborgs Kallbadhus, the Western Harbour with apartment buildings and Malmö University. Photo: Marie Barge.
Maybe a little too calm for coastal rowing… In the distance is the Swedish coast, but also Copenhagen and the Danish shore. Photo: Marie Barge.

It was my first time umpiring a coastal rowing regatta. My fears had been dangerous weather conditions with unnecessarily rough water and boat crashes at the turns of the buoys. My position during the regatta was at turning point two of the race course which was a yellow buoy between the Kallbadhus and Western Harbour. Now we were all blessed with summer bliss and maybe a little too flat water in the opinions of participating rowers. Also, to my surprise and joy, there were no crashes around the buoys or with recreational swimmers. I can do this again, I thought.

Copacabana Beach? No, Ribersborg Beach, or as it’s called by the locals, “Ribban”. Photo: Marie Barge.

The organising committee had been hoping to arrange a beach start, but the water was too shallow at Ribersborg Beach that weekend and it had to be a floating start. Just a few hours after the regatta was finished, a beach start would have been possible and the conditions were more coastal. The next day’s thunder storms reminded me of why I had my doubts about umpiring coastal regattas and the thought of bringing everybody to safety from far off shore upon lightning, chilled me.

In solitude, with some swans. Photo: Marie Barge.

Photography © Marie Barge & Linda Holmquist Mengelbier.

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