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Hong Kong Sports Institute

Testing the waters: Coastal rowing can find mass appeal as a spectator sport on Victoria Harbour, say rowers

  • Sport can gain wide popularity as more spectators can watch the race according to Hong Kong Asian Games rower Lee Ka-man
  • Coastal rowing held the Asian Championships as a precursor to next year’s world championships at Victoria Harbour
PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 4:06pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2018, 12:57am

With abundant facilities and Victoria Harbour serving as a spectacular backdrop, coastal rowing has been given the thumbs up as a new sport that could really take off after organisers tested the waters at the Asian Championships over the weekend.

For many years, Hong Kong rowing has been restricted along the calm waters of Shing Mun River in Sha Tin, but coastal rowing is breathing new life into the sport with Asian Games medallist Lee Ka-man saying it could appeal to a much wider audience in the city.

Lee Ka-man, along with her sister Lee Yuen-yin, won the women’s double sculls at the regional championships that took place at Victoria Harbour and they enjoyed the unique experience.

It’s the first time the event was held in Hong Kong as a build up towards the world championships that will be held here next year.

“Coastal rowing is very challenging for the crew but has a strong potential for future development as a spectator sport,” said Lee, who claimed a single sculls bronze medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta and also silver medals at both the 2006 and 2014 Asian Games. “The competition is held along the coast which will appeal to more fans and we have many vantage points in Hong Kong that are suitable for the sport to be held here.”

Nearly 80 crews from eight countries and regions featuring more than 200 rowers entered the “Race in the City” which took place along a 4,000-metre route starting and finishing in Causeway Bay waterfront at Kellett Island.

From Causeway Bay, the race took the crews to the heart of Central before returning past Hong Kong’s most scene spots such as Central Pier, the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, Tamar Park and Golden Bauhinia Square. Spectators lined the shore to enjoy the spectacle of crews racing in front of them.

“It’s a pity there was rain on Sunday otherwise more people would have enjoyed the races more,” said Lee. “For crew members, it was an exciting race because of the challenges of the waves and currents that are caused by the big ships sailing into the harbour. Unlike rowing races in lakes or closed water circuits, the sea is rough and tough and you must handle different situations well before thinking about winning your race.”

Coastal rowing boats are designed for open water competitions that are bigger and heavier compared to the faster rowing boats. But the rough waters of coastal rowing can make for some exciting racing for the rowers.

“There are two different kinds of race rowing. Rowing is about speed and attention to detail but racing in the rough seas is to overcome challenges first,” said Lee.

The organisers were pleased with the two-day competition, saying it had strong potential to become a good spectator sport while promoting Hong Kong as a city.

The 31-year-old Lee, who has taken part in five consecutive Asian Games since Busan 2002, is still discussing her future with the Sports Institute as she contemplates whether or not to continue as an elite athlete. “I want to take part in the Coastal World Championships in Hong Kong next year and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but I am not young any more and I need to find a training programme that suits me,” she said.