Cove club members are inspired by east Antrim’s rich rowing tradition

An offshore rowing club inspired by east Antrim’s rich heritage of staging regattas is looking to the future as the increasingly popular sport prepares to make its debut at the next Olympic Games.

Cove Offshore Rowing Club (Whitehead and Islandmagee) was founded in October 2018 by a group of rowers who took the initiative to introduce the discipline of offshore rowing to the area.

They were inspired by the history of rowing around the coast from Whitehead to Brown’s Bay, recalling the popularity of regatta events off Islandmagee up to the Second World War.

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Speaking to the Times, the club’s secretary Graeme Goldsworthy said: “The club is a fully accredited member of Rowing Ireland, the official governing body of rowing on the island of Ireland, benefitting from a range of support services, not least their extensive coaching and development programme.

The club has two bases, rowing from Whitehead and on Larne Lough from Magheramorne.

“A small, but growing club, Cove rows sculling boats known as Yoles with sliding seats such as you’d find on a rowing machine in a gym. Cove operates two types of Yole, the quad rowed by four rowers and steered by a coxswain and the double type, rowed by two rowers and crew steered. These boats present a significant technical and physical challenge to the rower in varying sea and weather conditions, above all as competitive rowing boats they are the fastest and most exhilarating to row.

“The club has two bases, rowing from Whitehead and on Larne Lough from Magheramorne. These sites ensure they can row in all but the most severe weather conditions, all year round. The club does have a nomadic nature and they row on other parts of the Ulster coast, on the River Bann and the Fermanagh Lakes.”

Detailing both the competitive as well as social aspects of being a club member, he added: “Competitively, Cove travel to compete at national, regional and club regattas all over Ireland. Races are run over a 4,000m course, with five buoys to navigate. More than one boat arriving at a buoy to make a turn results in some spectacular pile ups. All part of the fun, of course.

“Socially, club crews have been known to pop over to the Co Down coast for a spot of lunch at the Dirty Duck in Holywood. Next year the club will travel to Malta to row with our partners at the University of Malta club and enjoy the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea – where is it eminently more sensible to practice capsize drills.

Cove travel to compete at national, regional and club regattas all over Ireland.

“Regular club outings involve coaching and skills training, with race practice focused on Larne Lough, while the club enjoys recreational rowing off Whitehead, regularly making trips round Blackhead to the Gobbins and Brown’s Bay, or over to Co Down.”

Although the club only recently celebrated its third anniversary, members have been rewarded in competetion. Graeme explained: “As a new club, Cove has already tasted success, winning a silver medal and two bronze medals at the Irish Masters Challenge in Portnoo in July - and made two senior finals at the Irish National All Ireland Offshore Rowing Championships in 2021 at Port Magee and again at Bantry Bay this year.”

During the uncertain times residents faced at the height of the coronavirus emergency, the club provided an outlet to help improve mental health and wellbeing.

Graeme said: “The experience of the pandemic and the lockdown was a notable bonding experience for the group with many commenting on how beneficial rowing has been to their own mental wellbeing in these difficult times. It’s surprising just how cathartic leaving the land behind for a couple of hours can be. The club certainly want to be able to offer that opportunity to others.”

The club’s memebrship is gradually growing and experienced rowers are invited to contact the group.

Graeme concluded: “Cove have the simple mantra that rowing is best taught and experienced out on the sea, they won’t park anyone on a rowing machine when they can be out at sea doing it for real.

“The club carefully inducted seven new members this season and trained two complete novices, while continuing to develop the skills of the whole membership. Coaching staff hold internationally recognized rowing, sailing, kayaking, sea safety and advanced first aid qualifications. Experienced rowers wishing to step up from sweep or fixed seat rowing are always welcome to come and try some offshore rowing and the club welcomes enquires from anyone willing to try out this demanding but rewarding sport.”

Anyone wishing to find out more information is asked to email [email protected]

We want to hear from sports clubs interested in being featured in this new series. Get in touch with Russell Keers - email [email protected]

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