Benedict Tufnell

New Sprint Racing Format Unveiled In UK

by Benedict Tufnell

Despite rowing’s aesthetic beauty and countless other shining attributes, it’s ability to market itself as a spectator sport to the wider public has never been one of it’s strengths.

It is one area of the sport that the UK governing body British Rowing has particularly focused on in its “strategy to harness new formats to grow and develop the sport.” As part of this strategy British Rowing announced this week new race series the “Power8 Sprints”, with the first event to be held in Bristol on July 22 this year.

The logo for the Power8 Sprints released by British Rowing this week.

Crucially, the Power8 sprints will not be contested by club, school or college teams. Instead the sprint event will see teams from eight cities – Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford – battle it out, head-to-head over 350m. Men’s and women’s ‘city teams’ will be selected from the best rowers in their region by the local regional directer. 

Each city crew will race in a unique colour, with the hope being that spectators will be able to get behind and support their local team without needing any prior association with a club or the rowers taking part.

British Rowing also hopes to harness social media and tech to boost the appeal of the event, promising “fans will be able to get to know the personalities in the boats through special behind-the-scenes profiles shot in the build-up to and during the event. Specialist technology will also be used during the races to bring fans closer to the action as it unfolds on the water.”

The ultra-short distance of the races is intended to allow spectators to witness the action from start to finish from a single vantage point – which in July will be at the Bristol harbourside in the south west of England.

There are plans to grow to three events in 2019.

While the premise of shortening rowing races to inject excitement and to broaden their spectator appeal is by no means a new idea (Sir Steve Redgrave attempted to launch his own rowing sprint league shortly after retiring in 2000 to little success) this time, with the help of on-board technology and well executed social media hype, perhaps the Power8 sprints will be able to gain more traction where others have failed.

British Rowing CEO Andy Parkinson said of the project;“We’ve been working over the past few years to develop opportunities that will help us to broaden the appeal of rowing and attract a new and more diverse audience. Power8 Sprints is a significant step in our ability to achieve this ambition.”

We shall have to wait and see.

Photo ©Benedict Tufnell

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