Posted: 15 December 2022

The Scotland Rowing Team topped the medal table at the Commonwealth Rowing Association Beach Sprint Championships in Walvis Bay, Namibia winning gold medals in three out of the four events.

The Namibian Canoe and Rowing Federation, supported by local partners as well as World Rowing and the Commonwealth Rowing Association, hosted the first ever Beach Sprints coastal rowing competition in Africa, on Independence Beach from 2-4 December 2022.

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Scotland had selected a small but experienced team of athletes – Gregor Hall (Stirling Rowing Club), Isla MacCallum (Stirling Rowing Club / Edinburgh University Boat Club), Sam Scrimgeour (Glasgow Rowing Club) and Laura McKenzie (Glasgow University Boat Club / Leander Club) - all of whom had helped secure the overall team trophy at the inaugural Home International Rowing Beach Sprints in St Andrews back in August.  Whilst Hall, MacCallum and McKenzie had all represented the GB Rowing Team at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals held at Saundersfoot, Wales in October.

Hall had endured some challenging racing in Saundersfoot and twice got beaten by the waves, narrowly missing out on a place on the podium with a 4th place finish.  However this experience served him well in Namibia and he took Scotland’s first gold of the Championships following victories over Jersey, South Africa and England.

There was also gold for Scotland’s mixed double of Scrimgeour and McKenzie who had been the standout crew of the Championships with a combination of explosive speed, athleticism and good racing lines.  They took the Commonwealth title following wins over Bahamas, Canada and Wales.

First year student MacCallum had been racing in her first senior competition following her silver medal in the under 19 women’s coastal solo


at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in October.  The Scot did not disappoint on this occasion with a fifth-place finish in her time trial before losing out to an experienced Welsh athlete at the quarter-final stage.

All four athletes then combined to round off a wonderful Commonwealth Beach Sprint Championships for the Scotland Rowing Team with victory over England in the final of the team relay following earlier victories over Bahamas / Barbados composite and Wales.

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Twelve Commonwealth nations competed at these Championships with Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia taking on the waves against the four home nations present (Scotland, England, Wales and Jersey).  Australia finished second in the medal table behind Scotland with England third overall.

The Commonwealth Beach Sprint Championships saw strong local collaboration within Namibia with a legacy including a new coastal boat fleet for the Namibian Canoe and Rowing Federation, gifted through the goodwill of World Rowing and Olympic Solidarity.  This boat fleet will now ensure that local people in the Walvis Bay area of Namibia will get the opportunity to try coastal rowing.

Coastal rowing (in the Beach Sprints format) has recently been announced as part of the Commonwealth Games programme for Victoria 2026 and is also under consideration by the International Olympic Committee for inclusion at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 2028.

The Scotland Rowing Team were able to compete in Namibia thanks to the generous support and backing of Commonwealth Games ScotlandsportscotlandRivalKitdryrobe and Lomo Watersport.


Gregor Hall, Commonwealth Beach Sprint gold medallist (CM1x) said: “Being part of the Scotland Team in Namibia is one I will never forget, I am greatly appreciative to be one of the few to experience it.

“Coming away with 2 Golds in CM1x and Team Relay has ended the year on a real high. The best part of the trip and Beach Sprints is the camaraderie between nations, this spirit made the whole experience so great to be a part of.”

Natalie Firth, Coach of the Scotland Rowing Team said: “Being the coach as part of the Scotland Rowing Team for the Commonwealth Beach Sprint Championships was an incredible experience.

“It was great to see Scotland perform strongly across the event and topping the medal table, showing that Scottish athletes are leading the way in this new format of rowing.”

Lee Boucher, Scottish Rowing’s Head of Performance Pathway and Commonwealth Team Manager said: “It’s been a memorable Championships for the Scotland Rowing Team and we are delighted to be returning home with three gold medals and many fantastic performances as we build towards the Commonwealth Games in 2026.

“The Namibian Organising Committee have delivered an exceptional Championships, with lots of excellent racing, and we’d like to thank them for their incredible hospitality. We look forward to seeing coastal rowing growing in the region and across the Commonwealth in the years ahead.”

Amanda Cobb, Chief Operating Officer of Scottish Rowing said: “It was wonderful to send a team to Namibia to compete in this groundbreaking event and thanks are owed to the Commonwealth Rowing Association and the Namibian Canoe and Rowing Federation for their vision. We hope that the legacy from the event will inspire a generation of coastal rowers.

While the Championships took place in a great spirit of camaraderie and friendship off the water - competition was fierce and we are delighted with the fantastic performance of the Scotland Rowing team. These results provide us with an excellent foundation to build on as we prepare for the Commonwealth Games in 2026.


Race Reports 

It was the job of 18-year-old MacCallum, making her senior team debut following a memorable silver medal at the worlds, to get Scotland’s campaign in Namibia underway in the women’s coastal solo (CW1x) event.

Isla got off to a strong start in the time trial securing a top 5 finish to progress straight through to the last 8 head-to-head races where she was drawn against GB under 23 international Isobel Powell representing Wales.

The young Scot put up a brave fight against her experienced competition from Leander Club however on this occasion it was Wales that came out on top, progressing through to the semi-final stage.  Australia’s Elizabeth Newell would eventually go on to take gold, ahead of England’s Clare Jamison with Canada’s Sarah Pidgen winning the bronze medal match.

The men’s solo event (CM1x) followed shortly after with Stirling Rowing Club’s Hall looking to build on his 4th place finish from the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals where he had to deal with some extremely challenging weather conditions.

The competitors in Walvis Bay had to deal with varying conditions across the Championships and Hall demonstrated his skill in the navigating his way around the challenging time-trial course to secure the second fastest time behind Australia’s under 23 international Marcus Della Marta.

Hall, 30, progressed to the gold medal match following wins over Des Nevitt (Jersey) and George DuPlooy (South Africa) and in the final he faced fellow GB international and London 2012 Olympian Charles Cousins representing England.

The pair knew each other well having raced off many times through the GB trials process and this final did not disappoint producing one of the closest races of the Championships.  Both scullers coped well in the cross-wind conditions and Hall managed to just get his nose ahead in the return leg reaching the beach slightly ahead of Cousins and diving for the flag less than three seconds ahead of the Englishman.

Up next was the turn of the Scotland mixed double (CMix2x) of Scrimgeour and McKenzie who had looked in fine form in the lead-up to the competition.  The pair first raced together back at the Saints Coastal Regatta in May however this was their first experience of international competition as a combination.

The Scottish crew set the early pace in this event with a dominant time trial performance to progress directly through to the last eight, before victories over the Bahamas in the quarter-final and Canada in the semi-final saw them through to the gold medal match against Wales.

The Scottish double built an early lead over Wales in their final, reaching the turning buoy first before some steering difficulties on the return leg let Wales back into the race.  With both crews reaching the beach at roughly the same time it was McKenzie’s slick exit from the boat and powerful sprint on the sand that secured the gold medal for Scotland.

Following a short break all four athletes were back in the action as the team relay event got underway.  Men’s solo followed by mixed double and then women’s solo saw lots of fast and frantic racing on the beach with 10 teams taking part.

Scotland’s form in the individual events saw them set the standard in the time trial ahead of England and Canada, setting up a last eight encounter against a Bahamas and Barbados composite.  Following victory over the Caribbean team a tough match against Wales was the reward in the semi-final with the Scottish team holding on to their early lead to march into the final.

After the Plate Final was won by the local Namibian team, the scene was set for the gold medal relay final between neighbours and rivals, Scotland and England.  There wasn’t much separating the two teams following the opening leg between Scotland’s Gregor Hall and England’s Charles Cousins and as Hall tagged in Sam Scrimgeour it was all to play for.

The Scottish double of Scrimgeour and Laura McKenzie put in a huge push on the middle leg to open up a healthy lead over England as both crews prepared for the final transition.  Isla MacCallum had the job of anchoring the Scottish team home and knew she would have to fight for the win with Commonwealth silver medallist Clare Jamison chasing her down.  Isla showed grit and determination to hold off a surge from her English competition and powered up the beach to take gold.

Full Results 

View the full results from the 2022 Commonwealth Rowing Association Beach Sprint Championships by clicking on the links below:

Coastal Women’s Solo (CW1x) 

Coastal Men’s Solo (CM1x) 

Coastal Mixed Double (CMix2x) 

Coastal Team Relay