Posted: 06 October 2023

Scotland’s Sam Scrimgeour and Laura McKenzie won a memorable silver medal representing the GB Rowing Team at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Barletta, Italy, at the weekend.

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 Photo credit: Lynn McKenzie

Glasgow Rowing Club’s Scrimgeour and McKenzie, representing Glasgow University Boat Club and Leander Club, teamed up again in the Coastal Mixed Double Scull [CMix2x] following their recent 4th place finish at the European Rowing Beach Sprint Championships, competing in a stacked field featuring 26 crews from across the world.

The duo, the current Commonwealth Beach Sprint champions, enjoyed a solid start to the weekend coming home 4th in their time trial to move directly through to the last 16 knockout rounds.  Here they took on Germany in the head-to-head format, establishing an early lead before progressing comfortably into the quarter-finals.

Scrimgeour and McKenzie, coached by Scottish Rowing’s Beach Sprints Pathway Coach Iain Docwra, were involved in the most exciting race of the weekend in their quarter-final match up against Tunisia.  Arriving back at the beach just ahead of the opposition, McKenzie sprinted up the beach being chased down by Hani Sbeitia.  With both athletes diving for the finish buzzer, the final result required a photo finish to determine the winner, with Great Britain just edging it by 0.1 second.


 Photo credit: James Lee / British Rowing

Demonstrating the importance of endurance in this discipline, the British crew were back in semi-final action less than 20 minutes later against the hosts, Italy.  Getting out to an early lead, Great Britain were first to the turn and managed to navigate the challenging conditions well on their way back to the beach to guarantee a medal and earn their place in the A final.

The gold medal match saw the Scots come up against New Zealand featuring Matthew Dunham and Jackie Kiddle, current senior lightweight internationals who had competed at the World Rowing Championships in Belgrade earlier this year.

Once again, the British double got out to an early lead, reaching the turning point first and looking in control on the return leg, only for the waves to push them wide on their return to the land.  Despite arriving at the beach first McKenzie had too much ground to cover and Dunham was able to hit the buzzer and secure the gold medal.

Sam Scrimgeour, said: “This was a super opportunity to represent Great Britain again having stepped away from international [flat water] rowing in 2017.  It made it all the more special to do it with Laura and with the support of Iain.

“I’m delighted to come away with a silver medal and improve on our performance from the Europeans after some exciting racing and what has been a hectic year of work. I’m hugely grateful to all who have helped along the way.”

Laura McKenzie added: “This has been the biggest and most challenging year of my life in rowing. To come away with silver at the world champs with Sam has been a dream. Talk about ending the season on a high.

“I can’t thank our coach Iain enough for the support and time he has given to our team. But also everyone else who has helped us get here. This is only the beginning and the only way is up.”

Scotland was also represented in Barletta by Gregor Hall (Stirling Rowing Club / University of St Andrews Boat Club) in the Coastal Men’s Solo [CM1x] and Ryan Glymond (University of St Andrews Boat Club), cox of the Coastal Mixed Quad Scull [CMix4x+] with Natalie Firth (Stirling Rowing Club) selected as part of the GB boat handling team.

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 Photo credit: James Lee / British Rowing

Hall, who last year finished just outside of the medals in 4th place in Saundersfoot, Wales, started strongly as the 6th fastest qualifier from the time trials to set up a last 16 knockout race against New Zealand’s Joseph Sullivan.  The Scot was in the lead on the return leg of the row however the London 2012 Olympic champion [in the men’s double scull] Sullivan in the end proved to be too strong and took the win.

The time trial for the Coastal Mixed Quad Scull showed how tight racing was going to be with the top four crews, including Great Britain, all within just over a second of each other.  In their quarter-final against the USA, Glymond’s crew got off to a good start before some difficulties at the turn opened the door for the Americans to get back into the race.  Arriving at the beach together the USA had too much pace on the final sprint and took the race, ending GB’s hopes of a medal.

View the full results from the 2023 World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals

Scottish Rowing’s Head of Performance and Pathways, Lee Boucher said:

“We are immensely proud to see members of the Scottish Rowing community perform on the world stage, and many congratulations to Sam and Laura on their outstanding silver medal.

“Scotland has enjoyed many successes in coastal sculling over recent years and following the appointment of Iain Docwra as our first-ever professional Beach Sprints Pathway Coach we are looking to introduce a number of new programme initiatives over the coming months.”

Rowers or coaches who would like to learn more about coastal sculling opportunities should email Iain Docwra, Scottish Rowing’s Beach Sprint Pathway Coach.