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AS JERSEY’S leading performer in the World Rowing Coastal Championships in Wales, Laima Pacekajute has come a long way from her first taste of the sport.

It was in 2012 when, having moved to the Island and got swept up in a more active lifestyle, including a spot of Dragon Boat Racing, she decided to try the sport at one of the Jersey Rowing Club’s regular Have a Go days.

She turned up in jeans and a T-shirt, but was lent some more suitable clothing and rarely looked back.

Last weekend, she finished ninth in the final of the women’s singles race and was the leading British rower.

Attention now turns to the Europeans in San Sebastian next week, while in the long term coastal rowing, in the form of beach sprints, will feature in the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

For the first three years, Pacekajute enjoyed the social side of the sport, before she took a break.

‘I really missed it, I would be walking past the sea, see the perfect conditions and think, “I really want to be on the water”’.

She recalls watching the training and international competitions the male crews were involved in and wondered how far she could go with a similar approach.

Before Covid hit, she was part of a successful double whose potential will never really be known because the British Championships got cancelled.

It was the restrictions in place at that time which gave Pacekajute the first taste of rowing as a single.

But before she pursued that, a more competitive edge was found as part of a quad which went to the British Champs last year and finished 22nd overall at the Worlds.

They reunited for the Sark to Jersey this year to claim victory in their class.

‘But my heart was in singles, I really like the feeling, you’re so close to the sea, you really need to work to make sure you get anywhere, and on top of that you have the navigation, all the waves, whatever the sea throws at you, it’s the ultimate challenge for rowers.’

She exceeded her own expectations at this year’s Worlds.

‘I was thinking of myself as an ageing athlete, but after the Worlds, I thought “I’ve improved since the British Championships”. I feel I’ve still got potential to do better, so I will try to work harder next year to get fitter, get better technically to be able to handle any type of water better and see where it takes me.’

San Sebastian will be a different challenge again, with large surf a potential.

‘It should be interesting.’

Training can peak at around 15 hours a week. That includes time in the boat, on the static rower, running, yoga and other strength and conditioning work.

She admits to have been on the verge of overtraining in the weeks leading up to the Worlds and thinks the sport would benefit from exposure to different training plans.

Pacekajute believes that the inclusion of beach sprints in the Victoria Commonwealth Games is a big opportunity for the sport, as well as a chance for Jersey rowers to represent their Island on the international stage when they would normally compete for GB.

A Commonwealth event takes place in Namibia at the start of December which Jersey is exploring competing at.

This side of the sport is a stark contrast to the endurance efforts more usually associated with coastal rowing.

Crews run to their boat, which is being held in the water, zigzag out to a turn buoy and back, running up the beach to finish by hitting a button.

It can be over in three minutes.

‘It’s intense, it takes everything out of you, but it’s really fun and good to watch.’

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