Rowing in Finland
Olympic style rowers may consider the Head of the Charles Regatta held in Cambridge Massachusetts to be the world’s largest rowing regatta, with over 7,000 rowers participating. But the Sulkava Rowing Race held in Sulkava Finland is the world’s biggest rowing competition and has over 11,000 rowers participating. The event lasts for three days and includes the Finnish National Championships. This race has become the largest festival in Finland. The days are long, the nights are short, and the food and drink are plentiful.
Finland has produced many great athletes including possibly the greatest Olympic rower of all, Perrti Kaarppinen (three time Olympic champion at single sculls).
But popular rowing in Finland is not your typical Olympic style rowing. The boats used in the Sulkava Race must be made of wood, must be lap strake construction, and must conform to traditional Finnish designs. There are three main classes of boats: (1) singles with one rower; (2) change boats (boats having one rower and one paddler who change places during the race). A good team can change places in less than 3 seconds; and (3) long boats with 14 rowers and a cox. All oars must be made of wood and are non-feathering.
The racing takes place in Lake Saimaa, and the races are approximately 10 km, 60 km and 70 km in length. The 70 km races include camping overnight on one of the islands. Mixed teams of men and women are not permitted, but teams of the opposite sex may compete against each other.