Going electric on the water

Almost all rowing clubs use some form of safety boat or coach boat, almost always propelled by a gas-powered motor.

Rowing BC is now working on a pilot project looking at the potential of rechargeable electric motors for safety boats. They have applied to Clean BC for funding and hope to set up six clubs with three different kinds of eoutboards. 

Rechargeable outboards, versus gas models, are a way for clubs and regattas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Brenda Taylor, who is organizing the pilot project, says the eoutboard technology is changing quickly, and becoming more affordable and more user-friendly, because of the demand from customers, including rowing and sailing clubs. 

Rowing BC has applied for a grant through the Clean BC Commercial Vehicle Pilots project to pilot the use of electric outboards. The CVP program  is designed to accelerate the adoption of commercial ZEVs (eg medium and heavy duty, on road, offroad, rail, marine etc)

This all started because Brenda was enquiring about rebates/subsidies for eoutboards (as there are for ZEVs). Clean BC said they aren’t currrently offering rebates for eoutboards, recognize that is a gap, but need more data to support the case for rebates, so encouraged her to apply for the CVP grant.
To accelerate the adoption of electric outboards by:
1) demonstrating the business case,
2) providing clubs with objective, relevant and easily-accessible information on cost, performance, user-experience and other benefits with which to make informed purchasing decisions, and
3) to increase awareness of the benefits and feasibility of  eoutboards and to provide the “electric curious” with first-hand experience with them, in a real-world setting .
One of the goals is to provide the “electric curious” with first hand experience with electric outboards, in a real-world setting .
Project details:
Pilot the use of 6 eoutboards in 4-6 pilot clubs in BC for a full year. We will test 3 types (Elco EP20, Torqeedo Cruise 10 and Pure Watercraft)- all roughly equivalent to 15-25hp gas outboards and each will have 2 batteries. They will be tested on 3-4 different types of launches (Carolina Skiff, inflatable, tin, catamaran).. Pilot clubs were selected to provide a range of use scenarios (crew speeds,launch type,  type of program -eg Learn to row, competitive etc), water body (lake, river, sea), and to maximize the number of people who would be exposed to the outboard or get a chance to use it.  Pilot clubs have been selected but not yet confirmed.
Data to be collected on eoutboard and gas outboard with similar use (at each club): performance, user experience, fuel consumption, GHG and air pollution emissions (calculated from fuel consumption), operating costs, downtime (due to maintenance etc), noise.
Brenda says they will also be running demo days to give others a chance to try them out and they will be used in both training and for regattas.
As part of preparing the grant application, she says it became clear that few clubs keep accurate records of fuel consumption, hours of engine use, maintenance costs. This project will fill this gap as well as providing information on eoutboards.
The plan is to create a resource/toolkit to help clubs decide whether to “go eletcric”, what factors to consider when choosing an eoutboard, including the number of batteries, charging infrastructure and other practical tips..
Brenda Taylor says the industry is exploding and there are now LOTS of eoutboard options out there, though many are not yet readily available. Torqeedo and Elco have both been around for awhile and are available. PWC is new, but were designed with rowing in mind (at least in part). They have a number of rowers working for them and have tested prototypes at different rowing clubs (they are based  out of Seattle).
Brenda says static umpiring is another way that regatta organizers could consider as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at their events.

Taking action in the fight against climate change – how your rowing club can get involved

Taking action in the fight against climate change – how your rowing club can get involved

Brenda Taylor from Victoria recently hosted a webinar for RCA called Rowing and the Climate Crisis: Acting Now to Fight Climate Change.

You can watch the webinar:


*the slide in this post are from Brenda’s presentation

Here are some of the ideas that Brenda shared during her presentation:

  • Electric outboards
  • Energy efficiency upgrades- LED lights, heat pumps, thermopane windows, drying room for gear
  • Solar 
  • Wind
  • Recycling/reuse/REPAIR- buy good quality, keep it in good repair
  • Encourage/support cycling, public transit, carpooling
  • Refuse packaging/waste
  • Nature based solutions – wetlands 
  • Travel to regattas 
  • Trailer/truck – share, aluminum….
  • Share coach boats
  • No single use plastics
  • Procurement policies
  • Boat pools
  • Static umpiring at regattas
  • No medals, tshirts, swag – https://treesnottees.com/event-organisers/
  • Go paperless
  • Climate Action working group
  • GHG pilot
  • Technical standards for boats- recycled content, lifespan, repairability
  • HUB to share ideas
  • Educate re boat repair and maintenance
  • Lobby politicians
  • Climate change education sessions for rowing boards and members
  • Subsidies for eoutboards
  • Carbon offsets
  • Sport Canada- new Canadian Sport Policy
  • Access to funding and expertise
If your club is interested in finding out more, or joining the discussion, you can contact Brenda: brendastaylor@telus.net 

Monitoring the changing climate – Rowing PEI 

By Nancy Russell

Coaches and rowers with Rowing PEI have seen the changing weather conditions firsthand in recent years, with more wind and storms, including tropical storms such as Arthur (July 2014), Dorian (September 2019), Teddy (September 2020)  and Elsa (July 2021).  Because we don’t have a clubhouse, we have to either move our boats off the dock, or secure them and hope they can ride out the storm. It’s a lot of work and hard on the nerves!!!

The windier weather, even early in the morning, is also starting to limit our rowing time on the Charlottetown Harbour.  Even in coastal boats, the wind speeds are sometimes too high, especially for new rowers.  In 2021, we decided to move our flat water boats to a sheltered bay on P.E.I.’s north shore, in search of some calmer waters.  The rowers had to beach launch all summer, but at least they got some flatter water. 

We can definitely feel it getting windier, but now with help from the UPEI Climate Lab, we will be able to monitor what’s happening.

In July 2021, they installed a weather station, part of a network across the Island. It will collect historical data to track how conditions are changing, and also gives real-time wind speed, which is a game changer on a windy body of water!

We do encourage carpooling to our flat water training centre, which is about 20 minutes from Charlottetown.

The Charlottetown Yacht Club, which is our home base in Charlottetown, is also a member of Sailors for the Sea, which focuses on clean and environmentally friendly sailing. 


Canada’s solar-powered rowing club


Lakeland Rowing Club in Vermilion, Alberta was well ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing renewable energy. 

They had to embrace solar energy ten years ago, because there was no power line access to the provincial park where they are located. And even if the park would allow it, it would have been cost-prohibitive.

When the club first started in 1996, they had no electricity. They used strategically-positioned car headlights for dark fall morning practices. How’s that for Canadian innovation?!?

The club bought their 100-watt solar panel more than 10 years ago. Originally, it was just for their shed, and flood lights for the compound. Now the solar light lights up their boathouse as well, thanks to help from some electrical instructors and apprentices at Lakeland College. 

The club has upgraded from fluorescent to LED lighting, again making the green choice.

Interesting fact: if you go to Google satellite, Vermilion AB you can see the facility on the reservoir!

Thanks to Lakeland Rowing Club’s Peter Walsh for sharing his solar story.