Words courtesy of Chief Umpire John O’Connor
Lake Ruataniwha turned on stunning week of weather for the 2022 Rocket Foods New Zealand Rowing Championships. Conditions were characterised by light tail winds for most of the week with the only delay being on Day 2 when a westerly wind disturbed the course delaying the start time by 1 hour. Concerns over a change in weather of the final day of the regatta resulted in an extension of racing on Thursday and an early finish on Friday. As luck would have it, the wind turned soon after the completion of racing which vindicated the decision.
A request to South Island Rowing by Rowing New Zealand to take over the hosting of the event after Covid Requirements, both national and local government, forced Karapiro Rowing to withdraw from hosting the event, meant a very short organisational window. Thanks to a proactive attitude and opportunity gained from early season events, SIRI was able to fill the void.
A National Championships held under the red setting of the Covid Protection Framework makes for a very different experience for competitors and officials alike. There was no boat or coxswain weighing, no compliance checks and no spectators. Due to the requirement of clubs to stay in their designated zones, that did not exceed 100, perhaps the element that most missed was the opportunity to socialise with friends and acquaintances from other clubs. In an effort to allow athletes to watch racing the boat park was hardly used andclubs lined the bank for most of the last 1000m’s of the course.
Owing to the short timeline and work commitments many volunteers and race officials were unavailable, thanks must go to a small band of officials from the North Island and Rowing New Zealand staff who helped fill the gaps. Of note is that RNZ CEO, Geoff Barry plus General Manager –Community and Development, Mark Weatherall, joined the safety boat team to get first hand experience of the regatta.
On the water, zonal umpiring was used to restrict boat wash on the course and limit wash causing disruption to crews launching and retrieving along the back. Volunteers also found themselves doubling as security of the gates to ensure only those with certification entered the venue. Collecting, sorting and reissuing numbers for the next days’ racing became a slick process, and was another necessary task added to the busy days.
There is little doubt that the regatta was a success, and to hold an event of this size during a global pandemic is testament to those who undertook the planning and consultation with governmental and local organisations. Our sport owes a debt to the Covid Committee of South Island Rowing for their untiring work and optimism. Recognition should also go to the athletes, support teams and officials who made it work by be compliant with requirements at the course and maintaining a low profile away from the course. There is no doubt that this regatta will long be remembered for what was different and what needed to be done to make it work, however, let’s hope it is a one off and by 2023 we can return to normality.