The Aon New Zealand Secondary Schools Rowing Championships was held at Lake Ruataniwha from Monday 28th of March to Saturday 2nd of April 2022.
John O’Connor | Chief Umpire
The regatta was shaped by a global pandemic but not defined by it. As the country as a whole came to terms with tens of thousands daily cases and a rising death toll, 1400 of the country’s best secondary rowers gathered for their championships. Recent changes to the requirement to produce proof of vaccination for secondary school students and a change to gathering limits for outside events added to the complexity of running the event.
For those who could not be present at the lake, the live stream provided by South Island Rowing had a large viewing both within New Zealand and overseas. A number of supporters established themselves on the opposite side of the lake affording a wide view of the course plus the ability to hear commentary and close up viewing via the live stream.
Entrants were compliant and followed protocols well. Though this did not prevent the inevitable spread of the extremely contagious Omicron variant amongst students and coaches alike. This meant a higher than usual rate of medical substitutions and scratchings. Despite this, we had full A-finals and healthy representation in most B Finals.
As had been the case all season, the regatta proceeded with few delays, thanks to a weather pattern that has seen easterly, tail wind, conditions for most of the season. Fog is a common source of disruption at this time of the year but with the exception of a 90 min delay during the final stages of repechages racing, continued unabated. An early blanket of fog on the final morning of racing meant cool conditions for athletes and spectators alike but when it cleared around midday the clear blue skies that make Twizel such an idyllic setting returned. The eights raced in warm sunny conditions on a deep blue mirror calm lake which was in sharp contrast to the exertions of the athletes and the frenzied encouragement from the bank.
Once trophies and medals had been presented, be it in a physically distanced manner, the cheers died away and the pack up began, it was time to evaluate the decision to hold the event.
That decision was a balance between concerns relating to the spread of the virus amongst the competitors and the general wellbeing of athletes who may give up rowing due the disappointment of not being able to attend the pinnacle event of their season. Given what has been observed, holding the event was the right decision, many athletes and coaches have expressed their gratitude to officials and the smiles on many faces have confirmed it was the correct.
The disappointment at the exclusion of under 15 athletes below year 11 caused division but given the incidence of covid within the cohort this proved to be a necessary precaution. The fact that these athletes will have future opportunity to compete at a Secondary School Championships is pertinent.
It needs to be acknowledge that retaining officials in their own zone had benefits and weaknesses. Maintaining isolation from the competitors protected our older and therefore vulnerable volunteers, however it did mean that support for jobs such as gate duties, boat driving for supervised training and other tasks could not be sourced from other zones, this made for long days. The support from Rowing New Zealand staff and officials from the North Island needs to be acknowledged. Not all roles could have been covered without their presence.
Finally, the volunteers of South Island Rowing and in particular their Covid planning team need to be acknowledged for the many hours of work that have gone into allowing the championships to take place. Their determination and perseverance to work through issues that other sports deemed too difficult should not be underestimated. They have established benchmark for holding events during a global pandemic but like us all, hope for a return to normality next season. Thank you for the opportunity to officiate as chief umpire at the event, it is always a privilege to be part of the championships, its history and the celebration of young athletes in our sport.
Mark Weatherall | RNZ General Manager – Community and Development
After many months of planning and few moments where we thought it might not go ahead, it was pretty special to reflect on the delivery of the 2022 Aon Maadi Cup. Not only did we get to deliver Maadi, we had amazing weather.
Massive thank you must go to South Island Rowing for the relentless work they put into developing a zone system that allowed the regatta (and others across the summer) to go ahead. While many other sports said it was too hard, SIR and all those involved pushed on and showed real leadership in a challenging environment.
On behalf of Rowing New Zealand we would like to extend a massive thank you to SIR for the hard work and of course to the officials and volunteers who made it possible.