Exciting action on Wairau
The Marlborough Rowing Championships this weekend offer a chance to shake off the racing cobwebs.
More than 300 rowers will gather at race headquarters, the Blenheim Rowing Club on the Lower Wairau River.
Wairau, Picton, Blenheim and the Central RPC squad, based at Wairau, have all entered crews for the two-day regatta along with a healthy contingent from Christchurch secondary schools and the Nelson Rowing Club.
Numbers have swelled considerably this season on the back of New Zealand's Olympic Games success, Blenheim and Wairau in particular enjoying significant jumps in rowing numbers.
Blenheim coach Bill Campbell has 48 rowers and 160 boat seats being filled. He's delighted with the enthusiasm and calibre of his new charges.
Blenheim also has an adult novice crew including a women's eight.
Campbell's marquee crew is the under-18 coxed four. This year's crew comprises Troy Gilmore, Tom Wilson, Mitch Avery, Connor Irving and coxswain Trent Burbidge.
Campbell is looking forward to seeing his charges in action.
"At this stage of the season they are all performing pretty well," he said.
"I'm quite excited about the youngest group, the best I've seen coming through in the last five years. Most of our club are novices this season.
"I want to see some good performances, hopefully against good opposition. Basically a bit of early season motivation and the first introduction into regatta rowing for a lot of them."
While novices will form the majority of crews over the weekend, the Central RPC have a couple of headline acts racing including three-time world lightweight single scull champion Duncan Grant as he begins his quest for a New Zealand trial.
Last season's New Zealand elite squad member Ian Seymour is back, plus there are New Zealand under-23 world championship reps Tufe Sele, Joseph Trappitt and Jamie Hunter. Add in world junior fours champion Tom Murray and his squad mate Corey McCaffrey and that should make for some high quality performances.
Central also have crews rowing at the Jury Cup regatta in Whanganui, included among them Olympian Robbie Manson and his brother Karl.
Picton's Olympic champion, Joseph Sullivan, has his first competitive row since the London triumph, contesting the Billy Webb 5km race on the Wanganui on Sunday against fellow Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale.
Wairau head coach Dave Williamson's biggest challenge so far is coping with a squad which has doubled in size from last season, rising from 28 to 56, 20 of them novices.
But he's very pleased with the calibre of the athletes.
"It's our biggest squad ever," he said.
"This weekend will be a bit of fun. The novices will learn a lot from their first regatta. The Marlborough champs are traditionally a shakedown before the big stuff in January."
Wairau women's crews to watch include the under-16 coxed four of T J Power, Jess Donald, Nadja Hyson, Portia Barcello and coxswain Lauren Honeybone and the under-15 double scull combination of Ruby McManaway and Molly Somerville.
Williamson has a very sharp coaching group with him, comprising former national selector Steve Donaldson in charge of the boys, Luke van Velthooven, Mike McManaway, Dave Hocquard and Kaye Surgenor, plus Williamson, mentoring the girls' crews.
It's comeback time at the Picton Rowing Club. They have eight rowers competing in various events including former New Zealand junior world championship reps Ryan Gaudin and double scull bronze medallist with Sullivan in 2005, Daniel Karena. Also in action will be Keiran Gaudin, a multiple Maadi Cup gold medal winner during the early 2000s, plus last year's New Zealand junior rep Mitchell McKenzie-Mol.
Coach Dave Bugler has four other youngsters in Meghan Connor and Caitlin Harvey plus Kaine Marsh and Allan Harvey.
Rowing starts at 7.30am each day, finishing about 3pm. The event is signposted from the turnoff to Grovetown just over the Grove Bridge and there is ample parking available.
The Marlborough Express