Rowers may bypass Ruataniwha

JOHN ALEXANDER
Last updated 10:12 24/01/2013

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Lake Ruataniwha in Twizel may not be the venue of choice for Marlborough-based elite rowers next season.

The southern venue, with its stunning scenery, has long been a popular venue for rowers from around the South Island. But poor weather there, over the past two years in particular, means that Central Region Performance Centre head coach Mark Stallard is making other arrangements for his squad next season.

Last week was an example of what has happened. Windy conditions on both days of the Canterbury championships meant only very limited rowing was done. Some crews did not row at all, and no semifinals or finals were contested. Even some of the heats were rowed over shortened 1000m courses.

Travelling all that way for no result hits Marlborough's three main clubs - Blenheim, Picton and Wairau - and the performance centre in the pocket financially, and costs them valuable racing preparation.

Speaking prior to training on the Wairau River earlier this week, Stallard was adamant that things would change.

"It's a definite. The drive from Wellington to Lake Karapiro is shorter than Blenheim to Twizel once we get over [Cook Strait].

"Definitely looking at two regattas at Lake Karapiro next year," he said. "One early prior to Christmas, and more than likely go to the North Island regatta and stay through to the following week, rolling into the nationals at the same venue."

The weather and rowing conditions at Lake Karapiro, where the New Zealand squad is based, were generally better and more reliable than those in Twizel, Stallard said.

"Going to Twizel and not racing does skew your preparation. It's a long way, and it's quite frustrating, and we had a group of guys who didn't even row last weekend because of the weather."

The former New Zealand elite men's eight coach is hoping the weather will behave itself when his crews go back to Lake Ruataniwha next weekend for the South Island championships, because they desperately need racing experience.

"Yeah, we are a bit short on racing. To only get three hours' racing in two days last weekend was disappointing. The racing we did exposed us a bit. While there were some good results, we were a bit underdone, and it was a pretty good wake-up call."

Overall, Stallard is happy with where his squad is generally.

"The squad is well advanced, and we just need to get that racing focus in and just a slight change towards what we are doing. Some pleasing results last weekend, but they could have been so much better if we had a chance to row on the second day.

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"Fitness and strength-wise, we have benchmarked ourselves at a very high level this season. We just have to put it out on the water."

With double Olympian Sean O'Neill back from Ireland, the centre's squad is at full strength, and Stallard is delighted with the fitness and condition of his senior oarsman, considering he's coming back after a long break.

The Meridian Energy South Island championships on February 2-3 are a significant event for the Central squad. It is a New Zealand selection regatta, with the trials taking place at the end of next month, following the nationals on February 19-23.

- The Marlborough Express

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