New Zealand's best rowers swap national allegiances for provincial and club glory this week at Lake Karapiro.
The members of Rowing NZ's elite summer squad will put aside their plans and combinations for the upcoming international campaigns at the five-day Bankstream national championships starting today.
While many of them will also be determined to put up impressive showings ahead of the national trials at the start of March, they'll do so for their respective Regional Performance Centres (RPCs).
The regatta will see 71 events contested, with finals from Thursday to Saturday and the premier races featuring most of the country's top talent.
The women's quad may produce the week's best racing, with three top-class crews expected to deliver a close finish.
Defending champions Waikato RPC will field the same winning crew from last year of Zoe Stevenson, Sarah Gray, Genevieve Armstrong and Julia Edward. But Central RPC (Linda Mathews, Erin-Monique O'Brien, Kerri Gowler and Louise Trappitt) and Southern RPC (Eve MacFarlane, Lucy Spoors, Grace Prendergast and Fiona Bourke) are both capable of knocking off the champs.
The men's quad should also be a three-way scrap this time between Auckland, Central and Southern, with Mahe Drysdale, Peter Taylor and Michael Arms in the the Auckland crew, while Robbie and Karl Manson, Joseph Sullivan and James Hunter will represent Central.
Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt teamed up for NZ last year to win bronze in the women's pair but will be up against each other at this week's nationals, with Scown combining with Linda Matthews for Central and Pratt paired with Kelsey Bevan in the Auckland 1 boat.
Hamish Bond and James Lassche will be favoured to capture the men's pair title for Southern, which would be Bond's seventh national title in succession in the event, while Arms and Drysdale should form a formidable Auckland crew in the men's double sculls.
The women's double sculls event appears wide open, while the men's single scull final on Saturday is bound to draw a big crowd, with Bond and Drysdale set to clash for the fourth time this summer and Drysdale still seeking his first win of the season.
The blue riband eights finals will climax the regatta, with Southern - winners for the past three years - tipped to battle Central for gold in the women's race while their men's crew will also be out to repeat last year's triumph.
- © Fairfax NZ News