Rowing Ireland has received “only positive feedback” since the sport restarted yesterday, with CEO Michelle Carpenter happy that the organisation’s intense work ahead of the return to sport has paid off.
“We were well prepared,” said Carpenter.
“We issued protocols for clubs last Tuesday week and we’d put a lot of work into that.
“Then we also asked club captains if they had any questions arising out of those protocols, and that led us to creating a frequently asked questions section for the website, something we’ll continue to update.
“We’ve only received positive feedback from clubs so far - one issue is that we’re an all-island organisation, so aligning everyone is a challenge. But we’re delighted with how it’s gone so far. We’re keen, obviously, to get our high performance athletes back on the water - they’re allowed to go back if their club is within five kilometres of where they live, but that’s proven challenging for some of them, as you might expect. In fairness, Sport Ireland have been incredibly supportive with their expert group, so we’re hoping we’ll get the go-ahead on that as well shortly.”
Those elite athletes, with Olympic Games and World Championships in their sights, are a special case.
“They are, and there’s a protocol in place for high performance and risk assessment. We followed all the employer guidelines from the HSE that we needed to follow.
“They’re not going to be inside for the first phase which would mean, technically, they could be classed as outdoor workers.
“We’re hoping that’ll stand to them as well because the rowing machine can be tough enough going, but having the Olympics cancelled and then being told you have to spend nine weeks, for a lot of people, in lockdown... We have to get them back on the water.
“Other nations are back on the water, the likes of New Zealand and Denmark, but we’re working with Sport Ireland and the Minister and Department of Sport on all those issues, and they’ve been very supportive.”
At the other end of the spectrum are the clubs, and their role as a social hub for members.
“It is, and it was great to see the pictures of the Marina in Cork buzzing with rowers, and Islandbridge in Dublin as well.
“There were some nice photographs of single scullers in the river and it looked like the epitome of social distancing and yet you need that kind of camaraderie you get in a club where you’re meeting people and chatting to them - while observing social distancing at the same time, obviously.
“We understand that family members may be able to get into a double scull together, though - which might suit some of our rowers in Skibbereen, for instance.”