This year sees an increase of more than 200 entrants bringing the total entry to 1,200, one of the largest ever. The event isn’t just restricted to rowers, with nearly 30 teams from gyms, sports clubs, and other organisations also seeking a place in the record books or simply testing their own physical fitness.
The Irish rowing community will be well represented of course, with 63 clubs sending athletes. Interestingly, the number of overseas competitors has grown to over 40, the majority from the UK but the furthest afield hailing from Malta.
A jam-packed day of racing is in store with races setting off every five to 10 minutes. Entry for spectators is free and the atmosphere can be electric.
The event is compulsory for all current and aspiring Rowing Ireland High Performance athletes as part of the trialling process, and with newly crowned Olympic silver medallists Paul and Gary O’Donovan, along with Rio Olympians Sanita Puspure and Claire Lambe involved, this year’s event is sure to attract one of the biggest crowds in its history.
The 2016/2017 High Performance squad this week returned from a training camp in Seville, Spain, where they spent the Christmas holiday period.
Before the camp, High Performance Director Morten Espersen made the point that tests 2km and 6km tests on the ergometer (indoor rowing machines) had shown athletes making great progress in both the heavyweight and lightweight categories. So international hopefuls will be keen to impress as he keeps a watchful eye on proceedings at the championships.
Espersen also announced that four scholarships to “C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints” in the USA (a one-day World Indoor Rowing Championship event) would be awarded for outstanding performances at the event, and a €5,000 award scheme was put in place for those brave enough to attempt world record ergometer times in four categories: women, lightweight women, men, and lightweight men. The evaluation panel will consist of Espersen, Joe Cantillon (IIRC event organiser), and Alex Dunne of Concept 2 (manufacturer of rowing equipment).
“Ergometer performance and ergometer fitness has a direct correlation with on-water performance and we want to encourage all our membership to strive to new levels of performance both on and off the water,” says Espersen.
Elsewhere, Rowing Ireland’s “Get Going…Get Rowing” schools programme saw the first “Blitzit” event of 2017 in Carlow, and there is a roll out of the initiative to Limerick secondary schools this week, led by Carlow Youth Services together with the Get Going…Get Rowing programme.
Last October, the programme trained 36 transition year students from Carlow town and county as school leaders. These students then returned to their schools and in turn coached the first year classes to learn to row, with Rowing Ireland techniques.
This peer-led programme culminated in the Blitz last Friday attended by 350 students from six schools across the region. Many of these students had never tried rowing previously and it is hoped that some of these competitors will now take the pathway to Carlow Rowing Club.
Former Rowing Ireland President and Carlow Rowing Club stalwart Anthony Dooley attended the event, and the club has been key in partnering the school’s initiative and creating that all important pathway for these potential rowers. In the last number of years Get Going…Get Rowing, together with its partners, has seen 24 students who had never tried rowing before compete for Carlow Rowing club domestically and at the Irish Championships.
Last weekend many of these first recruits attended a Rowing Ireland development camp for U16s.
Meanwhile, Rowing Ireland will hold the prestigious Coupe de la Jeunesse (international rowing regatta, open to rowers who are 18 years old or under) in 2018, at the National Rowing Centre in Cork. Irish Rowing will be keen to develop a strong team for its host year. The Coupe has 12 member countries (Ireland, Great Britain, Austria, Hungary, Poland, France, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, and Belgium). Traditionally it is seen as a great stepping stone for young Irish rowers, and many Olympians including Gary and Paul O’Donovan have won medals for Ireland at previous events.
In the meantime, Limerick city and county were gearing up to start rowing in nine schools. The programme in the city, known for its love of sport, is run together with Limerick Sports partnership.
Three community coaches have been employed there to roll out the initiative; Sheila Clavin, Jessica O’ Keeffe and Ger Hayes have been funded by a Dormant Accounts Fund initiative. They will each lead three schools together with the “TrY rowing” students (transition year) who completed the first stage of their rowing leadership course last October.
Classes got underway with Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh taking the first class at Athlunkard Rowing Club on Monday morning, followed by Crescent Comprehensive, St. John the Baptist, Hospital, Salesian College Pallaskenry, CBS, Laurel Hill, St. Munchin’s, Castletroy and St. Mary’s. The TrY rowing students will also organise a Limerick “Blitzit 2017” which will be held in University of Limerick on Wednesday March 1.