Cork Head of the River to kick-off domestic calendar

The Irish domestic rowing calendar gets underway this weekend with the Cork Head of the River. It’s the first of eight “heads” to be held around the country between now and April 1, when events change to full regattas. The main difference here being that HORs are simply timed events where boats are let off one at a time over longer distances, while a regatta comprises of side by side racing and considerably weightier glory for title-holders.

The Cork Head of the River takes place on Saturday at the Marina in Cork City, with the action kicking off at 9.30am. Around 330 crews are entered in the event with entries from Waterford, Dublin, and Galway.

Each of the Cork clubs have a part to play in the running of the time trial; Cork, Lee, Shandon, Lee Valley, Presentation College, UCC, and Monkstown, but on the day the city clubs will be providing their slipways for use by competitors before they head towards the starting point at the Custom House. Last year’s men’s eight’s category was dominated by Cork crews, but this year Commercial RC (current Irish champions) are sending a strong eight and it may be a chance for the Dublin squad to take overall honours.

This is also the first year that a “recreational” category has been added, resulting from the introduction of recreational grades into events by Rowing Ireland last year. For many younger members who joined clubs in late 2016, this will be their first competitive event and hopefully the beginning of long and successful sporting careers.

Prize giving takes place in Shandon Boat Club at 4.30pm where the fastest crew in each category will be presented with a pennant.

Meanwhile the outgoing high performance director of Rowing Ireland, Morten Espersen, has predicted a bright future for the sport in Ireland.

As the new four year Olympic cycle commences, Morten is leaving the high performance programme on a high, after achieving Olympic success with Gary and Paul O’ Donovan, Sanita Puspure, Claire Lambe, and Sinead Lynch (a record three Olympic crews) coupled with a world championship gold medal won by Paul O’Donovan and also the most successful ever world championship results in 2016.

Morten will continue to work closely with lead coaches Dominic Casey and Sean Casey for the next three months to ensure our high performance programme continues to go from strength to strength. There is also the possibility of the Denmark native continuing in a consultancy role beyond the end of April. Espersen believes this is a very prosperous time for rowing in Ireland, with strong junior and Under 23 athletes developing within the system and he believes that Irish athletes have the potential to win up to three medals at the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

Morten notes, “I have enjoyed the challenge of working within the Irish system and it was always my intention to give the high performance programme back to Irish coaches. The athletes and programme are in good hands with Dominic and Sean and there is further success coming.”

The first major international event of 2017 will be World Cup I in Belgrade, Serbia, May 5 to May 7, followed in the subsequent weeks by World Cup II and III, European Championships and culminating in the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, USA in September.

The high performance committee will review the role of High Performance Director prior to searching for a replacement.


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