The problems when rowing gets too popular

The domestic regatta season officially kicks off this coming Saturday with the largest ever Neptune Regatta taking place in Islandbridge, Dublin.

A record 370 crews have registered to race in the event, but unfortunately, it has meant that the usual running order has been deemed impossible, with some events sacrificed.

Islandbridge is a two-lane course, and the regatta is normally run with a gap of four minutes between races.

The huge entry equates to 319 races across the 50 different events, and in implementing this format, with crews competing on a “side by side knockout basis”, the committee realised it would take in the region of 19 hours to complete the regatta.

In light of this, and in the regatta committee’s efforts to cater for all crews who have been entered, a number of options were considered, including Friday evening racing.

In the end, the Neptune Regatta Committee reached the decision to remove all single scull events from the 2017 Regatta, reducing the number of races to a safe and practical level for a two-lane regatta. Even at this reduced schedule of events, the regatta will run from 7.30am to just after 7.30pm.

Event Secretary Desmond O’Hara accepted this decision is of great disappointment to many competitors, but it was deemed the most effective solution in reducing the number of races, spread across all grades, to a level that will deliver a safe and competitive event, and at the same time, facilitate racing for as many competitors as possible.

The event will immediately be followed by the second regatta of the season, Commercial Regatta, on Sunday.

This regatta will also take place in Islandbridge, as Commercial Rowing Club is situated beside Neptune. Also boasting a large entry of 315 crews, racing will be side by side in two lanes over 1,200m. Over 50 competitive events from juniors to seniors will run on the day.

Meanwhile, triallists at the High-Performance March trials last weekend had more than the clock to contend with. Despite blues skies, conditions became less favourable as Saturday progressed and all racing was cancelled for Sunday.

The fastest male sculler on the day was Gary O’Donovan, followed by Sam McKeown of Queens and Andrew Goff of UCD. Paul O’Donovan did not feature as he was sitting a college exam last Saturday. In the women’s results, London and Rio Olympian Sanita Puspure came out on top, followed by Killorglin rower Monika Dukarska and lightweight sculler Denise Walsh from Skibbereen.

Due to the loss of Sunday racing, the trials on Saturday consisted of time trials first, followed by side-by-side racing.

In the windy conditions, this was the fairest format, as everyone had the chance to race in the same lane for their time trial. Later as conditions allowed, the top six times were put into “A Finals” to race each other, with the next six going into “B Finals” and so on.

Athletes hoping to improve on their performances will get the opportunity to perform again at Skibbereen Regatta this weekend, as well as Cork Regatta in June and the Irish Championships in July.

“These regattas will also be a chance to show consistency in performances and commitment to improvement, particularly in crew boats”, notes High-Performance coach Sean Casey.

The team that will travel to the first international event of 2017, World Cup One in Belgrade, has been announced and includes five Skibbereen rowers: Gary and Paul O’Donovan in the lightweight men’s double sculls, Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan in the lightweight men’s pair, Denise Walsh in the lightweight women’s single, as well as Sanita Puspure of Old Collegians in the women’s single sculls.

Elsewhere, at last Sunday’s Rowing Ireland agm, Eamonn Colclough (pronounced Coakley) of Tribesmen Rowing Club has been elected as the new President, replacing Con Cronin.

Colclough noted: “We have to continue to grow our sport, I see rowing as having three components, and they are: High Performance, Competitive Domestic and Recreational. I believe all three components have to be resourced, nurtured and developed; it would be folly to neglect any one. I am confident that our athletes, coaches, and administrators will meet the challenges to come but most of all that they will continue to enjoy the craic of being out on the water.”


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