Rowing: $25,000 boat floats Olympic dreams

By Cameron Leslie

New Zealand's rowing success at the Olympics has spurred youngsters across the country to jump in a boat and have a go, with Whangarei rowers being no different.

In order to handle the influx, Whangarei Rowing Club has had to purchase a new heavyweight durable four-person boat costing $25,000, much to the delight of coach Nigel Baddeley.

Baddeley said the boat, which was bought about one month ago with the help of Pub Charity, has been needed for quite some time but funding avenues had dried up recently.

"We've had some bigger boys come along around the 80-90kg area and they needed a strong boat," said Baddeley. "Funding has been tough over the last few years and we've just been sending in the repeat application hoping, and Pub Charity has come to the party this time around."

The boat is a carbon-fibre convertible type which means it can be used as a four-person sculls, one oar per person, or four-person quad where each person rows with two oars.

Baddeley said the German- designed boat was being used by Adam McKernan, Sam Beazley, Josh Ackers and Alistair Clark as they prepare for the North Island championships and National regatta in February.

Baddeley said that while the Olympics had helped, rowing in Whangarei was popular before New Zealand's success.

"Our club over the last three years has picked up dramatically. We've gone from around early 20s to about 50 members now."

New Zealand will send its biggest ever rowing team to the Rio Olympics, and Baddeley hopes a few of Whangarei's up-and-comers who are using the new boat will be in the frame.

"But it does tend to be around age 22 or 23 when rowers tend to come into their own, because it's a physical maturity thing. I can see the likes of Adam McKernan and Sam Beazley doing quite well in years to come."

McKernan and Beazley earlier this month upset a Youth Olympic-bound Vanuatu team by 0.36 of a second to come out on top at the 2012 Christmas Regatta - the largest regatta in New Zealand history with 2000 athletes competing.

One person who will definitely be in the frame is Olympic legend Mahe Drysdale who will look to defend his single sculls title after this week announcing his intention to continue in the sport until 2016.

The 34-year-old will take a six-month sabbatical from rowing and will be back in the boat at Lake Karapiro for trials in July 2013, aiming to gain selection for the following month's world championships in South Korea.

Six out of NZ's nine rowing Olympic medallists will be back into training by next month.

- Northern Advocate

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