While most of us are still sleeping, a team of dedicated rowers are keeping the local scene alive on the waters of the Manawatū River.

Age is just a number for the members of the Horowhenua Rowing Club, many of whom are middle aged, proving that all you need is a big ticker and a willingness to train.

During winter the club tried to get on the water at least once a week, often on a Sunday morning. Club rowers would leave early and carpool, hitting the water at first light.

Club committee member Rachael Corcoran said they could pick and choose their days depending on conditions. While rowing machines had their place and were an important training tool, there was nothing like the real thing.


"Funnily enough when you row properly the machines are harder. I don't know if anybody really likes them, but they are a necessary evil and even elite rowers use them," she said.

That dedication to training was rewarded with medal haul at a regatta held at Lake Karāpiro recently.

Many rowers were former club members who had been lost to the sport, only to have a second crack at it years later, while others were natural athletes who took to rowing later in life after having played other sports.

Typifying the effort and commitment to training were rowers Bill Cargill, 71, and Robyn Saulbrey, 68, among the medals.

Cargill started rowing in 1964 for Petone and after a hiatus of many years was back in a boat, while Saulbrey started rowing six years ago after seeing an Adult Learn to Row ad, and was racing competitively soon after.

Corcoran said rowing was all ages.

"The thing with rowing is it is a sport for life, and many people are new to it or come back to the sport after years away from it," she said.

Any newcomers were part of a crew before learning to row on their own as "you can't just jump in a single and not expect to go for a swim".


"Someone like Robyn is a good example because she's been an athlete all her life and picked up rowing later on," she said.

Corcoran said while rowing was low impact, it did require a high level of fitness and commitment to training. There was nowhere to hide when the pressure went on and the lungs and muscles started burning.

Meanwhile, Corcoran and Kevin Horan were unlucky not to win the double scull event at Karāpiro, after missing a mark and having steering trouble in testing conditions.

The pair were just 4/100ths of a second away from first place. They lost steering in windy conditions and missed a marker that alerted rowers when to sprint finish.

Lorraine Alderton returned to competition after a absence of three decades, not having rowed since her college days 30 years ago. She had spent the previous three months preparing and acquitted herself well.

Jo Mason was a another rower to get among the medals, while stalwarts Bruce Tate and Andrew Bealing were again to the fore.

The regatta was well-patronised as most races that Horowhenua boats entered had full fields, she said.

Karāpiro Results: James Watson 2 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd. Kevin Horan 3 x 1st, 2 x 2nd. Andrew Bealing 5 x 1st. Bruce Tate 2 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 1 x 5th. Bill Cargill 1 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 1 x 5th. Jo Mason 1 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd, 1 x 5th. Robyn Saulbrey 1 x 2nd, 2 x 5th. Lorraine Alderton 2 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd. Rachael Corcoran 1 x 1st, 3 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd.