Hot off the heels of the dual Cambridge Town Cup and North Island Rowing Championship regattas at Lake Karapiro at the end of January, tomorrow sees our very own Whanganui Rowing Championship regatta on the 2km Aramoho course.

The event is upstream of the Railway Bridge from 8am to a 4pm-ish finish, with our local clubs Aramoho-Whanganui, Union Boat Club and Wanganui Collegiate Rowing Club competing for medals.

Horowhenua and Wellington's Star and Porirua clubs will also battle for bragging rights, and in Aramoho's case, it is final preparation for the Rocket Foods New Zealand Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro during February 13-17.

Starting with the Whanganui Champs, feel free to come down after a coffee at the Saturday market and watch some quality racing.


The numbers may be down a bit — it's just too hard for the likes of the large Hawke's Bay contingent to travel over on top of travelling to Cambridge on Sunday to prepare for Tuesday's racing — but the overall standard of local rowing is going up each year.

You will see rowers who will gain medals in club and senior level at the New Zealand Champs, as well as secondary school rowers who will head to the fiercely competitive Maadi Cup in Twizel next month.

This is also a medal winning regatta so nobody will be holding back, as they are pretty elusive in our sport.

However, the big upcoming regatta is the New Zealand Champs at Lake Karapiro next week and AWRC have been training hard all winter and through the Christmas break under the guidance of head coach Pedro Figueira.

With eight medals at the recent North Island Champs, the club will go to the nationals determined and confident.

AWRC have worked hard to develop their club not just at school level, but showing that rowing is a sport for all.

Although they have always had a strong masters contingent, Figueira is pleased to see more young adult rowers, particularly women, with the likes of Ally Bennett, Beth Norman and Millie Thomson competing in the club grade singles, doubles and quadruple sculls, joined in the latter by Whanganui High School's top under-17 sculler Niamh Monk.

It is also really great to see Georgia Nugent-O'Leary, who has been down training in the Central RPC in Blenheim lately, make a comeback from a horrific bike injury last year when she broke a few bones and suffered debilitating concussion.

Nugent-O'Leary will compete in the under-22 and premier single, and hopefully is on her way back to regaining a place in the national squad.

The AWRC men's unit is well tested and proven, and has largely dominated the club and senior sculling grades in recent years.

They will be led by local accountant Luke Watts, who is chasing the 'gold trifecta' in the single, double and quad sculls — a feat he achieved in 2014 — and he has since never finished off the podium in the three disciplines.

In 2017, Watts and Hugh Pawson were beaten for gold in the single and double by 2012 double sculls Olympic champion Nathan Cohen, which was an outstanding result and interesting given Cohen was allowed back into the division under premier, due to his time out of rowing.

The Aramoho senior quad this year is Levi Carrol, Watts, Nathan Luff and Guy Thomson, with Cameron Lawrence, James Sandston and Jonty Thomson completing the senior line-up in the coxless four and then all doing a couple more races.

The other pleasing thing about what AWRC president Bruce Osborne and his club have developed is head coach Figueira assisting Union and their volunteer coaches, with Donny Thompson and Kurt Browning of UBC racing a club quad with Carrol and Thomson of AWRC.

This was unheard of years ago and I always commented that I could race overseas for New Zealand and we were all Kiwis, but come back to local level and we were rivals.

The competition is healthy but this more unified approach, with competition breeding results, is much better for Whanganui rowing.

The New Zealand Champs are also where our elite national rowers compete, with the likes of world champions Chris Harris and Kerri Gowler in mixed elite crews with their bumblebee AWRC strip.

The most hotly contested elite finals will likely be the men's and women's singles and coxless pairs, with all eyes again on Mahe Drysdale and Robbie Manson for the national title.

I'm guessing Manson should win but I'd never say never to the supreme Drysdale for when it really matters at the Tokyo Olympics.

Drysdale has five world titles, two Olympic golds and a bronze.

With one more world title and Olympic gold, he becomes the greatest single sculler and rower in the world (in my opinion) of all time. Go Mahe!