For a group of young Wakatipu rowers there’s no such thing as the festive season.
While their school peers relax during the Christmas break, 20 teenagers will spend the next four months slogging it out on Lake Hayes in the early mornings and evenings with one goal on their minds – making it to Maadi Cup.
The prestigious annual event, held in Twizel next April, is the country’s biggest youth rowing competition.
The pressure’s on local teens to become good enough to represent the Wakatipu.
Wakatipu Rowing Club head coach Allan Ruffell has high hopes for his charges such as Michael Foley and Cam Williams in the under-15 double sculls, Tom Nesbit in the under-18 single scull and Ariana Horsley, Jordan Howell, Holly Bain, Kate Bradford and coxswain Gabby Buchanan – who are “good prospects” for their age groups – in the under-16 coxed quadruple sculls.
“The kids had some good performances early in last season, but middle to end of the season they sort of went off the boil – other crews and other clubs just upped their game a little bit and we didn’t quite perform to the level I thought they were able to.
“The majority of kids have come back this year – they’re a year older, a year stronger and more dedicated.”
Ruffell’s benchmark to enter Maadi is for his teams to place in the top three at the Otago secondary schools champs, held each January. The youngsters didn’t make it last season but Ruffell’s confident they’ll do him proud when this season’s Otago champs roll round next month.
Already they’ve had “pleasing results” at regattas since the season began in September – and they’ve got five more events before they make it to Maadi.
Wakatipu masters rowers are also on track for a successful season. At a regatta in Clyde last weekend, Ruffell, girls’ coach Maurice Maxwell, John Alexander and Hans Arnestedt finished first in the quadruple sculls finals.
Club numbers have dropped to 30 from about 50 last year, but Ruffell’s not concerned: “It’s a manageable number – we really only have two coaches”.
Social and new rowers hit the water after Christmas – they’re offered a learn-to-row programme which culminates with the club’s Lake Hayes regatta in April.
The local regatta, which attracts clubs from around Otago and Southland, is a club highlight to mark the end of the season.