Milford backing allows Rowing NZ to reach further than ever before

“With the livestream on the big screen you felt like you were part of the race right from the start, you really felt like you were part of the action and having been there myself, I knew what the tension would feel like in the boats..."   
"I was standing there with my family, my daughter rows as well so she was there, and we've got two younger boys, so they were all there and my mum was there. It was the whole experience, not just the 5 minutes and 42. You knew what was happening on the water and it made it a much richer experience.
Emotions were running high I can tell you...hell of a day.”

Nick Giera, on watching his son Bede win the Maadi Cup for St Bede’s at Lake Karapiro, 2023.

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The boys U18 Eight A final at the 2023 Aon Maadi Regatta which was held at Lake Karapiro.

Days like that are set to be repeated on a much bigger scale this season with the announcement of a new partnership between Rowing NZ and Milford.

Milford, an award-winning KiwiSaver provider and one of New Zealand’s largest investment management companies, is now Rowing New Zealand's Official Livestreaming Partner offering coverage of five key regattas for the upcoming season: The New Zealand Rowing Championships, the Aon Maadi Regatta, Aon University Championships and Aon North Island Secondary Schools Championships as well as the Meridian South Island Secondary Schools Championships.

"Milford was the perfect fit for a rowing community wanting to see more of its athletes in action," says Rowing NZ’s Marketing & Communications Manager Mandy Arnott.

The partnership is a dream come true for livestreaming service provider Altitude HD, founded six years ago by former New Zealand rowers John Storey and Michael Arms.

“Me and Mikey were rowing together in the [NZ Men’s] Quad way back in the day,” says John. “We were good mates with [Olympic BMX rider] Sarah Walker, and she brought a drone around and we had a great time with it and saw the potential.”

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JULY 30:  Robert Manson, Matthew Trott, Michael Arms and John Storey of New Zealand compete in the Men's Quadruple Sculls Repecharge on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Eton Dorney on July 30, 2012 in Windsor, England.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

John in bow and mike in two seat of the men's quad at the 2021 London Olympics. GETTY IMAGES.

They pitched the idea of filming races to put up on YouTube to Karāpiro Rowing Inc, who were keen but couldn’t commit.

Rower Ged Campbell was hitting the same wall in Auckland, where he was pitching to livestream coverage of regattas like Head of Harbour. The three have now joined forces.

“The overall goal is to make racing more accessible for spectators, rowers and coaches,” says John. “I remember growing up and always wanting to try and rewatch my races to improve, to get to that next level and you never could because the coverage wouldn't be there.”

Ged reckons it will add one crucial piece to the feedback between coaches and athletes.

“Previously, if you didn't have that content, you weren't able to watch everything that you'd been training for. Your coach is standing there with the iPhone filming you at training and you're going, ‘Okay, cool. Now I've got to apply it in a race,' and then you don't get that race footage. I think that there's some real value in that.”

“The overall goal is to make racing more accessible for spectators, rowers and coaches,” John Storey, Altitude HD. 

Altitude’s most important livestream came at this year’s Aon Maadi Regatta. Like any start-up there’s always potential for break-downs. Epic fails. Frayed nerves. Brief losses of temper. Nothing had really prepared Ged for the first day of finals on that Friday.

“I had arrived the day before and Mike and John had been there prior to set up and I had imagined, or expected, that I was rolling in with the solutions all sorted. We were trialing a bunch of new stuff at the same time, and I arrived at the Canoe Racing New Zealand building where there were just wires everywhere and I'm not a technical guy. When I see lots of wires, I go ‘Holy s***, what is this? And there was rain forecast for the next day and there were still missing internet connections. And then I looked to the corner of the room and our wet-weather solution was a rubbish bag over a camera! I just went, ‘Oh my Gosh’.

There was a quick, sharp discussion with John outside.

But just as Nick Giera and thousands of others discovered, John, the master engineer, and the rest of the team pulled something spectacular together for those two special days of racing.

“Things are always going to go wrong,” says John. “There're things that you can't control like raining at the Maadi final. You have to be adaptable and think outside the box and get the job done. And I guess that's what our team can deliver, which is the exciting part. To see Ged standing on the barge for eight hours in the rain, holding an umbrella while getting footage without one drop of rain on that lens is absolutely incredible.”

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The “weatherproof” solution for the barge camera.

With Milford coming on board, Altitude and Rowing NZ hope to bring an even better product to an audience that is predicted to grow massively.

Unsurprisingly, John, who is clearly a perfectionist by nature, rates America’s Cup and Sail GP coverage as the gold standard. He knows they are “a while away from that” but next innovations could involve some form of telemetry graphics on-screen, giving stroke rates, splits, distances and course information. They hope to be able to fly a drone closer and lower to racing crews to give an even better on-water experience to viewers.

Feedback from the rowing community had highlighted a few things, especially fair coverage for all crews in eight-boat finals, says John.

“We want to tell the story of the race, which often includes just the top three, so being able to cover all the athletes in the race and also tell that story is a very fine balance or tightrope we're often walking. It’s something we're aware of and always open to advice on.”

The support from Milford will allow the team to broaden their overall coverage and expand into B finals for Aon Maadi Regatta.

The Crew

The team (a rag tag bunch! their words 😂) down in Twizel after the successful delivery of the NZ Rowing Champs.

As a proud New Zealand company, for the first time in its 20-year history, Milford has partnered with a sport.

“Rowing NZ has such an amazing culture of high performance, discipline and development that as a company, it resonated very well with us,” says Sarah Mitchell, Milford's Chief Marketing Officer.

“The inclusive environment of not just the athletes themselves, but the development squads, coaches, support team and families meant we really wanted to get involved and support this fantastic group of world-class athletes continue to succeed.” 

“Rowing NZ has such an amazing culture of high performance, discipline and development that as a company, it resonated very well with us.” Sarah Mitchell, Chief Marketing Officer.

Ged can’t wait to get things up and running for the new season, alongside Milford.

“Milford has a tagline in their branding, which is ‘Invested in You’, says Ged. “I think it just connects so well with the rowers because they've got parents that are so heavily invested, they've got coaches that are so heavily invested, they've got officials that are so heavily invested. We've just got to package that story up and give them the viewing content that for so many years we haven't been able to."

It’s content a St Bede’s schoolboy 32 years ago could never have dreamed of.

“I spoke with my mum and her recollections of the day were that because we were in lane seven, we weren't really part of the commentary, so it was very hard to tell exactly where we were.
A few of them had binoculars but because of the angle of the course coming into the finish they couldn't really tell where we were up until inside the 500-metre mark.
They could see we were in front or at least in contention... we could hear the Bede’s chant from our supporters and then it was just out of the blue that we actually crossed the line in front.”

Nick Giera, 2 seat, St Bede’s first ever Maadi Cup-winning crew at Lake Karapiro, 1991




Andy Hay

Andy Hay is a freelance producer, writer and rowing coach. He was cox of the world champion New Zealand eight of 1982 and '83. He is NZ Olympian #446. Contact him at or 021 381 124