Whether you’re here for the first time, or the 50th, the NZ Rowing Championships is a celebration of dedication and determination.

 

Rowers tend to be Highly Productive Human Beings (HPHBs).

There’s a lot to do, what with work, school, family, friends, squeezed in around the number one source of time slippage: rowing.

Take a guy like Mat Jensen.

He’s on the board of Rowing New Zealand. That’s one portion of the time pie chart of life.

There’re also the shifts in the commentary box at regattas and coaching Auckland Grammar’s U18s who are entered for Nationals and who then head to Lake Ruataniwha for Aon Maadi Regatta next month.

He’s also general hands-on at North Shore RC, as they launch into their 150th year in the sport, with Mat organising the official celebrations and currently three-quarters of the way through a 200-plus page book of the club’s history to mark the occasion.

He’s lost track of the hours and number of interviews he’s done for that.

AH: “Don’t you help coach at North Shore as well?”

MJ: “Uh, yeah, occasionally I head down and see the troops, yes.”

AH: “Mate, is that all?”

MJ: “Well, I've got my regular job as well.”

Mat’s just one of the HPHBs zeroing in on the National Rowing Championships starting this Tuesday at Lake Karapiro.

North Shore are one of the 42 clubs taking part.

HPHBs and Otago University med students Hannah Matehaere and Manaia Butler will be part of a strong Avon women’s squad with eyes on the Premier and Senior events this year. You might remember them from last season, novice rowers at Otago University who competed in the Club Pair and Intermediate Double Sculls.

Now in their fourth year of study, Hannah and Manaia have spent the summer in Christchurch as part of the Performance Hub coached by Logan Keys.

Now, Logan likes a good tandem rig. His U19 New Zealand Women’s Eight last year had some unconventional lineups. The Avon Women’s boat is no different.

“I'm in four seat and Manaia's in three seat,” says Hannah. “We've got a bit of a different rig to the boat going on...not standard rig!”

There’s a bit of laugh over the phone line from both of them.

“Bow stroke triple tandem,” announces Hannah.

“The coaches are pretty on to it, what will get the most out of everyone in the boat, so yeah, exciting,” says Manaia.

This will be Manaia’s first trip to Karapiro. Depending on the schedule, she and Hannah will also race the Under-22 and Senior Pair.

AH: “You think you’ll go fast in that?”

“Hell yeah.”

It will be worth watching, even for the curiosity factor seeing how fast Hannah, a 2nd year rower who’s pulling 6.44 on her 2km, can make that boat go.

Watch Hannah Matehaere and Manaia Butler:

Heats, Event 21, Women’s Under-22 Coxless Pair, Tuesday February 13, 11:06am.

Heats, Event 48, Women’s Senior Coxless Pair, Tuesday February 13, 2:38pm.

Preliminary, Event 62, Women’s Premier Eight, Tuesday February 13, 5:30pm

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LEFT TO RIGHT: MANAIA BUTLER AND HANNAH MATEHAERE POWERING IT IN THE BOW OF THE AVON PREMIER FOUR AT THE MERIDIAN SOUTH ISLAND CHAMPS. THE WEATHER'S BEEN TERRIBLE AT RUATANIWHA THIS SEASON, SO SOUTH ISLAND CREWS WILL BE FIZZING FOR SOME DECENT WATER AT KARAPIRO. PHOTO: SHARRON BENNETT PHOTOGRAPHY

Jane Dee is going to be working 24/7 at Karapiro next week. She got hooked on the sport when she took up Masters rowing a few years ago. Two of her older children, Thomas and Madeleine have been through the grades at Petone, and this week she’ll have her two youngest competing as well. Annabel’s in the Intermediates and coxswain George is the youngest competitor at the championships. He’s still in Year 8 at Hutt Valley Intermediate.

Jane could well be doing double shifts, she’s camp mum for the 33 Petone athletes and might also have to get the famous fluoro row suit on as well.

“They haven't quite settled on a couple of the kids so if they need a seat filler, then not only will I be cooking the lasagna, but I'll be jumping in a boat and rowing too,” says Jane.

Andrew Bird, former New Zealand coxswain and these days President at Petone, knows the importance of kids like George to the sport.

“Any coxswain is a treasure, and he’s going to be busy, he’s entered in six races, he’s still 12 which is really young to be driving a $30,000 boat around but he’s doing really well, no crashes so far, and that’s a good record [at Petone] where there’s sandbanks, swimmers, rocks, bridges, currents and other boats in the glare of the morning sun.”

Andrew doesn’t intend the next comment as a pun: “He’s got a sunny disposition, that joyfulness of youth, he’s not too bothered if the rowing’s good or bad, it just is.”

George Dee gives it the Usain Bolt treatment after his Petone crew crosses at the North Islands. Petone President Andrew Bird says it doesn’t matter where they finish that’s important to George, just having a good row is reward enough.

Of course, this all suits the Petone vibe in their hi-vis colours.

“There's quite a number of girls in this year's Novice squad,” says Jane, “And George has got quite long hair. He was going to get his hair cut for school but the girls all requested he keep his hair long because they wanted to braid it and put fluoro yellow ribbons in it for Nationals.”

What does George think?

“He's all in,” says Jane.

What does mum think?

“I think it's great. We love the club and we love to visually show it and when you're in fluoro yellow, you know, you can basically see us from space whether we're coming first or last, so we just embrace the fluoro, so anything the kids want to do, face paint, nail polish, hair, ribbons, you know, we all love it.”

Watch George and Annabel Dee, and possibly mum Jane in:

Heats, Event 3, Women’s Intermediate Coxed Four, Tuesday February 13, 7:46am.

Heats, Event 49, Men’s Novice Coxed Four, Tuesday February 13, 2:46pm

Martha DeLong spent the final few days before Nationals at Mangakino, and the 6km stretch of water on Lake Maraetai.

It was a five-day finishing camp with the Waikato squad, which has more than 120 crews entered this year. It left her, “exhausted, but I did every session. It was absolutely great.”

She finished on Tuesday morning with a 2km.

By the way, Martha is 68 this year. She started rowing after her daughters, Caroline and Anna [Waikato and NZ coach] picked up the sport at Epsom Girls’ Grammar in Auckland.

Martha sure slept well that Tuesday night after the drive back to Cambridge. Exhausted and happy.

“What's really, really good about Waikato is I'm a good case study for transparency [in rowing]...I know where I'm supposed to be, I know what time I'm on the water, I know what boat I’m in, I know what I need to do. I have coaching. I've got racing. Believe it or not, I got to seat race...talk about inclusivity.”

She reckons she’s down the bottom of the spreadsheet for the seat racing in the Intermediate Coxed Four but “that doesn't matter. My expectation for this season is to train hard, get better, splits improve, technically I become more efficient, and you know, they've delivered on that to me. So I'm over the moon.”

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Martha Delong from Waikato Rowing Club, the oldest rower at North Island Club Champs at (68 years old) pictured with the youngest rower at the regatta, Harper Adams from Cambridge Rowing Club (13 years old). Martha will also be one of the oldest competitors at this year's National Championships. Doing multiple events over 1km is one thing at Masters events, but taking on possibly three events in the Intermediate class over 2km at nationals is another thing altogether. Photo: Picture Show lTD

The return of NZ Rowing Championships to Karapiro for the first time since 2020 will also usher in a new experience, not just for rowers and supporters at the venue, but those who can’t make it to the regatta.

“The live streaming stuff is gonna be cool,” says Mark Weatherall, Rowing NZ’s GM of Community and Development. “With the assistance of partner Milford we're looking to take the whole experience to the next level.”

There will be three, separate channels - a main channel, a channel for B Finals and a channel for medal ceremonies.

Some of the innovations that John, Mike and Ged at Altitude HD have been working on are really exciting...the number of cameras, different angles, things like having a tracker down the bottom of the screen so you can see where crews are on the course. Just lifting the whole viewer experience is something we’re really looking forward to,” says Mark.

And one last thought from Mat Jensen, who goes hard but knows the importance of making sure you can be at your best.

Yes, I have a reasonably good sleep schedule actually. It's probably one of the aspects I'm super vigilant on. To have a productive day, you need a good night's sleep...get to bed at a reasonable hour, get the zzzzzz’s under your belt.”

Lots of HPHBs not sleepwalking through life.

Get ready. 7:30am Tuesday.

The 128th New Zealand Rowing Championships.

The livestream will be available free and exclusively online here: https://rowinghub.co.nz/livestream/

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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. Email: andygohay1@gmail.com