Rowing club launches new craft

Wakatipu under-17 boys four rowers (from left) Josh Speight, George Bellamy, Dan Halligen and Matt Nicholson, test the new Peter Wilding craft. Photo by Christina McDonald.
Wakatipu under-17 boys four rowers (from left) Josh Speight, George Bellamy, Dan Halligen and Matt Nicholson, test the new Peter Wilding craft. Photo by Christina McDonald.
The future of rowing in Wakatipu looks to be in good hands.

Numbers at the Wakatipu Rowing Club are growing and it has bought a new boat with funding from the Peter Wilding estate.

On Saturday, the club, based at Lake Hayes, celebrated and named the new boat Peter Wilding.

The $40,000 boat was soon put to the test on Lake Hayes in an unofficial race against doubles, eights and quads.

With the club having expanded its storage and clubrooms to make way for more equipment, it is hard to imagine that in the late '90s it went into recess due to declining numbers of rowers.

Club president Nick Bailey said after last year's Olympics another 30 school-age rowers joined the club, although membership has been steadily increasing since the Evers-Swindell sisters' success in the early 2000s.

''After the Olympics, it was all on,'' Mr Bailey said.

Wakatipu High School deputy head boy and school club captain Michael Foley (16) attributed the rising membership to New Zealand's success and the success of the local club.

Rowing was ''very rewarding'' and also allowed a definite social side, he said.

He became involved with rowing in 2007.

In a speech to fellow rowers, parents, supporters and representatives of the Peter Wilding estate, Michael said in the time he had been a member of the club, its growth had been ''phenomenal''.

''This has been due to the hard work and dedication of the coaches, parents and club members and generosity of local businesses and charitable organisations.

''On the back of the club's success last season and New Zealand's success at the Olympic Games in rowing,the club received a massive influx of rowers.

''A decision was made that if the club was to continue to be competitive, a new coxed four would be required to accommodate the larger of the school rowers.''

The club's history was recounted by Mr Bailey, who outlined how it was at the forefront of modern development in allowing women to participate.

''The club was very proactive in introducing women's crews to the sport in 1970.''

Wakatipu had encouraged women members at a time when rowing was regarded as ''a gentlemen's game''.

Despite medal-winning performances at the national championships in the '90s, it was in that decade that the club's membership declined and ''numbers were so low that regattas were no longer held here, on Lake Hayes''.

However, the club began to see a surge in membership from the 2004 season, with particular interest from Wakatipu High School.

Now, the club has 66 school-age members and up to 25 social or masters rowers and is looking forward to competing in the national tournament in Twizel and its school-age members to the Maadi Cup, to be held this year in March at Lake Karapiro.