The 2016 Sydney International Rowing Regatta will see many athletes from the elite level through to club and school level descend upon Penrith and Western Sydney with their families from 14 to 20 March. We caught up with three of Australia’s top rowers in Erik Horrie, Fergus Pragnell and Cameron Girdlestone to find out what their top tips are for Penrith and the surrounding areas.

Horrie, who is a three-time para-rowing World Champion in the Arms and Shoulders Men’s Single Scull and is set to compete at this year’s SIRR, is a Penrith local. Horrie trains regularly at the Sydney International Regatta Centre and advised competitors with the following: “I’d recommend that anyone coming to compete at SIRR is prepared for all conditions when it comes to racing at the Regatta Centre, it’s important to be ready for anything.”

Meanwhile, Girdlestone, who took home a silver medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships in the Men’s Quadruple Scull, said: “My hot tip for rowing at SIRC would be use your warm up time effectively, make sure you have a watch and know the time throughout your warm up on the back lake leaving yourself enough time to get to the start without being rushed.”

“Staying hydrated at Penrith is key, it can get really hot during Nationals, so it’s important to keep your fluids up,” added Pragnell who won a bronze at the 2014 World Rowing Championships in the Men’s Four and has a number of King’s Cup titles to his name.

We asked the athletes some quick fire questions to help visitors be prepared for all that Penrith has to offer, check out their answers below:

Best Place for Coffee?
Erik: Gloria Jeans, Nepean Square
Fergus: Henri Marc for quality; 7-Eleven for value; Kingston and Co if you want to see West Australia Olympian Alexandra Hagan
Cameron: Penrith can offer a number of different options for coffee. I guess it really depends on how you like your coffee. My best bet would be the Plaza, there is a number of spots that serve good coffee and the best part about it you can try them all and they are all in walking distance from each other.

Best place to get a good meal in Penrith ahead of competition?
Erik: Outback Steakhouse, Penrith Panthers
Fergus: I usually get a Chicken Parma from the Nepean Rowing Club with James Wilson (Lightweight rower from Melbourne). You can’t beat the atmosphere there. They often have line dancing classes and a chocolate skill tester.
Cameron: My ‘go to’ is The Peach Tree, the choice is fantastic and the price is great. The best part about it is the service speed, it’s the best.

Penrith (or Western Sydney’s) best kept secret is…?
Erik: Exploring the Blue Mountains
Fergus: World Gym
Cameron: Nepean River, it’s the home of rowing this side of Sydney and its beautiful.

What’s your best rowing memory from Penrith or SIRC?
Erik: Competing in the demonstration of the 2km para-rowing race in 2015, it was awesome.
Fergus: The King’s Cups that New South Wales won there in 2008, 2013 and 2014.
Cameron: Has to be a long row up the Nepean River Gorge, you have the whole river to yourself.

What do you do in Penrith when you want to escape the rowing?
Erik: Cable water-skiing and relaxing with friends at Penrith Panthers.
Fergus: I frequently go to the Westfield Shopping Centre where there are loads of shops that I can buy things that I don’t need, like or want.
Cameron: I haven’t really ventured out to too many of Penrith’s activities but I would say the Plaza always has lots of great food choices. I won’t lie, most of the time I’m in Penrith and not rowing I’m trying to relax in an air-conditioned room as it can get pretty hot out there!