Rupert Guinness at Champion Lakes Regatta Centre

For many athletes at the Australian Rowing Championshipson Wednesday, the big challenge was handling the winds that whipped through Champion Lakes near Perth.

The conditions were forecast but their severity was plain to see when crews arrived for day three of the regatta soon after dawn.

The real test for rowers was on the water in their Single Scull and Pairs events. Not only did they have the brunt of a mighty headwind blowing on their backs from the start to the finish of the purpose-built 2000m course, but unexpected gusts that reached up to 40kmh threatened them all the way.

With rowing being an outdoor sport, athletes have to adapt to whatever conditions Mother Nature throws at them. The challenge of dealing with such winds is as much a test of their calm in adverse conditions as their finely-honed technique.

“They have to deal with it,” said Alan ‘AB’ Bennett, RowingNSW’s Sport Development Officer, who has coached at international and domestic levels. “They’re the ones who have to adapt [to the wind], to try and stay relaxed, as hard as it is when you are being blown around all over the place.”

With wind tipped for the rest of the week, especially early morning, Bennett’s advice for rowers at Champion Lakes is: “Try and stay relaxed, don’t let conditions dictate too much.

“You’ve also got to try and make sure you get out there and get used to conditions.”

Campbell Watts (Sydney University-NSWIS), who placed second in his Single Scull Semi-Final on Wednesday to make Thursday’s Final, agrees with Bennett. “We are an outdoor sport. You can’t expect flat [water] all the time, Watts said. 

“The more prepared you are for every condition, the better the rower you will be.

“As long as you are process driven, it’s really simple to go about things as you would in every single race. It makes the conditions irrelevant. You get used to the same stress.”

Tara Rigney who won her Semi-Final of the Women’s Single Scull on Wednesday to go into Thursday’s Final, concurred.

“There is an element of relaxation,” she said. “We’re going to take some duty strokes, so it’s about trying to handle those.”

Dave Grubits, the regatta Race Jury President, has two tips for crews entering the start area in the wind. He said they should: “Enter the area upwind and drift in from their right; Keep thebow pointed into the wind until told otherwise by the Umpire before the ‘Go’ signal is given.”