Frustration grows as fate of Rowing NZ champs still up in the air

A decision on whether this week's rowing nationals at Lake Ruataniwha will go ahead is still up in the air with Rowing NZ weighing up several options.

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The wait is a nervous time for both competitors and the town of Twizel. Source: 1 NEWS

It's a decision that won't just affect the sport, but also hospitality and accommodation suppliers in the small town of Twizel.

While everyone waits for a call on Thursday, athletes have been forced to practice in some bizarre places such as the veranda at a local backpackers.

Olympic gold medallist Hamish Bond said it’s been a strange few days.

“I've seen most things in my career but this is slightly different, having the Covid delay.”

Despite the wet conditions, the lake looked perfect for rowing this morning but due to Covid restrictions, just when crews will eventually get out on the water is still the million dollar question.

Tauranga Rowing Club’s Phil Brangwynne admitted he’s frustrated at the situation.

“This is the biggest event in rowing and we're sitting here in the South Island with no issues with this virus down here and we've been handicapped,” he said.

“It's just crazy, absolutely crazy.”

One option for Rowing NZ is doing the tournament in pods of 100, to keep with Level 2 restrictions - something Bond said has been trialled in previous regattas.

“In my eyes, reality is it's a 2km lake,” he said.

“It's quite easy to spread people out, it's an outdoor environment - I think the risks are low but I’m also aware it's about optics and Auckland is also doing their part and perhaps we need to do ours.”

For a town like Twizel, playing their part could be catastrophic though with businesses like cafes already forced to send food back.

“It could take a big chunk of our business for sure, maybe 50 per cent or more for the week,” café owner Troy Sheridan said.

For High Country Lodge – a local backpackers - this week is survivable but it's whether there's a follow-on effect to next month’s Maadi Cup.

The Maadi Cup - the biggest schools regatta in the southern hemisphere - books out accommodation at Chris James’ lodge two years in advance.

“It gives everyone business in Twizel,” James said.

“Winter months, you are very quiet so we're only running so many rooms in the winter months so you rely on that to get you through the quiet times.”

Rowing NZ said they're still exercising every option and a decision is expected soon – something Brangwynne said can’t come soon enough.

“Huge efforts have gone into this and just to be sitting here twiddling our thumbs, guys are getting really frustrated and we just want to race.”