Fingers crossed that Maadi Cup green light stays on

Marlborough’s Maadi Cup contingent have their collective fingers crossed that the iconic rowing regatta will go ahead later this month.

With the country yo-yoing in and out of various Covid alert levels, nothing can be taken for granted regarding the viability of large gatherings.

The South Island and North Island secondary school champs, traditional lead-ups to the Maadi in early March, were suspended due to a recent shift in levels, denying the young crews a chance to fine tune their racing.

However, hopes are high among the local college contingent as they prepare to travel to Lake Karapiro next week, ready to take on the nation’s best from March 22-27.

Last year the Maadi Cup, the country’s largest rowing regatta, was cancelled with the country in the grip of a level four lockdown.

However, if the level one alert remains in place for the rest of the country except Auckland, it will go ahead this year. Over two and a half thousand competitors from 122 schools are expected to compete, in front of over 8000 spectators.

Marlborough Boys’ College head coach John Robinson said his charges had continued to train hard and, despite the disappointment of missing out on the South Island champs, “there would be no excuses”.

The MBC contingent will head north on Wednesday with a group of 26 athletes and coxswains, seemingly unaffected by the ongoing uncertainty.

“They are all pretty resilient … they are quite positive, that’s never been an issue.

“We are in a better position than we were in last year. Because they are older, we have upped the ante a bit and they have certainly responded,” said the former Olympic coach.

John said there had been suggestions that the South Island champs could be staged after the Maadi Cup, but MBC had decided not to support that proposal, provided Maadi went ahead.

However, if the Karapiro showpiece was cancelled, they would support a rescheduled SI event.

He felt that the South Islands could have gone ahead as planned, despite level two restrictions being in place, with the organising bodies having put together a comprehensive plan to keep rowers in their respective bubbles all around the course. “I can’t see why we couldn’t have had [the regatta] down here … but the powers-that-be said no.”

Former Olympic rower Sean O’Neill, head coach of the Marlborough Girls’ College contingent, said his charges were “good to go” for Maadi.

“We are in our final preparation phase, doing some speed work, finalising some crew selections,” he said.

Sean said the MGC crews were “a little bit down in the dumps” about not getting to the South Island champs but said they were in a positive frame of mind now.

“They are just pretty keen to get on with it, especially after missing out [on Maadi] last year.

“There are a few unknows for us, with not racing at the South Islands. Perhaps there would have been a few things we might have changed, but we are just going to be confident in our decisions and roll with them, which is exciting because we don’t really know where we are at with some crews.

“Let’s just see what happens,” he added.

The 25-strong MGC squad travels to Karapiro next Friday.

Two rowers from Queen Charlotte College are also travelling to Karapiro.

Charlotte Lightfoot and Jamie Cunningham will row the under-17 pair and under-18 double. Their coach is Cynthia de Joux.