The Port Vila Rowing Club opened its doors to women and young girls to try rowing as part of a Women’s Learn to Row Program and Talent Identification Week for promising rowers in the last week of the summer holidays.

It was a week filled with sunshine and smiles, as the girls gave rowing a go. We must thank our tireless and enthusiastic coaches who facilitated the program; Head Coach, Andrew Mackenzie, the Director of Rowing, Jessica Richardson and Development Coaches Elaine Moli and Kaza Tarivonda.

Those who attended the Talent Identification portion of the training had a taste of the expectations of national squad sessions with two water sessions and one land session each day. The training consisted of long rows of 8 km in the morning and in the afternoons as well as gym sessions, 30 minute test on the rowing machine and a 2000 meter race, a whooping amount of training but nothing that the women didn’t overcome.

On the other hand, for those new to rowing the events of the week were arranged in a way that allowed the women to get a rounded experience of rowing. On Monday, the VRA (Vanuatu Rowing Association) organized a simple orientation in which the coordinators and those who attended the program acquainted themselves with each other.

The women were taught basics on the water which was then followed by a water safety session and swimming lesson, thanks to the Wan Smol Bag, Vanuatu Aquatics coaches; Frank Vira, Lala Iatika and Australian Volunteer Jess Seymour. Following this the rowing coaches conducted capsize drills with the new athletes to remove any fear around rowing on the lagoon, wrapping up a very productive first day.

Throughout the week training continued. The participants learnt how to train on the rowing machines, participated in fitness circuits and were taught technique and skills when it came to handling themselves on the water. This with a healthy scatter of talks to help broaden their insight on the factors that contribute to a whole rounded rower as many were in it for the fitness rowing provides. Nerida Bwibwi, a nutritionist gave a talk on the importance of healthy diets and the role it plays in fitness.

Damon Ashworth, a psychologist and Australian Volunteer with colleague and Mental Health Nurse Norah Simon spoke about mental health and its value in sportsmanship, and Matthew Rimington Physiotherapist and Jess Seymour Exercise Physiologist and Australian Volunteers gave a talk on injury prevention and management and women’s health in sport. In between talks the women were training for race day. Thank you to all our wonderful speakers for sharing your knowledge with us.

Friday was an exciting Race day for the group. Race day was sunny and eventful as the women used all they had learned throughout the week to perform to the best of their abilities and it goes without saying that the training paid off. The girls who participated in the Learn to Row program raced for the first time over 500m.

“I’m so proud of the way all the girls raced today with enthusiasm and determination, it shows lots of promise. A lot of the girls who participated are determined to learn more and come back after this training ends which is exactly what we were hoping for”, commented the Director of Rowing Jess Richardson.

Talent identification during the training was very fruitful as four rowers performed outstandingly well, Kaza Tarivonda, Lucyanna Wells, Leitia Tumukon and Nataza Titus during their 2km race. Overall, everyone had fun and learnt to row as well as how to stay healthy on more than just physical levels throughout the training.

“The camp was exciting, and I learnt a lot from it, especially from the talks. I feel that Rowing will help keep me disciplined, focused and help balance my life out,” said Anabelle Saul. Gel Pawa was showcased beautifully once again.

The rowing club relies on donor funding to run these great programs, so the VRA would like to thank the Carbine Club whose support made this week of Gel Pawa possible! The girls and the rowing staff greatly appreciated the support and are excited about what the future may hold.

The rowing club is a great community and this was showcased through the support existing rowing members offered to new athletes through the week. Thank you to everyone who lent a hand! It was great to celebrate together with a final BBQ following the racing on Friday.

The Women’s Learn to Row for girls and ladies was a massive success thanks to everyone who attended and helped organize. If you are interested in joining the women’s rowing program at the Port Vila Rowing Club please come down to the Rowing Club, Tassiriki to take part in the Women’s sessions on Wednesday and Friday afternoon between 3:30-6:30pm and on Saturday morning between 6-9am.