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During the 2016-2017 winter months, ROWONTARIO held a 13-week online indoor rowing competition. The competition was open to all members, allowing for both single and team entries. A brand new Concept 2 Erg was awarded as a grand prize to the top single rower and top team. Cash prizes were also awarded to many participants. All prizes were made possible by the Canadian Indoor Rowing Association.

ROWONTARIO asked the single and team winners to tell us a bit about themselves, the experience, and the change a new erg has made.

Single Winner: David Willett, St. Catharines Rowing Club

When did you learn to row?

I learned to row (on the Thames) as an undergraduate at Imperial College in London, England, from 1952 through 1955. After graduating I embarked in a career in hydroelectric engineering which involved frequent travel; I did not start rowing again until I enrolled in the social rowing group at the St Catharines Rowing Club, in 2011. In the interim I focused primarily on long distance running including marathons (Boston, Washington, Buffalo) and multiple intermediate distance races, as well as  raising a family.


What have been your highlights as a rower?

Winning the “Crash B” world indoor rowing championship for my age group (Ages 80 to 84 ) in 2012 , and second in 2017  (Ages 85 to 90).


Why did you participate in ROWONTARIO’s online challenge?

It provided an interesting variation on my routine rowing exercise program, with a new challenge each week over the winter period.


Aside from winning a new erg, what was your highlight of the online challenge?

Being able to compare my rowing abilities with other rowers.


How has having a new erg affected your training?

It’s a little early to tell, but the variety of data viable on the new machine provides an interesting viewpoint on various aspects of my rowing technique , allowing me to keep track of my progress – or lack of it! I should mention that in taking up rowing again, I continued my involvement in running, albeit at a somewhat less arduous level, limiting races to not more than 5 kilometres. I also include cycling and weights in my regular regime, aiming to do at least 45 to 60 minutes of reasonably strenuous exercise five times a week.


Do you have any words of wisdom for up and coming rowers?

My experience is limited to rowing in an eight, but I have observed that a key element in a successful crew is the ability to achieve perfect synchronicity … rowing requires total mental and physical concentration to ensure that the whole crew works as one…

And a very useful exercise on the erg, is to do “Tabatas”, which involve periods of rowing at maximum output, interspersed with periods of recovery. You should be able to find a Tabatas App on your iPod or laptop.

I go for 6 periods of one minute at max output with 30 second rest periods in between.


Any additional comments?

I suggest that the handicap allowances for rowers 85 and older need to be adjusted in light of the improved levels of fitness being achieved these days!

Team Winner: Island Lake Masters, Island Lake Rowing Club

Could you give a little background on your club?

Club was formed in 1998 by a small group of active, sports minded people, with an interest in rowing. They started with one 8+ which was stored in a transport trailer and had to be carried into the water for a wet launch. Through fund raising activities and financial assistance from Row Ontario and Trillium grants, we now have a large boat house which stores our fleet of 30+ boats from singles to 8+’s, racing shells, recreational and adaptive and a good number of privately owned single sculls as well as two accessible docks. We run programs catering to many categories of rower including two local high schools, master’s recreational and competitive, youth summer rowing (rec and comp), a summer youth camp, para rowing as well as a learn to row program.


What are your clubs hopes for the future?

We will continue to promote rowing to the local community and to continue to offer quality programs tailored to our community needs. We hope that through a program of assessment and renewal to maintain an inventory of boats, oars, ergs that will best serve our members.


Why did your club participate in ROWONTARIO’s online challenge?

I had just taken over as head coach and attended the Row Ontario annual meeting/conference where I learned of the challenge. I thought it would be a good way to maintain interest and training over the winter and to include our high school rowers as we don’t run a winter training program. Some of our members have ergs at home and there are a limited number of ergs available at the high school and I felt it would keep us all connected through the activity.


Aside from winning a new erg, what was your highlight of the online challenge?

The highlight for me was seeing the high school students taking an interest in the challenge. There was a fair bit of interest initially which did wean down to a small number of students and masters who stuck through it the whole way, but it was very rewarding to receive results from them each week and know that they were sticking with it.


How has having a new erg benefited your club?

We have a small number of ergs, some better than others, with and without monitors. Winning this new one has given me a renewed sense of enthusiasm toward our goals of providing quality programs for our members. We use them as warm-up before rowers get on the water and also for demonstrating/practising the rowing stroke for our novice high school and learn to row participants. Having that one more erg makes it a bit more convenient to have a group for instruction and practice. Doing the winter challenge and winning the erg has also prompted one of our master members to propose that we hold a draw in the fall for our dedicated high school rowers that would distribute our club ergs for them to take home over the winter. We hope this would encourage the winter training that we can’t provide.


Any additional comments?

I appreciate the opportunity for community involvement (winter challenge) and look forward to other chances to engage our members in the future.


Thank you to all those who participated in the challenge!