How the pandemic has impacted rowing boat builders
The coronavirus pandemic has influenced every corner of the sport. Not only have events been postponed and athlete training schedules shifted, but others in the sport of rowing have been impacted as well. World Rowing caught up with two international boat builders to see what the last six months looked like for them.
The headquarters and manufacturing of Filippi Boats is located in a small town in the Tuscany region of Italy called Donoratico. While outside of the most heavily-impacted Northern region of Italy, the area faced complete lockdowns during the coronavirus outbreak in March.
“One of the main effects on the company was the closure of the production wing for over two months between March and May,” says David Filippi, Director of Filippi Boats. “Fortunately, Covid did not hit us directly and there were no consequences for the health of our employees and their families.”
The production of boats was able to start again at the end of May and Filippi says it began step-by-step, “although there was still a lot of uncertainty for the future at that time.”
Yet the summer was anything but quiet. There were requests to be dealt with, cancelled orders and arrangements for the new way of working.
“The lockdown has been complicated for a company like ours that has always worked at full speed in these years. And the cancellation of the races was difficult to digest; also because, the work of many years, for us as for the athletes, was stopped abruptly.”
Slowly but surely things have started to pick up. Orders are coming in again, and Filippi Boats decided to organise a coastal rowing event in October. Of course, everybody is anticipating the safe return of events in 2021.
“Obviously we fear a resurgence of the virus at an international level, but we are excited by the need to be ready for the start of the season that has just restarted with the event in Duisburg. And of course we look toward the Tokyo Olympics with great expectations,” Filippi says.
Across the ocean, another boat builder was also tackling with the unexpected. Hudson Boat Works is located in Ontario, Canada and also had to adapt over the last six months.
“We are adjusting to the new normal of physical distancing in the workplace and our Covid-19 prevention protocols. Fortunately, we were able to network through the rowing industry and Canadian manufacturers and exporters trade associations to benchmark best practices and get back into production very quickly,” says Craig McAllister, Commercial Manager at Hudson.
But the company also tried to find the positive and shift ‘agilely’.
“When it became apparent the 2020 event calendar was going to be cancelled it was a disappointment for our event team, who were prepared for the fast-paced Olympic year. The upside was reallocating the significant travel budget back into Research & Development projects and doubling down on the next generation of developments in the USP product line,” McAllister says.
The team has kept busy over the summer months. McAllister says that while the ‘front-line’ employees were happy to spend a summer with their families, Hudson did not slow down over the last months.
“The spotlight never being stronger on the Social Injustice movement and Hudson is committed to putting action to words by supporting the work of Arshay Cooper and the George Pocock Rowing Foundation’s, A Most Beautiful Thing Inclusion Fund. Hudson along with Concept 2 are allied industry partners providing equipment to lower inclusion barriers and create opportunities for lasting change in under resourced communities through youth rowing,” McAllister explains.
The pandemic allowed the company to further focus on these commitments and continue to support social inclusion. Looking forward, McAllister says they are hoping for the development of a vaccine and the safe return to international events.