Vanuatu goes international
Along with the record turn-out of 2,000 athletes competing at New Zealand’s Lake Karapiro Christmas Regatta, Vanuatu’s Port Villa Rowing Club added an international touch to the regatta.
Vanuatu is very new to flat water rowing and with the help of some ex-pats, FISA and Australian and New Zealand Rowing, the sport is starting to truly develop on this island nation in the Pacific Ocean.
Recruiting to the sport is mainly by word-of-mouth and the hurdles in getting people interested is the lack of organised sport in Vanuatu, especially at the school and club levels, as well as a lack of knowledge of rowing as a sport.
A boathouse has recently been built on the Erekor Lagoon which boasts over 4km of sheltered rowing. As well as ex-pat rowers, there are now about 12 Ni-Vanuatu (locals) who have taken up rowing, bringing the club membership to about 70.
New boats, 16 in total, arrived from Swift earlier this year and everything is now in place for a steady improvement in rowing in Vanuatu.
Club member and organiser Lee Spear says one of the biggest challenges is the lack of food for the rowers. “I’ll go to the market in the morning and buy bananas and bread rolls, because otherwise some of these athletes won’t eat until dinner,” says Spear.
Rowing New Zealand hosted the team of six, some of them travelling out of their country for the first time. “Their eyes were bulging like saucers when they saw Auckland,” says Spear. “They had never seen a city as big as Auckland,” says Spear.
After a week of training out of New Zealand’s High Performance Centre the crew raced proving their best in novice events. New Zealand coach Gary Roberts has travelled to Vanuatu to help set up the recently purchased boats. Roberts also coached the Vanuatu rowers while they were in New Zealand and he has designed a training programme for them to follow.
The most experienced rower of the group is Tom Pata. Pata, the crew captain, came from a sporting background in ocean swimming and he has already trained at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Next on the agenda is for four of the athletes to attend the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney and then the focus will be on getting an athlete to represent Vanuatu at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.