Busy programme at Neptune heralds start of regatta season

Wisdom of cramming so many events into 101 days once again a bone of contention

The weather may be good, or at least rowable, for the first regatta of the season. To Neptune at Islandbridge falls the honour of being the hosts, and they begin this (Friday) evening with a two-hour session which runs from 5pm.

They have opted to cancel no events – there are 51 – and eschew time trials, so there are 260 side-by-side races scheduled. In this season of cancellations the organisers will give every rower a chance to race.

The regatta will start again on Saturday at 8am and run for almost 12 hours. On Sunday, neighbours Commercial run their regatta over a 12-hour stretch which starts at 7.30 am and features 237 races.

The regatta season runs for just 101 days. The wisdom of shoehorning a programme of club regattas (often fund-raisers), a set of big multi-lane regattas and the Irish Championships into the period from April to mid July is questionable - and all this has to be done while trying to avoid venue and time clashes with high performance trials.


The issue will come up again at the Rowing Ireland agm on Sunday, April 22nd. The proposed calendar for 2019 pits the multi-lane Lough Rynn regatta, which is to be upgraded to a Grand League event, directly in opposition to the historic Trinity Regatta – and on the same weekend as National Trials at the NRC (May 4th and 5th).

Brenda Ewing, the chair of the domestic events committee, says that she has not been able to shift regatta planners away from their dates.

"The only way forward I could see was to show the clashes and invite people to come to the meeting on the day," she told The Irish Times.

The burgeoning Irish Schools Regatta is set to be held in conjunction with the Irish Universities’ Championships (April 13th) at Lough Rynn.

Ewing says she will ask high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni or a representative of his management team to attend the fixtures meeting to give their views.

In a comprehensive report to the agm, Maurogiovanni proposes that the Irish Championships be moved to autumn or spring. Ewing says that she is open to this – but not for next year’s calendar.

Maurogiovanni says that “it will be very challenging” to prepare teams in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games “with a much lower budget than [in] the past cycles”.

Financial reports for 2017 suggest rowing has not been good at generating sponsorship, advertising and other (non grant) funding: the figures fell from €130,650 in 2016 to €105,511. Athletes contributions – a source of friction for many rowers – went up from €37,797 to €50,381.

Great rivals

In these accounts, for the first time, the broad details of the remuneration of the best-paid full-time staff is provided. Two receive salaries of €70,000 to €80,000; one a figure between €60,000 and €70,000.

Maurogiovanni is full of praise for junior camps, and one will be held this weekend at the NRC.

Back in Dublin there are real issues to be decided in this evening’s action at Neptune Regatta. Great rivals Trinity and UCD and Neptune and Commercial shoot it out in the Club One eights, with the winners facing each other in the final race of the session (7.22pm), so that just one boat goes on to Saturday.

There are also two rounds of competition in the junior 18 men’s single. The Club coxed fours of UCD A and Trinity B meet in the first race of the evening (5pm).

On Saturday, UCD and Trinity fight it out in the men's senior eight (the final is set for 6.27), but neither crew is at full strength, as they look to the bigger clash next Friday at the University Championships of Ireland. It is odd that the only senior women's eight entered was from Neptune's neighbours and rivals, Commercial – they are also the only entry in their own regatta on Sunday. No races will be held in this event.

Commercial’s regatta has an attractive prospect in the men’s senior eights, as the host club, the champions of Ireland, take on Trinity but the draw has seen them scheduled for a semi-final at 11.21, with the winners going on to meet Commercial B in a final at 12:48.

Commercial's Niall Beggan, a medal winner at the World Under-23 Championships last year, looks a good bet to take the men's singles' title at Neptune on Saturday, and is also a good tip to win on Sunday.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in rowing