Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Clubs disappointed virus sinks all water activities

ROWING Clubs in Henley are frustrated that their athletes are unable to train on the water during the latest coronavirus lockdown.

Henley Rowing Club, Upper Thames Rowing Club and Leander Club have all loaned out equipment and set up online communications to help keep their members occupied as best they can.

Since July the clubs, under guidance from British Rowing, have had strict guidelines in place to help keep members safe when using their facilities.

Athletes were also placed in training “bubbles” to ensure that any virus transmission is kept to a minimum.

Helen Turnell, who chairs Henley Rowing Club, is disappointed that a blanket ban on all water-based activities has been re-introduced.

She said: “It was clear that we needed to close the gym but it wasn’t clear at first whether or not we needed to stop all water-based
activities.

“We were hopeful that we could continue to go out on the water in single sculls. The thinking was that, as we can exercise outside on our own, we would be able to do so in a single.

“Like many clubs and organisations, we had spent a lot of time getting the right procedures and policies in place to continue in a covid-safe way but unfortunately that isn’t the case with this lockdown.

“But, to a certain extent, as a club we are repeating what we did last time, except we are in a better position now because we know what works and what doesn’t.”

Last Saturday was supposed to be the Henley Sculls event but this had to be cancelled after the Government re-introduced the national lockdown on Thursday last week.

Turnell said: “It was extremely disappointing to cancel the races. We had nearly 500 entries which we had to whittle down to 400 — all in singles and doubles.

“It was such a beautiful day as well, which was just heart-breaking. It is a real shame but all the members have remained positive.”

Turnell revealed that one of the club’s coaches recently tested positive for covid-19 but because of the club’s procedures, Public Health England ruled no-one else had to isolate.

While the club is temporarily closed, the club has again loaned out gym equipment to its members and the coaches have been keeping in touch with them using Zoom.

Mark Banks, Leander’s director of rowing and head coach, said that while it was “frustrating” that athletes couldn’t get out on to the water, his athletes were well supported.

He said: “The athletes have got an online training programme for the next two weeks and then they will get another one. The programme gives them a structure of doing A, B, C, and D at what time of the day. It will give them the direction, focus and structure that they need.

“They have all been given an ergo and some weights to take home with them. We don’t expect them to move on physically but hopefully to maintain what they have got at the time we went into lockdown.

“The coaches are allotted a number of athletes with whom they will communicate on a daily basis and they come together as a group as well. It is about them knowing we are the life raft that’s there for them.”

Banks said that while he would have liked to have been allowed on the water he accepted the ban.

He said: “It is frustrating not being able to go out in singles or doubles but I understand the reason behind it and the Government is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“Since coming back to full-time training in September we have had only one athlete test positive for covid and it is testament to the procedures that we have and the athletes buying into it that it has been only that.

“As soon as covid cases began to rise in Reading and Oxfordshire we reduced the athlete bubbles down from eight to four and so three other athletes had to isolate.”

Justin Sutherland, who is chairman of Upper Thames Rowing Club, said that while some members were unhappy with the new restrictions he supported them.

He said: “I have had a lot of people who are very frustrated they can’t get out in a single scull and what’s particularly ironic is that every time I go for a run down the towpath the river is as flat as a pancake. The river seems to be mocking us at the moment.

“I have taken the view that the Government is trying to close down non-essential activities for a month and while it is frustrating they have more important things to worry about than some generally middle-aged people in our case who can’t get their boats out in Henley.”

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