With the Rio Olympic Games looming the Rowing New Zealand summer squad will be keen to perform to their best this weekend at the first major regatta of the season - the Christmas regatta, held from 11 - 13 December. With so many world champions and world medallists lining up at Lake Karapiro it should provide an exciting first hit out of the season.
The three day event will commence with heats for school crews on Friday followed by heats of all divisions on Saturday while Sunday will consist of finals across all divisions. The weather outlook is for some rain with temperatures expected to reach 24 degrees over the weekend.
The womens events are set to kick off some of the most competitive racing for Rowing New Zealand athletes with significant entries in the single, double and pair. In the womens single, 2014 World Champion Emma Twigg will line up against six other Rowing New Zealand scullers including double scull world champions, Eve Macfarlane and Zoe Stevenson as well as, double scull lightweight world champions Julia Edward and Sophie Mackenzie, and world champion lightweight single sculler, Zoe McBride. Jackie Kiddle, the U23 world champion in the double alongside Zoe McBride will also add to the calibre of this event. Canadian rower Carling Zeeman who finished sixth at the 2015 World Championships and has already booked a spot at the Rio Olympics, will also join the line up under Hawkes Bay colours.
The World Champion womens double of Zoe Stevenson and Eve Macfarlane will be keen to dominate the womens double as they face members of the womens sculling squad who are yet to qualify for the Rio Olympics and have their sights set on seats in the womens quad. The lightweight women will again feature with Julia Edward pairing up with Zoe McBride and world champs partner Sophie Mackenzie combining with U23 lightweight world champion Jackie Kiddle.
The womens pair will see six New Zealand summer squad crews jostling for positions as well as crews from Auckland and Central Regional Performance Centres (RPC). World silver medallists in the pair and eight, Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler are expected to shine amongst the competitive field. Another notable entry in the pair is London Olympian Fiona Paterson who has recently returned to the sport and will race with Kelsey Bevan.
Rowing New Zealand have entered two womens eights in the mens open four in order to race crews of a similar speed. The first crew is made up of summer squad athletes and the second is a composite crew made up of summer squad and Central RPC athletes.
On the mens side, six time world champions Eric Murray and Hamish Bond will come up against seven mens pairs from the Rowing New Zealand summer squad including combinations from Olympic qualifiers, the New Zealand mens eight and the New Zealand mens lightweight four. Further competition will come from the Auckland, Waikato and Central RPCs. Mahe Drysdale will come up against lightweight world champion Adam Ling in the mens single as well as up and coming scullers from Auckland, Central and Waikato RPCs.
Competition in the mens double will hot up with the full New Zealand mens sculling squad taking part. World bronze medallist Robbie Manson will race with John Storey while partner Chris Harris will team up with Jade Uru.
Over the regatta 1563 crews and 2250 athletes will contest 78 events with 342 races being run over the duration of the event. Rowers are representing 54 different organisations including the Auckland, Waikato and Central RPCs and five Australian club and school crews of various levels. Canadian national sculler Carling Zeeman will be racing under Hawkes Bay colours and athletes from World Rowings developing nations, Vanuatu and Samoa will race under Waikato Rowing Club.