The Spring VIII Series was created with rowing teams in mind: when on water racing seasons were cut short this year, athletes and coaches wanted to keep training and racing. Our team challenge allows athletes to compete as crews of eight from the comforts of home in a variety of workouts over five weeks.
The top of our women’s and men’s leaderboards show that top talent rose to our new indoor challenge. We were excited to see some familiar names racing alongside rising athletes in the sport.
Vying for the top of the men’s leaderboard, the “GARAGEATHLETE” Men’s A Boat includes the recognizable name of Hamish Bond, half of the famous “Kiwi Pair”. (While not at the very top of the leaderboard, the other half of the Kiwi Pair, Eric Murray, is competing on the the Concept2 team, along with Iztok Cop (SLO) and Concept2 employees. Fellow New Zealand athletes joining Bond’s boat include Michael Brake, Silver Medalist at the 2019 World Championship (Men’s Pair) and current members training for the 2021 Tokyo Games.
Behind the GARAGEATHLETE team, “Germania Boat A” is adding pressure with solid results. Ivan Saric, a former German National Team member and the virtual team’s captain, put together the boat of longtime companions and friends. “Everyone should motivate each other to compete to the best of his ability,” he says. The lineup includes a couple of former competitive on water athletes, current national team athletes, and two pure indoor enthusiasts (Benjamin Reuter and Tobias Stoehr). Many athletes are also juggling time home with family and kids.
Olli Zeidler, the current World Rowing Champion in the Men’s Single, joined “Germania Boat A” by invitation from Saric. The two competed on water near Munich last fall, so “it’s not the first time he’s made me join his eight,” Zeidler explains. He continues, “of course, the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and cancellation of the on water season is a huge problem in terms of motivation, even for me. I’m always involved in indoor rowing challenges and I’m a member of a British indoor rowing team (MAD IRC) where I compete in monthly challenges. I really enjoy pushing myself for the team success and I love hard erg sessions much more than long endurance sessions.”
The athletes report that the series is both fun and competitive. Zeidler came within .4 seconds of a world record during his 6000m row, but didn’t realize it until he finished. “I will do the 6k in a few weeks again,” he promises. Zeidler holds current indoor world records for 4 minutes (1445m) and 30 minutes (9533m).
On the women’s side, the top women's team was the "Quaranqueens." This is an international componsite boat including athletes from West End Rowing Club (Auckland, New Zealand), New York Athletic Club (New York, NY) and Vesper Boat Club (Philadelphia, PA).
We caught up with the team hot on their tails, “LRV Baden-Württemberg e.V. — SF”. Coach Ralf Kockel explains that Landesruderverband (LRV) is an association of 41 clubs in Southern Germany that has fielded seven virtual eights in the challenge. While the racing is fun, he still describes it as “a lonely event." But, the virtual competitions are helping to keep athletes happy, including his many junior athletes who wanted to prepare for the World Championship.
All the athletes we talked to agree: The most exciting part of the Spring VIII Series will be the 2000m row. Kockel is curious to see the results, explaining that “we have placed very, very young rowers in some boats, who have done well on the 6K.”
Zeidler agrees that “the most exciting part of the Spring VIII Series will be the 2k. Even if I will do some days off in week 3, I hope to set a good time.” His eyes are towards the Kiwis. “It’s a great idea and also a unique opportunity for everyone competing with world class rowers like Hamish Bond & Company!”
While rowing indoors doesn’t replace the thrill of outdoor racing, Kockel shares this: “I am sure that we will see each other again at the regatta places around the world. Until then, we need patience.”
We agree, and look forward to seeing teams at future regattas.