Vanuatu Rowing Association 2019 Wrap Up and 2020 Plans

The Australian High Commissioner, Jenny Da Rin, celebrating Rillio Rio Rii’s Commonwealth Gold Medal success with Director of Rowing, Jessica Richardson, at the launch of the new Sports Diplomacy 2030 strategy in Vanuatu. Photo: VRA

Vanuatu Rowing Association (VRA) shares their 2019 challenges and 2020 focus as we conclude another sporting season.

VRA Media Liason Officer Jessica Richardson shares their highlights;

1) How would you rate your sporting year 2019?

2019 has been another excellent year for the Vanuatu Rowing Association in building our international presence and our local participation base. Key milestones included the representation of Vanuatu at the first Oceania Coastal Rowing Coaching Course and Competition where our athletes dominated the field. The second major milestone for the VRA was in seeing Luigi Teilemb and Rio Rii, supported by coach Andrew Mackenzie qualify for the A-Final in the Men’s Double Scull at the World Rowing Coastal Championships, a first for Vanuatu. We are proud of our strong, transparent governance and commitment to building a safe, inclusive and sustainable club.

2) What were some of the highlights of this year?

Life Skills Program

The DO’s supported the Director of Rowing, Jessica Richardson, in conducting a 10 week Life Skills Program at the Port Vila Rowing Club. The Program consisted of weekly strength and conditioning sessions followed by information sessions. The DO’s invited key speakers from various organisations to present on the following topics: Time Management and Goal Setting with Anolyn Lulu from VASANOC, Family Planning and Sexual Health with Emily Bovu, Eddie Kalo and Wamily Massing from the Vanuatu Family Health Association, Healthy Relationships with the RespectemYuWan team from World Vision Vanuatu, Budgeting and setting savings goals with Elizabeth Naupa Pechan, Nutrition in sport with James Benitez Bellido, Law and your rights with the Justice team from the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Public Prosecutions, Dental Hygeine with Dr Maine (Tevyn Rezel) from the Vila Central Hospital, Respect with Director of Rowing, Jessica Richardson, Career Pathways with Gina Dehinavanua from the Australia Pacific Training Coalition and a talk on Environment Sustainability and Protection by Christina Shaw from the Vanuatu Environmental Science Society.

Work Team Regatta

Following on from 2018, the club has again promoted the idea of ‘Work Teams’ to promote the Work Team Regatta as a team building activity for people who work together. This year 4 teams signed up and trained regularly with our DO’s. The DO’s organised the scheduling for the regatta and supported crews throughout the day. Both the Pointscore and WorkTeam Mixed Quad Trophy events were taken out by the Vanuatu Insurance Brokers Team.

Schools Regatta

The Schools Regatta drew junior and senior crews from eight schools across Port Vila. The DO’s visited the schools to promote the event and ran six weeks of schools training coaching all the athletes, not just learning to row but in learning to compete. The Regatta drew over 50 participants, with Central School and PVIS combined winning the Junior Trophy and AUF taking home the Senior Trophy for a second year running. These achievements have been supported through the clubs commitment to seeing youth involved in rowing through free membership for students.

Coach Development:

The VRA is excited about the opportunities to come in Coastal Rowing for Vanuatu and recently sent DO’s Elaine Moli and Cassandra Tarivonda along with fellow athletes Nataza Titus, Luigi Teilemb and Rillio Rii to American Samoa with coach Andrew Mackenzie to take part in a week long Introduction to Coastal Rowing Course and Training Camp, which finished with an Oceania coastal rowing and beach sprints competition. This was the first time the club sent an equal team of males and females to represent Vanuatu in Rowing.

The DO’s will now look to share the learnings with fellow athlete in Vanuatu to build up the sport of Coastal Rowing and Beach Sprints in 2020.

International Squads

Our international presence has been greatly lifted this year with fantastic results coming in from world rowing events. Rillio Rii on his path to Tokyo2020 again competed at the World Rowing Championships where he came home with a fantastic Personal Best Time. Rillio Rii is preparing to compete at the World Beach Sprints Championships in China where the VRA is hoping he can build on his results from the Commonwealth Championships in England in 2018. Rio will then be joined by Luigi Teilemb in Hong Kong for the World Coastal Rowing Championships. This is the first time VANUATU will be represented in both events.

Luigi Teilemb and Rillio Rii also attended the Sydney International Rowing Regatta to increase their competition experience ahead of the years major international events. The athletes performed well.

VASANOC’s Inaugural Sports Awards

Inaugural Vanuatu Sports Awards: The Vanuatu Rowing Association was proud to see the achievements of both Risu and Rillio Rii acknowledges at the Inaugural Vanuatu Sports Awards in 2019. Risu Rii was awarded the Youth Sportsman of the Year Award and Rillio Rii was awarded the Sportsman of the Year Award for their achievements for both Rowing and sport in Vanuatu in 2018. Both athletes are role models in the community and it was a boost for them and for the rowing club to have their achievements recognised by the national sporting community.

3) What were some of the saddest moment?

Sport always comes with challenges but we are building a community of resilient, innovative, creative, welcoming, team focused athletes and coaches to overcome these challenges.

4) What are some of the learnings you will take from this year building it up next year?

We have identified to key areas needing improvement and one key area of development for 2020. The first area of improvement is to build stronger partnerships with local, national and international sponsors. The club was not able to reach all goals in 2019 due to limited funding and hopes to be able to expand programs in 2020 with the support of donors.

The second are of improvement is to increase the participation of women particular in international representation. We hope to be able to send our first female athlete to a World Rowing event to represent Vanuatu and promote equal opportunities and participation in events for our female club members.

Our area of development is in the format of Coastal Rowing. We have seen immediate success in the Coastal Rowing format and hope to build on this momentum in securing equipment to improve training and expand participation in Coastal Rowing in Vanuatu.

5) What are your 2020 plans?

2020 is an Olympic Year so the first half of 2020 will have a lot of emphasis on seeking qualification for our athletes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We will also seek to increase the participation of women in rowing and provide opportunities for international representation. Together with this we hope to build on the momentum of our recent successes and develop Coastal Rowing in Vanuatu. We will also continue to build participation in our programs promoting that Rowing is for All through programs for students, people with disability, youth, work teams and community groups. We are also looking on expanding our Rowing for All concept, by increasing our para rowing and women’s rowing programs and by developing a new Mummas program.

6) What are some of the major competitions or tournament you will prepare for next year?

2020 events:

January: National Women’s Talent Identification Camp and Competition, Port Vila

February: National Head of the River Race, Port Vila

April: Olympic Qualification Regatta, Korea – the VRA will be represented by one male athlete, Rio Rii, and one female athlete – to be determined.

July: Olympics, Tokyo

August: National School Regatta, Port Vila

September: World Coastal Rowing Championships and Beach Sprints Regatta, Portugal

October: Masters in Paradise Regatta and Work Team Regatta, Port Vila

7) What are some ways you will try to do to develop your sports further next year?

As identified above we are seeking the support of the community and potential partners and donors to expand on our current programs, increase the participation of women and develop coastal rowing in Vanuatu. Don’t hesitate to contact us to get involved with the Vanuatu Rowing Association.

8) What are some of the sports resolution for 2020?

To promote the benefits of sport, and in particular rowing:

Rowing offers incredible health and fitness benefits, above all other sports. The science doesn’t lie: Backed by science and data, the benefits of rowing are unparalleled. Each workout produces maximum results by engaging over 85% of your body’s muscles (legs, core, arms, back), delivering the perfect balance of aerobic endurance and muscular strength all in one workout.

Many parents like the fact that rowing strengthens a sense of duty and obligation to the team that is not as fully developed in other activities. An eight-oared crew can only go out if all rowers show up on time. Rowing reinforces the value of teamwork over an extended period for a common objective. Rowing teaches the value of deferred gratification, and mental toughness. It teaches young people to go beyond self-imposed limits.

You don’t have to train for the Olympics – or even compete – to enjoy rowing. We have many members at the Vanuatu Rowing Association who never compete, but love to row and get out onto the water. If what you want is quiet exercise and a nice view of nature – rowing is where you can go. Want to look and feel better? Rowing strengthens your arms, legs, abdominals and torso, and firms your butt.

Being a high school rower can help you gain entrance to further education opportunities and employment. With many international universities offering rowing scholarships, especially for women. Even if you do not compete at the next level having shown that you have the discipline and mental toughness to compete in rowing is impressive and highly valued to any university or employer.

Getting out on the water eases stress, promotes mental strength and mental health. Rowing with other people promotes teamwork. You can do it indoors, and you can do it outdoors. But most importantly the biggest reason that people row is because it’s FUN!

So why not come and try rowing? EVERYONE is WELCOME!!!

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