Five months as director of the LUCERNE REGATTA

It’s been five months since Timon Wernas took over as new director of the LUCERNE REGATTA. We seized the opportunity to sit down with him and ask him a few questions about his first few months.

Timon Wernas, you started as director of LUCERNE REGATTA just under 5 months ago. If you were to describe your start with 3 words, which would you choose?

Exciting, intensive and informative. Every new job should be exciting, but this one was a bit more exciting than expected because I don’t have a predecessor and the position as such did previously not exist. In an organisation that has been around for almost 120 years… Where do you even start? How do I define my tasks? These were (and to some extent still are) very exciting questions.

Intense because the time until the next LUCERNE REGATTA is running (today there are just under 200 days left) and there is still an incredible amount to learn and understand. The organisation of a rowing regatta at the level of the LUCERNE REGATTA is complex in itself, but with the previous fully voluntary organisation, many processes have been very neatly adjusted and optimized over many years to make them as efficient as possible. No time to waste when you are sacrificing your weekends and evenings… In turn, this means that all changes have to be very well thought through. And while I am now making a living with this task, the big bulk of the organization remains volunteers.

It’s also been very informative first five months, because in addition to being director of the LUCERNE REGATTA, I work in a company that organises other large sporting events in Lucerne. There are a lot of potential synergies and, above all, a huge wealth of experience from which I and the whole regatta can benefit.

As you already mentioned, you work for athletics sportconsulting GmbH, which also provides the office for the SwissCityMarathon Lucerne and the “Luzerner Stadtlauf” (Lucerne City Run). How is the collaboration going?

It’s going really well, I’ve been able to integrate very well and have a very helpful team on site here. Reto Schorno (managing director of the marathon), a former board member of the LUCERNE REGATTA, is also part of the team and already knows a lot about the regatta. I don’t work full time for the regatta, and am allowed to spend the rest of my time helping the other ASC events. So this year’s marathon certainly counts as one of my highlights. Here I was able to experience for the first time how things work during such a big event and how the team functions.

Back to the LUCERNE REGATTA, where is the current focus of your work?

In the first few weeks, I have mainly been working on getting to know the existing organisation: Who is responsible for what? Where are the most important interfaces? And, of course, a lot of attention was paid to financing. In the past years, the association has been very careful with the available funds and has created a solid basis which allowed the professionalization in the first place. Now, however, the first step is to secure the professionalisation in the long term and, to do so, raising additional funds. This will allow to further develop the association and with that, the LUCERNE REGATTA as such.

You’re talking about further development? What can we expect from the LUCERNE REGATTA in 2023 and in the future?

First and foremost, we want to continue doing what we’ve done so well so far: having the world’s top rowers at the start in Lucerne and offering exciting rowing sport. Beyond that, however, we can certainly continue to develop as an event and improve the event character of the regatta. In the future, we want the World Cup Weekend to attract more people who are not (yet) die-hard rowing fans. From a sports point of view, the inclusion of para-rowing, for example, is an important milestone in order to be able to hold major international events again in the future. The latter remains our goal. While this is a big challenge, especially for our logistics at the Rotsee, it also offers a lot of opportunities. Rowing is a sport for everyone, and people with disabilities should have the opportunity to compete with each other on the highest level and on the best stage as well. The last rowing world championship titles in Lucerne were awarded in 2001. With the successful European Rowing Championships in 2019, we have shown that we are ready for more international championships. For 2023, it is still a little early for further concrete measures at the moment, but I am confident that some changes will be noticeable on Lake Rotsee. So it is definitely worth coming by.

Thank you for your time!

Top-class rowing on the final day of LUCERNE REGATTA

27 races – 13 B and 14 A finals – were scheduled on the third day of the LUCERNE REGATTA. All good things come in threes, as the weather conditions on the Rotsee were pleasant throughout the regatta.

Beautiful, not too hot weather and as usual good water prevailed on the Lucerne Göttersee. In addition, especially on Sunday during the final races, there was a large number of spectators – with an enthusiastic audience that created a great atmosphere and cheered on the athletes.

Most successful rowing nations

The delegation from Great Britain was the dominant rowing nation on Lake Rot. No less than 8 medals – six of them gold and one silver and one bronze – went to the British island. The Australian, Italian and Romanian representatives performed convincingly, winning six medals. Germany had to be content with 3 medals, but set an extremely positive, not necessarily expected sign by winning the women’s single.

Final decisions

In the women’s skiff, Jeannine Gmelin took over the command from the Chinese Ling Zhang, who was leading at the beginning, after 1000 meters. For a long time it seemed that the Ustermerin could defend her lead until the finish. On the last 200 meters the German Alexandra Foester came from the fourth intermediate place quasi out of nowhere and – with the Australian Tara Rigney in tow – still overtook the Swiss. However, third place and the bronze medal win showed that Jeannine Gmelin is on a good path with regard to the upcoming title fights for the European Championships and the World Championships.

In the men’s race, Britain’s Graeme Thomas took the race scepter in his hands after 500 meters. The Bulgarian Kristian Vasilev followed on his heels and for a long time gave the impression of being able to seriously threaten the Briton. In the end, however, the Briton was able to pull away and take home the win with a clear lead. Behind Vasilev, Germany’s Marc Weber secured bronze.

The Croatian brothers Valent and Martin Sinkovic, who have returned to the double sculls this season – as winners of the first two World Cup races in Belgrade and Poznan they are used to winning anyway – lived up to their role as favorites. In the meantime, the Australians Caleb Antill/David Bartholot put on a lot of pressure. When the Croatians increased the pace, the Australians had to let go. Second place for the Aussies and third place for the surprising Spaniards, who caught up with the Lithuanians, were recorded at the finish.

In the women’s double sculls the Germans Pia Greiten and Frauke Hundeling went all in and were only replaced by the Romanians Simona Radis/Ancuta Bodnar at the 1000 meter mark. The Olympic champions from Tokyo did not leave anything to be desired and dominated clearly. The Italians Stefania Gobbi/Kiri Tontodonati secured silver, the Lithuanians Dovile Rimkute/Donata Kareliene – already third during the whole race – took third place.

The women’s double sculls started the races for the A-finals. The Olympic champions from New Zealand, Kerri Williams/Grace Prendergast, beat the Romanians, who had been coming on strong lately, by a razor-thin margin in a thrilling finish.

In the men’s counterpart, the British boat with Thomas George and Oliver Wynne-Griffith – both still in the eight at the Tokyo Olympics – clearly prevailed against the boats from Australia and Serbia.

The Chinese – otherwise the boats of the nation with the largest delegation usually rowed behind – overwhelmingly won the women’s double four. Great Britain and Italy followed on the places. Unfortunately, the Swiss women’s double sculls, which were affected by Corona and were not able to register for the regatta, did not take part.

A start-to-finish victory in the men’s double four was achieved by the Poles. From the start they took the top position. In the last quarter of the course they were overtaken by the Romanians, but the Italians, who were always in second place, finally secured the silver medal. The Romanians remained in third place.

The British, Australians and Romanians delivered a thrilling race in the men’s four-boat-less, which also crossed the finish line in this order.

In the women’s race, the favored British women put their stamp on the race right from the start. They won far ahead of the Romanians and the New Zealanders.

In the only Olympic lightweight boat class, Great Britain’s Madeleine Fiona Arlett/Emily Craig narrowly won against France’s Claire Bove/Laura Tarantola, who have been coming on strong recently. The Olympic champions from Italy, Federica Cesarini/Valentina Rodini, had to settle for the third medal place, clearly distanced.

In the men’s event, the two Swiss Raphael Ahumada/Andri Struzina led the field for a long time. A surprise seemed possible. Only in the last 250 meters they had to admit defeat to the two boats from Italy (Gabriel Soares/Pietro Ruta and Stefano Oppo/Niels Torre) and the Norwegians Tjoerm/Benske. A performance that exudes confidence for upcoming tasks. However, the Swiss – including Jan Schäuble, who is rowing in the project – did not let themselves be deprived of the victory in the overall category ranking.

 

In the women’s eight, the Canadians set the pace for a long time. At 1,250 meters, the Australians took the lead and extended it to the finish line for an unchallenged victory. The Canadians and the Romanians secured their place on the podium and thus the other medal sets.

The British eight put its stamp on the men’s eight race right from the start and did not show any weakness. The newly formed German eight kept up well for a long time, moved up to 2nd place at 1,500 meters, only to be relegated to 3rd place by the Australians.

The final day of the other Swiss boats

Salome Ulrich from Seeclub Luzern, who was supposed to start in the Swiss women’s double four project, was the only one of the crew to be spared from Corona and started in the skiff. In the B-final she had to let her competitors go after half of the race and finished the race on the 6th place.

The first Swiss boat to start in the series of B finals was the men’s double-one with Maurin Lange (Seeclub Luzern) and Jonah Plock (Ruderclub Rapperswil-Jona) for places 7 to 12. Still mixing well after the start, the two athletes, who are competing in their first World Cup season, fell back continuously. The 12th place in the overall ranking was the result.

The men’s double four with Jan Schäuble, Patrick Brunner, Nils Schneider and Dominic Condrau fought with the crews from Estonia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic for the best finish towards the finish line in a balanced race that left all results open for a long time. At the very end the young Swiss had to give way to these crews. The 4th place gives hope for the upcoming European and World Championship title fights, especially since Kai Schätzle, who normally sits on the beat, dropped out for the LUCERNE REGATTA due to illness.

Jürg Trittibach

 

 

Semi-final day at the LUCERNE REGATTA

43 races were on the racing program on the second day of competition at LUCERNE REGATTA. Once again, fair conditions prevailed for the athletes in the contested races, where the finalists were chosen for Sunday’s finals.

 

Copy and paste: What was true for the conditions for athletes and spectators on Friday’s first day of competition was also true on Saturday at the LUCERNE REGATTA, which concludes the World Cup series. Pleasant temperatures, good water and now and then a breeze, which, however, decreased more and more after the lunch break. Mainly semifinals, the last hope heats, the C, D and E finals as well as the finals of the non-Olympic lightweight categories were on the agenda.

 

Most successful rowing nations

The semifinal eliminations for Sunday’s (largely) A finals saw France and Italy as the most successful nations. They each made six finals. The national delegations of Germany, Australia and Great Britain can boast five final places

 

 

 

First final decisions
The first decisions of the non-Olympic lightweight boat classes already took place on Saturday. Outstanding in the women’s skiff was imogen Grant from Great Britain, who realized a new world best time with 07:23.36 and relegated the surprising Mexican Kenia Lechuga and the South African Kirsten McCann to the other medal places.In the men’s race, favored Irishman Paul O’Donovan won ahead of Belgian Tibo Vyvey and Uruguayan Bruno Cetraro Berriolo, while Australian Oscar McGuiness, who led until halfway through the course, was still tied for fourth place.


Only two nations were still competing in the lightweight double sculls. Germany won, with the Netherlands following in second place.

 

The second day of competition from the Swiss point of view

In the women’s single sculls Jeannine Gmelin won her semifinal with aplomb. Still in second place at 500 meters, she took command, always kept a safety margin on the competition and won safely. Diana Dymchenko, the Ukrainian now competing for Azerbaijan, and Emma Lunatti from France followed on the places.


The third place for the final qualification had to be achieved by Raphaël Ahumada and Andri Struzina in the lightweight double sculls, and that’s exactly what the duo did. Norway’s Tjoem/Benske and Italy’s Soares and veteran Ruta were even faster.

Lightweight skiers Olivia Nacht and Eline Rol were drawn in the same semifinal. From the start they were on the defensive and could never seriously flirt with qualifying for the final. The ranks 4 for Olivia Nacht and 5 for Eline Rol were the place-wise yield. In the B-Final, Eline Rol from Geneva immediately went on the offensive, but then had to let Czech Kristyna Neuhortova and French Aurelie Morizot pass in the third quarter of the course. Olivia Nacht had to settle for 4th place.

The men’s double sculls with Maurin Lange and Jonah Plock did not manage to repeat their success at the World Cup II in Poznan. They were behind from the start and finished sixth in the semifinals, which meant they were relegated to the B-finals.

Also for the men’s double four with Jan Schäuble instead of the stroke Kai Schätzle, who was absent due to illness, Patrick Brunner, Nils Schneider and Dominic Condrau the hurdle for the final entry was too high. Although catching up on the competition in the end, the result was “only” the sixth place, which means the B-final qualification.

Scott Bärlocher started in the C-final of the skiffiers. After a slow start, he took command halfway through the course and was the first to cross the finish line as heat winner – and thus 13th overall – against the emerging competition from Australia and Germany.

The women’s double Fabienne Schweizer and Nina Wettstein – not yet fully recovered from the effects of illness – competed in the C final. In the end, the duo took 14th place in the overall standings.

World Cup finals kick off with a packed race program

68 races went over the waters of Lucerne’s Rotsee rowing mecca on Friday’s opening day in the best conditions. Exciting and hard-fought races marked the first big day of the best-attended regatta before the upcoming European and World Championships.

In excellent conditions – pleasant temperatures, calm water and at times a shifting breeze – the opening day of the LUCERNE REGATTA World Cup series concluded with the preliminary and hope heats on Lake Lucerne. The most important international showdown with almost all major rowing nations and their top athletes in view of the 2022 World Rowing Championships in Racice, Czech Republic.

Large fields of participants

More than 600 rowers from 39 nations in 17 boat classes competed. Especially China, Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Romania and Italy sent large delegations to the test bed of Lake Rot. The USA and large parts of the Dutch elite boats were not there. And it proved true once again: nations that have a wide range of competing athletes are more likely to deliver absolute top performances. The Romanian team, for example, was striking in that all of its athletes made it to the next round.

Involuntary absences

The fact that the Corona issue is still not over after last year’s regatta, which took place without spectators, still had to be stated in 2022. Among others, the Swiss national team was strongly affected and had to register various absences. For example, the hopeful women’s double four boat had to forgo the start and the men’s counterpart had to replace stroke Kai Schätzle with lightweight Jan Schäuble.

The first day of competition from the Swiss point of view

In the women’s single, the 2018 world champion Jeanine Gmelin proved that her roadmap is coherent with regard to further goals with her preliminary victory. Also qualifying directly for the semifinals was the lightweight double sculls rowing in the combination of Raphaël Ahumada and Andri Struzina with a spirited ride. In the large field of skiffiers, Scott Bärlocher qualified for the quarter finals, where the hurdle was then too high, however. The C-final is scheduled for him on Saturday.

Via the hope heats, skiffer Salome Ulrich, the lightweight singles Olivia Nacht and Eline Rol, the men’s double sculls with Maurin Lange and Jonah Plock and the men’s double four with Jan Schäuble, Patrick Brunner, Nils Schneider and Dominic Condrau managed to qualify for Saturday’s semifinals. The double sculls duo of Fabienne Schweizer and Nina Wettstein failed to clear this hurdle and will compete in the C final for 13th place.

 

Tickets 2022

You can now order tickets for LUCERNE REGATTA 2022 here

Consequences of Russian invasion to LUCERNE REGATTA

World Rowing and the LUCERNE REGATTA Association strongly condemns the Russian military invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing violation of the Olympic Truce. Our organisations stand in absolute solidarity with the Ukrainian people, including our friends at the Ukrainian rowing family, at this time of grave international crisis.

The World Rowing Executive Committee strongly supports the recommendations issued by the IOC on February 28. These include recognition that many Ukrainian athletes will be prevented from participating in international competitions as a result of the attack on their country. Accordingly, World Rowing confirms that it will not allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in any of its international competitions, with immediate effect and until further notice. Therefore we will experience a LUCERNE REGATTA in 2022 without the participation of these two nations

Heroes of the Rotsee: Niki Van Sprang

Why do you admire the rowers who come to battle on the Rotsee every summer? Is it their impressive size and towering confidence or is it their dedication to a sport defined by early mornings, blistered hands and the willingness to bury themselves in the proverbial pain cave one stroke at a time that makes them worthy of praise?

As I take a moment to pause and reflect on the past year of our beloved sport while on the trail looping the Lake of the Gods, I recall the sheer intensity of the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta. A flock of birds sending ripples across the Rotsee triggers flashbacks to the sounds of oars locking into the water and sending the boats towards the finish line one stroke at a time. When I turn to face the docks, I can still picture the sad sight of fine-tuned athletes shedding tears into the arms of their consoling coach, starkly contrasted by sounds of elation at the finish line echoing across the otherwise quiet, spectator barren lake.

And so it goes at the regatta of tears. Every Olympic cycle, the intensity of the Last Chance Qualification Regatta remains. Despite postponement, new regulations, new crew combinations and whatever else you want to throw into the mix, the weight of the athletes dreams at the start-line is heavy all the same.
That’s why, in a pandemic adjusted world where everything seems to be in a constant state of uncertainty, we at the Lucerne Regatta turn to the athletes as symbols of our modern stoics. Familiar with rowing in conditions out of their control, the rower focuses internally and keeps their head in the boat, controlling only their own judgment of the situation rather than hopelessly trying to change the situation itself. Put simply, you can’t make the waves go away but you can make the way you perceive the waves change.

Dutch rower Niki Van Sprang, most notably known as the guy who qualified not one but two boats (M2x in Linz 2019 and M2- this past summer) for the Tokyo Olympics shared his experience of qualifying on the Rotsee, the pressure you simply can’t prepare for and explains why in a world of uncertainty the best thing you can do is embrace the process and keep your eyes ahead.

First, what’s the big deal about qualifying?

Remember the joy on Charlie’s and his grandfathers face when Charlie finally got one of five elusive golden tickets to tour the Willy Wonka chocolate factory? Well, at the FOQR on the Rotsee, only two boats will qualify for the Olympics from each discipline. In a sporting world historically modeled by a top three podium, this is nothing short of a cut throat. There is no podium, no consolation prize, no B final. You either book your ticket, as the jargon goes, or you go home having invested the last four (in this case five) years chasing a dream that slipped away over the course of give or take seven minutes.
Each rowing discipline has a set amount of boats that can qualify for each event. Some disciplines (generally those with smaller crew sizes) have more spots than others. Conversely, large boats, with limited crew spots can make qualifying or, booking your ticket, for the Olympic Games especially challenging. More info on these technicalities here.

So why did Niki need two tickets?

As is often the case for many nations, Niki says it was always clear that regardless of who qualified the M2x (double scull) in Linz, there would be a second round of selection to determine who ends up taking those seats for Tokyo. Although they were pleased to have qualified the M2x in 2019, Niki knew his work wasn’t done. Perhaps then when in the end he was not selected to sit in the double sculls, which went on to win a silver medal in Tokyo, it is this understanding of “not done” which kept Niki going.


Niki competing at the 2019 ERCH on Lake Rotsee (lane 3) – at that time with two oars and with Amos Keijser! (2019, JM Billy)

Though disappointed in the circumstances surrounding the selection, where many might drown in their perceptions of injustice of the sport, Niki took the opportunity to reflect about how rowing could continue to fit into his life. It was then that it became clear to Niki that his heart was still in the boat and he made the decision to continue with the sport and put down a good season of training and racing in the single. Needless to say, Niki didn’t stay single too long as he was quickly picked up by a teammate to put together a new crew, this time sweeping in the men’s pair.

Last Chance Olympic Qualification Regatta 2021

Fast forward to May 2021, the last chance Niki and his partner Guillaume Krommenhoek would have to book their ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Niki and his partner had spent the year leading up to the event discussing how they were going to approach racing and manage the palpable tension which replaces the excitement and signature cowbells we’ve all come to love at Rotsee.
Niki told us about the countless discussions they had surrounding the conflict of balancing one all or nothing moment, which “is not what you get up in the morning to train for, you get up to train for the Olympics”. Despite their efforts to cover their bases and come prepared Niki continued “In the end it’s different. You feel like you have all that under control and you get in the boat and there’s just this feeling, and it was the same feeling during the first race of the Olympics, movements turn out harder, it gets tenser, it’s just something so deep down… there is this animal like feeling of you have to survive and that’s just very different from other races, this race is defining in so many ways.”

Niki goes on to talk about how the majority of the strokes they took were an absolute disaster. “We rowed awfully all weekend. In the semi-final Guillaume false started by I think almost a second. He went, I went, then we hit like six buoys… it was a long bumpy road, we shed some tears there.” However, when the time came to seal the deal in the final, the pair crossed the finish line in first place. Overcome with a sense of relief, Niki and Guillaume had just made their Olympic dreams come true.


Seconds after crossing the finishing line at the FOQR 2021 (2021, F.Leloire)

Reading Between the Lines

We had originally reached out to Niki because of his impressive story of dual-qualification. However, during our conversation as Niki recounted his mental health struggles throughout the last few years, the aftermath of testing positive for COVID and finally the pinnacle experience of the Olympic Games, our conversation became much more about his relationship to the journey than any single event. When I asked Niki what kept him going after he lost his chance in the double, and after the Olympics were postponed he confidently replied:

“I love rowing, I love the opportunity of going out on the lake and working on myself. I mean if you do this sport and you only pin it down to the result, you set yourself up for a miserable time. I saw it at the Olympics where there’s people who performed to what they were capable of but didn’t get the medal they wanted and became angry and frustrated about the entire process. So I had made a conscious decision to not let my frustration surrounding not getting that spot in the double define the process for me. The payback in rowing for me isn’t the result and that’s why I didn’t hold a grudge after being taken out of the double, that’s not the defining emotion for me.”

I closed the zoom room convinced that rather than his (obviously) unquestionable fitness or versatile boat skill, his mindset towards rowing is what got him to where he is today. I share his story with you not as a tale of heroism as originally predicted but rather as a lesson of reflecting on and reframing uncertainty and adapting our perception of events which are out of our control.
“WHEN WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO CHANGE A SITUATION, WE ARE CHALLENGED TO CHANGE OURSELVES.” – VIKTOR FRANKL

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