Rowers to spend a year coaching in sunny Maldives

Monday, 28 March 2011 19:29

Thirty-year-olds Rachel Loveridge, a former Leander Club rower, and Natasha Howard, of Periam Close, Henley, are the first volunteer coaches from the Rowing Association of the Maldives project to travel to the islands in the Indian Ocean.

Rowing there dates back thousands of years but has been dying out with the introduction of motor boats.

The project, which was set up by Henley Olympic silver medallist Guin Batten, aims to develop competitive rowing on the islands, particularly among women.

A year ago, Ms Batten became the first person to scull solo across the 60k Zero Degree Channel in the Indian Ocean.

Miss Loveridge will travel to the Gaafu Dhaalu atoll later this month after responding to an online advert. “It sounded like a brilliant challenge,” she said. “It’s taking a sport that I really enjoy to people who wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience it otherwise.”

She had hoped to join Thames Valley Police but was thwarted by the force’s recruitment cuts.

As well as coaching rowing, she will teach women and girls how to swim as many islanders are unable to do so. “They’ll need to be comfortable in the water,” she said.

Miss Loveridge plans to set up rowing clubs in different communities and hopes to stage inter-island rowing competitions by September.

She said: “I’m looking forward to being in a completely different culture and I really enjoy teaching, so I’ll get quite a bit out of it. My bigger contribution will be to persuade other people to go out there to coach and I can give them tips and advice.”

Miss Howard, a world bronze medallist, will travel to the Maldives in May, arriving to coincide with the delivery of six double sculls before going to the Addu atoll to coach.

The women have known each other for years and were both in the Great Britain squad in 2005.

Miss Howard, who works for a kitchen design company in Longridge, Marlow, said: “I’ve been rowing for 11 years and it’s a massive part of my life. I’d like to bring the sport to other people, who wouldn’t normally have access it.

“I’m looking forward to working with the kids as I like it when they learn something and then start to master it and you can see the enjoyment they get from it.”

In 2009, Miss Howard fractured her back when she slipped and fell while taking a boat out of the water and still doesn’t know if she will be able to row again.

She said: “My back recovered in terms of me having a normal life but rowing is still in the future. The kitchen job was never going to be permanent but I needed something my back could handle.

“I’m taking a course to teach English as a foreign language and I would like to live abroad after the Maldives trip.”

The women are raising money to fund their trip.

Miss Howard added: “We will be using canoes to keep up with the boats when the islanders are learning but there will come a time where we can’t keep up and will need motorboats and fuel, which are very expensive.”

To make a donation, visit www.maldivesrowingvolun

In the autumn, Ms Batten, Alison Gill, Elise Cope and Louise Wymer, who are all members of Upper Thames Rowing Club in Henley, and Rachel Woolf, of Thames Rowing Club in London, attempted to become the first all-female crew to cross the Zero Degree Channel but failed due to bad weather.


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