Girl Power; supporting New Zealand’s most extensive women’s rowing programme

Managing eight or nine coaches and overseeing anywhere between 60 – 70 girls on the water means head coach Josh Wedlake has his hands full with Diocesan School for Girls rowing programme.

During the season, you’ll find him on the water every morning from 5.30 am and every afternoon from 4 – 6.30 pm, with most weekends away at regattas and events. With the sheer number of girls across every year, the school needs their fleet to be durable and adaptable.

“We run pretty lean on the number of boats for the amount of rowers we have, and while we have a couple of boats reserved for top crews, most of our skiffs are getting used by lots of different kids, every day” explains Josh. “Which means every boat needs to be configurable for every age group with a range of adjustments. The oldest boats are probably about 12-years, so our boats need to be strong enough and resilient enough to go that distance.”

Josh had a couple of S L Racing boats on his fleet at his previous position as a rowing coach at St. Peter’s in Cambridge. But it wasn’t just the high-performance of the boats he liked; it was the relationship SL Racing has with the rowing community that impressed him. As a young 25-year-old coach at the time, Josh loved that he was taken seriously by Simon and Hamish, finding them friendly and approachable on every occasion.

“When you went to speak to Simon at regattas, he never dismissed you as a younger coach. On the contrary, they would be very straightforward and helpful, providing you with what you needed; it was just easy to work with him”.

So, when Josh transferred to Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland to lead the rowing programme, he knew exactly who he wanted to work with and has purchased S L Racing boats exclusively since. “As one of the best programmes in New Zealand, we wanted to buy the best boats, but we also wanted them to last the distance. Another reason we wanted to go with SL Racing is because Simon was happy to trade in older boats and refurb them to sell them onto developing programmes.”

“It’s quite challenging to build something that’s minimum weight, races well and is hard-wearing, standing the test of time.”

Josh Wedlake, head rowing coach, Diocesan School for Girls.

Training on the Tamaki provides its own problems, with saltwater making it extremely tough on the gear. However, maintaining boats, their own, and other suppliers are part of SL Racings’ commitment to outstanding customer service. The team came to the rescue by offering an anodizing solution to protect the aluminium components. There were also ongoing concerns with leaks in the sealed buoyancy compartments, leading to the electronic wiring failing and constant dampness adding to the weight of the skiffs. Having these issues solved without the need for continuous replacement with ongoing support from SLR takes the pressure off Josh, whose job it is to manage the boats.

Josh loves the precision SL Racing puts into their boats and the fact that even if the boat has taken knocks and has had a hard life requiring repairs along the way, the quality never wanes, and the boats still perform.

“Where competitors may not be consistent in their output, I know SL Racing bulk-buy their materials, and use the same resins and processes each time to ensure the same quality with every vessel. So, I know when I buy another four next year, it will match the four on the rack”.

“Part of why I like SL Racing boats is you get a wide range of adjustments in everything from the gate height to the feet set-up, unlike older boats from other manufacturers”.

Josh Wedlake, head rowing coach, Diocesan School for Girls.

Along with a fleet of state-of-the-art rowing boats, Josh is driven to create an outstanding programme where every girl in all disciplines can be successful. The school takes pride in having a few national representatives in rowing come up through their programme. The girls also understand how their boats work and how to maintain them and get the best performance, something Josh feels goes hand in hand with all aspects of training.

“I show them how to fix parts on a boat, set up oars and general maintenance like changing the bearing on a wheel – a common occurrence due to practising on saltwater. Just to know, I can send one of the girls to the SL Racing tent at an event to Hamish, and he can help them with a part that needs replacing, which is great! They understand what it’s like to be in your shoes as a rower and a coach trying to look at 60 people running around”.