Community Rowing Club’s Para Program is the program which was formerly known as the Balmain Para-Rowing Program.
CRC’s Para-Rowing Program (formerly the Balmain Para-Rowing Program) was originally a not-for-profit incorporated association specifically set up to help to provide opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate in the sport of rowing and become involved in the rowing community. The program has now grown into the Community Rowing Club, but has not lost its focus on developing opportunities for persons with disabilities to access the sport of rowing.
The Program provides para-rowers with tuition and training to develop the skills necessary to row and enjoy the sport recreationally and/or competitively, developing a pathway to achieving excellence in rowing.
The Program began in 2010 when a young man, who had sustained a traumatic brain injury and physical injuries as a result of a car accident, participated in the Balmain Rowing Club’s ‘Learn to Row’ course. His GP had suggested that rowing might aid his rehabilitation. This proved to be the case from both the physical and social perspective. Barbara Ramjan, Liam James and Anne Craig volunteered to continue coaching him after the initial introductory course and hence began the para-rowing program.
The Program has seen dozens of members over the years, and currently has approximately 20+ active rowers. In addition, the program has often hosted visiting international rowers during their stay in Sydney.
Para-Rowers are classified into one of three categories depending on their disability
- PR3 (formerly LTA) – rowers with a verifiable and permanent impairment who have functional use of their legs, trunk and arms for rowing and who can use a sliding seat to propel the boat, eg. the impairment may typically be amputee, Cerebral Palsy, vision impairment, or intellectual impairment.
- PR2 (formerly TA) – rowers with a verifiable and permanent impairment who have functional use of the trunk but are unable to use the sliding seat to propel the boat because of significantly weakened function or mobility of the lower limbs. eg bilateral around knee amputation, significantly impaired quadriceps, Cerebral Palsy, paraplegia
- PR1 (formerly AS) – rowers with a verifiable and permanent impairment who have minimal or no trunk function eg. Cerebral Palsy or paraplegia.
Rowing Australia Para-Rowing and Rowing NSW are continually directing interested persons to the Program. The Program has, at the request of Rowing Australia and Rowing NSW, held “Try Rowing’ days for persons with disabilities, making contact with disability organisations eg Vision Australia, Cerebral Palsy Association, returned servicemen.
During the week and on weekends training takes place on the Lane Cove River. Training camps are also held throughout the year at the Sydney International Regatta Centre(SIRC), Penrith, and on the rivers at Grafton and Taree.
Those participants who wish to compete in regattas are able to do so in the various local club regattas and Championship regattas organised by Rowing NSW and held on Iron Cove or at SIRC. Races are currently organised by disability classification ie PR3, PR2 and PR1. The highest level of competition takes place at the Australian National championships organised by Rowing Australia and drawing international as well as Australian crews. At certain local club and State regattas composite crews are permitted to race ie the crew is made up of rowers with the same disability, from different clubs and/or States.
The Program is very active in encouraging interstate rowers to join with rowers from NSW to compete in the NSW State Championship regattas. The PR3 crew training for the 2016 NSW State Championship regatta comprised two rowers from NSW, one from WA and one from Tasmania. The Program provided financial support to bring the interstate rowers to Sydney to train for this regatta.
Coaching is undertaken by three volunteer coaches all of whom have a long and successful association with the sport of rowing and teaching young people the art and skills of rowing. All have achieved Level 2 or 3 NCAS coach accreditation.
Para-rowers require additional and different equipment to able bodied rowers to cater for their disability and meet additional safety levels. PR1 and PR2 rowers use boats with a fixed seat with balance provided by pontoons attached to the riggers.
The seat may have a backrest attached to provide support for the rower’s trunk. An experienced PR3 rower can physically row the same boat as an able-bodied rower. Initially however, they will require a wider boat with pontoon supports. The costs involved in running a rowing program are significant. For a pararowing squad it is even higher because of the specialised equipment required each individual rower. The Program relies on the support of donors and fundraising to meet these costs and ensure the continuing growth of the program at the community level. The Program has also been generously being supported by Rowing NSW which has donated the specialised boats and equipment, and individual supporters who have donated second-hand boats. The program has also benefitted from, and continues to benefit from its partnership with the University of NSW Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering who continue to provide creative engineering and biomechanical answers to our equipment needs.