He may not have come away victorious but St Mary’s John Sweeney insisted he had loved every minute of his moment in the spotlight at the first ever Invesco Perpetual City Regatta.
With the Olympic Games in Rio less than 20 days away, BT engineer Sweeney and his colleagues got their own competitive juices flowing in Leeds’ Millennium Square on Friday evening as they bid to be the best team over 1km on Concept 2 rowing machines.
The Invesco Perpetual City Regatta is a spectacular new challenge where four-strong male and female crews compete head to head in a series of fast and furious regatta-style knock-out races live on stage in four cities across the country.
Sweeney, who now lives in Huddersfield, was in action at the second event in Leeds, with a further three regatta events taking places in Edinburgh, Bristol and London throughout the summer, before the Invesco Perpetual City Regatta Winner’s Row-Off on October 12 at the Guildhall, London, which will take place in front of an array of rowing legends and heroes returning from Rio.
And while he and his 1 Crossfit HX5 teammates were unable to earn local bragging rights, 27-year-old Sweeney insisted it had still been good to pit his wits against other rowers.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve properly done rowing so I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“We never expected to do so well, we’re pretty unfit guys so we didn’t expect much from tonight.
“We got to the final and then we got smashed, especially over the last 300m, but we really enjoyed it nonetheless.
“The City Regatta is a really good set-up and very well organised as well, so it’s a really good event.
“The atmosphere was brilliant, so we’ll definitely be back next year.”
Designed to test both fitness and teamwork, the Invesco Perpetual City Regatta is open to everyone – from seasoned pros, rowing novices or those who are just up for a new challenge.
During the competition, all four crew members row on separate rowing machines at the same time over a target distance of 1km with the racing software producing a 500m split pace for each rower, while the individual splits are then compiled in real time into one average split pace for the entire crew.
Their progress is then displayed on big screens for competitors and spectators alike to see – including double Olympic silver medal-winning rower Debbie Flood who was there to cheer on crews and offer words of encouragement.
And after being impressed with the standard of rowing on show in Leeds, she urged other people to give rowing a try.
“The reaction from all the participants has been great,” said the retired international rower, whose list of achievements also include being the first woman to be appointed as captain of Leander Club, which is the main feeder club for the GB team with 22 of its rowers headed for Rio.
“The talent on show has been impressive. There has been a range of techniques going on but you can really see the dedication of the people on their faces, and we’ve really had some surprises.
“It’s a very unique event, we’re bang in the middle of the town centre, it’s accessible to anyone who wants to come and put a team in, be challenged and get rowing.
“We’re really trying to introduce rowing into the community and give the opportunity to everyone to see that rowing is a great way to keep fit, whether that’s on the rowing machine or on the water, and anyone is welcome to come and have a go.
“It’s wonderful that Invesco Perpetual support grassroots sport. They really put into nurturing their partnership with Leander Club which is also the feeder club for the British Rowing team.
“Invesco Perpetual are really behind that because they see that it’s not short-term investment, it’s not just tomorrow that you’re going to turn someone into an Olympian and make something great happen. It’s time, it’s investment and it’s the backing of people.”
Invesco Perpetual’s innovative new ‘City Regatta’ event is a celebration of the achievements of Leander Club, the main feeder club to the GB team with 23 of its rowers headed for Rio, and aims to encourage more people across the UK to get involved in rowing.