ROWERS found they could manage the November lockdown better for having come through the first one that started in March.

Jen Hinds, women's vice-captain at Warrington Rowing Club, said: "While we were of course once again disappointed to have to close our facilities, we already had a blueprint of how to keep our members active and engaged.

"The virtual training programmes restarted with immediate effect and we were thrilled to welcome back some of our rowing community friends from other clubs as well! So there have been some lovely aspects of lockdown."

Entering the tighter tier restrictions bring their own complications though for clubs like this.

Hinds explained: "As we now enter Tier 2 as a club, we are of course very excited to open our doors again to our members. Well, most of them, as sadly we aren’t able to welcome back those who live in the neighbouring Tier 3 areas.

"We are all about teamwork and community, so this is a very difficult aspect of the tier system for us. But we very much hope that it won’t be too long before we can all get back to our beloved sport again - all together."

Hinds also highlighted many new fundraising activities are being planned thanks to the club's new sponsorship and fundraising officer, Jason Ford, including festive scratchcards and an '86 burpee challenge'!

"And we have all of our digits crossed that the Head of The Mersey event – our flagship competition which would usually attract clubs from across the UK to compete on 3.6km of our river – will be able to kickstart the British Rowing calendar of events on February 14 in some shape or form," added Hinds.

"Our events committee, headed by captain Gill Laidlaw, is busy arranging this as we exit lockdown."

She said: "When life is challenging, it’s more important than ever to keep coming together, to train, to support, to connect. Warrington Rowing Club in and out of lockdown – together, as always."

Hinds reflected on events earlier in the year, and how the club learned how to deal with the global pandemic.

"Had someone told us in February, that we would have to close our club and not be able to row or train together, not only would we have not believed them but we’d have all gone into a more than mild panic," she said.

"However, on March 18 we did indeed close our doors as we went into the first national lockdown.

"But rather than sit back and lick our wounds (and ever decreasing calluses – a common rowing affliction) we sprung into virtual action!

Warrington Guardian:

"One of the things that makes rowing so very special is the community spirit and working together as a crew, squad and club.

"We know how important that is for our members, so we worked hard to maintain this as much as we could during lockdown.

"Thanks to the work of many of our volunteers, we were able to offer our members a range of regular virtual club-wide events including:

Monday mornings – online erg session (ergometre, indoor rowing machine)

Tuesday evenings – online circuits session with yoga

Warrington Guardian:

Thursday evenings – online cardio session

Saturday mornings – online mega rowing community tabata (high-intensity interval training) session with yoga

After training – virtual snacks and chats

In addition to these regular slots, Warrington Rowing Club also hosted bank holiday workout sessions, pop-up sessions, online safeguarding courses for coaches and committee, and a virtual combined row-run-cycle across Europe fundraiser for NHS Charities Together, St Rocco’s Hospice, Citizens Advice plus the club itself.

The Row Inn pub quiz was staged, as well as monthly 2D committee meetings, an outdoor, socially distanced first aid course, and a virtual regatta (rowathlon – a mix of rowing, cycling and running) to replace what would have been the summer regatta on the river.

Also set up was a treasure hunt where members had a list of things to find and photograph on their daily exercise outing on foot or bike, while members joined in other events such as the Four Nations One Minute Challenge, Tees Virtual Regatta, Liv Vics Quiz and the 2.6 challenge.

"We were lucky to be able to reopen our doors again when restrictions were eased in May," said Hinds.

"As an outdoor organised sport, with the ability to row in 'single' boats, we were one of the first sports able to return.

"Our club safety adviser Mike Selway, along with many other committee volunteers, had their work cut out digesting and implementing the various guidelines from the Government and our governing bodies – British Rowing and Sport England – to ensure that we remained compliant and that we kept our members and local community safe.

"For example, initially we could only train four people at a time and in “single sculls” (boats which only carry one person) with very strict sanitisation rules.

"This eventually changed to bubble/same household crews being able to row together, and eventually full crews with more people allowed, although boating times had to be staggered to reduce the number of people in one area at any one time.

"It became more challenging when the tier system was introduced as while most of our members are local, we have members from across the north west so when some areas went into Tier 3, we had to reluctantly exclude some members from attending the club."