By TONY WHITE
GRAFTON'S growing reputation as a centre of rowing excellence has drawn a contingent of 24 athletes, coaches, physiologists and dieticians for a six-day training camp on the Clarence River.
The athletes ? 16 male rowers and two coxes ? and coaches are from Queensland University and the auxiliary staff from the Queensland Academy of Sport.
Grafton Rowing Club (GRC) are hosting the visitors.
And the entourage have brought with them seven boats valued at in excess of $110,000 ? two eights, two fours and three single sculls ? and six high tech ergometers (rowing machines) worth $21,000 plus an array of modern physical testing equipment.
"This is the first time we've come down to Grafton and we're here based on the reputation of the river and Grafton Rowing Club," head coach Joe Rodrigues said yesterday.
"So far its been fantastic.
"Despite the rain, the training conditions are ideal, much better than we'd experience back home, and the hospitality has been terrific.
"The idea of the camp is mainly an athlete identification and technique training program.
"We're trialling new ideas and techniques to see if it improves boat speed."
Several of the boys are at the top end of their sport aiming to gain selection in the Queensland team for the upcoming Youth Cup in Adelaide, the University Championships on the Hinze Dam in September, the Queensland Championships in December and selection for the Australian Titles for 2006.
"This is the first step to show them the type of training and level of intensity required for an elite rower," Rodrigues said. "We're hoping to identify a good group from this camp."
Each day the team rises at 6am, have a light snack then endure a 24km row on the Clarence. It's then back for breakfast then another 12-16km row before returning for lunch and a sleep.
Most afternoons the team are either working on the ergometers or it's back on the river for an afternoon row.
Each athlete has undergone muscle and blood testing to determine optimum performance levels.
"It's quiet amazing seeing the type of modern training they undergo, the range of testing and the equipment and back up staff they have available," GRC president Greg Thompson said.