Batten who successfully completed the
60km crossing in March 2010.
The crossing did create awareness and helped
Batten secure a 40ft container full of rowing
equipment donated by Great Britain’s rowing
community. Then James Cowley chipped in and
spent 10 month coaching. In November last
year the Maldives Rowing Federation became
affiliated with FISA and slowly the seeds of rowing
began to spread.
Being a nation of over 1,000 islands, rowing
used to be the main form of travel between the
islands and rowing boats were previously used for
fishing. Rowing has a history of professionalism
and competition, but since the 1980s it had all
but disappeared. The Maldives has a population
of about 390,000 and a strong sporting ethos
that manifests itself predominantly in football.
For Batten, coastal rowing seemed to be the
ideal choice not only to bring back rowing, but
also encourage women to take part in physical
activity in this predominantly Muslim society.
The development of rowing has continued and
recently former British national team member
Rachel Loveridge arrived in the Maldives. She
has been followed by Olympic rower and World
Champion medallist Natasha Howard, also from
Great Britain, who arrived in July 2011.
rowing boats to arrive from Great Britain. The
advantage Loveridge has is that she is able to
coach women, whereas Cowley was not allowed
under Muslim rules. After much delay, the boats
arrived in July and Loveridge is excited about
finally being able to share her passion for the sport.
Loveridge has been developing swimming skills
amongst the locals as they waited for coastal
Loveridge has been based in Male and working
mainly on the island of Hulhumalé. She notes
that living in the Maldives in the local community
gives a very different picture to the view tourists
have when they see only the tourist resorts. “The
Maldives as a country (rather than a holiday
destination) is not paradise; they have many
issues and problems and getting anything
achieved here is a very slow a laborious process,”
says Loveridge. “However I have been blown
away by the enthusiasm for both rowing and >
Issue 17 – August 2011