DISCOVER Magazine #7

Aiming high

Published in category: People

The Damen-sponsored Dutch Women’s Rowing team sets its sights on the Rio Olympics 

With the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics just around the corner, the Dutch women’s rowing team has clear goals. Team coach Josy Verdonkschot tells us more about the sacrifices that have to be made to have a shot at Olympic glory. With Damen active in sponsoring the team, he also highlights the importance of corporate financial support for a sport that comes to our TV screens just once every four years.

Rowing is not a professional sport – almost all of the Dutch women’s rowing team are either students or recent graduates. “We have a varied group,” opens Mr Verdonkschot. “These women have chosen to put everything else in their lives to one side to train for the Olympics.”

Training body and mind
World class rowers are famed for their intensive training schedules: the Dutch women’s team are no different: “In an Olympic year our training increases to around 22 hours a week for 48 weeks a year. Yes, they are making sacrifices, but they are trying to reach the pinnacle of world sport. The challenge is not only to win, but to win within yourself. If your body is able, and if your mind has the will, then you can aim for the highest goals. Nothing tops that.”

Ambitions for Rio 2016
“Of the fourteen Olympic rowing disciplines, six are women’s events,” informs Mr Verdonkschot. “We are concentrating on four events in Rio: the quadruple sculls, the coxless pairs, the eight and the lightweight double sculls. We have already qualified for the first two and we have an important qualification event coming up for the last two events.”

When talking about his team’s ambitions for Rio, he is realistic: “Our first goal is to get all four teams qualified. I think that we a good chance of medals for the eight and quadruple sculls. Although the lightweight double sculls have a good chance too!”

Welcome support
Playing a vital role in the team’s training schedule is corporate sponsorship. Compared to football, for instance, rowing has fewer opportunities for exposure. “A football team is the centre of attention every week. As a rower, you are in the spotlight every four years. Therefore it is harder to obtain long term sponsorship. As team sponsor of our lightweight double sculls squad, Damen is an extremely welcome addition to our sponsorship. This financial support allows us to carry out extra training camps as major competitions approach. This is invaluable – it allows the team to focus and prepare. To work towards that peak moment.”

The golden triangle of rowing boat design
“Designing a rowing boat is a challenge,” says Dutch women’s rowing team coach Josy Verdonkschot. “An ‘eight’ boat, for example, is 17 metre long and weighs around 100 kilos. Add a ballast of around 700 kilos (for a women’s team), and you have a nice design proposal!”

“Furthermore, rowing involves resistance against water. Damen is a company whose vessels face the same challenge of moving as efficiently as possible through water. If you consider possible cooperation from Delft Technical University, there is definitely potential for collaboration to optimise hull design. For me, this is the golden triangle of science, commercial sector and sport.

The sport of rowing is quite well known within Damen: the company has an experienced team – the Damen eight – and, as of this year, a new ladies coxed four (C4+) team.


Both teams will be competing in corporate events at the Damensponsored Rowing Regatta at Laga, the student rowing club in Delft. The event, held at the Willem-Alexander rowing course near Rotterdam, is becoming well known in the rowing world as one of the highlights of the year.

“We are a new team, with not that much experience,” says Damen Employer Branding Advisor (and ladies rowing team member) Sanne Dekker. “But that is the whole idea of this event – to get people interested and involved with the sport of rowing.” The team is currently busy training for the 500 metre race, and will have the opportunity to finetune their stroke during a rowing clinic offered by Laga.

A relative newcomer to the sport – Sanne gained some rowing experience whilst studying Sport Management & Marketing – her ambitions for the event are clear: “I always want to win!”

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