Building a future for the sport of rowing

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There’s no denying Laszlo Kertesz and Vera Bucsu are passionate about the sport of rowing; from grass roots to elite level, from the challenge as an athlete, to the skills and finesse of boatbuilding.

The pair has competed in one of Europe’s longest and most gruelling rowing endurance races held over an eye watering 172km. In fact, Laszlo has won the race on more than one occasion, rowing non-stop for an impressive 10 hours, while Vera also completed the race in about 15 hours.

Laszlo Kertesz and Vera Bucsu

Laszlo Kertesz and Vera Bucsu

“It’s a lot of rowing,” she admits, “but we both enjoy distance events. We love the sport and it’s that simple.”
Their passion for rowing is a godsend for many in the rowing community. The couple recently took over ownership of the highly regarded Kiwi International Rowing Skiffs Ltd (KIRS) after it went into liquidation, leaving clubs and schools out of pocket. Purchasing its assets and designs, they have launched a new venture from the old Matangi dairy factory, called Laszlo Boats New Zealand.

Despite only a few months at the helm, the pair are already enjoying positive success; with world champion Adam Ling rowing to gold at the recent National Championships, in his distinctive purpose-built Laszlo boat.

The design background of Vera is evident here, as well as Laszlo’s eye for detail and craftsmanship in the boat construction. Emblazoned with eye catching black and white stripes, Adam’s boat is one of the first Vera has had free rein to finish – much to her delight.

Laszlo is also committed to continuing to hone his expertise in building kayaks, with the business sponsoring emerging kayakers Alicia Hoskin and Quaid Thompson alongside rower, Jackie Kiddle.

Having started his career some decades ago in Hungary crafting kayaks, there’s not much Laszlo doesn’t know about the finer details of creating sleek and fast boats.

And that’s good news for all the customers left in the lurch when KIRS went into liquidation. The sudden announcement left many in the position of losing deposits already made for rowing equipment, as well as leaving the highly skilled workforce unemployed.

Hillcrest High School was one of those left high and dry following extensive fundraising efforts. Having handed over its deposit just days before the liquidation was announced, it was heart-breaking to realise that the money was gone – and the hardworking rowers had no boat to show for their efforts.

However Laszlo, who had been KIRS chief constructor for more than a decade, wasn’t ready to see all the hard work of so many go down the gurgler.

Together he and Vera rapidly undertook discussions with the liquidators and bank managers and decided to save the internationally famous KIRS designs. Better still, with no obligation, Laszlo and Vera decided that it was important to do something for the schools and clubs, some that had been saving and fund-raising for years for new boats.

While buying the KIRS assets did not involve assuming the liability for the previous ownership defaulting on its obligations, Laszlo Boats was determined to honour those obligations as well as adding to the risks involved in establishing a new enterprise

“It is the right thing to do,” says Vera. “Building rowing boats may be a business, but we also consider it to be about the people who are passionate with the sport. And we certainly are very passionate and want to build a business where we can support and encourage the sport, at all levels and contribute to its success.”

Continuing the ‘pay it forward’ theme, suppliers such as Resene Automative Hamilton, Rigtec Engineering Ltd, Colour Code Signs, Ankaa Shoes, Pultron Composites offered special packages to minimise the losses involved.
Most of the schools and clubs with deposits which had disappeared, now have new gleaming boats and equipment, thanks to Laszlo Boats.

Among those smiling at the outcome is Hillcrest High School, who is about to carefully wrap its prized new boat as part of the contingent heading to Maadi Cup in Twizel in April.

“Right from the outset Laszlo and Vera wanted to know and understand our story,” says Hillcrest High School rowing club chairperson Blair Wright. “They took a personal interest in our situation. Their passion and detemination to provide a reasonable outcome to complete our boat was amazing.”

And a feel good story like that deserves to be shared.

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