The World of Officials | Karen Simpson-Warren

CRNZ Event Manager Karen Simpson-Warren is familiar to many in the paddling circles, playing a massive role as an official and a volunteer.

Simpson-Warren qualified as an International Technical Official (ITO) in 2014. The decision to take her role as an official further came when a need was identified, to improve the quality of regattas and the officials pool. 

As ever, the goal was to ensure a fair competition for all as well as improving the efficiency in the delivery of regattas and the speed in which we could process race progressions and results.   

“We had a good team, who had qualified a couple of years previously. 

“At the time, however, there was little structure to the officiating and a need for solid processes to make for an even playing field.”  

Together with Matt, Karen’s husband, the pair trained in the Czech Republic and that was the start of an amazing journey as officials. 

“It was such an eye-opener to see the way regattas could be run and the level of professionalism in Europe.” 

The pair brought back what they had learned and began to apply it to regattas at home. 

Working with a small group of NZ officials who had qualified as Continental Officials made the implementation of changes relatively straightforward.

This happened gradually over a few years as the team gathered resources, but the great thing was that it only took one season to tidy up some of the processes that had hindered our paddling community.

It took a bit longer to get the funds to improve the finish and start systems, from hand-held clickers to the Lynx photo finish system and results app that are now in use.

Karen and Matt began applying to officiate at World Cups, which are self-funded travel and were lucky enough to get accepted and to receive PM Scholarships from HPSNZ to fund their flights. 

“Their support made it possible for us to keep improving our own skills and experience and to bring improvements back home.”

“The networking and input we gained at an international level has been really valuable to the sport. After doing World Cups for a few years, we then began getting accepted for more senior roles.” 

Karen was made Chief Judge at the Junior World Champs in 2018 and 2019 and was then appointed to the same role at the Tokyo Paralympics. 

“My experience at the Paralympics was such an honour and, despite being in quarantine throughout the event, was an experience I’ll never forget. The Japanese people are amazing and the event itself is unparalleled.” 

Being an official has allowed Karen and Matt to visit some amazing places – places they wouldn’t have dreamed of going before – Portugal, Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria, Canada, USA, UK, Japan, Germany and Poland. 

“We seldom travel together as selection is based on one ITO per country. However, this year we were fortunate to be selected to officiate at the invitational Super Sprint in Oklahoma before I headed off to Junior World Champs in Hungary, again as Chief Judge.”  

Simpson-Warren encourages anyone who is passionate about officiating to start out at CRNZ regattas and see where it takes you. 

“We have a good pathway. This year, we are taking four of our NZ Officials to Japan to qualify as ITOs at the Asia Pacific Cup. 

“This brings more depth to our officials team, as well as providing them with a wonderful experience.”

Simpson-Warren acknowledged it is a lot of hard work.

“We do, however, work with some amazing people and have fun and banter along the way.

“That’s what makes it really enjoyable.”

With a busy summer of racing about to kick into full swing, CRNZ are always looking for fresh faces to help out.

Get in touch with Karen if you’re keen to talk about officiating. She’ll be stoked to hear from you!