There was a wide range of emotions this morning at the 2017 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta, as the inaugural Sarah Tait Memorial Trophy was finally unveiled.
The trophy, dedicated to the life and achievements of Olympic rowing silver medallist Sarah Tait, was presented by Sarah’s parents, Barbara and Simon Outhwaite, and also Sarah’s husband Bill Tait, to the winning crew of the Open Women’s Coxless Pair.
Tait noted that there could not have been a more fitting way for Sarah Hawe (Huon) and Meaghan Volker (Buckingham Rowing Club) to win this thrilling race, which came down to the final stroke between three competitive crews.
“In London (2012 Olympics), Kate Hornsey and Sarah loved the step to the finish line, and Sarah would have been thrilled to see this race… you couldn’t pick a winner with five strokes to go, it’s almost like a perfect finish,” said Bill.
Sarah tragically lost her life in 2016 after a valiant and long battle with cervical cancer. Simon and Barbara described how honoured they were that Rowing Australia had decided to dedicate the trophy to their daughter.
“We are very grateful that Rowing Australia corresponded with us about coming over… we are privileged to be here,” remarked Simon.
As for the trophy itself, it is definitely far from ordinary. The large silver swan caught the eye immediately as it glistened in the rain, and Bill believes that its exactly what Sarah would have wanted.
“She liked quirky things so we thought that a standard sort of trophy might not do her justice,” explained Bill.
Barbara was also elated with the way the design worked out.
“I loved it because I think the swan reflected the race, it’s beautiful and graceful like the girls in the boat but underneath they’re paddling as fast as they can.
“It’s a fantastic trophy and hopefully it will be an inspiration for women’s pair rowers in the future, to inspire them to fight it out to be the winner,” said Barbara.
Although this morning’s racing at SIRR included some electrifying small boat finals, with some great Australian rowing talent, it was without a doubt that Open Women’s Pair race was the one that everyone at the course really wanted to see, spectators and fellow competitors alike.
“To see a couple of my girls narrowly pipped at the line today in a ruthless race is pretty exciting, and to think that there is maybe some spirit in that inspired by Sarah, that’s really cool,” said Bill, Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) Head Coach, referencing second place-finishers Addy Dunkley-Smith and Katrina Werry from Mercantile/VIS.
“Talking to a few of the girls afterwards that missed out on winning it, they were really disappointed because they really wanted to win, and I’d like to think in future years it’ll be a reason why there’s a fierce step to the line… Sarah really loved that stuff, the competitive edge,” continued Bill.
Barbara was equally delighted to see two Tasmanian women be crowned Australian champions. “Sarah obviously rowed for Mercantile, when she lived in Victoria, but on the other hand I was happy it was two Tasmanian clubs that won the first trophy, as it was a tribute to Kate Hornsey too [Sarah’s Olympic pairs partner, who hails from Tasmania].”
Apart from the Sarah Tait Memorial Trophy, Barbara and Simon continue to be involved in the sport of rowing by offering up their time and care to current athletes training for World Championships, World Cups and the like.
Living in Perth, they are always more than happy to take in rowers who are based there for training. This was the case last year with Rob Black and Luke Letcher, two members of Australia’s U23 World Championships winning Men’s Quad.
“To have Rob and Luke over was great, and really for them to win the World Championships was icing on the cake,” reported Simon.
If this year’s inaugural race for the trophy was anything to go by, then this boat class will no doubt be a standout feature on the SIRR program for many years to come.