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Brotherly love on the waters of Penrith

The second day of the 2018 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta was jam-packed with repechages, heats and plenty of high quality racing. Day two was not shy of quality performances with plenty of elite and underage athletes on the water, with several close races between some of the best the country has to offer.

One of the highlights of the day occurred towards the conclusion of racing, when the Open Men’s Double Scull heats took to the water. Reinhold Batschi Men’s NTC athletes, David Watts (Sydney RC) and Alexander Hill (Adelaide Rowing Club) powered over the line for the win in Heat One, to go straight into the final on Friday. Joining them in the A-Final will be Sydney University Boat Club and fellow National Training Centre athletes, and brothers, Alexander and Nicholas Purnell who came second.

Alexander and Nick Purnell (Copyright Rowing Australia)

It was the Irish brothers, and Olympic silver medallists in the Lightweight Men’s Double Scull, Paul and Gary O’Donovan who recorded the fastest overall time in the heats, winning the second heat in a time six minutes 24 seconds. The duo, who normally race lightweight, are competing in the heavyweight categories this week at the event, representing their club Skibbereen.

Nicholas Purnell said today’s races in the Coxless Pair and Double Scull was the first time he and younger brother Alex had raced together. “It’s nice to row with him, it’s been a long time coming, we’ve spoken about it for a number of years now, so to actually get out there and do it is really good, we had some good fun,” said the 27-year-old.

The London 2012 Olympian admitted the O’Donovan brothers would prove a challenge to beat in the Double Scull final on Friday.

“We might ask them for a head start, even though they’re lightweights, we’ll need all the help we can get. We’re severe underdogs and not expecting too much, I think they’ll be well out in front,” joked Nicholas.

Paul O’Donovan spoke highly of his first experience racing at the Sydney International Regatta Centre alongside some quality Australian competition. “It was our first outing in the Double [Scull] at the regatta venue here so it was very nice and it was good to take the win against some strong Australian combinations.

“It’s a massive venue here, I got lost yesterday shortly after the single sculls but I found my way home eventually and apart from that, we’re thoroughly enjoying ourselves at the Australian Championships,” admitted the 2017 World Rowing Champion in the Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls.

Older brother Gary said he thought the regatta was a brilliant opportunity for young rowers to soak up some wisdom from the elite athletes in the sport.

“I think the standard of racing is very high like we’ve got heaps of Olympic medallists and World Championship medallists, coming from every category from the men’s to the women’s. It’s great for youngsters to see that kind of calibre at their national championships,” said the Skibbereen local.

Elsewhere, University of Technology Sydney Rowing Club athlete Georgie Rowe started her first Nationals campaign in fine form, taking out heat two of the Open Women’s Coxless Pair with her partner Emma Fessey. The pair qualified for the A Final in a time of seven minutes 26 seconds.

Rowe, who transferred from surfboat rowing in 2016, has just been named in Australia’s Women’s Eight squad for the World Rowing Cups in June. Rowe admitted that with intensity of selection trials out the way, the priority for Nationals was to have fun.

“After last week, we were pretty flat, and we just wanted to race and not have to do the repechage. It was pretty tough, but it was good, I was happy the boat was moving,” said Rowe.

The 25-year-old said she the transition from surfboat rowing to rowing was tough in the beginning, but now she’s found her rhythm. “It’s a different world for me coming from surfboats. At first, it was like learning a whole new sport, surfboats is completely different to still water rowing.

“[The coaches at UTS] have put their time and effort into me and the people I learnt to row with have been so patient with me, the transition has actually been super easy.”

Rowe and Fessey will take on Sarah Hawe and Molly Goodman in the final, in what is sure to be an exciting race, for the Sarah Tait Memorial Trophy, once all the crews are confirmed.

There were two heats for the Open Men’s Coxless Pair today, with the fastest time coming from National Training Centre and Sydney Rowing Club athletes, Angus Moore and Joshua Hicks, who recorded a time of six minutes 38 seconds in the opening heat.

Meanwhile, in the underage categories, Tasmanian Institute of Sport emerging talent scholarship holders, and North Esk Rowing Club athletes, Joseph Wilson and Jack Barrett triumphed in their Under 21 Men’s Double Scull heat, beating Griffith University Surfers Paradise athletes Cormac Kennedy-Leverett and Jackson Free.

Kennedy-Leverett, who is the reigning Junior World Champion in the Men’s Double Scull and Free, the son of Australian Rowing Team alumni, Marcus Free and nephew to Olympic gold medallist, Duncan, fell nine seconds short of Tasmania’s Wilson and Barrett, but will still make the final.

In the Under 23 Lightweight Women’s Single Scull, University of Technology Sydney Rowing Club athlete Rosie Beasley edged out University of Queensland Boat Club rower Madeleine Williams for the win in the first repechage, although Williams’ effort was enough to see her through to the A Final on Friday.

In heat one of the Under 19 Men’s Coxed Four, reigning champions Newington College were a late scratching, making the race anyone’s for the taking. Scotch Oakburn College blitzed Newington’s time clocked in the 2017 final, recording a time of six minutes 41 seconds some six seconds faster than the reigning champions. The quick conditions continued, with St Patrick’s College, Victoria going one second better, than Scotch Oakburn, in heat two, recording a time of six minutes 40 seconds.

Scotch and St Patrick’s will be joined by The Southport School and St Josephs NSW in the final of the event on Friday.