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Rough waters don’t take away from Tasmania’s shine

The ground was wet, but the sky was dry as the sun rose on day four of the Aon 2021 Australian Rowing Championships. Thursday was all about small boat finals, with the wind proving to be the challenging element today; a strong cross headwind pushed athletes to their limits as they battled for a podium finish, seeing times over a minute slower that the winners of these events when they were raced in 2019. 

Amanda Bateman (Mercantile) led all the way down the 2000m course to claim the win in the Open Women’s Single Scull. Bateman, who has never been to Lake Barrington before, thanked Rowing Australia for their support and allowing the event to go ahead.  

“Being back racing in your country is something special and to be able to do it next to girls that you train with every day at the Hancock Prospecting Women’s National Training Centre is brilliant – and also it’s great to see the clubbies coming down and giving it a go.” 

The conditions did not take away from the allure of the picturesque Tasmania course for Bateman in the small boat, “I’ve been to a many courses around Europe and Australia and this is the most beautiful I’ve ever rowed on – Tasmania’s turned it on for us. It’s by far my favourite!” 

Annabelle McIntyre and Jess Morrison, now back-to-back winners of the Sarah Tait Memorial Trophy in the Open Women’s Pair, echoed Bateman’s sentiment about the return to racing. McIntyre stated, “The Australian Rowing Championships are a great event, you get so many people of all ages and abilities in different boat classes competing, so it’s great to see everyone out there and having a crack because we don’t row to train – we row to race and we love racing.

The Women’s Pairs (Copyright RA/Linda Higginson)

Arguably the most exciting race of the day was the Open Men’s Coxless Pairs, full of National Training Centre athletes who raced in club combinations that they would not normally race on the Australian Rowing Team. It was the Adelaide Rowing Club combination of Alex Hill and newly appointed Australian Team member Angus Dawson who led early from the start; the Melbourne University Boat Club (MUBC) combination of Simon Keenan and Joshua Booth did their best to hang on to the leading boat but remained locked with Sydney Rowing Club’s Sam Hardy and Joshua Hicks in a battle for second place.  

The latter two changed positions throughout the race and pushed off each other, drawing the leading Adelaide boat back in the final 500m but it was the combination of Hill and Dawson who claimed the Ted Bromley Memorial Trophy with clear water back to Sydney in silver with only 0.56 seconds back to MUBC who took bronze.  

Alexander Hill and Angus Dawson (Copyright RA/Linda Higginson)

First time racer in the Open event, 20-year-old Dawson said that having his family here to support and donning his club colours helped give him an extra boost of energy racing the older, more experienced rowers. “It’s always a hard step up from the underage to the open events – you have to be on your toes as everyone out there is a chance of winning.” 

Dawson enjoyed racing behind dual World Champion and Olympian, Hill, who won the event in 2016. “It was a lot of fun; it was great to be able to sit behind such an experienced and successful racer – Hilly’s got a pretty wise head on his shoulders.”  

Sydney University Boat club managed a clean sweep in the Open Men’s Single Scull – Cameron Girdlestone was presented with the inaugural Dr Stephen Hinchy Memorial Trophy alongside club mates Jack Hargreaves and David Barthalot who won silver and bronze, respectively. The trophy was presented for the first time to honour one of Rowing Australia’s greatest contributors who sadly passed away on the 8 July 2020.  

The trophy was presented by Dr Hinchy’s brother Roy and RA Life Member Andrew Guerin, while his close friend Peter Huggett presented the special medallion that has been cast for the victor. The late Dr Hinchy was a Life Member of RA and Rowing Queensland and contributed significantly to the sport of rowing in Australia both on and off the water – having previously been the Queensland Councillor to Rowing Australia, President of Rowing Australia from 1996 to 2000, served on multiple Australian Rowing Teams as the doctor and team manager and was an International and National Boat Race Official.

Jack Hargreaves, Cameron Girdlestone and David Bartholot (Copyright RA/Linda Higginson)

Local Huon Rowing Club sculler and National Training Centre athlete Georgia Nesbitt snaped up the Herald and Weekly Times Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Open Lightweight Women’s single scull.  

Winners of the Under 17 Single Scull events led from the start and were never in doubt; Sophie Malcolm of Centenary Rowing Club held her ten-second lead convincingly from the 500m mark, where Rockhampton Grammar’s Chad Willett raced to the line and extended his commanding lead throughout the race, finishing 27 seconds clear of the rest of the field. In the Under 19 female event, Madeline Vagg of Canberra Grammar School edged out teammate Zoe Bond, both coached by Olympian Sarah Cook, to claim the gold; University of Queensland sculler Sophie Wightman put in an incredible second thousand metre push to pip Kinross Wolaroi’s Isabella Scammell on the line to claim the bronze.  

The Men’s Under 19 Single Scull final was also a thrilling race, Griffith University Surfers Paradise sculler Ben Horsnell, coached by Lincoln Handley, shot ahead from the start as Scotch College Adelaide sculler Adam Holland had issues with his start due to the windy conditions. Nudgee’s Jonah Nelson held contact with Horsnell through the first thousand when the Griffith’s sculler made his move and pushed ahead clear of the field; Holland had made up for his earlier issues and made his move to close in on the race leader, pushing Nelson forward, however it was Hornsell who had put enough distance in to take the win and claim the Thomas Keller Memorial Trophy while Holland claimed the silver by only 0.55 seconds to Nelson who took the bronze.  

Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC) took another trifecta in the Under 23 Women’s single scull, Sophie Houston battled back from a slow start to hit the lead in the third 500m; team mates Sky Froebel and Eleanor Price battled for the minor positions pegging back the lead however Houston hung on to win the event, with Froebel pipping Price on the line to snatch the silver by 0.47 seconds.  

GUSPRC sculler Cormac KennedyLeverett led all the way to take the win in the Under 23 Men’s Single Scull, leaving Capital Lakes’ Harry Glackin and UTS’s Paddy Holt to battle it out over the minor positions on the podium, Glackin winning the silver over Holt claiming the bronze.  

Melbourne University Boat Club’s Lily Cathcart and Laura Foley solid push through in the second thousand to take the win over SUBC’s Jaime Ford and Ella Mentzines in Under 23 Women’s Pair. 

The PR3 Women’s Single Scull final was the last event to run before racing went on hold here today due to increasing wind conditions – and the athletes did not disappoint. Power House Rowing Club sculler Jessica Gallagher, coached by Olympian and World Champion Hannah Every-Hall, jumped ahead to an early lead and went on to win the event, the first National Rowing Championship from the already-decorated athlete having medalled at the Winter and Summer Paralympics in Alpine Skiing and Track Cycling 

The excitement did not just sit with Gallagher’s win but in addition with Balmain Rowing Club rower, Bronte Marshall, who actually fell out of her boat after making her starting strokes, and when the safety boat came to check on her, she asked if she could continue. Marshall proceeded to get herself back in the boat, check herself, and race on to claim the silver medal in the event! Balmain teammate Lauren Webber joined the two on the podium for the bronze medal. 

Racing was held for just over three hours as the winds picked up but the Schoolgirl Eights managed to race their heats in the last of the light; St Catherine’s School posted the fastest time of this division however Melbourne Girls Grammar were not far off and raced well clear of the field in their heat so we should see some tight racing come the semi-finals. Kathryn Ross and Simon Albury wrapped up the day winning the PR2 Mixed Double Sculls.

Tune in tomorrow to catch the underage and open double sculls racing their finals in the morning alongside Coxed and Coxless Fours. The para-rowing races that did not get an opportunity to compete today will race off tomorrow as Club Fours and Schoolboy Eights have their heats. The live stream will be on from about 7:50am AEST – see you there!