Growth blessings mixed
GISBORNE Rowing Club is getting too big for its boats. And in a way, that’s a good thing.
Rowing in Gisborne is going through a period of strong growth, says club president Peter Simmons.
“We have doubled our number of athletes over the past three seasons, which leaves us with the problem of too many rowers for our ageing fleet of boats,” he said.
The talent is there in abundance. That was apparent from the club’s results at Lake Karapiro last month.
Standout result came in the North Island Club Championships, held back to back with the Cambridge Town Cup over Auckland Anniversary Day weekend and attended by over 2000 athletes from as far away as Australia.
A Gisborne crew won the women’s intermediate coxed octuple sculls A Final — a race they had never trained for, contested in a boat borrowed from another club. It was a surprise, to say the least.
Outstanding performances also came in the Cambridge Town Cup from the boys’ under-16 and u17 double sculls and coxed quads, who medalled in A Finals, and the girls’ u16 and u17 double sculls, who reached A Finals.
Club president Simmons reckons these and others crews have the potential to do even better, if the boats are up to scratch.
“We have had some terrific support from local sponsors, but we can’t upgrade everything at once,” he said.
“Over the past two seasons we have had crews lose races because of equipment or boats breaking. And for some events, such as the womens’ octuple, we simply don’t have a boat.”
With no practice together, and rowing in an unfamiliar boat, the girls of the coxed octuple sculls had realistic expectations.
“I just thought we’d go out there and have a go, do our best not to muck it up and come last,” stroke Phoebe Naske said.
In fact, the crew — Hannah Veitch, Presley Gibson, Lucy Coulston, Naske, Caitlin Bregmen, Vita Anderson, Emily Smith, Eva Mirko and cox Pippa Jones — produced a clean performance in their heat on the Saturday to finish almost 30 seconds ahead of their nearest competitor.
They followed that up on the Sunday with another strong performance, fending off a late surge by the North Shore Rowing Club crew to win the A Final by a boat-length.
Coach Lewis Green was pleased to see his athletes execute their race plan and keep their cool under pressure.
“It’s easy for crews to get rattled in an A Final, when all they really need to do is believe in one another and row the same stroke they have rowed a thousand times before,” he said.
In the Cambridge Town Cup, the boys’ u16 coxed quad sculls (Cody Wright, Oscar Ruston, Sacha de Wancker, Eliarn Destounis and cox Joshua Kelly) finished a close second in the A Final in a strong field of much larger rowing clubs.
Wright and Ruston then paired up to win the silver medal in the boys u16 double sculls A Final.
In boys’ u17 A Finals, Gisborne won two close battles for third — in the coxed quad sculls (Wright, Sebastian Solomann, Ruston, Joshua Kelly and cox Liam Mackay) and in the double sculls (Solomann and Ruston).
In girls’ double sculls, Naske and Veitch finished fifth in the u16 A Final, and Mirko and Coulston finished eighth in the u17 A Final.
In the men’s races of the North Island club champs, Isaac Kururangi and Ben Blakeman were sixth in the A Final of the novice double sculls after winning their semifinal, and the intermediate coxed four of Ben McCosh, Wright, Thom Simmons, de Wancker and cox Mackay were seventh in the A Final.
In the women’s races, the intermediate coxed octuple sculls crew won gold, the novice coxed quad sculls crew of Bregmen, Jemma Honey, Leah Scholefield, Daina Stevenson and cox Anderson were eighth in the A Final, Scholefield and Bregmen won the B Final of the novice double sculls, and Gibson and Veitch were second in the B Final of the intermediate double sculls.
Gisborne Rowing Club coach Luke Jenkins said competition in New Zealand school rowing was “ferocious”, so it was satisfying to see the relatively small Gisborne club achieving.
“Our results at the North Island Club Championships and Cambridge Town Cup were outstanding across the board, regardless of gender, age group or boat class,” he said.
“The senior crews are firing, and our novice crews continue to impress with their development over the season.”
Club members now have a month-long break from racing to prepare for the school rowing season.
Crews from Gisborne Boys’ High School, Gisborne Girls’ High and Campion College will compete at the North Island Secondary Schools Championships and, two weeks later, the Maadi Cup (national secondary schools regatta) in March.