Coastal rowing plunges into Noosa

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Harry Nott (Gold) and Harry Pettet (Bronze) in the U21 Solo Endurance 4km event with UQ coach Michael Russell. Photo: Ian Jobling

Ian Jobling

Amelia Cooper became the first women’s under-21 coastal rowing gold medalist at the inaugural Australian Coastal Rowing Championships, which took place in Noosa Beach West last weekend. UTS Haberfield Club rower Sofia Aguirre finished second.

Both are students at the University of Technology Sydney and neither has rowed in the ocean. Amelia, 18, rowed for many years at St Catherine’s club in Sydney and wants to continue rowing while studying at a university in the United States.

Sofia from Mexico is a former Junior World Champion in flat water rowing, but her first venture into coastal rowing was an exhilarating and rewarding experience as she won silver medals in the 4 km solo and quad. Both students are coached by Elliot Shackcloth Bertinetti (EB) who was thrilled with the courage and commitment of his young team of rowers over the four days of competition.

The winners of the first-ever mixed 4km coastal rowing double sculls event were father and daughter combination Tom and Jarah Wilcox of Lindisfarne Rowing Club in Tasmania. Jarah rowed on flat water with Friends School in Hobart, but this was the Wilcox’s first attempt at ocean rowing; both said the challenge of events with very uneven and tricky swells was thrilling.

Many rowers from the University of Queensland club have been successful. Freshman at UQ, Harry Nott was the winner of the CR 4k Solo Under 21 event. Harry praised the quality and handling of his Kanghua racing hull supplied by Sykes Boatbuilders for the championships:

“The boat is higher and catches the wind more, and you have to be aware of the swells which vary in size and strength…and you have to be efficient when the waves are breaking on the shore by continuing to row, even when you ‘catch – or he’ll catch you.

When asked if he would continue with coastal rowing until the opportunity to compete in the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane in 2032, Harry said he was excited.

“My grandma lives in Coolum so I might row with the Coastal Rowing Noosa club sometimes,” he said.

UQ rower Harry Pettet won the bronze medal; both Harrys are coached by Michael Russell.

Specific races for rowers with physical disabilities have been included in the championships. Rowing Australia’s Emily McOrist said: “A new class of para-rowing was being used as a test event for possible inclusion in future World Rowing coastal regattas.”

Donald Cameron of Townsville Riverway Club was an able-bodied rower from Scotch College in Adelaide, but suffered an accident at work resulting in the loss of a leg in 2002. He returned to flatwater rowing for rehabilitation in 2007 and , with an “adaptor leg”. of his own design. In 2017, he won a gold medal as para-rowing at the World Masters Games in New Zealand.

Donald performed successfully in the able-bodied rowing and para-rowing events at these Coastal Rowing Championships in Noosa.

Another para-rower, Sue Donoghoe of the Australian National University Boat club, has been rowing in flat water since 1979 but now has a fused ankle (PR3 rating). Sue won several medals in Noosa in the able-bodied and para events. Sue commented that: “it’s the unpredictability of the sport that makes it interesting…you can be way ahead in a race and then suddenly you’re the very last”.

Sue and her husband Peter, who is also her pairs partner, have hinted that future coastal rowing championships “should be renamed ‘Carnivals’ because they are so much fun”.

Rachel Mecham of Coastal Rowing Noosa (CRN) combined with Don to take bronze in the PR3 Double Scull Beach Sprint. CRN’s Ann Harrap also won three para bronze medals with Don in the 4k endurance race and the Endurance Quad and Beach Sprint Quad.

But Rachel noted that an important race for CRN was the coxed masters 4km endurance event on day one. The combined age of the four rowers and coxswain – Craig and Rachael Mecham, Ann Harrap, Karl Ellaway and Stefan Prystupa is 65. Ann Harrap said: “A great comment was made by a young UQ rower – ‘Great to see old rowers and paras in the waves, so inspiring.'”

Boats for the events were provided by Sykes Rowing. CEO Mark Nothnagel and Sales Manager George Richards were delighted with how the competitors, Solo’s and Peers, handled the tough conditions, which unfortunately proved too heavy for the Quads.

Although there were many experienced rowers in flat water, including four Australian Olympians, George remarked: “For many competitors this was their first experience in hulls which are specifically designed for rowing in the ocean. and the great lakes. Also, being in the ocean, there was a steep learning curve for some of the athletes when it came to surfing awareness. Nevertheless, we are happy that most of the boats and all the athletes emerged unscathed from a few spectacular capsizes both on the steeper waves on the exit and in the Sprint Race competition on Saturday and Sunday.

Coastal Rowing Noosa Secretary Peter Watson said: “It was a great event and a great learning curve. We have a lot to learn about coastal rowing. This is not surf boat rowing, we don’t want to catch the waves, but learn to harness the power of the surf and row between the waves. A short break on the ground is a useful ending to gain an advantage.

Simon Walker, a world rowing umpire from New Zealand, came to Noosa because he was keen to observe the organization as New Zealand strives to hold a regatta in Nelson in January 2023. This event could also serve as a qualifier for Oceania for the recently announced inclusion. from Beach Sprints to the World Beach Games, which will be organized by the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) at Nusa Dua Beach in Bali from August 5 to 12, 2023.

Sarah Cook, a member of the eight London Olympics in 2012, joined the World Rowing Council as a representative of the Oceania region. She is also a member of the World Rowing Coastal Rowing Commission. Sarah said the Championships in Noosa were exciting and a great success. She greatly appreciated the support of Rowing Queensland, Coastal Rowing Noosa and the Noosa Surf Lifesaving Club for their help, especially over the four days of competition. She added: “Rowing Australia and Surf Lifesaving Australia work closely together for the development of the discipline. and are working on a memorandum of understanding.

Several Australian Olympic rowers were present to referee, observe and enjoy: Ria Thompson (Tokyo 2020), Sarah Cook (Beijing 2008 & London 2012), Rachael Kinninmonth (Sydney 2000), Jane Robinson (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004) and James Rook (helmsman – Tokyo 2020).

Based on discussions with rowers and officials over the four days of competition, it is expected that the next Australian Coastal Rowing and Beach Sprint Championships will be held again in Noosa in August 2023 due to the Noosa Beach’s superior condition and logistics.

Last week’s Noosa Today headline in relation to recent championships read: ‘Olympic rowing beckons’. With the World Rowing Chairman’s statement that “the beach sprint format is central to our Olympic strategy to include coastal rowing as a new discipline on the Olympic program for LA2028 and Brisbane 2032, the success of the inaugural four days of 2022 Australian Championships was a good start to having Noosa as the venue for the Games of the XXXV Olympiad.

(Dr Ian Jobling is Honorary Director of the Center for Olympic and Paralympic Studies at the University of Queensland.)


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