2015 Bankstream New Zealand Rowing Champs - Drysdale back in top spot

21/02/2015 by Steve Knowles

The 2015 Bankstream New Zealand Rowing Championships came to a close at Lake Ruataniwha, near Twizel with more than 70 crews named New Zealand champions in their respective events over the last three days.  Conditions throughout the week were spectacular with flat calm conditions blessing the regatta organisers and athletes alike, however with only seven A final events left to race high winds picked up in the afternoon which brought the regatta to a standstill for five hours. Racing re-commenced at just before eight o’clock in the evening.

The final day of racing began with a close and exciting race in the women’s club coxed four where Petone were just a whisker ahead of West End for the gold medal in 7:32.25. Hamilton brought home the bronze.

The men’s premier single scull was a brutal battle with all scullers laying everything on the line. All competitors left the past victories of the summer domestic season behind them in a titanic battle. In the end though it was the Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale’s day to shine in this singles showdown; in the process he claimed his eighth national title in the men’s single scull. Drysdale was determined win and to prove that he is New Zealand’s preeminent sculler. Drysdale’s main competition today came from Central RPC’s Robbie Manson and Southern RPCs Hamish Bond. With 500 metres left to run in the race Bond and Manson took turns at leading a sprint challenge but both scullers faded and couldn’t keep up with Drysdale’s consistent speed and a final dash ensured he got to the line first in 6:47.33. Bond won the silver and Manson the bronze. Commendable efforts were put in by the remaining finalists - John Storey was fourth, George Bridgewater fifth and Jade Uru sixth.

For the first time in six years the women’s premier single scull title wasn’t going to be won by Emma Twigg. This year’s event was hotly contested by Southern RPCs Fiona Bourke and Lucy Spoors and Waikato RPCs Zoe Stevenson. All three scullers wanted to deliver an exceptional performance and make the most of Twigg’s absence from the national championship regatta. Spoors had the race in the bag, but Stevenson and Bourke made a late charge and were going stroke for stroke in the final hundred metres of the race to try and catch Spoors. Spoors borrowed Twigg’s skiff for the championships and it proved to be a lucky charm when she crossed the line for gold in 7:34.27. Bourke just inched ahead of Stevenson for the silver.

Luke Watts and Hugh Pawson from Aramoho/Wanganui were a slick combination in the men’s senior double, taking the win well ahead of their rivals in 6:46.07, Petone won the silver and North Shore the bronze.

Central RPCs crew made up of under-23 world champions Zoe McBride and Sophie MacKenzie romped home in the women’s premier lightweight double scull. McBride and MacKenzie dominated the lightweight event winning in 7:09.72, with eighteen seconds separating them from their squad mates from Central RPC who were the second place getters. Bronze went to Southern RPC.

It was a two horse race between Wairau and North Shore for the Boss Rooster trophy. The North Shore crew got the upper hand heading into the final sprint and were awarded the trophy for winning the men’s premier coxed four in 6:12.50, Wairau were just over a boat length back for the silver. The entire North Shore crew was presented with red coats for winning their first championship title.  The North Shore crew comprised Cameron Webster, Michael Brake, Finn Howard, Bobby Kells and coxswain Timothy Zouch.

Four crews were leading the pack in the men’s club coxed four. Into the final sprint however Aramoho/Wanganui established themselves as the front runners and held off a final sprint from a fast finishing Waihopai from the inside lane to win the Gold. Petone claimed the bronze.

Hawkes Bay were flying into the finish of the men’s novice eight taking the gold with a boat length margin, Avon’s two crews rounded out the two minor medals places. The women’s novice eight was won by North Shore by a boat length over Wakatipu, with Wellington back for bronze.

Hayden Lynex from West End rowing highlighted Para rowing at the New Zealand championship regatta. West End have been leaders in para rowing within the New Zealand club rowing scene and coach Alasdair McGeachie has been charged with running and developing the programme. The club has had a number of adaptive scullers representing their club at this regatta over the last few years. Lynex was the lone sculler in the adaptive singles class, but the trunk and arms rower showed strength and determination toughing out a strong headwind over the 1000m distance and he came home in six minutes and 27 seconds and won a gold medal for his efforts. Racing was postponed after Lynex’s medal ceremony.

The first race on after the delay was the women’s club single scull and the race didn’t disappoint spectators who made the effort to return to the Lake. West End’s Amy Robson was out in front in the middle lane but Avon was sprinting in the outside lane to keep up and made a move on Robson in the third and final quarter of the 2000 metre race. Veronica Wall from Ashburton went with Avon’s Madeleine Ashby, and in turn both scullers were catching on race leader Robson. West End held onto the gold in a time of 8:09.69, and Ashburton edged Avon for the silver.

Three RPC crews were clashing in the women’s premier eight, defending champions Southern RPC made an early impression and took the lead. With the race entering the final quarter Southern remained the clear leaders out in front with a clearwater lead. But Central weren’t going to roll over that easily and were chasing strongly with 250 metres left to run, they left their run too late and couldn’t make a dent in Southern’s lead. Southern won in 6:09.55, Central claimed silver in 6:13.36 and Waikato were back for bronze in 6:20.29. Holly Fletcher and coxswain Natalie Bocock won their first national championship and their first red coat.

Another impressive eights race thrilled the crowds at Lake Ruataniwha with Nelson winning the women’s senior eight with a skilful performance. Nelson won gold in 6:34.00, Tauranga were over a boat length back for silver and Waihopai gained the bronze.

A full field of eight crews saw a highly competitive race in the men’s senior eight. With crews coming into the last 500 metres it was still a very close race in the final, with nothing decided. Hawkes Bay had moved slightly into the lead, but the Aramoho/Wanganui Petone composite crew was charging hard. Hawkes Bay started to crumble under the pressure with all crews drawing them with a final flying surge to the finish line with dreams of gold. Hawkes Bay faded to bronze with Nelson Rowing Club squeezing their bow in front for gold, and Wakatipu went with them to steal the second position for silver.

The Waikato RPC eight came powering down Lake Ruataniwha in the men’s premier eight and didn’t take their foot off the accelerator. Central were cranking up the stroke rating and speed in the final sprint for the line, and broke Southern RPC and the silver slipped from their grasp. Central weren’t stopping there with building confidence they kept on stealing a foot off Waikato with each stroke. Central ran out of water to run down the crew from Waikato and Waikato won by half a boat length in 5:33.91. Central were second and Southern were home in third to take the bronze. Four new premier championship titles and red coat blazers were awarded to Adam Ling, Alex Kennedy, Richard Power and Curtis Rapley.

As night fell on the 2015 Bankstream NZ Rowing Championships the Centennial Oar for the top club in all events at the Bankstream New Zealand Rowing Championships was awarded to Waikato Rowing Club. While the Hallyburton Johnstone Rose Bowl for the top association (leading region) in the eight boat events was Canterbury Rowing Association. Aramoho/Wanganui Rowing Club gained the most points in the sculling events to win the Centennial Scull. Hamish Bond was judged the top Male Rower of the year for the second year in a row for achieving the highest standard of rowing he was presented the Clarrie Healey Cup, while the female rower of the year was Sophie MacKenzie, and she received the Champions Cup. Gary Hay coached three New Zealand Rowing team crews to podium finishes at the 2014 World Rowing Championships and two of those medals were gold which were won in the women’s single scull by Emma Twigg and the women’s lightweight double by Julia Edward and Sophie Mackenzie. Hay has also been coaching Southern RPC over the summer domestic season. Hay was recognized for his outstanding contributions to rowing and was awarded the Lud Brooker Memorial Salver – Coach of the Year.

The Bankstream Trophy was awarded to Waikato RPC as they were the top performing Regional Performance Centre (RPC) of the regatta.

Elite and Under-23 trialists will be named on Sunday 22 February.  Crews to represent the New Zealand Rowing Team at elite World Cups and World Championships and the Under-23 World Championships are expected to be named on Thursday 5 March.