We are big believers that once we hit the front, we can do it. Once we did, we just knew we had it. We’ve fought from the front all season.
Will Mackintosh, Christchurch Boys

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Much of the pre-regatta Maadi Cup talk focused on the advantage the southerners had, and some speculated that this would play out in the results.

Nobody told Hamilton Boys’ High School about that theory.

They lined up as fastest qualifiers in the under-18 boys’ 8+ final, and headed off defending champions Christ’s College by a length with a time of 6:04.01 to take the Maadi Cup. Christ’s College recorded 6:07.22 and Christchurch Boys’ High School came third in 6:08.10.

The win was a fitting way to mark coach Bruce Holden’s birthday. Stroke Will Mackintosh spoke of a never-say-die attitude: “We are big believers that once we hit the front, we can do it. Once we did, we just knew we had it. We’ve fought from the front all season.

“We had one of our better starts and that helped us get into the race,” Mackintosh said.

Consider this: Hamilton won their heat ahead of Christ’s College by 3.31 seconds, and won the final by 3:21, destroying the notion that the crew with a full season of competitive rowing behind them would dominate the field.

But if that was a small surprise, there was none whatsoever in the under-18 final for girls.

Rangi Ruru retained their grip on the Levin 75th Jubilee Cup, winning handily in 6:54.19 from old rivals St Margaret’s College, who pressed hard until the finish, clocking in at 6:56.63. Rangi rubbed salt in the wound by taking the bronze with their second crew in 6:56.88.

It was the fifth A-final victory for Rangi Ruru at the regatta. They also won the U17 and U18 coxed fours – the latter ensuring their hold on the Dawn Cup – and the U16 and U17 eights.

As a result, the school retained the Star Trophy as overall top school – although it was a close-run thing, with the surprise package, Wakatipu High School, leading the field until the last three finals were raced.

Rangi Ruru finished on 29 points, with Wakatipu and Hamilton Boys’ High both on 24.

It wasn’t that long ago the rowing programme was languishing at the bottom of the medal table. Some hard work by key individuals has brought the school back up to where it had been before.
Gary Hay, Rangi Ruru

Rangi also won the Executive Trophy for champion sweep-oar school from Hamilton Boys’ High and St Bede’s College of Christchurch.

The Presidents Scull for champion sculling school was consolation for Wakatipu, who amassed 24 points, with Hamilton’s St Paul’s Collegiate gaining 16 and Auckland’s Macleans College, Hamilton Girls’ High and Cambridge High all on 10.

It’s worth recalling that Rangi Ruru made history last year as the first school to win all five girls’ eights races since the novices were introduced in 2014. With a reduction in numbers racing this year due to Covid restrictions, this time the school had to settle for just three.

For those with short memories, it wasn’t always like that. A few years ago, Rangi Ruru rowing was struggling, big time.

“It has had its ups and downs,” said head coach Gary Hay, one of the sport’s very best mentors.

“It wasn’t that long ago the rowing

programme was languishing at the bottom of the medal table. Some hard work by key individuals has brought the school back up to where it had been before.”

Hay oversees a programme of about 65 rowers. His philosophy on coaching doesn’t vary greatly. He points out that “it’s a pretty

simple sport when you think about it – putting a blade in and pulling it out”.

There was no shortage of quality rowing during a week in which 1306 rowers were on the water, and which had a bit of everything – foggy starts, a drop or two of rain and sunny afternoons.

Take the under-18 single scull finals, in which Riley Wills of St Paul’s Collegiate was the deserved male winner, and Charlotte Lightfoot, sole representative of Queen Charlotte College in Picton, the equivalent female winner.

Indeed, Wills might just have been the individual star of the regatta. He entered three events and walked away with three golds – in the coxed four, the U18 single and the U18 double sculls.

Wills collected the fours title with Logan Spencer, Levi Davidson, Connor Irving and cox George Mackintosh, on the first finals morning.

He then had to work hard in the single to catch Ashley-James Fitzgerald of Marlborough Boys’ College, who had built a length advantage coming into the final quarter before Wills reeled him in to win by 1.44s. The double sculls win with Spencer rounded off a satisfying regatta for him.

As the 2021 under-17 singles champion and winner of the Laszlo single, Wills admitted that rowing in that boat this year gave him

There was no shortage of quality rowing during a week in which 1306 rowers were on the water, and which had a bit of everything – foggy starts, a drop or two of rain and sunny afternoons.

Watch the 2022 Aon Maadi Cup highlights reel Credit: Picture Show Ltd

an extra jolt of confidence. This is his last year at school. Next year’s ambitions? “To row for New Zealand.”

Charlotte Lightfoot was a convincing winner on a fog-shrouded course, replicating her win in the South Island champs final over opponents Eleanor Baldi of Bayfield High School and Elsie Talbot of Craighead Diocesan, although the second and third placings were reversed this time. Lightfoot was emotional as she reflected on the win. One athlete, one gold medal. That’s 100 percent success.

Medals don’t come along every year for the school in the Marlborough Sounds. It is thought the school’s last female medal came with the winning of the Dawn Cup in its inaugural year, 1980. That crew included her coach, Kaye Surgenor.

However, there have been other, more recent medals for the school, notably from 2012 Olympic champion Joe Sullivan, who has been in regular contact with Lightfoot. “All last night he was reassuring me I’d be fine,” Lightfoot said after her final.

“I’m absolutely stoked. I can’t really believe it. I saw Bayfield and Craighead coming up on either side so I had to go harder and harder. I had a few bad strokes but said to myself ‘I can’t stop now’.”

She didn’t, clocking 8min 17.54s, holding off Baldi (8:19.37) and Talbot (8:20.43) before collapsing forward in her boat after punching the water in delight. And yes there were tears, in the boat and on the shore, where her parents, sister and grandparents were urging her on.

“It hasn’t really sunk in that I’ve won a national event. I dreamed of being in front but didn’t think I would be there.”

Lightfoot had special praise for Surgenor: “She’s so calming even when I’m stressing out. She was reassuring me, it’ll be okay, trust myself. I’m just so thankful.”

Wakatipu High School rattled off four victories on the first morning of finals in a rousing collective performance. One of their best, Marley King-Smith, won the Laszlo boat for his school in the under-17 single, as did Dunstan High School’s Pipi Horan.

Mount Albert Grammar won their second gold of the finals in the under-18 boys’ coxed four. After an under-18 pairs triumph, Cam MacGillivray and Nick Bryan teamed up with James and Theo Brown plus cox Kaelin Reinsfield-Bree to win the Springbok Shield for the first time. They are the 18th school to claim the prestigious title.

And MacGillivray and Bryan, after winning the Dunstan Trophy in the pair, drew the quote of the week from their coach Alice Denyer: “They are two very good lads, good eggs. Double-yolkers,” she quipped.

And a final thought for the officials who did a top job, especially once the government changed its position on spectators at outdoor events. Remember, this was their second national event in a month: the nationals were switched to the South Island at very

short notice just after they had hosted the South Island Secondary Schools Champs. It was a busy summer in Twizel. Officials and volunteers slogged to make the event a success, which it was. The roar of those spectators and rowers on the final afternoon were testament to that.

It hasn’t really sunk in that I’ve won a national event. I dreamed of being in front but didn’t think I would be there. Charlotte Lightfoot, Queen Charlotte College