Three one-eyed coaches, a family treble and the birth of a new boat class


Don’t blink or you’ll miss it Nick

Waikato’s Nick Barton was standing chatting with Avon coaches Logan Keys and Dave Lindstrom. That made three one-eyed rowing supporters.

Logan and Dave on account of the fact of their Avon-ness, Nick ‘cos he’s got one bung eye.

Their respective crews had just raced in the Preliminary of the Boss Rooster, with Avon beating North Shore by just under three seconds and Waikato buttoning off at the 1000m.

We were updating Nick on the result and weren’t sure if he hadn’t seen the race because he’d missed it or because of his bung eye.

“I ruptured my eyeball,” says Nick from behind his sunnies. “Had to have two surgeries on it, and a week in hospital.”

“You want to know how it happened?”

“I spilt milk on my driveway [dropping the groceries]. I was really p***** off so I was hosing it up and the hose kept getting kinks in it and I kept getting more and more agitated as the hose got kinks in it, so I grabbed my hose and I had a little private meltdown. And I threw the hose as hard as I could at my car tyre and it went ba-ding!”

Hand gesture of something exploding. Eruption of laughter from the Avon coaches.

“A direct hit to the eyeball. It was so much force because I put a lot behind it. So much force that everything went black, my eye had blown, it was full of blood, and it had split open like this. They had to glue it back together and then they had to reassemble my lens.”

This little gathering breaks up with the two Avon men throwing more shade on the man in shades.


The boss of the Boss

Michael Brake’s looking pretty fresh for a guy who’s just rowed his first 2km race since July 30, 2021, in Tokyo.

He held up two seat of the North Shore Boss Rooster boat with Matt Macdonald, Ollie Maclean and Sam Shotter.

Michael’s won the Boss Rooster five times. It’s going to be tight for a sixth.

“The Avon boys, they've obviously got a bit of experience together, so they'll be tough to beat. But we're, feeling good and, and the nature of this type of racing is you've got to work it out on the fly, so that's, that's what's cool about it.”

Michael has a return to Japan coming up in April, joining Shaun Kirkham at Toyota Boshoku in a rerun of Shaun and Tom Mackintosh’s successful campaign at the All-Japanese Championships last year.

Big boy swing is in demand.

This time, Shaun is creating a Rowing Idol situation, offering the opportunity for two up-and-comers from New Zealand to join them for some of the trip.

“We're hoping it can be mutually beneficial for them to learn some things off us and for our guys to have a bit of a cultural experience over there and still do some good training,” says Mike.



Matt Macdonald, Ollie Maclean, Michael Brake and Sam Shotter getting a few more minutes in the North Shore Boss Rooster boat. It's Michael's first 2K race since the Tokyo Olympics. He was breathing hard but feeling fine.


Anna brings a new boat into being

Anna DeLong calls it a ‘Trod’, her Waikato rowers suggested ‘Thruple.’

Whatever it was it had the right effect.

She had her Senior Women’s Quad entered for the Preliminary at 8.20am. Bow seat of that crew, Emily Gordon was up in the repechage of the Women’s Under 22 Single Sculls at 9.24am.

It led to the unusual sight of the quad rowing the course as a triple.

Stroke Sophie-Egnot Johnson and crew were happy to pull a double shift to help.

“Emily kind of wanted to save herself a bit for that, so we were like, ‘Oh well, we'll just race a trod’. And then we all get a race in, get a practice together and whatnot. It was a bit of fun really. It was pretty heavy. I can't wait for Emily to be back, our two seat’s pretty excited for her to be back too so she doesn't have to do two jobs.”


The ‘Trod’ from Waikato taking a lateral approach to the preliminary of the Women’s Senior Coxless Quad. Sophie Egnot-Johnson in stroke seat, Madeleine Ashby in three and Madeleine Parker in two. 

But it’s Emily who’s been holding down two jobs and study in the build-up to nationals, as a health care assistant out in the community and on Sundays at Amber Garden Centre in Cambridge. She’s also just about to start her second year of nursing training.

“Around September October I was doing about 40 hours a week of placement at the hospital while trying to train at the same time as well,” says Emily.

“If I'm on placement I'll be doing 40 hours a week, unpaid. And you can get put up in Thames or I could be in Tokoroa. I was in Morrinsville last year for a bit.”

The morning ended well for Emily, winning the rep in 8.10.25, five seconds up on Madison Neale, with Oamaru’s Emma Spittle and Auckland’s Stevie Mabey also off to the A Final.

Emma Gordan

Emily Gordon after qualifying for the A Final of the Women’s Under-22 Single Sculls.


Three Dees and two Ps

The Petone crew crossed first, gave each other a fist pump then looked back to the finish line to see their other crew cross fourth. That was enough to kickstart more celebrations. Both of them had progressed from the repechage to make the A Final of the Women’s Intermediate Four.

It was quite a row from the second boat. Rower Emma McRobbie had spent the night trying to hold back a vicious bout of gastro so 44-year-old coach Sarah Houston stepped in. Last raced a 2K...17 years ago. Top effort coach.

Mother of four Petone rowers, Jane Dee, was also in the boat, with her son George on the rudder lines.

Daughter Annabel was stroking the number one boat, which got into a real inter-city tussle.

“We were listening to Star,” says Annabel. "We heard them do a piece for 10 and then we were like, ‘Lets make a move!’, and then we got up and it was neck and neck the whole time, their bowball was on our coxswain then we were on their bowball, it was crazy.”

So, three Dees in the A Final of the Intermediate Four. Mum and her two kids across two Petone boats.

Surely that’s never happened before.

And don’t underestimate what it means to a lot of crews that at NZ Champs you get B Finals. It means you get to keep racing until the end of the week.


The Petone crew that nailed a spot in the A- Final of the Women’s Intermediate Coxed Four. Coach and medical sub Sarah Houston, Sophie Martin, Jane Dee, George Dee and Alma Steinfeld.


Andy Hay

Andy Hay is a freelance producer, writer and rowing coach. He was cox of the world champion New Zealand eight of 1982 and '83. He is NZ Olympian #446.