The wind was pushing things sideways, but in Masters rowing, you just keep calm and carry on.

 

Trevor Rush is warming up on an erg beside the boat he’s going to row with his long-time mate Richard Brock on the opening day of the Masters Nationals. 

It turns out Trevor, Richard and the boat all have a bit of pedigree. 

The clue on the boat was the World Rowing decal on the hull. 

Trevor saw the boat advertised about five years ago through Rowing New Zealand and wrote out a cheque. 

He went and picked it up and was told, ‘by the way this is the boat Rebecca Scown and Juliette Drysdale (née Haigh) won their gold medal in at the 2010 Worlds at Karapiro’. 

“We hope to make it go just as fast as what they did but we're a long way short from how fast they made it go,” says Trevor. “But they left a bit of speed in it for us, so we were very appreciative of that.” 

Trevor started as a novice rower in 1964. He was part of Aramoho-Whanganui's gun lightweight programme in the 1970s and 80s. He’s now 76 and just enjoying being in the moment.  

“It's like everything, lots of people my age, we have issues, I’m the same. Prostate cancer and stuff like that. But I just row through it and, one day it might say, ‘Easy up, but at the moment it's going all right’.” 

Trevor used to work at Pro Space Design, a company run by fellow rower George Russell and a sponsor of the Billy Webb Challenge which was pulling some big single-sculling talent.   

Trevor was about 60 at the time.  

“George comes to me and says, ‘Do you want to go for a row in this quad?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, okay’.  

“He says, ‘Here's the other two’.” 

Mahé  Drysdale and Olaf Tufte. Trevor in stroke seat. 

“Man, what a row. It was one of the best. It was just awesome. It's very difficult to describe for an old fella, you know. Jeez, they were powerful guys.  

“Then, funnily enough in 2010, Olaf was at Karāpiro, and he come up and said, ‘Hello’, and he remembered who I was. How about that?”  

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Trevor Rush stroking a once-in-a-lifetime quad with Olaf Tufte and Mahe Drysdale powering the engine in the middle of the boat and George Russell in the bow.  

Richard started rowing with Whanganui High School in 1969. At that time, with Collegiate just along the riverbank, it must have been the toughest territory in schools rowing. But it turns out it was a great time to start with WHS, because by 1972 he and former All Black midfielder Bill Osborne were in the senior eight that went to Kerrs Reach and beat Collegiate by a canvas to win the Maadi Cup. 

You can imagine how that went down in the River City.  

‘Brockie’s’ been rowing Masters for 20 years and has no intention of winding it back yet, despite the extras required ahead of a row these days.  

“For most Masters our age, once you get on the pension, the bench is covered in pills. But it keeps you going coming to stuff like this. We try and have a good quality row every morning, you know, and we leave the pontoon and the boat sits pretty good and we do about 12km. It really sets you up for the day.” 

The Aramoho-Whanganui mates rowed their white Filippi to a silver medal for their age group in the G-M category of the Men’s Pair, up against old rivals John Wilson and Rex Ryan from Awarua.

We talk about the longevity of individual rowers in the sport, but surely nothing matches the longevity of the Invercargill Women’s Coxless Four at the regatta.  

Jacqui van Dam, Katrina Allan, Virginia Sweney and Cecelia Russell will row their tried and tested seating order twice on Sunday, in the A-C and D-F categories. 

It’s a lineup they’re pretty comfortable with, considering it’s the same as when they first started out in 1986. 

37 years and still loving being in a boat together albeit with some time apart to raise families.  

“We love to come out on the water together,” says Virginia. “We just seem to be all in sync with our personalities, and it's a lot of laughs. We love to just push each other. And we know that individually we're prepared to go 100 percent to just push and so we trust each other.” 

100 per cent alright. 

They’ve been the fastest women’s four at South Island Masters Championships for the past three years.  

100 per cent.  

“Something that's given us a bit of an edge as well,” says Jacqui, “is that we've split into pairs so that we can compete against each other to push each other more, you know, so that's helped too and it's helped with our technique, you have to be much better in a pair with the timing.”   

100 per cent.  

Two years ago they entered the New Zealand Rowing Championships in the Intermediate Coxed Four, made the A Final and finished sixth to the astonishment of their rival crews.  

“They were looking at us. Coaches were looking at us. They were giggling at us going, ‘Look at those old ladies, what the hell are you doing here?’ 

“But we were right there with them. We weren't beaten by much. It was really the last 250. We just didn't have that speed at the end like the young kids do. 

“The Oamaru girls came up and talked to us, they were about 14 or 15 and they all said in unison, ‘How old are you?’ 

“We went, ‘She's a grandma, she's a grandma, and they go, ‘Oh, wow!’ We said to them, ‘This could be you one day, you have family and come back and row with all your mates’. 

Jacqui van Dam, stroke of the Invercargill Women’s Four, and the video she made of the crew to celebrate their 47 years together in a boat.  

Quentin Annan’s kicking up a small dust storm and wrestling with his row suit as he hot-foots it to his boat.  

I can hear him telling one of his Dunstan Arm clubbies that THIS IS DEFINITELY IT.  

He’s not shouting, more like firmly trying to convince himself he won’t be back for another nationals.   

“I've been rowing for far too long, I reckon. I need to try something else. I don't mind the physical, I love the physical. I'll row every night, every other night that I can but yeah, [just the] anxiety of racing. It'll tip me over. I've been heated up all week...at work I've been diabolical. I need to give up work and rowing. And actually have a life...maybe.” 

Yes, it’s the word at the end that might be the giveaway.  

A couple of weeks ago a former international rower described the tension he felt in the lead-up to Red Coat races as like having a load of bricks on his shoulders. 

Quentin got the bricks off his shoulders rowing in seven seat of a sharp Dunstan Arm crew that medalled in the Men’s D-F Eight. 

He was in an Alexandra eight that almost won at New Zealand Nationals in 1984. He churned a bit in the build-up to that race too. 

The 2024 season awaits Quentin. 40 years is a good round figure.   

Thanks to the mighty Te Awamutu women who won silver in their age group of the A-C Eight. They are essentially novice rowers and in extremely tough rowing conditions were brilliant. They had the boat sitting up and pulled off a ripping second 500m to nearly claim gold. I got to cox them today. It was brilliant.  

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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.