Sunshine rose over Lake Ruataniwha this morning, signaling the start of day one at the 2024 Aon Maadi Regatta.

 

The day's heats racing schedule boasted an impressive 114 races across 30 events. Known for their efficiency, South Island officials ensured races ran smoothly, with each race starting just four minutes apart to maximise the number of races completed.

This season has seen several South Island regatta adjustments due to weather conditions, making the clear skies and gentle morning breeze a welcome sight for all competitors and spectators.

For the under 17 participants, the day began early as they prepared for some of the first races. The opening event was the boys U17 1x, which garnered significant attention as winners will receive specially crafted singles from Laszlo boats in partnership with Aon NZ, the regatta naming rights sponsor. This event features scullers from various smaller school programs including individuals representing schools with only one athlete such as Lachlan Stratford from Opihi College, Joseph Williams from Tauhara College, Casey Podesta from Whangarei Boys High School, Cohen Robinson from Pukekohe High School, and Charlie Moorhead from Napier Boys High School. The top two finishers from each heat progressed to the semi-final, with four of the five races today decided by the 1000m mark. Heat two provided a thrilling finish as Harrison Thode from Otago Boys just managed to hold off a fast-finishing Julius Lunenborg from Tauranga Boys by 0.87 of a second, securing a spot in the semi-final alongside Carter Baxter from St. Thomas of Canterbury.

Casey Podesta from Whangarei Boys High School BU17 Single (1)

Casey Podesta from Whangarei Boy's High School competing in a heat for the U17 Single Sculls. Photo: Picture Show Ltd 

The girls U17 4+ event followed, marking the first sweep event of the week, with 24 crews vying for the sixteen spots in the A and B finals later in the week. The competition was on, with all but one of these spots secured by South Island crews. The Whanganui Collegiate crew, coxed by Hunter Rowland, earned their spot in the A final alongside South Island crews from St. Margarets, Rangi Ruru, Marlborough Girls, and Craighead Diocesan. The second and third place finishers from the North Island Champs, Waikato Diocesan and Westlake Girls, will face two intense repechages tomorrow afternoon, where only the first-place finisher from each will progress to the A final.

Craighead Diocesan GU17 4+

Craighead Diocesan's Girls' U17 Coxless Four progressed to the A Final. Photo: Picture Show Ltd 

In the boys U18 2-, the smallest boat of the sweep events, there were several outstanding performances across the three heats. Mount Albert Grammar, Kings College, Hamilton Boys, Timaru Boys, and Christchurch Boys all showcased their prowess, securing spots straight into the A final later this week. Notably, the Hamilton Boys crew of Dylan McConnell (stroke) and Zach Brownlee delivered a commanding performance, seizing a comfortable 15-second lead over the Timaru Boys crew of Blake Parker (stroke) and Payo O'Sullivan. Hamilton Boys posted the fastest time overall in the heats with a 7:11.62. Given that last year's placegetters of this event broke the seven-minute mark, anticipation is high for potentially faster times as the top crews line up against each other in the upcoming races.

Mt Albert Grammar BU18 Pair

Mount Albert Grammar U18 Coxless Pair secured their spot in the A Final. Photo: Picture Show Ltd. 

Moving on to one of the largest events in terms of entries, the girls U18 2x proved to be a highly competitive field. With six heats, it boasts the most entries alongside the boys U18 1x and girls U16 2x, all of which will feature quarterfinals and subsequent C and D finals later in the week. The slightly more generous progression system allowed 24 crews to advance directly to the quarterfinals. Among the competitors, only two crews managed to dip under the eight-minute mark. The Wellington Girls' College duo of Ella Barr (stroke) and Emma Bagrie, under the guidance of coach Catherine Duffin, posted a time of  7:56.52. Additionally, the Ashburton College double of Sienna Skilling (stroke) and Sophie Gibson, coached by Justin Wall and Mary Hefford, clocked in at 7:55.50. Justin Wall's presence in the start tower will be notable throughout the regatta, as he serves as the chief starter for the regatta too. With just one second separating the two leading crews after round one, this will certainly be an event to watch throughout this week.

Wgtn Girls U18 Double 2

The Wellington Girls' College duo of Ella Barr (stroke) and Emma Bagrie were one of the two crews to dip under the eight-minute mark  in the Girl's U18 Doubles.

The Aon Maadi Regatta also features events tailored for those in their first year of rowing, known as Novice events. The girls U18 novice 8+ saw eleven crews lining up, comprising 88 rowers experiencing their first Maadi Regatta.

This event showcases the largest boat class for sweeping - the coxed eight. The first four novice eights across the line at the South Island Championship secured spots straight into the A final in the heats today, all finishing within four seconds of each other.

In heat one of today's races, Christchurch Girls held a narrow lead over Rangi Ruru's top crew approaching the closing stages. With 250m remaining, Maddy Young, in the stroke seat of the Rangi Ruru crew, increased the stroke rate to lead her crew to victory by just under two seconds. Both crews advanced to the final. In heat two, the North Island Championship winners Hamilton Girls High made a bold move on Rangi Ruru's second crew in the last 500m, closing the gap to within half a length. However, their effort fell short as they crossed the line in third place, they will vie for the last spots into the A final alongside the other North Island Championship place getters from St Peter’s Cambridge (coached by Amelia Barrell) and Epsom Girls Grammar (coached by Ian McKinnon).

Introduced to promote sculling in larger boats for younger rowers, the boys U15 8x+ is one of the newer events on the Aon Maadi Regatta programme, added in 2015. These races are often thrilling, if you are lucky enough to witness a full field of eight octuples there will be 128 sculling oars in full flight. Today's heats showcased twelve crews in total, with Hamilton Boys, St. Kents, Auckland Grammar, and Tauranga Boys securing direct progression spots through to the A final. The crew to look out for taking one of the podium positions will be the Hamilton Boys crew, coached by Robin Clarke, as Hamilton Boys have medalled in this event consistently since its inception.

One of the most closely contested results of the day unfolded across the two heats in the girls U16 8+. The winning margins were razor-thin, with only 0.18 seconds separating the top crews. St. Andrews, coached by Marion Hardwick & Kendal Everest, clinched victory in heat two with a time of 7:07.48, while the Rangi Ruru crew, under the guidance of coach Amber Williams, secured victory in heat one with a time of 7:07.30. The question now lingers: which crew will claim the top spot in Friday's finals? The heat three winners from St. Paul’s, who comfortably won their heat by four seconds, may also be a team to watch as they line up against the other heat winners, potentially unleashing an extra gear in the final showdown.

A highlight of the regatta, the boys U18 4x+ is considered one of the pinnacle events in terms of variety of schools and the calibre of rowing. There are more schools contesting this event than the U18 8+. After today's heats, first-place finishers across all five heats were within 2.7 seconds of each other. The top eight times are also incredibly close, within 5.6 seconds of each other. The upcoming semi final on Thursday morning promises to be a thrilling event, offering the opportunity to see if any crew can separate themselves from the tightly contested field heading into the finals.

The final events of the day featured the boys and girls U18 1x, where the top U18 scullers battled through round one of racing to determine which individuals will emerge triumphant.

For the rest of the results of today's racing see the results tab on rowit.nz and follow along on the livestream proudly sponsored by Milford - rowinghub.co.nz/livestream

Follow Aon Maadi Regatta on Facebook and/or Instagram for all the colour from the regatta.

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Anna De Long

Anna De Long's first Maadi was at Lake Ruataniwha in 2008, she was a U19 NZ Team coach in 2023 and will be again in 2024. Anna is also the Women's Lead Coach at Waikato Rowing Club.