The dissipating low-lying fog set the stage for the commencement of Day 3 at the 2024 Aon Maadi Regatta.

Following two days of splendid weather, competitors were eager for favourable conditions to conclude the final repechages and start of the semi-finals for the week. Lake Ruataniwha did not disappoint with the calm weather remaining for all 75 races today, a much shorter program to bring us to the halfway mark of racing.

Yesterday afternoon's repechages showcased several crews narrowly beating their rivals to secure crucial progression spots in tightly contested races. This morning's repechages mirrored the same level of intensity, with numerous crews battling fiercely to secure coveted A-final positions, completing the top eight crews set to compete at the week's end. For many events today, there will be no semi-final round, making today the culmination of the journey for some, while for others, it represents the final opportunity to fine-tune their performance before competing in the finals for glory.

In the girls U15 2x repechage two, a closely contested race unfolded among Gisborne Girls, Hauraki Plains College, ACG Tauranga, and Takapuna Grammar. With only the top six crews advancing, the competition was intense, and every crew was vying for a spot in the next round. The crews were so evenly matched that only two seconds separated all four of them at the finish line. ACG Tauranga managed to secure sixth place by 0.23 of a second, edging out the Takapuna Grammar double and securing their spot in the next round.

Hauraki GU15 2X

Hauraki Plains College girls U15 2x racing in  repechage two. Photo: Picture Show Ltd 

In the second repechage of the girls novice U18 4x+, Marion College, Otago Girls High, and St. Peters School remained neck and neck as they reached the halfway point. The coxswain of the Marion crew, Paige Swain, showed great skill in guiding her crew to overtake St. Peters in the final 500m, securing the last spot in the A-final by a narrow margin of two seconds. Crews were firing down the course as officials worked to catch up time after a few technical difficulties from crews at the start of the day.

Marion Novice Quad

Marion College girls novice U18 4x+ racing in the second repechage. Photo: Picture Show Ltd 

In the boys U16 8+, the top six crews securing the last spots in the A final were decided early in each race. However, the competition for the better lane was fierce. The St Andrew’s and Kings College crews emerged victorious in each repechage.

Soon, the boys and girls U17 2- events were on the track. Although these repechages were essential to determine the last two spots in the A final, there were four clear leaders from each repechage. Queen Margaret College and Baradene College lead out for the girls, while St Kentigern College and Glendowie College dominated the boys' races—a 'college sweep’, it seems.

St Kents BU17 Pair

St Kentigern College boys U17- racing in the repechage. Photo: Picture Show Ltd

In the boys U17 4x+ repechage one, all three St Pauls Collegiate crews lined up in lanes four, five, and seven. With two spots available in the A-final, the St. Pauls number two crew aimed to outperform the number one crew and secure a better lane for the final. They succeeded in creating a 2.5-second gap between themselves and the first crew at the finish line, setting up an exciting challenge for the number one crew in the upcoming A-final. It was a battle of the Whanganui crews in repechage two with the Whanganui Collegiate and Whanganui High crews progressing through to join St. Pauls.

The last repechages of the week featured the boys and girls U18 8+s. For a detailed overview of yesterday's heats races and the crews that secured direct progression to the A-final, refer to the previous day's race recap.

In the first girls' eight repechage, Christchurch Girls, Mt. Albert Grammar, and Westlake Girls secured spots in the A-final. Christchurch Girls took a commanding lead, finishing almost 12 seconds ahead of the second-place crew and setting the fastest time of the day at 6:55.04. The second repechage saw St. Margarets, Whanganui Collegiate, and Epsom Girls Grammar comfortably advance to the A-final.

Christchurch girls U18 8+ (1)

Christchurch Girls U18 8+ racing in repechage one. Photo: Sharron Bennett Photography 

Today’s program featured two quarter-finals. In the girls U16 2x, only the top four crews progressed to the semi-finals with the rest eliminated. In the girls U18 2x, the top four moved on to the semi-finals, the fifth and sixth placed crews advanced to the C-final, and the remaining crews proceeded to the D-final. For updates on progressions from these larger events, visit rowit.nz.

Moving into this afternoon's semi-finals, there was a discernible increase in intensity as the top four crews in each race now set their sights on preparations for the A-final. The depth and talent in school rowing is clearly evident, promising fierce competition among the fifth to eighth place finishers as they prepare to face off again in the B-finals later this week. These races often feature crews capable of A-final performances, adding to the excitement of finals days. With 16 semi-finals held today, the races were marked by tight finishes as crews battled for last spots and favourable lanes.

In the girls U16 1x semi-final one, the competition was tight, with third to fifth place finishing within a second of each other. Lucy Gaston (JPCR) managed to hold off Megan Ritchie (IONA) by just half a second to secure her spot in the next round. Coming in third was Clare Ruston from Gisborne Girls High School, who happens to be the younger sister of Oscar Ruston, recently selected for the NZ Men's U23 1x. The East Coast continued to shine in the girls U15 4x+ event, with the Gisborne Girls crew, coached by Luke McKenzie, took fourth place and earnt a spot in Friday morning's A-final.

In the first semi-final of the girls' U17 4x+, a great race unfolded between Hamilton Girls and Iona College. Hamilton made a strong start, staying level with Dunstan High and creeping ahead of Iona College, aiming to secure a spot in the A-final. However, in the closing stages of the race, Iona College surged ahead, accelerating with 250m remaining. They managed to overtake Hamilton Girls, claiming fourth place by a two-second margin. The second semi-final's top four placings were clear-cut. St. Peters School and Cashmere High School emerged as the winners to watch out for in the final.

The week's first final kicked off with the boys U18 4x+ C-final, set against the backdrop of pristine conditions. With Shirley Boys High scratching, five crews lined up for the start. The race was tightly contested, with the first four crews in a line as they passed the 500m mark, each eager to end their quad campaign with a victory. St. Kevin's College and Gisborne Boys High pulled ahead of the pack by the halfway mark, with Gisborne's stern-coxed boat initially creeping ahead. However, St. Kevin's made a comeback, and in a thrilling finish, Gisborne managed to hold them off by just 0.13 seconds, showcasing their trademark 'Gizzy Hard' spirit.

The day wrapped up with a rerun of the girls' novice U18 2x repechage two from yesterday, adding an intriguing twist to the week's events. Initially scheduled as the first race of the day, it was rescheduled to conclude the day's program. Following some post-race confusion yesterday, umpires, without any athlete protest, determined that wash had affected the race, necessitating the re-run.

It was a challenging day for the crew from Whanganui High, who had won the repechage yesterday. They faced the daunting task of three repechages in just three hours (prior to the double's rescheduling). Unfortunately, their day took a heartbreaking turn when they experienced an oar breakage in their novice U18 4x+ repechage, leaving them short-handed and unable to progress to any final. Despite medaling at the North Island Championships in this event, today's outcome was a tough blow for the crew. Additionally, while they were the first North Island crew across the line in their novice U18 4+ repechage, they fell just four seconds short of securing a spot in the A-final.

This afternoon in the re-race of the novice double repechage two, Ruby Hoekstra and Edith Franks, were out for redemption. They were in a tight line with three other crews as they passed the 500m mark, they held onto second place behind St. Peters through the 1000m mark - a position that would secure their progression to the A-final. Unfortunately, with 500m to go, Dunstan High executed an impressive move, surging from third to second with a remarkable change of pace. Sadly, this marks the end of their pursuit for an A-final this week, concluding what has been a challenging day in the sport for the both of them. Undoubtedly, Ruby and Edith were supported by their proudest fans, and their achievements this season extend far beyond this race. No doubt, many more spectators on the bank will be cheering you on to a potential victory in the B-final.

Whanganui GU18 Novice Double (3)

Whanganui High U18 girl's novice 2x after racing in the repechage. Photo: Picture Show Ltd. 

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

Plus, 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.