Kiwi hopes high as newcomers impress at World Championships.

A familiar name has headlined the New Zealand performances on the first day of the U23 World Championships in Bulgaria.

Finn Hamill, son of Rob, won his heat of the Men’s Lightweight Single Scull to qualify for the semifinals.

Rob competed at nine world rowing championships and the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 as a lightweight. He also earned worldwide recognition after winning the inaugural Atlantic Rowing Race with Phil Stubbs in 1997 before penning the bestselling book, ‘The Naked Rower’.

Finn has just competed at a World Cup event in Lucerne, Switzerland but was making his debut in the Under 23s.

He trailed Italy’s Giovanni Borgonovo by 3.37 seconds at the 1000m but had closed that to 0.57s at the 1500m. At that point the Italian decided to conserve energy and conceded to the Kiwi, who also throttled back.

Mid 30-degree heat had played a big role in race tactics, says Coach Lead Mark Stallard.

"At the temperature that it is these guys are running on the edge of their weight all the time so they're not going to expend any more energy than they have to," says Mark.

"Finn rowed a really controlled race, well within himself and just did everything right."

Plovdiv (1)

Finn Hamill won his heat of the Men's Lightweight Single Scull at the U23 World Rowing Championships to qualify for the semifinals.

The Women’s Coxed Four (Beckie Leigh, Lucy Burrell, Alice Fahey, Shakira Mirfin, cox Ella Greenslade) were first up on the distinctive course at Plovdiv, with its bridge spanning the 1000m mark.

By the first 500m, New Zealand were 2.77s down on the reigning champion Australian crew and had closed that to 2.50s at the 1000m to hold second place.

Mark predicted the New Zealand boat to be the strongest in the field and that may well have been proven in the 3rd 500m, with the Kiwis closing the gap to 1.79s at the 1500m and underrating the Australian boat through to the finish, 2.20s behind in 2nd.

Just five boats are entered in the event so last night’s race was all about lane seeding. The USA were more than seven seconds back in 3rd, with Germany 16.56s and Italy 17.39s off the pace.

Plovdiv (5)

The Women’s Coxed Four had an impressive hit-out in their preliminary race. From left; cox Ella Greenslade, Shakira Mirfin, Alice Fahey, Beckie Leigh and stroke Lucy Burrell.

The Men’s Coxed Four (Matt Waddell, Ben Shortt, Sean McHugh, Harry Fitzpatrick, cox Harry Molloy) will have to race a repechage to progress to the final.

It was their first race at this level. They drew Italy and Great Britain, crews that both have great pedigree in the event. Great Britain were champions last year although they have a new lineup this year. Italy were third in 2022 and they also have a new crew. Despite that they led all the way to cross the line in 6:16.11 with Great Britain finishing in 2nd (6:19.01) and New Zealand 3rd, 7.86s behind the Italians.

"Next time they race they'll go better," says Mark. He thinks they have the potential to make the A final.


The Men’s Coxed Four (from left) Harry Fitzpatrick, Sean McHugh, Ben Shortt, stroke Matt Waddell, with cox Harry Molloy (obscured), had a good first-up race in their debut at this level.

The Men’s Pair of Oliver Welch and Josh Vodanovich have impressed with the way they’re rowing in Plovdiv. They’ve had a tough build-up with Josh struggling with injury. But they had a great start in their heat, trailing leaders Australia by just 0.70s at the 500m and 0.76s at the 1000m. A top-two finish would have put them straight into the semifinals and they were still right in contention at the 1500m but couldn’t hold off Germany on the line, pipped by just 0.09 seconds for that semifinals spot, with Australia winning by just over 2 seconds.

Plovdiv (8)

The Men's Pair Oliver Welch and Josh Vodanovich

The Men’s Quad (Ben Olifiers, Ed Lopas, Kobe Miller, Evan Williams) race their heat just after 8pm tonight (NZT), followed by Olivia Hay in the Women’s Single Scull around 8.25pm.

The Men's Coxed Four have their repechage at 8.45pm followed by the Men's Pair at 8.55pm.


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.