Aon University Rowing Championships an orientation exercise whatever level you’re at.


Charlotte Hyland-Mills spent her sporting youth looking at the black strip on the floor of a swimming pool so she’s no stranger to doing the mahi.

But for the novice rower, who’s doing a Bachelor of Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology, taking on the 2000m course at Lake Karapiro in a composite eight with Auckland University is a different challenge.

AH: “How many rows had they done as a crew?”

CH-M: “Uh, we've never rowed with the UOA people we're with, so once you speak to me after the race, it will have been one.”

Despite the inexperience she was ready to go all out to the line: “One thousand per cent, I'm expecting that I'll probably be really tired, and I might need help out of the boat, but as long as we make it to the end, I'll be happy.”

AH: “What seat are you rowing in?”

CH-M: “Um, that's a very good question.

AH: “What side do you row on?”

CHM: “That's an even better question.”

Turns out Charlotte did a great job in bow seat for the Auckland composite crew.

And there was more racing than she expected after getting called up into the very first event of the regatta, the Mixed Championship Quad, where her AUT crew finished a creditable sixth.

It was a big step up.

“It was quite frightening, but I'm thankful that my teammates were incredible. I didn't crab, so that's good.”

AH: “How did you feel physically?”

Ch-M: “I felt that I need to get my fitness up for next season, but no, pretty good.”

AH: “Next season now, is it?”

CH-M “Yeah, of course, of course.”


Charlotte Hyland-Mills from Auckland University of Technology. 

Waikato University won the gold in the Mixed Quad, with Evan Williams stroking.

He’s in his fourth Aon University Champs and the gloss hasn’t worn off a bit.

“I'm really excited,” says Evan. “I love Uni Champs. It's awesome. It's my first one at Karapiro, so it’ll be really fun.”

He’s got just two papers left in his sports science degree, which has taken a wee hit with selection in the Under 23s.

AH: “What do you love about rowing the mixed events?”

EW: “Oh, I never really get to do it any other time in my life. And it's quite fun Uni rowing, the good atmosphere, everyone at start line, we all know each other. It's awesome.”

It’s a big sporting weekend for the Williams family. Evan’s sister Kate, who’s two years older, is starting at blindside flanker for Wales in the Six Nations against England on Sunday morning.

Evan’s proud of the red hair that runs in the family, and in the Waikato quad. After winning, he directed me down to the bow of the boat, where another red-haired Kate, Kate Stewart had “powered” them home.


Waikato University's winning Mixed Championship Quad, from left: Kate Stewart, Isobel Eliadis-Watson, Emily Gordon (cox), Oscar Ruston and Evan Williams.

The light tail breeze that suddenly turned into a wind turbine helped power crews home in the Championships Eights over 3219m.

President of Otago University rowing Glen Sinclair said his crews had hardly got out on the water in the lead-up. So the big puff down the course would have been a nice-to-have, although in Otago’s case, not a must-have. They were awesome in both the Men’s and Women’s races.

It was quite a sight, seven crews in the Men’s Eight, six in the Women’s, charging down with Otago claiming gold and bronze in both events. Their winning crews repeating the win at last year’s champs.

Fred Vavasour made a big call to pull out of any chance of rowing in a representative squad this season, deciding to finish his degree instead.

He had a great NZ Champs, gold in the U22 Pair and Senior Coxless Four, as well as silver in the Senior and Premier Eights with Avon.

“It was pretty cool aye,” says Fred. “Pretty awesome to get back-to-back, all the fellas got together round us, congrats to the other crews, they did an awesome job out there, kept us honest all the way, it was really cool to see.”

It was a great day for the Vavasour family as well, with Fred’s younger sister Daisy rowing in two seat of the Otago #2 eight to win bronze.

“We were behind Waikato the whole way but we ended up coming through the last 500 which is really exciting for us,” says Daisy.

This is her second year of Uni champs, she’ll be “back for round three next year, ideally.”

She’s also planning to be back for next year’s NZ Champs, after having a break for a couple of seasons.

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Fred Vavasour and Daisy Vavasour the siblings both row for Otago University. 

From Charlotte Hyland-Mills to experienced athletes like Evan Williams, Fred and Daisy Vavasour, everyone’s finding their feet on day one of Aon University Rowing Champs.


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.