Aussies bring perpetual motion to their boats to wrap up regatta.

 

It’s called the Rusty Robertson Perpetual Trophy.

Rusty was the famous national coach this side of the Tasman for nearly 10 years and then did a shift with the Australians from 1979-84.

He had a foot in both camps, so naming the prize for Transtasman rowing after him makes perfect sense. The Perpetual? Maybe it’s because Aussie gets to keep the trophy, no matter who wins it, over there.

They took out the latest series with a clean sweep of the 17 races over the weekend. It was a dominant display – although to give it some context, since 2002 the result is 11-9 in their favour.

The gaps did close over the three days, the margin in the final race between the Men’s Eights and Women’s Quads closing to just over four seconds.

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U21 NZ Team Men's Eight racing at the U21 Pacific Regatta. Photo: Picture Show Ltd. 

The New Zealand U21s programme is a test of self-reliance. Athletes are picked from all over the country and only get together for occasional camps throughout the training block. Otherwise, they are at home, sometimes on their own, trying to stay connected remotely.

“I think they gave it the best they could do in the situations they were in,” says Head Coach Michele Munro. “It's challenging for this group to manage everything in terms of university and work and a full training programme. That balance is difficult.”

It gets even more difficult when you throw in illness and injury.

Michele’s an experienced and successful coach. This is her first year running the U21 programme.

She knows there’s gains to be made right from the beginning of athlete identification.

“I don't think they all fully understood the commitment and the expectations before they signed up. In that sense we need to do better at getting that information out there earlier so that they're fully aware when they're nominating.”

There were other gaps as well.

“One key issue we have with this, is getting the athletes to really be supported in their training environments wherever they might be when they're not in camp and in campaign.”

But the whole experience was about more than just winning races.

Many of the athletes had jumped on their opportunities and taken big steps forward in the sport, remembering that not all New Zealand’s young rowers want to head to the college system in the United States.

Some of them do, and this series has been a great steppingstone for three in particular. Orla Fitzgerald is about to become the first female New Zealand rower to get a scholarship at Brown when she starts as a freshman there soon. Charlotte Lightfoot is off to Oregon and Madison Shanks is heading to Indiana.

Michele hopes that there is more incentive coming for those that stay on the Pacific Regatta pathway.

She’d love to see more countries involved. Canada was onboard for this year but had to pull out. Maybe it hosts next year. And what if Japan was there too. The US even?

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our amazing U21 NZ Team coaches:  Michele Munro (Lead & Women’s Scull), Alice Denyer (Men’s Sweep), Kaye Surgenor (Men’s Scull), Justin Wall (Women’s Sweep), Kylee Corboy (Assistant Coach), Sophie Strachan (Manager). Photo: Picture Show Ltd.

There’s a Country & Western music festival about to reach its crescendo as Lake Karapiro empties out on Saturday afternoon. The Aussies are heading home across the Tasman, the Kiwis back to Uni or work.

The rowing’s over for now.  Let the yodalehos begin. Next year we might be off to the rodeo.

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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.