The Summer Squad kick off their campaign for the year while Avon and two smaller clubs prove that big hearts carry you a long way down Lake Karapiro.


New Zealand’s rowers got their chance to shine as finals of the big premier events got underway on the penultimate day of the NZ Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro.

Hawkes Bay’s Tom Mackintosh and Emma Twigg won their respective finals in the Premier Single Sculls.

“It's always nice to win a national title,” says Emma. “It took me a lot to get number 10 and now I'm at number 11. So that's cool.”

She finished in 7.30.98, five seconds up on Lucy Spoors (Canterbury RC) and Star’s Jackie Kiddle.

It was Twigg’s first race of the summer after illness kept her sidelined late last year.

“It was good in terms of where I am in the season, I'm happy. Still definitely some room to move, with my focus being on Paris this year.”

Women's Prem Single Emma, Lucy, Jackie (3) Rowing Picture Show

EMMA TWIGG, TOMMY TWIGG, RUPERT ROBERTSON, LUCY SPOORS, and jackie kiddle after the premier Women's single scull race at 2024 NZ Rowing Championships. Photo: Picture Show Ltd. 

This time last year Tom Mackintosh had been on the verge of leaving the sport. The idea of taking up the single sculls re-ignited his passion. By September last year he was winning bronze in the boat at the World Championships.

He’s now a New Zealand champion in the boat for the first time, winning in 6.49.34. Waikato’s Robbie Manson was second in 6.52.60 with New Zealand Lightweight rep Matt Dunham third (6.55.13).

The wins would be a huge deal for Hawkes Bay rowing, says Emma.

“It's the first time in the club's history we would have had two Premier Single winners, which is pretty awesome. Great for the region.”

Tom Macintosh M Prem 1X Winner (2) Rowing Picture Show

TOM MACKINTOSH racing in the premier men's single sculls at 2024 Rowing Championships. 

The fields in the two Premier Pairs events were dominated by combinations made up from the Summer Squad.

Jackie Gowler and Phoebe Spoors combined to row for Aramoho Whanganui RC/Canterbury RC composite, taking out the title in 7.20.04 over Alana Sherman and Kate Haines (Waikato RC) in 7.23.02 and Stella Clayton-Greene (Hauraki Plains RC) and Ella Cossill (Waikato RC) in 7.27.99.

It was the same for the men, with Matt Macdonald and Ollie Maclean rowing for North Shore RC winning in 6.32.52 over Avon’s Ben Taylor and Auckland’s Dan Williamson (6.35.54) followed by Campbell Crouch and Logan Ullrich (Waikato) in 6.36.70.

Robbie Manson (Waikato RC) and Jordan Parry (Tauranga RC) have been confirmed as the combination that will race at World Cup II.

They took out the Men’s Premier Double Sculls in 6.16.11, over Mackintosh and Matt Dunham (6.19.32) and Avon’s Flynn Watson and Ben Mason (6.27.46)

Lucy Spoors and Emma Twigg made it an especially good day for Hawkes Bay, easily winning the Women’s Double in 7.05.87.

M Prm 2- winners Matt Macdonald and Ollie Maclean (4) (Rowing Picture Show

Matt Macdonald and Ollie Maclean after winning the Premier men's pair.  Photo: Picture show ltd 

Avon’s historic double-triple

In basketball’s NBA, a triple-double gets you big airtime and maybe a bonus.

But Avon had everyone talking a double-treble on day four of the NZ Rowing Championships.

In a record-producing 10-minute window just after 9.10am they swept every podium spot in the Men’s then Women’s Senior Coxless Fours.

1-2-3 in both. Unheard of, at least in coach Dave Lindstrom’s time, and he’s been around a while.

He was at the Avon tent with head coach Logan Keys, who was just folding his club blazer after the once-in-a-lifetime podium presentation.

“It's just nice to see the athletes live up to what we try and build. And the key part we keep selling to them is the strength of not just the top crew but the ones chasing them,” says Logan.

The winner of the winning women’s race receives the Boss Hen Trophy, sister silverware to the Boss Rooster for the Men’s Premier Coxless Four.

First-time winners Jemma Burrowes, Hannah Matehaere and Manaia Butler joined past winner Phoebe Collier to take part in a long tradition of painting the trophy in the club’s colours within an hour of the race.

A special guest was perched on the trophy, also getting a repaint.

“We were at supercomps a week and a half ago doing 500 meter pieces, and Manaia’s blade hit the neck of a duck,” says Phoebe.

“We named him Bill. We have this duck here in memory of him. We even taped him to the bow of our boat [for the final].”

Logan would have to break out the blazer again at the end of the day as the club made the most of another 10-minute window.

At 3.10pm they went 1-2 in the Men’s Senior Eight and at 3.20pm the Women’s Eight finished in 6.28.08 to beat Waikato by five seconds.

WhatsApp Image 2024-02-16 at 11.16.50 AM


Shifting the dial in Dunstan

Dunstan Arm RC’s tent is buzzing as ever.

They have a saying amongst the young athletes that the Summer Development Hub came to the athletes rather than the athletes coming to the hub.

They’d be there anyway training under coach Simon Smith on the mighty Clutha River.

“They're young athletes trying to break into the larger scene,” says Simon.

“They've worked hard to do it and we're starting to see the fruits of all that work. They're happy, which is the main thing for me and they're enjoying it.”

The fruits of their labour sums it up for Freddy Todhunter. She spent the summer picking cherries on top of her training after moving to Dunstan from Christchurch last winter. She’d won the Girls’ Under 18 Single at Aon Maadi Regatta and decided not to follow the well-worn path to Avon.

“I feel like I’ve developed so much as an athlete at Dunstan both technically and performance wise as well,” says Freddy.

Her first final of the championships ended in a classy win in the Senior Double. Freddy and Elsie Talbot finishing in 7.37.87 ahead of fellow Dunstaners Stina Steffen and Olivia Key (7.41.32) and Waikato’s Charlize Tutbury and Emily Gordon (7.43.93).

Freddy had never stroked a quad ‘til this season but they’d have to be feeling good for the Senior and Premier events tomorrow, when they put the two doubles together.

Freddy and Elsie Dunstan (senior double) Rowing Picture Show

Freddy Todhunter and Elsie Talbot after winning the senior women's double finishing in 7.37.87. Photo: Picture show Ltd. 

Time-honoured tradition

Leighton Montgomerie and his sister Jill have been coming to Lake Karapiro for NZ Rowing Championships since they were knee high to a grasshopper. Dad Pat was part of Clifton’s great Boss Rooster winning coxed four in 1957. Mum Mhyre would scoop everyone into the car and off they’d go.

That’s back in the day when a shotgun was used to start the racing and boats were spread wide across the river.

They’ve been putting up a tent in the same spot all these years, just above the 1750m mark.

“There was our family and there was the Laurent and Lucas families,” says Jill. “That’s all we did. Loved the rowing. As kids we probably weren't really interested in watching, so just swimming in the lake and eating bacon and egg pie and mince pie that mum used to make. That’s what we’re eating today.”

They had no kids of their own racing today but were here to support their cousin’s boy Liam Cox who with Luke Brock took out the Men’s Club Double Sculls in 6.34.26. Clifton support is loud and encouraging. Go C-l-i-f-t-o-n reverberating across the lake.

It definitely lifted Isla Robinson and Bella Neale just minutes before in the Women’s Novice Double as they held off Waikato to win in 7.50.12.

“That just gives you that boost of confidence knowing that it's not just you in the race. The last 250 meters I think I started crying of happiness,” says Bella.

Later in the afternoon, Liam won the Men’s Club Single.

He’s not the biggest or heaviest athlete in a class that attracted 45 competitors. It means for a grueling schedule of heats, repechages and semifinals just to make the final.

He’s hoping to make it a trifecta in the quad on the final day, super-proud of the club’s achievements.

“Such a great atmosphere at our club in these last few years and this Nationals and North Islands have just been reaping the rewards from it.”


Long time loyal supporters from Clifton Rowing Club. 

Dais delight

Twizel coach Kelvin Maker was lining up behind the podium with his Women’s Novice Double for the medal presentation.

First-year rowers Hazel Mason and Taylah Marsh winning a coveted bronze medal. He couldn’t have been in a better spot to see the last 100m in the A Final of the Women’s Club Double, where Twizel were just ahead of Auckland RC. Kiara Thyne and Sadie Mason were going to do it again. Last year they won the Novice Double, today a big step up to claim the Club crown.

Big clubs and small clubs, carving out their own special memories on Lake Karapiro.

Kiara thyne and Sadie mason 2 (Twizel) women’s club double (Rowing Picture Show) (1)

Kiara Thyne and Sadie Mason from Twizel Rowing Club after winning the Women’s Club Double. Photo: Picture Show Ltd. 


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.