You can’t beat Wellington on a good day, and the capital provided some stunning weather for the 2024 Coastal Rowing Beach Sprints Championships at Titahi Bay on 3 May.

 

First thing in the morning, there was only the gentlest break coming onto the beach and – possibly for the first time in Wellington rowing history – regatta organiser Tony Tikiku (Porirua Rowing Club) was hoping for a bit more swell.

His wish was granted by mid-morning as the wind got up and the water got choppier – resulting in several capsizes and some questionable steering – before the weather turned fine again for a brilliant afternoon’s racing.

More than 150 competitors from around the country – including crews from as far away as Auckland and Invercargill – came to the first national championships to be held outside Nelson. There was a mix of experience as well, with a lot of first-time coastal rowers joining the more experienced crews vying for the attention of New Zealand selectors.

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There were calm conditions in the morning but still enough swell to make it challenging for the crews to get away from the beach. Photo: @createnow.co

The day was organised into two halves – time trials in the morning over two courses, setting up the afternoon’s session, which featured head-to-head knockout racing.

In the Open Men’s single, Waikato’s Finn Hamill beat Barbarians’ Ian Seymour while on the women’s side, Invercargill’s Kristen Froude saw off a stern challenge from Waikato’s Kirstyn Goodger.

There was redemption for Kirstyn, however, in the Open Mixed Double when she teamed up with Finn to form the intriguingly named “Kilo Foxtrot” crew, defeating Dunstan Arm’s Freddy Todhunter and Wairau’s Liam Collins.

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Kristen Froude sprints to victory in the final of the Open Women's Single. Photo: @createnow.co

The U19 singles was another keenly contested division, with selectors weighing up potential triallists for King’s Birthday weekend, ahead of picking open and U19 crews to send to the Coastal Rowing World Champs in Italy later this year.

Avon’s Coby Goode beat Aramoho-Whanganui’s Eli Kuehne to take out the men’s race, and Wairau’s Mila van Rensburg defeated Aramoho-Whanganui’s Bea Douglas for the women’s title.

The Gisborne Boys High School “Ninjas” crew of Louis Wylie and Ned Clarke had a good day, winning both the U19 Men’s Double and the Club Men’s Double. Meanwhile the “Mad Dogs” (Nelson’s Maddie Collis and Naomi Robertson) took out the U19 Women’s Double, and the Aramoho-Whanganui combination of Lauren Davies and Agatha Doggett won the Club Women’s Double.

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Coby Goode (Avon) pats Eli Kuehne (Aramoho-Whanganui) on the back after the final of U19 Men’s Single”. Photo: @createnow.co

The racing was keenly contested at the Masters level, with honours going to Horowhenua in the Masters C/D quad and to Petone in the Masters E/F quad.

Horowhenua and Petone combined forces to win the Masters C/D Mixed Double, and Horowhenua came out on top yet again in the Masters E/F Mixed Double. Wellington Rowing Club’s contingent selflessly offered their services to the New Zealand selectors should a Masters crew be required for Italy.

For most of the crews competing, though, the main aim of the day was just to try something different. Even for three-time lightweight world champion Zoe McBride, the shift from flatwater to coastal rowing took some adjustment.

“My partner has been into coastal rowing for a while so we chucked ourselves in a mixed double and then he sneakily entered me in the single. But I’m glad he did. It was my first time in a coastal single and it was hard with a couple of big waves at the start but it was a bit of fun.”

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Multiple lightweight women's world champion Zoe McBride tried coastal rowing for the first time at the champs.

It was a similar story for Tauranga’s Ruby Church and Waikato’s Taya Lewis.

“I saw info about the regatta and flicked Ruby a text and said do you want to give it a go?” says Taya. “It’s our first time rowing coastal but it’s been really good. 500m sounds a lot nicer than 2km but it’s just as challenging with the waves and the steering.”

Ruby agrees but adds, “It’s a lot more entertaining than flat-water!”

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Andy Smith 

Andrew Smith is a keen Masters rower based in Wellington. A member of Wellington Rowing Club off and on since 2000, he spends more time on the erg than the water, trying to convince himself he's still young.