St Joseph?s Brisbane, in the foreground, certainly stood out in this heat of the boys? open eights.
St Joseph?s Brisbane, in the foreground, certainly stood out in this heat of the boys? open eights.

Grafton holds water on rowing?s big stage


ROWING NSW director of rowing David Evans best encapsulated feelings surrounding Saturday's Head of the River in Grafton.

"It was absolutely fantastic," Evans told Grafton Rowing Club president Greg Thompson.

"Everyone had a great time. Talking to most of the crews and officials, there wasn't one complaint, only high praise."

Inaugurated in 1997, the Head of the River, which went international this year with St Kentigern from Auckland, New Zealand, competing, has grown to become one of the premier regattas on the eastern seaboard.

On the water, the fierce rivalry between traditional rowing schools was evident and battles for interstate supremacy heightened competition.

More than 800 rowers from 21 schools from Brisbane to first time visitors Xavier College (Melbourne) and representatives from five rowing clubs, staged high calibre racing in 55 events.

The premier boys' and girls' eights events were thrillers.

Anglican Church School, Brisbane, commonly known as 'Churchies', staged an upset when they took the blue ribbon 2000m event over the Kings School and Brisbane Grammar.

Head rowing coach Barnaby Eaton said it was a 'tremendous' result for his number one eights crew.

"It was a fantastic race," Eaton said. "It was a high standard event and we always enjoy the opportunity to race against many of the best rowing schools in Australia. We really enjoyed having a win. The boys were particularly pleased and it's a credit to them, our coaches and rowing program.

"Grafton is a great place to come, enjoy the facilities, hospitality and go racing."

Andrew Randall, from Sydney's Kings School, said the regatta 'was bigger and better than ever'.

"There's been a big jump in numbers and quality," he said.

Kings has a student population of around 900, with 160 enrolled in the rowing program.

"We brought 19 boys, two eight crews," Randall said.

"While it was disappointing to lose the boys' eight, it keeps their feet on the ground so to speak. Churchie have had a lot more racing than us, we're on a building program and eight of our top first eight crew, our bigger lads, are away on a rugby tour of England so under the circumstances it was a good result for us. It shows we have strong depth. It's just a different philosophy.

"We love coming here (Grafton). It's a well-organised meet, great accommodation and the people are very hospitable. It's a good mix of fun and seriousness."

The Kings eight and Churchie each won divisions of the schools second eight.

Pymble Ladies College (PLC), Sydney, won the girls' eight from Sommerville House, Brisbane, and the PLC No.2 team.

PLC's Gillian Campbell said the school has been a regular visitor to Grafton in recent years.

She said the regatta served as a great lead-up to the Sydney Head of the River in March.

Presbyterian Ladies College's (Sydney) rowing coach Lauren Torpy and Marnie Kuypers said the school brought 35 rowers.

"This is a great place to train, compete, the people are friendly and it's hot," Torpy said.

Xavier College Melbourne's rowing coach, David Doyle, was amazed at not only the high standard of competition, but the amazing Clarence River.

"We found out about this by word of mouth and what a great venue," Doyle said.

"We come from a murky river you can just about jump across with more bends than the great Ocean Road.

"We're in rowing heaven here. The team has improved lengths and we hope to come back next year."

Maclean High's Rhiannon Faulkner and Elyse Depiante won heats of the championship schoolgirl single scull before finishing fifth and eight respectively in the final.

Other local winners were: Lewis Hemphill (Grafton High) Schoolboy Under-17 single scull; Ryan Fisher (Maclean High) Schoolboy Under-15 double scull; Honeybrook Depiante (Maclean High) Schoolgirl Under-15 double scull; Liam Ryan (Maclean High) Schoolboy Under-15 single scull; Ashleigh Peppernell (South High) Schoolgirl Under-17 single scull; Saxon Ramon (Cathedral School) Schoolgirl Under-15 single scull, and; Maclean High's Nicole Depiante and Leah Saunders in divisions of the Schoolgilr Under-15 single scull.

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