STRAIGHT EIGHTS: Rowers dig in during the Head of the Clarence rowing carnival at Grafton
STRAIGHT EIGHTS: Rowers dig in during the Head of the Clarence rowing carnival at Grafton

Head of the River regatta gets rave reviews

A CREW of eight rowers powering a 19-metre long honeycomb carbon-fibre vessel weighing just 92 kilograms skimming across the water is a sight to behold.

Grafton at the weekend played host to host a large contingent of the nation's rowing fraternity, from up-and-coming school-age rowers to elite coaches and Olympians.

The Grafton City Head of the Clarence River regatta on Saturday attracted rowers from 26 schools from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney and the North Coast and several from Clarence Valley schools. The rowers competed in more than 70 races.

The action continued yesterday with most of the rowers staying for Grafton Rowing Club's Annual Regatta with 108 races hitting the water.

Millions of dollars of watercraft spread out along a long stretch of the bank on both days provided the backdrop to a vibrant atmosphere.

Organisers estimated 500 metres of waterfront was taken up by crews and their vessels, and once in the water heats of up to nine boats rowed parallel across the full width of the river.

Olympic silver medallist Brooke Pratley was special guest for the weekend.

She presented trophies to Saturday's Head of the River winners before racing to victory herself in the quad sculls during yesterday's Grafton Rowing Regatta.

It was just her second visit to Grafton having coached the Somerset College crews last year, but her first time competing on the Clarence River.

Her first impression provided great advertisement for the river.

"It's really impressive," Pratley said. "It's a perfect location for rowing.

"I went for a row on the river this morning and it was beautiful."

"I've been training on the Brisbane River with citycats, swirly water and current. Here it's just beautiful to row in and a big, wide river so it's perfect.

"This is a great regatta too; a good little energy about it."

Interestingly, it was just her sixth row since the 2012 London Olympics, having taken a 12-month break from the sport.

"I had a year where I was busy getting unfit," Pratley said.

"I actually really love it now that I'm on the water again.

"Rowing opened up a whole world to me, a whole community I would never have been a part of and I'm a better person for it today."

These days Pratley is heavily involved in coaching the sport in Brisbane and said it felt strange to be attending a regatta but not be actively involved in a coaching capacity.

Pratley yesterday mixed it with the men and helped row the KAND Rowing Club to victory in the Masters Eight and Masters Quad Sculls events.

KAND Masters Eight crew member and chairman of the Grafton City Head of the River committee Neville Doughan was chuffed to score the win alongside Pratley.

"The big news from the Grafton Rowing Regatta was KAND winning the Masters Eight," Doughan joked.

Rowers were treated to sublime conditions on both days.

Grafton Rowing Club president Michael Collins was thankful to the weather gods from the marshal's boat during the closing stages of yesterday's sun-soaked regatta.

"The conditions have been fantastic across the two days," Collins said.

"We are just about to finish up and it's just starting to get a bit breezy now.

"This is the biggest club regatta we've had.

"Previously the most races we had held was 101 and we've topped that with 108, so things are not going too bad."

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