Pulling together: Grafton Rowing Club stalwarts Greg Thompson and Ken Maughan getting ready for the Masters this week.
Pulling together: Grafton Rowing Club stalwarts Greg Thompson and Ken Maughan getting ready for the Masters this week.

Scullers ready for regatta

ROWING is one of the oldest competitive sports in Australia, and the Grafton Rowing Club (GRC) itself dates back to 1882.

The GRC may have been established before the turn of the 20th Century, but for a large part of its existence club stalwarts Greg Thompson and Ken Maughan have been prominent figures.

This weekend the club will host the NSW Masters Rowing Regatta, and Thompson and his mate Maughan will be familiar faces over the two-day event.

Thompson, who has held the position of president for the past 23 years, and Maughan likewise as club captain, are both passionate about rowing and fell into the sport for different reasons.

“It was all about fitness,” Maughan says as he gently pats his stomach.

“I used to live in Coffs Harbour and wanted to lose some weight and was introduced to rowing.

“I worked in the Court House Police Station and Motor Registry and the Boarding House there made us eat steak and kidney pies with mashed potatoes over the top. And being a bit of a guts I ended up putting on the weight.”

For Thompson, his career in rowing began as a youngster, with his dad being a huge influence.

“I started off as a coxswain; my dad knew all the rowing club members in the old days,” he says.

“When I was about 12 or 13 I started to learn how to row. One of my old man’s dogs won a race so he bought me an old single scull.”

Maughan is the current rowing club coach, and during the regatta will be a boat race official, with Thompson busy making sure everything goes to plan.

The Clarence River has been the setting for three Masters Regattas in the past, and Thompson expects this weekend’s event to be remembered as one of the best.

“The last one we held was in 2006, and it was recognised as the best-run regatta in NSW. We are hoping this one will be even bigger, and I’m expecting at least 600 competitors,” he said.

Race events are run over 1000 metres, and according to Maughan, competition should be fierce.

“We will have competitors from NSW and Queensland and a lot of former Olympians,” Maughan says.

“Most of the Olympic rowers are over two metres tall; being tall gives you a longer stroke.

“They will be hard to beat, and some of them not only row together but train together.”

Maughan says rowing has become a fine art and team work is essential to a winning crew.

“If the rowers are not in unison they end up fighting each other. A good Olympic eight will go 2000 metres and won’t get out of time,” he says.

“But you get eight fellows to walk 2km and I bet someone will get out of step before they reach the finish line.”

The Clarence River has provided near-perfect rowing conditions during the week and Maughan is hoping the good weather continues over the weekend.

“The conditions are just right at the moment. People think you need glass-like conditions on the water, but that only creates friction. A little bit of a ripple in the water is perfect,” he says.

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