Good grief! As if 2020 was not crazy enough…it was at least simple in comparison everything was cancelled! But in 2021 the shadow of Covid lingers and it certainly impacted
the Victorian masters rowing community once again…
Preparing for the nationals masters championships…firstly, we all know how well prepared
Kate and Michelle were, having rowed a magnificent race in Tassie to achieve fourth place in the National Championship Club 2x. Together with Zoe, Karen and myself this small
contingent from Dario’s squad had been training hard with eyes on the 1x, 2x, B and C 4x
and 4+ national masters titles (It’s all about thinking big!). From Stu’s squad Sarah and
Christine planned to race in their successful C2x as well as the LW1x and various colourful
composite crews, and Phil and Leigh were set to join the fun for weekend events. But
another crazy masters season saw regattas cancelled (Ballarat), moved (Carrum, due to blue green algae), cancelled Albert Park, (due to sewage leak)… leaving the Vics somewhat
underdone in terms of race preparation…in addition, the nationals regatta itself was
relocated to Adelaide after flooding left the Penrith course unsafe. Maybe this sounds like a
minor thing but those of us who competed at nationals in Adelaide in 2014 still bear the
scars…the memories…wind, hail, freezing cold days, huge waves…just the mention of
Westlakes sent the heart racing and the muscles shivering.
Despite this our hopes were high. Training in different boats meant 6-7 on water sessions
per week, with ergs, weight and yoga thrown in. Covid remained quiet- until Tuesday May
25…that evening masks became compulsory and the Covid lockdown threat loomed
large…together with the tendency of the SA premier to rapidly shut the border to its hapless neighbour… Wednesday was an incredibly stressful day as messages flew around (are you on a plane? Has the trailer crossed the border? Will we make it? Did you escape in time??). In addition to our RRC crews, Michelle and I were representing Victoria in the interstate eight and anxiously we watched as one by one crew members brought flights forward, the boat trailer crossed the SA border and rowers presented for Covid tests. By this time Covid testing on arrival (and on d5) and isolation until test results were available was mandatory rowers were not allowed on to the course until a negative Covid test was confirmed. The rules were at times unclear, and some clubs cancelled flights altogether, thinking that they would have to isolate for 5 days. For Richmond it was true sporting tragedy when Kate and Zoe were unable to cross the border before it closed…Michelle brought her flight forward and was one of the last to escape (!). Karen and I arrived earlier Wednesday, and Ainsley crossed the border by car. Sarah and Christine arrived Wednesday evening, before the border closed but not in time to return a negative Covid rest in order to make it to their C2x heat early on Thursday morning. Leigh and Phil remained trapped in Victoria. And so Victorian clubs became a kind of squad, with subs here and there, but with many rowers missing events on day 1. But we stayed positive, while happily testing negative.
Fortunately, the Banks gentlemen received test results at lunchtime and were able to
compete in the mixed quad with Ainsley and myself, bringing home a gold medal! On Day 2
the C4+ – missing Kate but with our good friend Linda Skidmore as a sub – still had a fabulous race where the first three boats finished within a second. Sarah switched with Christine to cox this race and we finished in bronze medal place. In the afternoon, Sarah and Christine achieved a handy fourth final place in their composite A4x crew. Meanwhile Michelle and I brought home a championship gold medal in the E4x and I teamed up with my old friends from ERC in a mixed 4x where we came second to a crew containing two Olympians. Here is the joy of masters racing: a chance to race against (and sometimes with!) Olympians (noteone who has been to the Olympics is forever an Olympian- never an ex). What fun!
Competition was ferocious. On day 3 Christine and Sarah were able to sub in for Kate and
Michelle in the B2x, which made up a little for them missing their favoured C2x. Meanwhile,
my long time 2x partner Jen and I had one of our best ever rows to win the F2x. Later that
morning Michelle stroked a C-age 8 which comprised most of the Vic crew, with Karen in a
rival composite boat. Our bronze medal behind two Queensland crews illustrated the Qld
dominance in women’s eights- ultimately almost all age female eights were won by
Queensland crews. And so, later that day the Vic eight rowed in the interstate race, stroked
by Michelle and, even with a 9- second PB were outclassed by Queensland. What a great
race it was, and in perfect weather conditions. That afternoon also saw Sarah row in the
LWA1x: lightweight 1x is a new event at Nationals and Sarah held off the Mosman sculler to
lead all the way and take out the championship gold medal. A great day!
Day 4 saw our blue-ribbon events: in the morning the B4x went ahead with Jess from the
(also depleted) Carrum squad subbing, together with our good friend Alex Whelan, the one
and only female rower from WA in Adelaide, who was luckily available for both B and C
quads. With Sarah in a rival composite B quad RRC were out in force. After a dominant
display at states the original RRC crew was certainly the favourite, and to their credit
Michelle and Karen overcame the disappointment at missing Kate and Zoe and gave a
winning performance in very windy conditions to take the championship gold medal. The
final afternoon saw Sarah and Christine achieve a great performance in a composite D eight, while in another cracker final, the RRC/ANA C4x crew took the bronze medal.
Our thanks to Dario and Will for the wonderful coaching and encouragement. Well done to
Stu whose squad was represented well. And it was wonderful to hear good wishes from club members, so thanks to those who took an interest! It’s truly great be out competing again and we were blessed with excellent conditions- a fortunate comparison to 2014. But the best events are those you have trained for together and pursued a goal. To be so well
prepared and not get the chance to race is really gut wrenching. So- stay positive. Test
negative. Get vaccinated. Masters National Championship regatta Perth 2022. Be there.