Sydney Uni Women’s Eight finished a strong second in the Gallagher Great Race on the Waikato River in Hamilton, New Zealand on Sunday, September 13.
Pitted against crews from Melbourne and hosts Waikato, Sydney Uni remained close to Waikato University who led the way from the East Bank in the unique 3.85km intervarsity spectacle.
Teams rowed upstream, negotiating their way under three bridges for the women’s Bryan Gould Cup.
Led by U23 world champion Jackie Kiddle in stroke, Waikato’s tactics forced Sydney into the strong current. This pressure meant Sydney had to really work for it and saw them come in second at 16:21.11 behind Trans-Tasman rival Waikato who ended in open water at 15:40.60. Melbourne dropped behind completing the course in a time of 18:14.35.
The race culminated a week of activities. Wednesday morning saw the crews formally welcomed to the land by the local Maori, who own the land on which Waikato University resides, this ceremony is known as a Powhiri. This was a traditional ceremony, with many aspects, primarily to welcome crews to join the local ‘family.’ The welcoming function was followed by a photo shoot of all crews on the lawn of the University.
Wednesday night was the Gallagher Dinner, where all contributors and notable alumni were joined by the crews for a gala style dinner. All crews were required to perform a song and dance for the locals, Sydney University was noted as being the best performance, taking on the classic ‘Eagle Rock,’and as such was welcomed back onto the stage for an encore.
On Thursday morning the international women’s crews were invited to have a go at the Avantidrome, home of track cycling in New Zealand. This was an interesting experience with the majority of the crew having ridden road bikes for rowing training, having to make the adjustments for a fixed gear bike. A notable performance was seen here by former Cyclist Laura Triggs. Thursday night was an important part of the weeks racing with crews competing in ‘The Ingham Hyundai and Schick Construction & Cartage Indoor Row.’ This was a 500m sprint erg, with each competing crew split up into four pairs for the ergs. Sydney University had a very promising result on the erg, falling just short of the host crew Waikato, whilst comfortably defeating Melbourne University. The result of this erg meant that Sydney University would start on the Western Bank for Sunday’s race.
Friday and Saturday was full of training and last minute preparations for the race, including start practices with all crews together, in preparation for the live TV-coverage the crews were to be part of on Sunday.
Led by travelling Coach Ester Verburg, the SUBC Gallagher Great Race 2015 squad of 9 thoroughly enjoyed their time abroad, making the most of their spare time and experiencing what the region had to offer. The Crew consisted of cox William Raven, stroke to bow, Olivia Ashby, Carina Simpson, Kate Pearse, Fiona Ewing, Lucie Holden, Laura Triggs, Candice Williams, Loren Parsons and reserve Rebecca Humphris.
The Sydney girls should be very proud of their performance, having closed the gap from the last few attempts at challenging for the Gallagher Great Race, whilst learning lots both technically and mentally on how to race, placing the entire crew in a good place to step up from as the summer season progresses.
This battle also provides a springboard for the 2015 Australian Boat Race to be held on Sunday October 25 in Melbourne, a race not yet won by our Women’s crew.
Waikato University 15min 40.60sec, 1; Sydney University 16:21.11, 2; Melbourne University 18:14.35, 3.