Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Thursday, March 21, 2013

2013 Sydney International Rowing Regatta

Dawn at the Sydney International Rowing Centre, Penrith – Finish Tower on left.

HTBS’s Louis Petrin writes from Australia,

More than 2,000 competitors will take part in 110 events at the Sydney International Rowing Regatta – a meet that includes the 2013 Australian Open Rowing Championships, the Australian Open Schools Rowing Championships, the King’s Cup and the Queen’s Cup.

This week, 18 to 24 March, has seen some fine rowing in Sydney at the SIRC rowing course in Penrith, the course used for the 2000 Olympics, and continues until Sunday, 24 March.

Chatting to our overseas visitors from USA and U.K., they all comment on how wonderful to have temperatures of 27°C (81°F) with no wind – just perfect for a rowing regatta. We have visitors from other countries, too, such as New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Portugal, Hungary, Germany, Estonia, France and China.

Samsung World Rowing Cup
This year, the regatta is unique as it incorporates for the first time here in Samsung World Rowing Cup (round 1), the fifth time a global rowing event has been held in Australia. The events will be held from 22-24 March.

Live video streaming of the finals at no charge can viewed at beginning this weekend (22-24 March). USRowing has entered a team of eight crews for this opening regatta of the 2013 international season, including six Olympic medallists. Great Britain, which topped the medal ranks at the 2012 London Olympics, will line up at the 2000 Olympic Games course with a record number of nine Olympic medallists, including five London gold medallists.

Other events to be rowed are the national Australian Rowing Championships (18-22 March), Kings and Queens Cups Interstate Regatta (23 March) and the Australian Open Schools Rowing Championships (22-24 March).

Australian Rowing Championships
The Australian Rowing Championships is an annual rowing event that determines Australia’s national rowing champions and guides the selection of Australian representative crews for World Championships and the Olympic Games. It is Australia’s premier regatta, with states, clubs and schools sending their best crews. The Championships commence with the National Regatta – men’s, women’s and lightweight events in open, under 23, under 19, under 17 and school age categories. Rowers at the National Regatta race in their local club colours with composite crews permitted.

The first proposal for a National Championship was submitted by NSW rowing association at the Australian Amateur Rowing Council meeting in 1946 and it failed to gain support outside NSW. Kevyn Webb of NSW was the driving force behind these proposals, being presented at each of the Council meetings up to 1960. That’s the persistence of a rower!

Kevyn Webb sculling in 1960.
(photo from

Finally, a report was tabled at the 1961 Australian Rowing Council meeting prepared by Webb and the six States voted unanimously to hold the first National Championship Regatta on Lake Wendouree at Ballarat, in 1962. The National Championships became an annual event in 1974.

The Australian Women’s Rowing Council conducted their first National Championships events in 1968 and thereafter conducted the event annually. The men’s and women’s associations merged in 1979 but jointly conducted their Championships from 1976.
The Championships traditionally conclude with the Kings and Queens Cups Interstate Regatta – currently six events competed by state representative crews or scullers selected by the state rowing associations.

The King’s Cup – Interstate Men’s Eight
The King’s Cup is one of the most anticipated events in the Australian rowing calendar, and is competed for during the annual Interstate Regatta. With a history that dates back to the late 19th century, interstate rowing boasts some of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in Australian Sport. Rowers compete for their state in eight crews, men’s and women’s open and under 21 eights, single sculls and quad and four.

Victoria and New South Wales commenced inter-colonial racing in eight-oared boats in 1878 when the Victorian Rowing Association invited New South Wales oarsmen from the Sydney and the Mercantile clubs to boat crews for a race on the lower Yarra River over about four miles, with Victoria winning by two lengths.

Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania all showed an interest in entering crews from the mid-1880s but disagreements over definitions of amateur status resulted in inconsistencies in eligibility criteria in the early decades. New South Wales held firm to a view that not just professional sportsmen and those employed around boats would be deemed non-amateurs but also all manual labourers. Such debates were common around the world at this time and continued for quite a few years. The other states had relaxed this view by 1899.

Queensland and Tasmania first entered crews in 1885 and then Queensland raced regularly from 1890. From 1899 South Australia were racing annually. Following Federation the race became the interstate eight-oared championship with Tasmania and West Australia boating crews regularly by 1906.

However, since 1921 the crews have competed for the King’s Cup. The trophy had been won by an AIF crew at the Royal Peace Regatta held in London in 1919 following the cessation of hostilities at the end of WWI and was presented to the victorious eight-oared boat by King George V. In time, and in against dogged resistance from the Australian War Memorial, the Victorian Rowing Association petitioned the King to express his intention for the Cup, and at his command it became the perennial trophy to be presented to the winning state representative men’s eight at the annual Australian Rowing Championships.

King’s Cup

This year, the NSW crew will be stroked Dan Noonan crew as they try to set a new record of “six in a row” for NSW in this event.

The Queen Elizabeth II Cup – Interstate Women’s Eight
The result of the first Interstate Women’s Four Championship in 1920 was a win for South Australia. The next year, the United Licensed Victuallers Association (ULVA) of Queensland presented a unique sterling silver trophy to the Australian Women’s Rowing Council. The trophy was crafted by London silversmiths to depict Dorothy Arnold, the petite girl from Mannum who stroked the winning crew for South Australia. She is holding her oar and dressed in the rowing garb of her time, namely a floppy hat, sailor top and billowing bloomers.

Dorothy Arnold holding the trophy modeled on her at the time of winning the first race.

Up until 1998 the largest crewed boat was Fours. In 1999 the women’s interstate race was changed to an event for Eights with the ULVA trophy becoming the Queen Elizabeth II Trophy, or simply the Queen’s Cup, as the prize.

Australian Open School Rowing Championships
The events rowed include single sculls, coxed Fours, coxed Quadruples and Eights. This event has attracted international interest and successful overseas crews will come from Great Britain, the USA, Ireland and Italy.

Gavirate, South Africa’s St. Stithians College, Ireland’s St Joseph’s Galway College and British Abingdon School who will bring their National Champion schoolboy’s Eight, will take on the best Australian crews in the national schoolboy’s Eight. From the U.S., Saratoga, NY, has brought over their girls’ Eight, having won the prestigious Head of the Charles race in October. They will join Italian school Gavirate to contest the National schoolgirls’ Eight.

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