St Clair sisters Carla and Steph Laughton capped a magical six-month surf lifesaving season today by dominating the BP Surf Rescue New Zealand IRB championships at Warrington Beach near Dunedin.
The siblings were untouchable amid perfect conditions in the open women's ranks, winning all four titles - the tube rescue, mass rescue, assembly rescue and single rescue.
It also gave them the satisfaction of winning gold medals in all three New Zealand championship carnivals, beginning in October with the State NZ Pool Championships in Hamilton and including their open women's canoe title at the State NZ surf lifesaving championships in Gisborne two weeks ago.
Carla, 27, explained it was all part of the culture they're helping to develop at St Clair.
"We try and promote all-round athletes in the club and give them any opportunity to compete in the three main national championships," Carla Laughton said. "It flows through to our lifeguarding as well and we've been the top club for lifeguard proficiency around here for the last few years.
We didn't expect to do as well as we have done - we've just been trying to build on what we've got but it definitely makes it pretty satisfying when we come come away with gold medals at every national event and shows that we're on the right track."
Their efforts helped push St Clair into third overall at the three-day IRB event on 47 points, comfortably ahead of fourth-placed Waimarama (Hawke's Bay) and just behind Christchurch's Sumner.
There was clear daylight behind winners East End from Taranaki, who collected 107 points over the carnival, helped by the performance of world champions Andrew Cronin and James Morwood, who won three of the four premier races and also grabbed the teams race title for good measure.
Their only blemish was a second-placing behind Sumner's Blair Quane and Simon Williams in the assembly rescue, although Cronin wasn't too disheartened by that.
"We've never managed to win all five races - last year we won all four premier races but only got second in the teams race - but it was nice for Sumner to get the win," Cronin said. "They had one of their life members pass away yesterday and it was great they could pick up a premier win and dedicate it to him."
Sumner's departed life member was long-time IRB stalwart Murray Lord, whose favorite event just happened to be the assembly race. Around 60 crews staged a drive-past in his memory before competition began today, while senior crew Steven Parrat and George Thomas completed their own special gesture by winning the overall crown in their division.
The under-21 division proved the most competitive, with the four titles being shared between Papamoa (assembly rescue), Mount Maunganui (mass rescue), East End (single rescue) and Pauanui, who won Friday's tube rescue.
It was the East End crew of Jared Gray and Scott Nelson that
displayed the greater consistency, however, taking out the overall
Next year's IRB championships will be held at the other end of the country, at Northland's Waipu Cove.