NZ crews faced tough conditions and tough competitionWednesday, 26 February 2020
The NZ Surf Boat Crews, known as the “Oar Blacks”, travelled to Australia for the annual Trans-Tasman Surf Boat Challenge, held at Mollymook Beach on Saturday, February 15.
NZ was represented by Muriwai (Open Men), Titahi Bay (Open Women), Whangamata (Under 23 Men) and Orewa (Under 23 Women).
The crews had all been showing good form leading into the event, with consistent performances at the Eastern Region and North Island Championships in the preceding weeks.
Big, messy surf at Mollymook on the Friday led to the Trans-Tasman event being shifted south to Long Beach for the Saturday.
While the surf conditions were better at Long Beach, the hefty shore break proved challenging for all crews, making clean starts the key to a good race.
Things looked promising early on with the under 23 women’s crew beating their counter parts off the line and holding strong for New Zealand’s first win.
However it would be the only win with the Australian crews dominating the remaining 11 races and taking out the Trans-Tasman Challenge for the eighth consecutive year.
Team manager Kathryn Wright says the hosts, Team Navy Australian Surf Rowers League, put on a fantastic event.
She says leading into the international test, the team was intently focussed on the job ahead of them.
“As the teams lined up shoulder to shoulder with the Australians for the national anthems, the nervous energy was palpable.”
She says the carnival was not without its challenges. When the competition relocated to Long Beach for day two, the beach was sheltered from the cyclonic swell, but the shorebreak was pumping.
“We don't see shorebreaks of this magnitude on our New Zealand beaches, so it was a big adjustment for our crews.”
She says the New Zealand crews handled it well all getting off the start cleanly each race with only one Australian crew being checked by the shorebreak during the Trans-Tasman event.
“Although we didn't get the result we had hoped for the squad performed admirably and wore the fern with honour and integrity.”
Kathryn says the team took away a number of learnings applicable to surfboat rowing, and as a High Performance team in general.
Special mention must go to the U23 Men’s New Zealand development crew, the Whangamata U23.
“This crew were the most outstanding performers of the tour, they were quick off the start and pushed the Australian U23 Men’s crew every stroke,” Kathryn says.
“Special mention must also go to Steve Pipe (sweep U23 Men) and Mark McCartney (sweep U23 Women) who each have 40+ years’ experience in surf.
“These two gentlemen brought a wealth of wisdom and played a pivotal role in facilitating the cohesion amongst the squad.”
Team Captain Liam McMaster supports the praise for the U23 development crews.
“The U23 Women’s were the only New Zealand crew to win a race, and the U23 Men’s crew not only came close to beating the Australian U23 crew, they also gave the New Zealand Open Men’s crew a good run for their money.
“Overall it was a great weekend’s racing against some very impressive competition. I think everyone learned a lot from racing 1:1 against crews of that calibre.”
Photo: Malcolm Trees
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