In late 2007 a group of NSW’s senior rowers mostly at the AIS got together and started rowing what would be the basis of the 2008 NSW King’s Cup eight. After only two wins in thirty years NSW was able to grab the 2008 Cup in a nail biting finish – winning by just 0.21 seconds after a tight race in which NSW and Victoria were never more than four tenths of a second apart.
With follow up wins in 2009 and 2010 NSW arrived at Westlakes looking to emulate the great run of the crews of the mid 1970′s (NSW had won 1974-78) and knowing that Victoria was keen to reassert their dominance in this event.
The team had prepared with a final camp 23-25 February at Penrith doing some excellent racing work and testing their pace against the NSW Youth Eight. At the King’s Cup Lunch on 25th February over 200 rowing supporters in NSW cam together to wish all New South Wales crews well at the 2011 Interstate Regatta. At this lunch KC coxen Toby Lister spoke of the passion within the crew to achieve a fourth consecutive win.
Conditions at the Westlakes on interstate regatta day this year were freshing with a steady tail wind increasing in intensity as the day advanced. Sasha Belonogoff representing NSW in the President’s Cup sculls came home very strongly to grab a bronze medal. Then followed a wonderful row by our Women’s eight – although they did not manage a medal they were competitive throughout the race and showed a dramatic improvement on the performance of the last two years.
The Men’s Youth eight threw down the gauntlet to the favoured Victorian crew and led all the way to the 1600 metre mark before succumbing to their polished opponents. An excellent performance and only a few seconds off the record time set by the winners.
In the King’s Cup NSW and Victoria were drawn alongside each other in lanes 6 and 7 on the far side of the course. The Victorians had added returning Olympic gold medallist Drew Ginn to their boat and John Linke also joined the crew. Will Lockwood missed out through injury. For NSW Dom Grimm from the 2009 and 2010 ncrews had withrawn from selection due to injury. In the final selection Brodie Buckland made it into the team at four while Francis Hegerty, who missed 2009 and 2010 with injury, made it into the three seat. James Chapman (already a three time winner) grabbed to final spot in bow seat and Nick Hudson (2009,2010) was selected as reserve. Dan Noonan was once again in the stroke seat. After a poor NSW Championships Dan bounced back at the national regatta with top performances in the single, double and quad sculls. Triple winners Fergus Pragnell and Matt Ryan were in seven and six respectively – the same positions they occupied in 2009 and 2010 and Nick Purnell filled the five set for the second year running. Sam Loch, also a triple winner, was back in the two seat and Toby Lister once agin steered the boat. Nick Garratt and NSWIS Head Coach Curtis Jordan were appointed as coaches.
The boat itself was once again the “Gavin Brown” – a heavyweight Empacher named after after the former Vice Chancellor of Sydney University. Gavin Brown has passed away on Christmas day 2010 and the boat was on display at his memorial service at the Great Hall at Sydney University just prior to its trip to Adelaide.
The last NSW oarsman to achieve four King’s Cup victories was Ian Clubb (1975-78) and as the crew prepared for the 2011 four of their number stood to equal this record with a victory in 2011.
At the NSW State Team dinner on the Saturday night Olympic silver medallist Frank Hegerty spoke about some of motivating factors behind the resurgence of NSW in this event. The crew faced the race on Sunday with confidence but awareness of the strength of their opponents. After a delay of a few minutes the 2011 King’s Cup got underway at 1.48 pm. Victoria started quickly but as soon as the pace settled the NSW eight started picking up seats on the Vics and moved into the lead as the crews reached the 500 mark in 1min 19 secs with NSW 0.83 ahead. The powerful ‘Blues” were now into race rhythmn behind stroke Noonan and with cox Lister calling the lead the crew opened up around 700 metres to quickly take their lead to 2.5 seconds. With the fast tailwind making conditions difficult the leaders were now being called as likely winners by race commentator Roger Wilson as they crossed the one kilometre in 2 min 39. The crew was now concentrating on a mistake free run to the line as the Victorians tried to bridge the gap. At the 1500 it was still New South Wales by 3.2 seconds and they went to the finish first in a new King’s Cup record time of 5 mins 22.08 seconds with Victoria second, South Australia third then Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and ACT.
For Matt Ryan, Fergus Pragnell, Sam Loch and James Chapman this win was their fourth ( four in a row for Ryan, Pragnell and Loch and 2004, 2008,9 and 11 for Chapman).
The Interstate Regatta for 2012 will be at Champion Lakes in Perth on 12th March.
Photo courtesy of Geogie Lee