International Regatta Centre, Penrith 29th March 2014
In sport there is often talk of the feeling and result that occurs when a bat, racquet or club hits a ball in exactly the right spot and the “shot” sails exactly in the direction, speed and distance intended - the so-called "sweet spot". So in rowing a crew can hit a rhythm that allows the boat to reach optimum speed – and this appeared to be what the New South Wales King’s Cup eight achieved in yesterday’s 2014 King’s Cup race for the interstate men’s eight oared championship held at the Sydney International Regatta Centre at Penrith.
In the draw conducted at the end of February NSW had drawn station seven, the outside lane on the northern side of the course. With arch-rivals Victoria in lane 2, Western Australia in 3, Queensland in 4, South Australia in 5 and Tasmania in 6. Quite often the breeze at Penrith can come in from the south west in the afternoon making the northern lanes slightly less favoured but conditions for the 2014 King’s and Queen’s Cup Regatta were beautifully calm on a warm still day.
Looking from the grandstand at the big screen the NSW, Victorian and South Australian eights seemed to get an early jump on their rivals and pushed out to a canvas lead after 200 metres but as the cameras panned back for full view of the field around five hundred metres gone it became clear that as the crews had settled after their start the “light blues” of New South Wales had broken well clear. And so the split times showed with NSW grabbing a two second advantage over South Australia and Victoria as they covered the first 500 metres in 1.21.69. The crowd in the grandstand emitted an audible gasp as it became clear that New South Wales had grabbed what was likely to be a race winning lead so early.
The lead lengthened in the second 500 as the great rhythm generated by the experienced trio in the NSW stern (Fergus Pragnell – stroke, Matt Ryan 7 and Nick Purnell 6) flowed through the boat. The crew was able to drop to a lower rating but hold good boat speed. They moved through the second 500 in 1.23 to take a four second lead at the thousand metre mark over Victoria with South Australia only 0.7 behind in third.
At this stage veteran commentator Roger Wilson was already calling New South Wales' 7th consecutive victory in this event and partisan NSW supporters were getting concerned that this might somehow jinx our crew.
Fortunately this was not the case and the crew seemed to cruise effortlessly through the 1500 well ahead by nearly six seconds and held their lead as they approached the 2000 metre finish line to win by close to two lengths. In a tight struggle for second place South Australia edged out Victoria for second place by 0.35 seconds.
The final result: NSW 5.33.2: South Australia 5.38.35: Victoria 5.38.70
This win extended New South Wales winning streak to seven and set a new record for the state in this event.
The winning crew had a few changes in 2014. With experienced rowers Dan Noonan, Sam Loch and Frank Hegerty not available due to retirement or other work commitments the NSW selectors chose Alex Lloyd, Nick Wheatley and Jack Hargreaves as their replacements. Alex joined his pair partner Spencer Turrin (who had his first KC row in the 2013 crew). Alex and Spencer have been Australia’s top performing pair oar over the last eighteen months. Joining Alex were the 2014 National Champion U23 pair of Nick Wheatley and Jack Hargreaves.
The crew was boated as Toby Lister (cox) Fergus Pragnell (Stroke), Matt Ryan 7, Nick Purnell 6, Alex Lloyd 5, Spencer Turrin 4, Nick Wheatley 3, Jack Hargreaves 2 and James Chapman Bow. Coaches were Nick Garratt and Mark Prater.
The crew used a new Empacher eight – the “Beth Spence” which will be formally christened this coming Thursday 3rd April at the main quad at Sydney University.
The NSW crew wore black armbands to remember James Chapman’s grandfather who passed away this week and who had been planning to be on hand to watch his grandson chase his seventh King’s Cup win.
Chapman has now won seven Kings’s Cups - 2004 and 2008 and then 2010 – 2014 along with Fergus Pragnell and Matt Ryan who have been in all consecutive winning crews from 2008-2014.