In early August of 2003 ten Sydney University Boat Club members returned home bearing World Championship medals. It ended one of the most spectacular seasons for the club in its 143 year history, which saw the ?blue and gold? boys starring on the domestic, state, national and world stage. In October 2002 SUBC was appointed NSW U23 Development Club by the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS). This reflected the results of SUBC U23 athletes in the previous year as well as the fantastic support structures that Sydney Uni boasts. Athletes have access to dieticians, psychologists, weight training consultants and facilites and academic counsellors, the quality of which equal those of any institute of sport.
Australian Uni Games September 2002
The season began with the long drive to the town of Nagambie about 100 north of Melbourne. The team sent to the Australian University Games would form the nucleus of athletes for the remainder of the year ending in September 2003. For these athletes Uni Games was an opportunity to reset the body clocks and get back into the routine of regular training after the winter break. As SU Sport scholarship holders most were required to compete at University Games.
Strengthening the team were many students for whom this would be the peak of their rowing season. Rowing in terrible conditions were caused by a blustering head wind SUBC achieved the following results:
Men?s Open Eight – 3rd Dan Bourke, Cameron Dinnie, Al Gordon, Francis Hegerty, Patrick Storman, Tim Williams, Andrew Wilson, Oli Zuk and Cox: David Whetton
Men?s Coxed Four – 3rd Dom Bressan, Alex Field, Tom Newsome, Justin Wimpole and Cox: David Whetton
Men?s Lightweight Coxed Four – 1st Matthew Bolster, Simon Strong, James Willmott, Stewart Wood and Cox: Mike Tong
Men?s Double Scull – 3rd Tim Wirth, Tim Mannion
Men?s Single Scull – 6th Stuart Grieves
Men?s Lightweight Scull – 6th Ben Vining
The Men?s and Women?s Clubs combined to win the Trophy for the most successful university overall for the second successive year.
Head of the Charles October 2002
Like Uni Games, a return to regular training and travel overseas were bound up in the Head of the Charles regatta trip. Nearly six thousand competitors, 500 eights, 370 fours, 123 doubles and 470 odd scullers make the Head of the Charles the largest ?head? race in North America and possibly the world. Between 150,000 and 200,000 spectators line the banks of the Charles.
The club sent our first team to test themselves in the premier event of the regatta ? the men?s Championship Eights. A young crew of first and second year students went with the recently appointed Andy Randell as coach. There were 47 entries in the Championship Eights and SUBC finished 22nd in the time of 15:44.3 minutes.
On Sunday evening following the races, a formal university function was conducted at the Charles Hotel as part of the Vice-Chancellors Sesquicentenary Lectures Series. These were conducted around the world to promote connections between Sydney University and its alumni.
The members of the crew were introduced at the beginning of the evening and interviewed by the Chancellor, who was present, and the rowers spoke of their performances and impressions of the regatta.
Nepean RC Regatta November 2002
At last heavy training had begun and squad members eagerly watched their fitness levels rising. This phase of the season involves long rows on the Lane Cove River, long bike rides around West Head and long runs around university. Joe?s ?Wednesday Evening Land Sessions? were particularly dreaded as they involved countless push ups, sit ups, sprints and other exercises designed to reduce athletes in 90 minutes to a quivering mess.
At this time the Nepean Regatta offered some valuable, race-distance (ie. 2000m) experience. The squads were becoming more defined and pairs combinations were becoming concrete. Most of Sydney?s clubs had turned out that day. Many senior athletes chose not to compete but the strongest U23 athletes from NSW were there, making the outcome of racing a valuable indication of our future selection chances.
The results were impressive and spirits were high after taking out the Open Eights race at the end of the day. Celebrations were brief though? we would be riding our bikes 50km from Penrith to back home to Linley Point.
Head of the Parramatta November 2002
Two weeks later the Sydney University eight marshalled at Homebush Bay for the start of the 4500m Head of the Parramatta. The majority of our training now was in pairs and singles. Twice a week these ?small boats? would combine as fours or an eight. This regatta, run by Sydney Rowing Club, provided still more high-rate, high-intensity work to contrast to the long, slow kilometres we were accumulating during the last months.
Although there were only two other senior crews in the open category ? Drummoyne Rowing Club (DRC) and Sydney Rowing Club (SRC) ? we knew the time trial would be difficult. Also racing were the GPS First Eights which have been seen to occasionally beat club crews.
Uni exploded out of the blocks and kept the intensity high without any concern for the longer distance. Quickly passing slower crews, the eight was steadily catching Drummoyne (ahead) and pulling away from Sydney Rowing Club (behind). A handy and early morale boosting win for the Uni Lions.
Our collection of medals was steadily growing.
The Club Eight (Head of the Parramatta) Francis Hegerty, Tim Williams, Mark Stagg, Mike Valli, Nick Hudson, Andrew Wilson, Al Gordon, Dan Bourke and Cox: Chris Smith
National Time Trial December 2002
The goal for most SUBC athletes was to gain selection in Australian U23 crews. The bulk of our training was done in pairs and singles ? the selection events ? except for occasional deviations into ?big boats? like the Head of the Parramatta. Every two weeks for the last two months, 5000m ITC Time Trials had been held on the Nepean River which contributed towards Australian selection. The culmination of these and the equivalent ITCs held in other states was the National Time Trial held at Nepean.
Participation at this regatta was by invitation only. Athletes had to be within 4% of the winning prognostic at their domestic time trial a fortnight before. Three University pairs and two (?) single scullers were attending. In the previous year U23 rowers were excluded from this regatta but our inclusion in 2002 would give a chance to observe how Australia?s top athletes operated and then to compete against them.
Mike Valli and Mark Stagg fell ill just before the regatta suffering from a throat infection. Their respective pair partners Tim Williams and Ian Allsop were forced to attend the regatta in singles. Nevertheless these results were extremely exciting. During training the three uni pairs of Ryan/Hegerty, Allsop/Stagg and Williams/Valli were of comparable speed. The results of Ryan/Hegerty showed that there were three pairs for whom U23 selection was a realistic goal. Nick Hudson had achieved equally exciting results in the single. Willmott/Bolster were on the pace of the U23 lightweight pairs.
Every regatta from now on would count towards selection. It was time to step up the intensity over summer beginning with annual camp in January.
State Champs February 2003
Annual camp was brutal. Two weeks of high-intensity training at Jindabyne where the boys eat, sleep and breathe rowing. Yet the hard work would place us in a position of strength for the ?business end? of the season. The physical ability, technical focus and mental toughness of each athlete had improved greatly.
The NSW State Championship would be the first important measurement of just how effective this preparation had been. This year the top crews from Queensland, ACT and Victoria were attending. As a result six of the top eight heavyweight U23 pairs and five of the top six U23 single scullers from the National Time Trial were present. It was a similar story in the Open categories.
Sydney University performed well against some hot competition. It soon became clear that SUBC and Qld Uni had the hottest Senior B squads and a rivalry started that finished with four members of each club in the Australian Senior B Eight.
Sydney Uni took out the Club Championship Trophy for second year running and apart from the B?s in sweep Nick Hudson shone in the U23 Sculls and Tim O?Callaghan showed he had made the step from Senior B to the A ranks with a superb row in the heavy A pairs to run fourth in Australia?s hottest field.
From a spectator point of view a highlight was the Men?s Eights – the last race on Sunday. With all the small boat selection worries out of the way it was time for the big men to flaunt their egos and beat their chests. A spectacular field of nine crews thundered down the course with UTS grabbing the honours in 5.37 and only a few seconds covering the first five crews with SUBC just edging out UQ for fourth place. Many long time Aussie rowing tragics considered this one of the great eights races of our local rowing history.
National Selection Regatta May 2003
The time had arrived. Ten months of training would be judged on one week of racing. The top Sydney Uni crews packed up their boats and belongings and headed out to Penrith. The selection regatta is perhaps the toughest week in the whole year of racing. Even the World Championships cannot equal the physical and mental strain that athletes are subject to.
Three races every two days had been scheduled beginning with heats, semis and finals for ?small boats? (pairs, singles). Following this would be a rotation of individuals into different ?big boat? (fours, doubles) combinations.
Leading into this regatta the national rankings for SUBC rowers in their various categories were:
Heavyweight U23 Sweep Matt Ryan – Francis Hegerty – Tim Williams – Michael Valli – Ian Allsop – Mark Stagg –
Heavyweight U23 Sculling Nick Hudson –
Lightweight U23 Sculling Stewart Old –
Lightweight U23 Sweep Matt Bolster – James Wilmott –
Throughout the regatta all U23s were achieving extremely fast times. The U23 and Open age groups were combined for the selection racing and some U23s regularly beat the seniors placing them at the edge of the senior team. The final rankings for the week are below. This who were selected into Australian Squads for final trials in Canberra are noted.
Hegety, Willams , Valli, Ryan ? Aussie U23 Eight Hudson – Aussie U23 Quad O?Callaghan ? Aussie Sen A Lightweight Four
National Champs April 2003
One week later the team travelled to Lake Barrington, Tasmania for the National Rowing Championships. By this stage living out of a suitcase was becoming a matter-of-fact experience for the squad. as SUBC athletes made the trip south.
The regatta began on Monday with ?small boat? heats and ended on Sunday with the Kings Cup and Interstate regatta. In those seven days the Sydney University Boat Club gathered a pile of national championship medals confirming beyond any doubt the club?s nation-wide dominance at Junior, Youth and U23 level.
Overall SUBC athletes won seven National Titles ? some sort of Club record including U23 Men?s Eight, Interstate Youth Eight, U 23 Four, Lightweight Pair, Four and Quad, Junior Four.
World U23 Championships July 2003
The National Selection Regatta and subsequent trials at Canberra saw five athletes joining the Australian U23 team. Nick Hudson was chosen in the heavyweight quad scull and Francis Hegerty, Matt Ryan, Michael Valli and Tim Williams went into the heavyweight eight. No other club or institute in Australia could develop four men?s representatives except the Queensland Academy of Sport who?s four rowers and coxwain made up the balance of the eight.
Following Canberra, these athletes had one week to move home for two months ? the quad to Canberra and the eight to Brisbane. This period was incredibly busy as studies and exams were completed by correspondence and the training load was great. Nevertheless both crews joined the rest of the Australian team in one piece in Kuala Lumpur on the way to Zurich.
The tour included one lead up regatta ? the Lucerne Rowing World Cup Regatta ? and then the World U23 Rowing Regatta in Belgrade, Serbia. In Lucerne all Aussie U23 crews demonstrated that they will one day match the ?big boys?. The quad finished tenth and the eight finished ninth, beating many senior crews in the process.
In Belgrade the results were equally remarkable. Of the eleven crews sent, four gold, four silver and once bronze medals were won. The quad were crowned world champions and the eight won bronze.
The tour lasted four weeks. Upon arriving home the boys were welcomed by their families and a month of total relaxation.
World Junior Championships August 2003
While Belgrade 2003 was in full swing, the SUBC Junior Coxed Four had been training. One month earlier Harry Horwitz-Rourke, Gus Cambell, Rupert Sheriden and Andrew Carey had been selected to represent Australia in this boat at the Junior World Championships in Shineas, Greece. They departed one week before the end of the U23 tour.
Following a training camp in Italy the Junior team travelled to Greece. What they were confronted with was beyond what they imagined. The course was buffeted by a massive wind which did not weaken throughout the entire competition. In fact, many crews sunk during their heats. As a result, the racing was shortened to 1000m for the repechages, semis and finals.
With these circumstances taken on board, the four got on with the job. They won their final and claimed the gold medal for Australia for the second successive year.
All in all a huge season ? let?s hope we can go on from here in 2003-4. Our Head Coach has defected to Queensland but we have an excellent replacement in Marty Rabjohns the winning Junior Four coach of 2003.
We hope to see Nipper (Tim O?Callaghan) in the Aussie Lightweight Four and as it is an Olympic year we are looking forward to new SUBC Olympian. Hope to see Dan Burke and Al Gordon back in the Olympic Eight, hope to see our Senior B guys take the next steps towards senior A and our Junior program fire up again.
All the best to all at SUBC for the coming season.