Six premier titles; 22 medals overall; a swag of athletes in NZ trials - it's fair to say Central Rowing Performance Centre (RPC) crews made the most of the Bankstream national rowing championships, which finished on Saturday at Lake Karapiro.
After a disappointing nationals in 2013, the RPC squad, based at Wairau, bounced back in style, thrilling their supporters and coaching staff.
"It's been an exceptional week," said head coach Mark Stallard, ". . . the most enjoyable summer of rowing I've had for a long time.
"We are the smallest RPC in numbers, so to be right up there with the others was exceptional. Overall, we probably won more premier titles than anyone else. It says a lot about the coaching team and the environment and the management. I'm blessed having Marian Horwill, Mark James working for the team."
Asked to single out a highlight of the regatta, Stallard said it was hard among so many. "The new redcoats . . . Jamie Hunter, Karl Manson, Ruby Tew and Holly Greenslade, certainly sensational . . . Rebecca Scown and Louise [Trappitt] winning the pair, that was against all odds, and then the men's four, with two homegrown boys who hadn't been involved in the summer squad [Ian Seymour and Tufi Sele] beating highly-fancied summer squad athletes is pretty awesome.
"The real highlight was being involved with the whole group - our summer squad athletes and our Blenheim-based athletes. It's just a pretty cool bunch.
"It would have been nice to win both the eights and we were oh so close to the men's eight . . . it was a magnificent effort . . . two of the guys actually changed sides of the boat this week, Joe Wright and Axel Dickinson . . . a really courageous thing to do. We've also got two youngsters in Brook [Robertson] and Tom Murray. It's a good mix of a crew."
While the premier men's and women's eights were edged off the top of the podium in the regatta's blue riband events, there was plenty of gold medal glory to celebrate elsewhere during three days of finals.
After claiming gold, silver and bronze on Thursday, Central RPC tapped an even richer vein of precious metal on Friday.
Leading the way in superb conditions were Marlborough's Manson brothers. Fresh from a victory in the premier quad final on Thursday, siblings Karl and Robbie, both national reps in 2013, combined for a stunning victory in the premier double. The Auckland RPC crew of Mahe Drysdale and Michael Arms took an early lead over Central and Southern, however in the second half of the race the Manson brothers began to edge back into contention. Then at the 1500m mark the Central duo upped their rating to 39. They surged away from the tiring Auckland crew to claim gold by four seconds. Karl Manson said, while it was the siblings' aim to win the double, they were "happy and relieved to pull it off'.
"It was pretty cool to do that together. This was the first time we have been put together at nationals so it was great to row together in both events and win both of them."
The Manson's father, Greg, was lakeside at Karapiro and Karl was quick to point out that although their father had won a couple of national quad titles, he had never won the double, "so we've got one up on him".
Central also grabbed gold in the other feature races of the day, the men's and women premier coxless fours.
In the women's four Auckland RPC, Southern and Central were evenly matched out of the start but Central soon took the lead, maintaining a solid 36 rating through the body of the race. They lifted their rating in the last 250 metres to hold off both Auckland and Southern who finished with barely a bow ball between them. The Central combination comprised Rebecca Scown, Linda Matthews, Ruby Tew and Holly Greenslade with both Tew and Greenslade claiming their first championship titles.
The men's four turned into a hot contest between Waikato and Central RPC. Central went into the race as favourites and didn't disappoint, moving out to a one and a half lead at the 1000m mark. Waikato moved back on them and by the 500 metre mark were charging and closing on Central. But Central answered each challenge from Waikato and went on to win in a tight finish. The Central four comprised Chris Harris, Ian Seymour, Tufi Sele and James Hunter.
In the women's premier pair, Scown and Louise Trappitt stormed to the lead and stayed there, well ahead of the Auckland RPC crew who finished second with Southern third. The Central crew won in 6:56.26, less than three seconds shy of the world best time. Trappitt and Scown also won the pair title in 2011.
Central's fifth gold on Friday went to the women's under-22 coxless pair of Tew and Greenslade, who prevailed by nearly five seconds.
Other medals came in the women's under-20 single where Zoe McBride picked up silver and Jackie Kiddle bronze and the men's under-20 single where James McAnallen claimed bronze ahead of team-mates Ryan Wilson (4th) and Harrison Somerville (6th).
The men's premier pair was dominated by Olympians Hamish Bond and James Lassche with Cental duo Chris Harris and James Hunter second.
The women's premier lightweight single was won by Lucy Strack, Central's Louise Ayling second, Zoe McBride fourth and Sophie Mackenzie fifth. Kerri Gowler and Erin-Monique O'Brien finished third, claiming bronze in the women's premier double final.
Former world champion Duncan Grant was forced to withdraw from the premier lightweight single final with a rib injury.
Saturday's finals began well for Central, James McAnallen and Harrison Somerville picking up a bronze in the men's under-20 double.
Next up was the men's premier coxed four, contested by clubs only, with the prized Boss Rooster at stake. The Picton combination of Joseph Sullivan, Steven Cottle, Ryan Gaudin, Kieran Gaudin and cox Trent Burbidge had high hopes of bringing the Rooster back to Picton but were shut out by Waikato, who dominated from the outset and won with a length to spare. Avon RC were third.
"Waikato were a bit too good," said Keiran Gaudin. "We gave it everything we had, but probably needed a bit more time together. We got better every time we got in the boat."
The composite crew of the Gaudin brothers, Blenheim's Elliot Harvey and Wairau's Chris James picked up a silver in the senior quad and added a bronze in the senior eight alongside four rowers from the Petone club.
Ruby Tew and Holly Greenslade, two of the outstanding premier rowers at the regatta with three golds and a silver apiece, than added the under-20 coxless pair title to the under-22 version they had claimed the previous day, bringing the Central RPC gold medal total to seven.
A silver to Nadja Hyson and Jackie Kiddle in the women's under-20 double was followed by Central's last gold, claimed by Sophie Mackenzie and Louise Ayling with a commanding performance in the premier lightweight double final. Zoe McBride and Jess Paton grabbed the bronze.
In the women's eights where the strong Southern RPC crew maintained their stranglehold on a race they have won for the past three years. Southern finished just over a length ahead of Central, with Waikato RPC third.
The men's big boat finale turned into a classic, with Central leading early before Waikato pulled alongside with 500 to go. Waikato took the title by less than a second, "a quarter of a canvas", according to Stallard who admitted they "got beaten by a better crew".
A highlight of the final day was a thrilling men's premier single final between three of the world's finest oarsmen, Hamish Bond, Mahe Drysdale and Eric Murray. The final 100m had the crowd on their feet as Bond led with Drysdale charging for the line. In the end it was Bond who prevailed in a time of 6:41.34 with Drysdale second and Murray third.
The small Wairau contingent at Karapiro were "close but no cigar" to any medals, according to head coach Dave Williamson. "The standard was pretty high, and our club girls probably didn't get going until too late in the season, they were fit, but not rowing fit," he added.
"But having said that, the girls had six crews and made five A finals and one B final. We got a couple of fourths and a fifth and sixth. Pretty happy with that. It's been a bit of an eyeopener for the schoolgirls especially. There's some good girls here in the North Island that they'll be competing with at Maadi Cup.
"The Wairau novice men did really well, winning the B final of the novice four. That makes them ninth in the country. From becoming the NZ swimming team [because they fell out of their boats all the time] to among the top 10 in the country they've come a long, long way.
"The RPC showed huge improvement from last year, it was a very successful campaign. The overall standard was very high."
The Centennial Oar for the top club in all events was awarded to Waikato RC. Hamish Bond was judged the top Male Rower of the year for achieving the highest standard of rowing, while the female rower of the year was Rebecca Scown, who received the Champions Cup.
The Bankstream Trophy was awarded to Waikato RPC, the top performing RPC of the regatta.
Medals won by crews with Marlborough affiliations:
GOLD Men premier quad final (James Hunter, Robbie Manson, Karl Manson, Joseph Sullivan) Women premier coxless pair (Rebecca Scown, Louise Trappitt) Men's premier double (Robbie Manson, Karl Manson) Women premier coxless four (Rebecca Scown, Ruby Tew, Holly Greenslade, Linda Mathews) Men premier coxless four (Chris Harris, Ian Seymour, Tufi Sele, James Hunter) Women premier lightweight double (Louise Ayling, Sophie Mackenzie) Women under-20 coxless pair (Holly Greenslade, Ruby Tew). Women under-22 coxless pair (Holly Greenslade, Ruby Tew)
SILVER Women premier quad (Louise Trappitt, Erin-Monique O'Brien, Linda Mathews, Kerri Gowler). Women under-20 singles sculls Zoe McBride. Men premier coxless pair (Chris Harris, James Hunter) Women premier lightweight single Louise Ayling Women under-20 double (Jackie Kiddle, Nadja Hyson) Women premier eight (Rebecca Scown, Linda Mathews, Kerri Gowler, Erin-Monique O'Brien, Holly Greenslade, Ruby Tew, Louise Ayling, Louise Trappitt, Lauren McAndrew) Men premier eight (Joe Trappitt, Chris Harris, Ian Seymour, Tufi Sele, Joe Wright, Brook Robertson, Axel Dickinson, Tom Murray, Michael Dessoulavy) Picton RC – men premier coxed four – Boss Rooster – (Keiran Gaudin, Ryan Gaudin, Joseph Sullivan, Steve Cottle, Trent Burbidge) Composite – men senior quad (Chris James, Ryan Gaudin, Keiran Gaudin, Elliot Harvey)
BRONZE Men under-22 eight (Tom Murray, Harrison Somerville, James McAnallen, Troy O'Reilly, Joe Wright, Corey McCaffrey, Brook Robertson, Ryan Wilson, Michael Dessoulavy) Women under-20 singles sculls Jackie Kiddle Men under-20 single James McAnallen Women premier double (Kerri Gowler, Erin-Monique O'Brien) Men premier coxless four (Joe Trappitt, Brook Robertson, Axel Dickinson, Tom Murray) Men under-20 double (Harrison Somerville, James McAnallen) Women premier lightweight double (Zoe McBride, Jess Paton) Composite – men senior eight (J Saunders, P O'Reilly, P Wilson, B Norling, Ryan Gaudin, Keiran Gaudin, Chris James, Elliot Harvey)
- The Marlborough Express