Council looks into rowers' collision

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012

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An investigation has begun after two rowing skiffs were involved in a crash on the Waikato River.

The incident, between a Hamilton Boys' High School boat and a masters quad from Hamilton Club, happened north of the Claudelands Bridge about 11am on Saturday.

Waikato Regional Council navigation safety programme manager Nicole Botherway said three eights from Boys' High "were said to be racing, taking up the width of the river, and one collided with a masters quad from Hamilton Club while attempting to overtake".

"The masters quad crew were tipped out, oars were broken, and a number of the masters crew were hurt."

But the council's accusations have been questioned by the school's head coach.

Boys' High under-16s head coach Bruce Holden said there were only two eights travelling downstream, followed by another eight and, behind them, another crew of eight, who he was following.

The two travelling side by side were on the eastern side and in the middle - as is required - and when the rest of the crews arrived at the crash scene a few minutes later, the Hamilton Club's coxless four was upturned on the eastern side, with its occupants thrown into the water.

The water rules were clear that boats travelling downstream keep to the eastern side and upstream boats keep to the western side, he said.

Mr Holden, who didn't see the crash, but arrived a couple of minutes later, said there was enough room on the river for three teams to safely negotiate.

The first time the crews knew the Hamilton Club quad were there was when they crashed, he said.

"Our boat didn't tip. One of our kids got a smack with an oar but it stayed upright. That's the power of an eight, which is greater than the power of a quad coming the other way. The oars are bigger and [have] more stability."

However, the corner where the crash occurred could be difficult to negotiate when travelling upstream, depending on the current.

He had heard unofficially from his team that the club members said they were travelling in the middle of the river and felt it was better to try to go in between the eights' boats.

Mr Holden said he was surprised the quad did not yell out common warnings "ease the oar" and "check it" to his teams before impact.

Mrs Botherway said the incident reinforced the need for rowers and other craft to take great care on the river, to share the waterway properly and follow all applicable rules.

"It's particularly concerning this mishap has occurred after a number of near misses on the river in the last few years, which also prompted us to issue reminders to people about following the rules."

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Mrs Botherway stressed she did not want to prejudge the outcome of the council's investigation.

"But equally I would stress that extra care needs to be taken by any vessel when overtaking another and that it's always important not to take up too much space on the river.

"The Waikato River is not a superhighway and users need to be mindful of the fact that there can be little room for error . . ."

- Waikato Times

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