Aussie crews aim to continue wave of success
Some of the world's best surf boat crews will be at Waihi Beach this weekend for the fourth and final round of the New Zealand series.
The North Island Championships coincide with the inaugural trans-Tasman test, where New Zealand's top crews - the Piha men and the Mairangi Bay women - will battle their Australian counterparts.
The Austinmer crew from New South Wales will take on Piha while Western Australia's North Cottesloe will battle Mairangi Bay.
"While a few of us have travelled to New Zealand before, this will be the first time any of us have raced over there," North Cottesloe sweep Alex Davies said.
"Watching the waves at Piha on video, we're well aware of the type of surf that can hit the New Zealand coast so as a well-drilled crew, we're looking forward to the challenge."
The reigning national champion Piha crew comprises Chris Morris, Ben Scott, Scott Lissington and Ben Richards, with Mark Bourneville sweeping. Former Australian champions Austinmer feature Steve Drysdale, Mitch Stewart, Cory Jackson and Aaron Jackson, with the experienced Jack Patison on the sweep oar.
The North Cottesloe crew consists of Rachael Taylor, Rebecca Sattin, Libby Gatti and Jessica Flower, up against the Mairangi Bay quartet of Charlotte Burson, Carmel and Erin Tolhurst, Sarah Woolley and sweep Rob Jones.
"We've raced them a couple of times in Australia and they're one of the stand-out crews," Carmel Tolhurst said.
Mairangi Bay's preparations have been hindered slightly by a bruising carnival at the Eastern Regional championships in Whangamata a fortnight ago, where club crews broke three sweep oars and ruptured the bow of their boat. However, three replacement oars have arrived in time this week.
Those four international crews won't be the only talent-laden boats on display. The final round of the national series is set to be a thriller, with Titahi Bay favourites to win the men's title after a withering last month of racing, while the Red Beach and Omanu women are locked together at the top of their division.
Titahi Bay have beaten Piha at their last three meetings. A young crew, they were stung by being overlooked for the trans-Tasman row-off and have responded in style, holding an eight-point lead over their nearest series rivals, Bugsy O'Halloran's Piha Boomers crew. Titahi Bay just need to make the final in Waihi to be assured of the series crown.
Red Beach and Omanu are separated by just a point in the women's division.
Red Beach took out the first round of the series in Wellington and, though Omanu haven't yet tasted victory, their consistency has left them with a great chance of claiming the series title.
Tomorrow's racing will start at midday, with a Champion of Champions event on Sunday.
The event will also feature under-23 men, under-21 women and under-19 men and women.