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The rowers heading to China tomorrow

Off to China tomorrow are: coxswain Fred Philips and crew Ged Wall, Henry Clatworthy, Gane Harbutt, Teddy George, Toby Robinson, Connor Bacchus, Will Anderson and Sam Barnett.

Rowers from the Otago University Rowing Club will be winging their way to China this week to compete in an invitation-only rowing event.

Coach Glen Sinclair says the invitation to race in Zhengzhou is due to the team’s our recent success at the New Zealand University Rowing Championships. Both the Otago men’s and women’s first eights won their finals at Lake Karāpiro during Easter weekend, claiming the Hebberley Shield and the Tamaki Cup respectively, and with the club picking up the Ashes Trophy for most overall points.

The Zhengzhou event will not only be a huge experience for the athletes, it will also provide massive exposure for the club and for the University of Otago, Glen says.

“The regatta is quite prestigious and gets a tonne of media coverage in China. The team will do our club’s haka before the event to challenge all of the teams to do their best and again at the awards presentation (hopefully with some medals around their necks!).”

Heading to Zhengzhou tomorrow are rowers Samuel Barnett, Toby Robinson, Will Anderson, Connor Bacchus, Ged Wall, Gane Harbutt, Edwin George, Henry Clatworthy and Coxswain Fred Phillips, along with Glen and manager Jacob Kearns. The men's eight will race against top Chinese university teams over both a 6000m long distance race and a 1000m event.

“We have quite a name for ourselves in the university rowing scene in China and are the only New Zealand university that gets invited to these events, mostly to do with winning at the New Zealand Universities Rowing Championships, but also because of the way our students conduct themselves. They are always polite, do anything the organisers ask of them –  visits to schools, rowing coaching, speaking engagements – and we dress well. We have beautiful club blazers for any squad that is traveling away.”

This will be Otago student Toby Robinson’s second rowing trip to China. Toby, who is in the second year of a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in agricultural innovation with a minor in environmental management, competed in Shangyu, near Shanghai, last year.

“Highlights from last time were definitely coming away with the win against many other top international universities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Oxford,” Toby says.

“The overall cultural experience was amazing also as we were treated with guided tours around the local areas, museums and historical monuments as well as cultural performances and shows throughout our time in Shangyu. We were also fortunate enough to have an extra two days in Shanghai itself to explore the city and experience its nightlife.”

These trips set the Otago University Rowing Club leaps and bounds ahead of other university rowing programs in New Zealand, Toby says.

“It is such an amazing opportunity to go to places in China many of us have never even heard of before and the value of getting international racing is priceless and overall, very hard to fund or do outside of New Zealand national teams.”

Toby is one of several rowers on the team to have received a funding boost from the Vice-Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund, which aims to support students who are achieving academically also succeed in the extra-curricular activities that are offered at Otago.

The crew will race over two days and will return on 16 May.

Otago rowing captains Brooke Pitchford and Teddy George with the Ashes cup for overall points won.

Otago rowing captains Brooke Pitchford and Teddy George with the Ashes cup for overall points won at the annual New Zealand University Games at Lake Karāpiro over Easter weekend. Photo:

Success at New Zealand University Rowing Championships

The rowing season ended on a high for Otago with both the men’s and women’s first eights winning their finals at the annual New Zealand University Rowing Championships at Lake Karāpiro over Easter.

The Otago men’s first eight won the Hebberley Shield with the second eight coming third and the Otago women’s first eight won the Tamaki Cup with the second eight also coming third.

Otago was also awarded the Ashes Trophy for most overall points. The trophy is especially important as it contains some of the ashes of the club’s old shed, which burnt down in 1999. Otago has only ever not won it once.

Captain of the women’s first eight Brooke Pitchford, who is in her second year of a Bachelor of Laws (LLB), says the competition to even get into the Otago women’s first eight is fierce, let alone winning the cup.

“Otago has many strong athletes, including New Zealand age-group reps and trialists. The depth in athletes we have here allows us to enter two strong eights into the event, which creates great training camaraderie.

“The team is definitely a squad dynamic. In the women’s squad there were over 50 of us. Although everyone loves the competitiveness and the prestige of the eights races, we will all row and race in other boats as well. Having at least two to three races minimum each at Uni champs. It makes it a great way to get to know everyone and get points for Otago, which helps us win overall, which we did this year.

While the race for the Tamaki Cup is longer than what the rowers are used to – 3,200 metres compared to the standard 2000 metre races – there was one familiar factor for the Otago teams.

“At the start line for the Tamaki Cup race both Otago eights were sitting next to each other. It was pouring down with rain, super windy and freezing, it was a bit of a joke that we would be ready to race as this was the weather we were used to training in back in Dunedin.”

The men’s first eight had challenges of their own, the main one being hanging on to the Hebberley Shield once they’d won it.

Otago men’s first eight captain Fred Vavasour, who is his final year of a BSC majoring in neuroscience, says the team had to get creative to work around a certain tradition.

“It’s tradition for the youngest crew member to be responsible for lifting the shield on the podium. The second they bring it down the shield is fair game for any other university to steal. If successful, and a rival university holds it until midnight, the winner has to forfeit a keg. Auckland, Canterbury and Lincoln all teamed up to try and steal the shield. They parked their vans across all the exits from the lake, which left only the water for our escape.”

With the help of a speedboat and a helpful umpire, the shield was retained by Otago till midnight and no kegs were required.

“The plan seemed to work well!”

– Kōrero by Internal Communications Adviser Laura Hewson

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    The Otago men’s first eight celebrates winning the Hebberley Shield, held aloft by Oscar Clatworthy, at Lake Karāpiro at Easter. Photo:

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    The Otago women’s first eight, who won the Tamaki Cup, pictured with coach George Bushell and coxswain Ella Hansen (left) and coaches Ellen Kirkwood and Lawson Morris-Whyte (right).

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    The Otago women’s second eight who placed third.

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