More success in China for Otago Uni

Otago University rowers charge to victory in China. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Otago University rowers charge to victory in China. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Otago University has some issues on the home front but it has delivered more success on the international stage.

The outstanding men’s eight won another round of the invitation-only world universities regatta in Nanchang, China, at the weekend.

Their success in the gruelling 6000m race follows their victory in the Shangyu regatta last month.

The Chinese events, typically open to glamour rowing universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Yale, Sydney, Melbourne and Otago, along with leading Chinese institutions, are both athlete-funded and subsidised by local organisers.

Otago’s eight, stroked by first-year oarsman Ted Mayne, were seeded second for the long Nanchang event after preliminary 1000m sprint racing, placing second behind the strong Nereus team from the Netherlands.

All 12 teams struggled with the 35°C heat and high humidity.

“It was certainly a matter of looking after ourselves throughout the day, making sure we had electrolytes on board and resting in air-conditioned rooms when we could," Otago captain and third-year medical student Tom Tothill said.

The Otago rowers struggled in the 1000m racing having to use locally-made oars that twisted and turned when the crew put pressure on them in the water.

Team manager Stu Crooks was able to secure another brand of oars that held on to the water and allowed the crew to row technically better for the final race.

Otago’s day almost came to an end when a masters crew, using the same borrowed skiff as Otago, crashed the boat, almost snapping the end completely off.

Hasty repairs by coach Glen Sinclair and the rowers over the lunch break made the boat fit for racing, though it was still being sanded smooth as the crew were carrying it to the water.

The main 6000m event was on a circular course, 3000m out and around a large buoy.

Otago received excellent guidance from seasoned professional coxswain Emily Young, taking command of the crew as they chased down the Nereus team, who started 60sec in front.

The Otago team kept up a steady stroke rate of 32 for the majority of the race, moving to 34 as they closed in on the finish line sensing they had made a small gain on the Nereus crew.

The team’s own timing gave them a hint of victory but the official result was only made known at the evening banquet and awards ceremony.

Otago rowers celebrated as Sydney was called out in third place and Nereus second, and Otago managed to break the course record by 0.17sec.

Sinclair was delighted with the Otago performance.

"We last raced here in 2019, before Covid, and had one of our athletes in hospital on a drip after racing in this extreme heat.

"This year’s crew were very professional and have managed both their nutrition and hydration perfectly, and I believe that’s what gave them the edge in the final."

Joining Tothill, Mayne and Young in the winning Otago crew were Connor Bacchus, Will Anderson, Sam Barnett, Fynn Allison, Teddy George and Henry Clatworthy.

The Otago senior women’s eight have been invited to race in Shenyang, 300km from the North Korean border, next month.

— Staff reporter