Training on harbour a test of mettle

Rowers (from left) Reuben Cook, Ben Mason and Lawson Morris-Whyte on the Otago Harbour shoreline....
Rowers (from left) Reuben Cook, Ben Mason and Lawson Morris-Whyte on the Otago Harbour shoreline. PHOTO: SHARRON BENNETT
Otago Harbour is not for the faint-hearted when it comes to rowing.

The harbour may throw up plenty of white caps on windy days but it is still capable of also throwing up champions.

The winners of the men’s club singles, senior singles and premier singles at last month’s South Island championships all train on the Otago Harbour.

Reuben Cook, of Otago Boys’ High School, won the club singles; Lawson Morris-Whyte, of the Cure club in Christchurch, won the senior singles; while Ben Mason, who used to row for Otago Boys’ HS and is now rowing out of the Otago University club and the Southern Regional Performance Centre, won the premier singles final.

Morris-Whyte has only been training on the Otago Harbour for a couple of months, having returned to the sport following a four year break.

He made the New Zealand junior squad in 2012 but drifted away from the sport as other commitments arose.

Qualified as a quantity surveyor, Morris-Whyte could never get rid of the rowing bug. Working in Dunedin, he joined some Otago Boys’ High School crews recently to get back into the sport and was introduced to training on Otago Harbour.

"It’s a bit rough. You can get all sorts out there. But that is not too bad, as you have to row in those tough conditions sometimes," Morris-Whyte said.

"But I have only done three ergs since I have started back and the rest of the time we have gone out. It’s way different than rowing on a river. There are no corners to start with."

Morris-Whyte (26) was heading to the New Zealand Champs next week at Lake Ruataniwha where he would be rowing singles, doubles, quads and an eight.

Mason has rowed on Otago Harbour for years and said you took the good with the bad.

"It is a hard place to train but it is worth it. It has its benefits. When you go to a regatta and the weather gets a bit rough you start to appreciate rowing on the harbour," Mason said.

"We go in pretty much every day, even if it is a bit choppy. Obviously we don’t go in if it is too dangerous — health and safety come first," Mason said.

Mason was surprised to win at the South Island championships as he had not trained for it, but wanting to beat his mates spurred him on.

The 19-year-old was set on rowing around the South Island this month to raise money for breast cancer research. He would now leave later next month because of other commitments, after initially planning to leave in a couple of weeks.

Cook (17), who is in Year 13 at Otago Boys’ High School, has trained on the harbour for his whole rowing career.

"Rowing on the harbour is very up and down — some mornings it can be amazing and others you could be almost surfing the waves. It allows me to be able to row in all conditions which can be very helpful ... being able to row when it isn't flat can be a big bonus," he said.

Rowing with Mason and Morris-Whyte had been great for his rowing, he said. Goals for the rest of the season were to make the New Zealand junior team and win a medal at Maadi Cup.

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