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Regatta Report | 2023 Meridian Canterbury Champs

The Canterbury Championship Regatta for 2023 saw spectacular weather at Lake Ruataniwha for a big weekend of competitive racing.

The number of participants was on par with last year’s regatta but with an increase in the number of crews i.e. rowers competing in a greater number of races. Approximately 80 volunteers put their hands up to help for the weekend. This included 10 Trainee Umpires and 8 new boat drivers. With Covid-19 still doing the rounds the Organising committee were fortunate to only have a few people pull out prior to the weekend due to illness and were overall very well supported. With many teams coming fresh from holidays the vibe from an officials perspective was one of education and providing positive learning experiences.

It was a fresh start to the day on Saturday but things quickly heated up both in the air and on the water. Heats day saw some really tight finishes and impressive performances, particularly in the Premier races. With 147 races on the schedule at 4 minute intervals, things were hectic at times as there were a number of small boat capsizes throughout the day. The Rescue team did a great job of swiftly attending and ensuring safe retrievals were undertaken. Control commission were also kept busy in the launch area with a variety of non-compliances throughout the morning. Most commonly it was issues with heel restraints and bungs – or the lack thereof – which deemed boats unsafe for launching. Coxswains were treated to a swift process at the weigh-in where the slips of paper have finally been tossed out the window and replaced with technology.

On Sunday, just as Race Umpires and Rescue Boats were preparing to get on the water for the start of racing, we were alerted to an accident at the eastern end of the lake where it meets the canal. After checking in with Emergency Services Communications team, 8 of our volunteers attended the emergency with three rescue boats and one umpire boat. A special mention needs to be extended to these volunteers who – with no hesitation – zoomed off to the scene of the incident and provided whatever help was asked of them; Emergency Services First Responders have expressed their gratitude. Our volunteers’ contribution was greatly appreciated at the incident scene and I would also like to extend that thanks to the wider team of volunteers who offered support and showed their adaptability to ensure that all positions were covered to safely continue on with the regatta.

Racing began with a 30 minute delay to the programme. Impeccable water conditions set the stage for some more thrilling racing. Canterbury Champs has some unique rules which allow entrants to change their crews between heats and finals. This allows teams to test their race combinations which can be a helpful tool for clubs in the lead up to their penultimate regattas of the club season. Only four-hundredths of a second separated first and second place in the Men’s Senior 1x, Hamish Yeatman taking first place ahead of his Dunstan Arm RC compatriot Harry Wilkinson. In the Men’s Premier 8+ race a very sharp St Bedes crew took a win over a the experienced Avon RC crew who had just pipped them in the heat. Another highlight was in the Women’s Premier 2- race which saw a dominant performance and 15 second win from the Avon RC crew of Charlotte Darry and Jane Schellekens, in an event littered with NZ age group representatives.

Thanks to our major sponsor Meridian and again to all our volunteers who brought the weekend together. We look forward to more exciting racing at the SI champs this weekend!

Sophie Strachan – Chief Umpire