I trundled up to Dimboola or at least Horsham to start with on Friday for the weekend’s 750m sprint races at Dimboola on the Saturday and the 6.2km Head of the Wimmera on the Sunday. Little did we realise what the weather gods had in store for us in an area of Victoria which was so incredibly drought affected, the regatta was cancelled for a number of years and the weekend subsequently brought forward because of the greedy Melbourne Head stealing their ‘traditional’ weekend (thanks for that bit of helpful info Dave). Leaving Melbourne on perhaps one of the first truly ‘summer’ days with a beautiful 24deg, we, or rather I cruised along thinking it would be similar ‘warm’ weather over the weekend. A couple of hours later saw me driving through torrential rain while further north and west hailstones the size of golf balls plummeted down. Some of us stayed in a motel in Horsham and others pitched tents or a swag at the campsite next to the rowing club in Dimboola.
Saturday morning saw the rowing action begin. First off were Jon and Tim gliding down the water in their C Pair. Next up saw the Women’s D Quad (Jen, Chris, Morgan and Susanna) with Denis H coxing, just miss a win in their heat and then Andrew and Dave both win their heats of their D Single.
The Women’s Master’s Four (Karin, Morgan, Chris and Susanna) coxed by Denis H were so keen to get on the water for their race, they arrived a bracket early along with their two competitors, which allowed plenty of time for the other crews to sing Morgan Happy Birthday. If only she was turning a lot older we wouldn’t have given away a 15sec handicap! Really great row for a crew who had not rowed sweep for some time, to zoom past the boat with the 9sec head start. The Men’s D Four saw some fierce racing action between two Richmond crews after both boats qualified for the B final. An early lead to the crew of Leigh, Guy, Denis H and Phil (cox Chris) had them thinking they were run away winners, but the ‘younger’ boat of Dennis B, Jon, Tim and Laurent (cox Shern) were just warming into things and with 100m to go the boats were neck and neck. The younger crew managed to come away with the win by 0.3sec on this occasion. A tight turnaround together with the fact the program was already 50mins behind schedule meant the women’s crew were ‘late to start’ for their Quad final and unfortunately missed out.
It was around this point the weather really started to show what it had in store. The mornings gusty wind began to pick up and really started blowing boats around all over the course. Dimboola is not a particularly big rowing club and so does not have a very big landing. Races were rowed in brackets with each bracket launching and sitting or rather becoming entangled in the marshelling area, waiting for the previous bracket to come through the course, before making their way down the course to the start line. The wind played havoc with the boats, entangling them, blowing them onto and down the course and blowing boats into the bank, trees, reeds and logs. The wind was strong and it was cold, with limited shelter on the riverbank and absolutely no shelter on the water. It was about this time the birthday girl Morgan set out for her first race in a double with Susanna. After missing the earlier quad final, we were eager to get on the water. And then we sat, and waited and became entangled and drifted onto the course. Finally we could make our way down the course, toward the start line, or that’s what we had in mind. It’s probably important to mention that the finish line was just up from the marshelling area and by early afternoon a fairly large crowd of enthusiastic supporters and rowers had assembled to watch the racing action. We were set to take off and disaster struck. Two fairly inexperienced rowers up against the gale force winds. Oars went all over the place, the boat tipped one way, hands grabbed the boat, then reached for the oars again then the boat tipped the other way, all happening very fast but in slow motion until……..finally……. we……. steadied, regained control and our balance and stayed upright. We did receive a very big round of applause and later on many handshakes and pats on the back for a very big save! With our adrenaline pumping we made our way to the start and managed to get through the race dry, albeit with one more mid race wobble. Thankfully no photographic evidence of this exists, however I’m sure it sits pretty firmly in both of our minds.
The Sib Tiger was due to go out for a row by Karin and Chris’s replacement (Imogen from Wenty). Alas, no go for the Sib Tiger as we had left the riggers back home in the boatshed. Oops. So Karin and Imogen lined up in the Sexy and off they went. I think they had a much better plan by heading down a bracket early, but got very cold at the start line. Well done to Karin for her first race in a double as well.
The two Men’s Four crews were at it again with action in the Masters category. Would the ‘younger’ crew get on top again or could the ‘older’ crew get the win. All I know is there was a lot of banter flying around at dinner that night about 6 seconds this and 7 seconds that. The older guys came out on top on this occasion. Well done to both crews and a great way to get those competitive juices flowing with a bit of friendly racing action. The ‘older’ boat (Leigh, Guy, Denis H, Phil and cox Chris) got the win and and medal for their efforts.
Well done also to some of the other crews in action for Richmond, the Men’s quad (Andrew, Dave, Leigh and Guy), mixed double for Mike G and Lindsey and Men’s double for Mike G and Dave. Mixed Quads were raced at the end of the day, by which time everybody was hungry and tired and very much wind swept. By now it was well after 7 for the scheduled 6pm races, where a couple of Richmond crews had great rows under very difficult conditions against very young crews.
The campers stayed at the club for the Dimboola barbeque where snags were tossed around with stories of Tokyo Olympics. The rest of us headed out a for Thai, where the waiter thought she had finished feeding us not one, not two, but three times, announcing to the table that she had never served a table of our size so much food.
Sunday morning saw 4 Richmond crews head out under difficult conditions for the Head of the Wimmera. It was cold, windy and raining. After a quick briefing all boats made their way down the course to the start line. The Mixed Quad (Dennis, Mike G, Rochelle, Lindsey) had a good row.
The Women’s D Quad (Jen, Karin, Morgan and Susanna) received some excellent coaching (coxing) by Sue Andrews which made for a very enjoyable, educational and smooth row, with each of us coming away with a number of new tips; Tai Chi hands, turning cogs and fast feet to name a few.
The D Men’s Four (Andrew, Jon, Dave and Laurent) coxed by Shern, had a good solid row enjoying the scenery along the Wimmera, while also avoiding the various logs and trees and for Shern, trying to stay warm or rather, not cold and wet.
The Masters Four (Leigh, Denis H, Guy and Phil) had a great row and I’m told flew along, all perhaps in anticipation of a medal at the end until about 2 km to go. Maybe Christine was a little too excited or she was cold and wet like the rest of us and wanted to finish quickly, but her mighty strength snapped the steering cable and so the guys worked hard to get around the last couple of corners before making it home.
Sunday was a great day of rowing and I think all would agree that it was a fabulous course. To be completely honest, the weather didn’t even factor into it on Sunday, because we had such an enjoyable row.
A good drive back, through some more driving rain, where I gave Dave a few anxious moments as passenger in my car saw us all assemble for a quick unloading. All over for another weekend and if as I’m told by good authority (Dave told me one of the guys at Dimboola told him) they have never had weather like that before, I’m sure everyone will be back there again next year.
By Susanna Mullner