Rutherglen Regatta 2020

Following Christmas and a wild New Year’s celebration at RRC, it was the first regatta of the decade. Having joined the club just that week, I was excited for the rowers of Richmond to show me how it’s done.

Two fully laden trailers were towed to Rutherglen and once settled in at The Lydoun Motel, final race preparations included consuming a few vinos of Coach Dario’s selection.

Racing kicked off mid-morning with entries in a multitude of events – I’ve been told this is the Richmond Way!

The 800m course was proving difficult to some steers across the clubs, with it’s sparsely buoyed lanes and bend. Despite at least one capsize on the way to the start line, a few detours across the course and many clipped buoys, everyone came off the water smiling.

We had a great base set up located perfectly to spot the yellow and black zooties (still a new word for me) in time to jump and cheer. The atmosphere was relaxed, but with excitement to go smash it and bring home a medal or two – or 5 if you’re Dario Sportelli.

It was difficult to keep up with the rate at which people were going on and off the water, sharing boats and swapping coxes. Admittedly, I was impressed it always worked out when people were making these decisions within an hour of racing!

The first medals of the weekend went to Dennis Beck, Jon Roberts, Allan Randall and Michael Gehling, coxed by Pippa Trevella in the male masters quad. Next was Dario, commencing his collection with the C grade single scull.

Jon and Allan took the win in the C grade pair, with Dennis and John also coming second in the final.

The first women’s medal was won by Lily Innes-Irons in the D grade single scull. Gypsy Shepherd and Dario Sportelli came first in the mixed double scull.

Coxed by Will Golding, the womens D grade quad was won by Gypsy Shepherd, Ally Dejaegher, Kirsty Fergie and Mel Perkins.

A tense final was had in the women’s D grade double scull, with the two Richmond crews closely missing the win. Second place came Kirsty and Ally, followed by Lily and Susanna.

After a successful first day’s racing in the sun, the pool at the motel was enjoyed by a few before dinner.

The ladies put together a great barbecue and spread to cater for everyone. Especially big thanks to Lily, Susanna, Ally and everyone else who contributed. We had a few drinks and I enjoyed getting to know people from across the squads a bit better. Thanks also to the those who helped cook the BBQ on the night Shern, Kim, Allan and Mim (Lily’s dad).

Sunday came with a new challenge of deteriorating air quality. Sadly, we were reminded of the current crisis with visible smoke across Lake Moodemere and the surrounding area. We had regular updates on the conditions and racing continued, with a course distance of 500m this time.

Winning the male masters quad again was Dennis, Jon, Allan and Michael, coxed by Pippa.

The weight hanging around Dario’s neck increased with another win in the C grade single scull. He and Gypsy then again took first place in the mixed double scull!

The winning 4 ladies from Saturday took their second medal as a crew, this time in the D grade four coxed by Dario.

Aside from the wins, Richmond had many other notable races and close finals. I believe there was a split prize for the masters ladies in their double scull, Diana Vernon and Christine Sullivan who chose the medal over the wine!

Alex Huang took to the water for her single’s race coming a strong second, having learnt to row in August. The men’s D grade quad won their heat and came second in the final on Sunday with Lachlan Stewart, Kim Begelhole, Richard Healy and John Hellerstedt.

Development squad men Campbell, Igor and Hamish had their first regatta experience, racing in multiple events including quad, four and eight. And whilst I heard they were slightly traumatised by the eight as they’d never been in one before, I’m sure they’ll be back for more with the reassurance and wisdom of their ex-London rower and guru Will Golding.

After packing up, loading the trailer and a quick dip in the lake for some, it was time to go home and relax following a fantastic weekend of racing.

A few personal highlights of mine include Dario’s interview with the commentator over the tannoy, the raspberry muffins baked by Lily and her Dad, and of course winning my first sculling medal and first regatta in Australia!

There are many thanks to be given to those who organise entries, trailering, accommodation, coaching and all the other contributions big or small that make it such a success doing the sport we all love. When’s the next one?!

Mel Perkins