Rupert Guinness at Champion Lakes Regatta Centre

World Championship Bronze Medallist Tara Rigney executed a near-perfect performance in tricky conditions on the first day of the Australian Rowing Championships to head directly into the semi-final of the single of Women’s Single Scull.

The opening day of the ARC at Champion Lakes Regatta Centre in Perth produced numerous high-calibre performances in heats for the small boats – the Single Sculls and coxless Pairs. It was a day that augured well for what is to come as the regatta heads towards its peak on Sunday.

Rigney (Sydney University-NSWIS), a two-time Australian champion in the Single Scull, was not alone in producing a standout performance in the event. The two other heat winners – Harriet Hudson (Sydney-NSWIS) and Amanda Bateman (Melbourne University-VIS) – also won by impressive margins.

“It was a good race to get out the cob webs and start repatterning the racing technique,” Rigney said after winning heat three in 8:31.31 seconds, finishing 6.76s ahead of second- placed Kate Morris (Brisbane-GPS) and 13.34s ahead of Catherine Khan (ANU) in third.

Rigney, who also raced with Bateman in the Double Scull at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics where they won the B-final, looked comfortable and in command through the 2000m race in which the cross headwind challenged all competitors.

PLAY OF THE DAY: Georgina Taeger (Adelaide Rowing Club) who was in second place in the third 500m of Heat 2 of the Under 21 women’s Single Scull when she tipped out. She summoned the courage to get back in her Scull and finish a little more than three minutes behind the winner. She gets to race another day in the repechage and her effort captured the spirit of racing at ARC23.

SPECIAL KUDOS: To all those who volunteered to drive up to 4000km across Australia towing the fleet of rowing boats of various clubs to Champion Lakes. It’s not an easy task to drive so far in a car, let alone with such a huge load on a trailer. They will have to drive back in a week! Longest distance travelled goes to those from Townsville in North Queensland, followed by the Central Queenslanders from Rockhampton.

With the first two placegetters going into Wednesday’s semi-final and the rest to the repechage round on Tuesday, Rigney will now focus on recovering for the Double Scull heats on Tuesday, in which she will partner Rowena Meredith (Sydney University-NSWIS) who placed third in heat two that was convincingly won by Hudson in 8:06.39s, good enough to be 7.92s clear of Caitlin Cronin (University of Queensland-QAS) and 24.30s in front of Meredith.

“Everything went according to plan, looking forward to stepping it again in the doubles race … and again for the semi-finals Wednesday,” Rigney said. 

The conditions were nevertheless a challenge for Hudson, too. “It was pretty slow out there,” Hudson said. “I think I did an eight [minute] plus … it was a big head cross wind.

“But it was really good to go out here in those conditions. Internationally, we race in completely different conditions all the time, so it’s always good to go out there and really see where you are at for training and technique.”

Alex Purnell OAM (Sydney University-NSWIS), a member of the Olympic Gold Medal winning coxless Four in Tokyo, concurred with Hudson after he and Marcus Britt (Sydney University) won their heat of coxless Pair in 6:50.37s.

“It was petty tricky out there, solid cross head breeze,” said Purnell, who stroked the Pair into Wednesday’s semi-final. “It was good to be out for our first race. [We] managed to come away and progress to the next stage. A good first blow out.”

However, as with the women’s heats, the Men’s Coxless Pair and Single Scull races all produced some standout performances befitting of the strength of the Australian Rowing Team (ART) that was recently selected and named by Rowing Australia.

While Monday’s heats appeared a formality for many of those who won by similarly convincing fashion, they were still an important phase in the ARC week in which they will also race in big boats such as Quad Sculls and Eights.