Rupert Guinness at Champion Lakes Regatta Centre

For Australia’s best rowers, the challenging conditions experienced at the Australian Rowing Championships in Perth on Friday ensured their campaigns will be memorable for more reason than the medals that they may have when they depart.

Strong winds at the Champion Lakes Regatta Centre meant that racing was suspended. The Fairness Committee who review conditions with safety first in mind, announced at 3pm (all times WST) that a revised program would resume. By 4.30pm the racing was back on and did not disappoint with crews keen to put down their markers in case further weather conditions impacted their race conditions 

At dawn, Perth and its surrounds were shrouded in grey cloud and the nature of an outdoor prevailed with rain and wind exposing itself on the course.

“It was very wild out there, you’re really just trying not to stuff up,” said Olympic Champion Alex Purnell OAM after rowing in the winning Sydney University-NSWIS crew in the Open Men’s Coxless Four, the boat in which he won 2021 Olympic gold. 

Racing with Purnell in the coxless four on Friday were Jack Hargreaves OAM, also a 2021 Olympic Coxless Four Gold Medallist and fellow Australian Rowing Team members, Jackson Kench and William O’Shannessy. They won Friday’s race in 6:52.17s, beating the crews from SASI-VIS-QAS by 15.94s and UTS Haberfield-Mercantile-NSWIS by 18.83s.

Rowena Meredith (Sydney University-NSWIS) won the Open Women’s Double Scull Final with Australian single scull champion Tara Rigney (Sydney University-NSWIS).

Lucy Stephan OAM (Melbourne University), a 2021 Olympic Gold Women’s Coxless Four, said some lanes were better protected from the wind. But her crew’s win in the final of the Open Women’s Coxless Four was still impressive.

They won in 7:57.19s, beating the WARC-WAIS crew by 2.94s and University of Queensland-QAS-NSWIS by 15.95s.

“We were a bit lucky in the lane draw,” said Stephen, whose crew raced in lane seven. “I think we rowed it really well.

“We stayed long. We just tried to drive it. When we got a gust, it was pretty much, ‘Row harder’. It was a great race.”

Stephen said racing for her club in the national titles is as much of a buzz as racing for her country. “There is something special about coming home to our clubs,” Stephen said.

The Olympic Champion praised her crewmates Laura Foley, Eliza Gaffney and Jean Mitchell. 

“I’ve watched these girls over the years,” she said. “It’s really special to jump in a crew with them and to be a part of it.”