The 2016 Sydney International Rowing Regatta began today in Penrith, New South Wales and saw some of Australia’s top rowers take to the water to compete in the national titles.

Racing opened today with the Open Women’s Single Sculls, which featured some of Australia’s best female scullers in the form of Kerry Hore, Sally Kehoe, Maddie Edmunds and Jessica Hall.

Hore opened what will be her final Australian Open Rowing Championships in fine style leading her heat from start to finish to book herself a place in the semi-finals. Joining Hore in the semis from her heat were Women’s Quad crew-mate Maddie Edmunds, as well as Fiona Albert and Addy Dunkley-Smith.

Post-race, Hore said: “It was a bit rusty getting back in the single having been rowing in the women’s quad down in Canberra with the Australian Rowing Team but it felt good to be out there in what will be my last Open singles campaign at Nationals. I am looking forward to being back in the quad later in the week.

“I’ve raced a fair amount against my crew-mates, Maddie (Edmunds), Jess (Hall) and Jen (Cleary), over the last few years and the good thing is we’re all able to focus on the job at hand in the single sculls before setting it aside to race in the quad.”

As expected in the other heats, Hall won her heat, followed by Meaghan Volker, Pham Thi Hue of Vietnam and Aisyah Gala from Singapore, who rows out of Mosman RC in Sydney. The third heat was won by Sally Kehoe, recently named in Australia’s women’s double scull, followed by Alexandra Hagan, Adrian Marulli and Thailand’s Phuttharaksa Neegree.

Tasmanian-born Hore, who was the fastest finisher over all three races with a time of 7.43.41, said it was fantastic to see so many strong female scullers in Australia competing for the national titles: “It’s incredible to see such a high standard of female sculling in Australia. I’ve been in the Australian Rowing Team on and off since 2003 and I think this is the best quality of female sculling I’ve seen, so I’m really looking forward to the semi-finals on Wednesday.”

In the Open Men’s Single Sculls, six of the Australian Rowing Team were in action in the form of Cameron Girdlestone, Alexander Belonogoff, Chris Morgan, James McRae, David Watts and Karsten Forsterling. Opening the men’s heats was Sydney University BC’s Cameron Girdlestone who won his heat two seconds clear of Buckingham RC’s Max McQueeney, followed by Nick Purnell and Belongoff.

In fast racing conditions, Morgan snapped up the win in his heat followed by McRae, Wilson Moore and Benjamin Morley who all finished within two seconds of each other. In the final heat it was a win for David Watts, with Forsterling second.

Mosman RC’s Genevieve Horton showed her mettle in the Under 23 Women’s Single Scull heat, her time of 7.48.78 was the fastest of all three of the heats in this event. Horton, a bronze medal winner at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in 2014, has recently been named as part of the Australian Rowing Team and is looking to be the favourite going into the semi-finals, with ACT’s Cara Grezeskowiak and Mosman team-mate Rowena Meredith both on the hunt for medals.

In the U23 Men’s Single Sculls, it was Luke Letcher of Black Mountain RC who posted the fastest time. Letcher, who represented Australia alongside Tom Schramko in the U23 Men’s Double Scull last year, will face competition, when defending his title, from the other heat winners, Alex Purnell of Sydney University and Schramko.

Later in the day, the Open Women’s Double Sculls took to the water in a race for lanes and it was Kehoe and Horton who paired up to charge down the course to secure the best lane ahead of the Friday’s finals. Following them in second and third were Hannah Every-Hall and Georgia Nesbitt and Ella Flecker who paired up with Sarah Pound.

Watts and Morgan, also having each won heats in the Open Men’s Single, won their heat of the Open Men’s Double Sculls races for lanes and were followed by Tasmanian duo Max McQueeney and Wilson Mure.

The Open Men’s four did not row a heat today, but spectators at SIRR 2016 can expect some tight racing on Friday with the final featuring a number of Australia’s top male sweep rowers, including Alex Hill, William Lockwood, Spencer Turrin, Angus Moore, Joshua Hicks, Joshua Dunkley-Smith, Joshua Booth, Alexander Lloyd, Scott Laidler and Timothy Masters.

The day also saw plenty of action in the underage categories with U23s, U21s, U19s and U17s all taking to the water. Due to some adverse weather conditions in the afternoon, racing was temporarily suspended and all race for lanes cancelled. The remaining U19 and U17 heats were raced however all the Lightweight Double categories have been rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon, with the Lightweight Quad Scull race for lanes, originally scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, rescheduled to Wednesday afternoon.

With nearly 1300 entries in this week-long event, day one proved to be an exciting start to SIRR 2016.

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