Rupert Guinness at Champion Lakes Regatta Centre

Campbell Watts is bracing himself for “the toughest final” of his rowing career in Thursday’s medal race of the Men’s Single Scull at the Australian Rowing Championships being held at the Champion Lakes Regatta Centre near Perth.

The Men’s Single Scull Final is set to be one of two gladiatorial thrillers between individuals in Thursday’s round of Small boat finals. The other is the Women’s Single Scull Final.

Other Small boat finals on Thursday include the Men’s and Women’s Coxless Pair and Double scull events.

Watts, a member of the Australian Rowing Team (ART) Men’s Quad Scull squad, placed second in Wednesday’s first Semi-Final, which saw the first three go through to the decider. The prized Dr Stephen Hinchy Memorial Trophyawaits the winner.

As with most races on Thursday, all crews had to contend with stiff headwinds and gusts that reached up to 40kmh.

“We’re in store for a massive race,” said Watts of the final. “It will be one of the toughest finals I’ve done. There’s so manypeople in great form. It will be very, very difficult.”

In Watts’ Semi-Final, Caleb Antill (ANU-ACTHP) won in 7:37.28s, defeating Watts (Sydney University-NSWIS) by 2.87s and Ben Canham (Melbourne University-VIS) by 12.86s.

The other Semi-Final saw Cormac Kennedy-Leverett (Griffith University-Surfers Paradise) win in 7:26.60s. He beat the 2022 champion Jack Hargreaves OAM (Sydney University-NSWIS) by 6.41s and Sam Marsh (Swan River-WAIS) by11.49s.

While Watts did not need to win Wednesday’s Semi-Final to make the Final, he dismissed any notion that he rowed within himself as he may well have to save energy for Thursday.

“I don’t really like rowing it down very much unless it’s abundantly clear, because there’s been too many situations, whether it be domestic or international racing, where there’s someone who has a ballistic sprint at the end,” Watts said. 

“You never want to get caught in ‘No Man’s Land’ where you end up going neck-and-neck to get through because you weren’t hard enough earlier. It’s super important to just keep on the race, and [ease up] in the last 100 if it’s really clear.”

Looking ahead to Thursday’s Final, Watts said he will throw all he has into it, but he will still have a plan in mind at the start.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Once we got passed the main island, it was smooth sailing …” – John Hantke on handling the windy day three conditions. It wasn’t quite Bass Strait on a bad day, but a sailing yacht may well have been more effective. Hantke (WARC) and his crewmate, Harper Davies (SRRC), are favourites to win the Men’s Under 19 Coxless Pair Final.

DIG OF THE DAY: Many of them rowed in tough headwinds but Pat Burke (UTS-Haberfield) deserves a shout out for his Under 23 Men’s Single Scull Semi-Final finish. With the top three to the final, he was fourth by six seconds to the third-placed rower with 500m to go. But he dug deep tostorm through and take third by a 0.08s. His scream and fist pump at the finish said what it meant to him.

“There are always tactics when you’re going 100 per cent,” he said. “I just need to ‘put in’ on every single stroke and get into my rhythm. If I’m in the rhythm and able to put everything into it, then it’s [going to be a] really good race.”

In the Women’s Single Scull final, World Championship Bronze Medallist Tara Rigney (Sydney University-NSWIS) looks ideally positioned to claim the national crown.

Rigney provided an encore to her impressive heat win by winning the second Semi-Final in 8:20.88s. She beat Caitlin Cronin (University of Queensland-QAS) by 10.76s and Rowena Meredith (Sydney University-NSWIS) by 15.53s.

The first Semi-Final to decide the other finalists was also won convincingly by Amanda Bateman (Melbourne University-VIS) in 08:21.16s. She beat Harriet Hudson (Sydney-NSWIS) by 10.62s and Lauren Graham (Sydney-NSWIS) by 40.44s.