WARRNAMBOOL’S State Emergency Service (SES) members are used to performing well in a crisis but next month they face a big challenge of a different kind.
The unit’s mixed whaleboat rowing team is preparing to defend its national title in Warrnambool.
Having won the mixed category at the championships for the past few years under a different name, the Warrnambool SES crew is facing stiff competition from the Portland Black Whalers team.
Warrnambool SES team captain Giorgio Palmeri said the Black Whalers beat his team by about 1.5 metres in a race at Portland’s Upwelling Festival in November and his team was keen for revenge.
Mr Palmeri said his team of four men and three women was training hard for the February 17 championships, taking to the Hopkins River twice a week.
He said the crew loved the annual championships — this year will be the fourth time they have entered — and enjoyed getting fit, the friendship and “winning”.
Apart from himself and another team member the others are all new to rowing.
The national whaleboat championships will be held on the Hopkins River near Proudfoots.
The contest is organised by the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village and uses three of its replica whaleboats.
The championships’ co-ordinator, Merran Fyfe, said the event had again attracted a good level of interest.
About 20 teams will take part, including four from Portland, two from Warrnambool Base Hospital and three from Corangamite Shire Council.
The championships involve men’s, mixed and women’s categories.
Teams have been in training since October and were on the river most week nights, Ms Fyfe said.
Last year’s winning women’s team, the Happy Little Vegemites, went on to compete in whaleboat championships in the United States as part of an ongoing friendly rivalry with American racers.
Ms Fyfe said it was hoped American teams would return to compete at the Warrnambool championships next year.
The men’s category was last year won by the Portland Whalers team.
The championships will begin at 10am, with the finals expected to finish by about 4 pm.