Determination cushions discomfort for US whaleboat rowers

SORE bums suffered this week by an American team could be one of the few competitive advantages for local women’s teams competing in tomorrow’s Australian Whale Boat Championships in Warrnambool.

The USA women’s team, the Golden State Rowers, come to this year’s championships with a formidable reputation, having a collective total of 95 years’ experience in whale boat rowing between its six members.

It is a composite team drawing members from three teams that compete in a gruelling San Francisco whale boat racing competition.

But when they row in San Francisco Bay they use seat cushions — a comfort not provided in the Australian style of whale boat they have used for training in Warrnambool this week.

However, aching backsides will be forgotten tomorrow as the determined visitors focus purely on the job at hand.

American team member Doris Vela said that attitude was necessary to deal with the challenging conditions on the expansive San Francisco Bay that includes big swells, strong tides and races over distances of up to eight kilometres.

Faced with the Americans’ rowing experience, last year’s winners in the local championships women’s division, the Whalers Bluff team from Portland, will have its work cut out.

The US team is competing in the championships as part of a reciprocal arrangement with the Warrnambool event that has seen teams from each country exchange visits.

A mixed US team competed at Warrnambool four years ago, coming fourth overall, while a Warrnambool women’s team, the Happy Little Vegemites, competed in San Francisco in 2012, coming fifth overall. 

Twenty-two teams will compete tomorrow on a one-kilometre course on the Hopkins River near Proudfoots on the River restaurant from 9.30am.

Finals will be held from 3.45pm

Last year’s men’s division winners, the Couldabeens, appear happy to rest on their laurels and have not entered this year, leaving the runners-up, the Corangamite Crusaders, as the favourites in that division.

There’s likely to be a hard-fought battle in the mixed division, with the Warrnambool SES team keen to redress its loss last year to Portland’s Black Whales.

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