STRONG winds and choppy conditions made the Australian Whale Boat Championships victory so much sweeter at Warrnambool’s Hopkins River yesterday.
Flagstaff Hill service manager Helen Sheedy said organisers were pleased with the event with 22 teams putting up strong competition.
She said times were fast in the earlier heats but slowed once the winds picked up. However, it didn’t deter the 500 spectators who enjoyed the sunny conditions and day’s racing.
Last year’s runner-up Corangamite Crusaders went one better this year to take out the men’s final in a time of 6 minutes 18 seconds, while the reigning women’s champion Whalers Bluff prevailed again (7:19) and Portland’s Black Whales (6:22) went back-to-back to take out the mixed final.
Teams from Portland, Terang, Camperdown and a large Warrnambool contingent competed, many of whom had trained since October. Corangamite Crusaders team captain Andy Lancashire said they came in to the race with a plan to take out the title and joked they were going to begin a “whaleboat dynasty”.
The women’s final was close with less than half a boat-length separating Whalers Bluff from Girls Overboard, who were new to the competition.
In the mixed final, Portland’s Black Whales pipped the Warrnambool SES who were 15 seconds behind the pace.
The inaugural Spirit of the Hopkins Award was awarded to the team which personified the fun and spirit in which the whaleboat championships were introduced.
Joint winners the Vet Group Sea Cows and Vet Group Vikings, both teams dressed to fit their names.
Flagstaff Hill manager Peter Abbott said the high Hopkins River water levels didn’t worry competitors.
“It’s made it a little bit harder but the racing hasn’t really been affected. There was no major impact, the boats can still be loaded,” he said.
The American women’s team Golden State Rowers failed to make the final, but rower Monica Foote said they were buoyed by a fun day of racing and sightseeing before the championships.
“It’s such a different boat than what we have. It was definitely a challenge and a big change for us, especially since we had not rowed together before,” she said.
The six-kilometre Whale Boat Fun Run, an untimed event in its second year, was won by Clinton Hall and Alicia Boyd.