Boating on the Clarence – CHS 2017 by John Bivell

In the theatre they say “break a leg,” a message upheld by champions and chairs at this year’s Combined High Schools Rowing Championships, held in Grafton. A team from Fort Street High School, Sydney Secondary College (SSC) and Concord High School all piled into the party bus on Sunday morning – driven by Paul “Allergic” Coates – and began the 10-hour drive north to the venue, where they hoped to snag some gleaming medallions for their schools. With the knowledge of regatta squatters and tolerant bus-goers Sydney Boys High absent from competition, the Sydney Rowers felt confident as the Maccas rolled by down the highway. Driver Paul was particularly invigorated by a selection of “groovy tunes” supplied by UE Boom beat-master William “Beef” Ma.

After a meaty mouthful at the local hotel in Grafton, the rowers caught some winks before waking bright and early for day one – the heats. The SSC Rowers joined Concord’s Cristian “Paint” Pezo in the Men’s Championship Scull heats. Tal “Slap” Lewis triumphed in the semis and progressed alongside longtime veteran Lloyd “Salted” Caetano to the final. Andrew “Up & Go” Li was also successful in hit U17 Men’s Single Scull heat, pulling a cheeky fourth. Up next came the doubles: Concord’s crew of Lucas “Bearded” Chabo and Lloyd advanced with Fort Street’s John “Still Here” Bivell and Alexander “Lamington” Migdalias. Richard “Lullaby” Quach raced well with Mr. W. Ma as Fort Street; Daniel “Minogue” Wark and Aaron “Wizkid” Winata did themselves proud with a strong sprint in their double. Tal Lewis was joined by none other than Benedict “Knockin’” Brenner, a man evidently confident with his numbers as he cruised with Tal to the top four and advancement.

Racing on day one ended with the Inter-regional Eight. From the goodness of their hearts, the Sydney North crew of exclusively Fort Street complexion delayed the race start to allow their friends in the dubiously constructed “Sydney East Eight” to tap up to the start line. As the course was extended to an unprecedented two kilometres, every crew still raced extremely well. Concord and Sydney Sec representatives came first and Sydney North beat an assured Hunter Eight for second. Racing done, Fortian quads took to the Clarence for a practise run, coxed by Mr. R. Quach and Genevieve “Junior” Bivell. As they slugged away at the oars, a veteran coach and young novice three kilometres downstream were affronted by a hardened felon who, to escape police detection, fortuitously shapeshifted into an otter. The animorph offered these sage words to a petrified novice rowing nearby: “Perseverance is key,” a neologism so inspiring that many an aquatic mammal was sighted perusing the depths of the Clarence.

The CHS Dinner was a great event for meeting other rowers, as testified by budding socialite Bradley “Biggest Twenty One Pilots Fan” Deng. All attendees were given a motivational speech from none other than rowing legend Hugh MacLeod, the Stan Lee of CHS Rowing who cameos once a year in every regatta. As rowers turned in at the hotel and proper supervision was executed to the utmost care, the only sounds were the drip-drip of rain and the cries of unscrupulous pool aficionado’s punching above their weight.

Day two – the finals. Every school did themselves proud. Ben and Tal won gold in the Men’s Championship Pair with Cristian and Lloyd in second, complementing Leichhardt’s second in the U15 Double Scull from Andreas “Slurpee” Migdalias and David “Hyper” Lee. Fort Street won their first official bronze medal in the tightly contested Men’s Championship Quad Scull: John, Alexander, Andrew and cox Richard brought up by stalwart two seat Jason “Hourglass” Huang. The team cheered club compatriot Deborah “Psyched” Prospero to second in the Championship Women’s Single Scull before Fort Street took out first and second in the Championship Men’s Four against Merewether High. More sculling medals – Lloyd in third for the Championship Men’s Single; Andy Migdalias in second and David Lee in third for the Men’s U15 Single. The Leichhardt rowers with teammate Namkai should be congratulated on their strong performance despite a fresh beginning.

Andrew Li did Fort Street proud by taking out third place in his U17 Single Scull. The regatta was rounded off with John and Alexander taking out third in the Men’s Championship Double Scull. Quick showers and a speedy trailer send-off by coach Sean  Madeley preceded a jovial presentation, where Sydney Girls won the overall regatta point score. A good job well done, all competitors packed into the bus with their bags full of medals and their minds full of dirty bird promised by team tough guy Kurtis “Skiid’ Aroney.

A huge thanks has to go to Mrs. Bivell and Mrs. Lewis for accompanying the competitors as parent supervisors. The coaches – Paul Coates, Sean Madeley and Luke “Corporate” Stait – also deserve our huge gratitude for the hours they put into the rowers. A final shoutout to Bryoni Gerofi and the CHS team for making this regatta happen, and to Pontoon for the school zooties. Mr. L. Caetano, as a senior, saw his last CHS Regatta ever. For the rest, onto the winter season and future successes for their school and Sydney Rowing Club. CHS 2018 – a Penrith affair – from yonder year beckons.