Caps, Crabs and Captain America: The Balmain Regatta 2016

The gods of Iron Cove were smiling fondly on this auspicious date, blessing the rugged bay of Iron Cove with surprisingly smooth water and favourable conditions. It was with this celestial approval that the junior jousters of Sydney Rowing Club entered the annual Balmain Regatta. For many, it was their first time, freshly minted rowers nervous but eager to test their blades with that of the enemy. For others, this was history; a chance to settle old scores, chasten ancient rivals and finally win that one race that they so would have won last year, if only that one guy hadn’t pushed them off the course. With an admixture of youthful enthusiasm and salty vengeance, Coach Paul “Obama” Coates assembled his protégées by Leichhardt shed.

Paul Coates

First up were the novice scullers. They had trained hard through the summer holidays, applying themselves diligently to the oars. Now, it was time to put them to the test, and they performed to their utmost. Evan “Legit-63” Wang and Oscar “Deckchair” Gullickson finished fifth and sixth, gaining valuable experience from their maiden regatta. Meanwhile, Alexander “Brownies” Migdalias, despite a smattering of self-professed crabbing, placing fourth in his novice single scull. Following this heroic effort of donning the blue spandex for the first time came the D grade single sculls. Benedict “Beanie” Brenner had his start unfortunately sabotaged by a passing plane, but nevertheless fought past this aural adversity to come fourth in his race. Additionally, John “Juggler” Bivell came first in his D single over Glebe and Sydney Women’s.


The real stand-out of the day came in the lethargic recess preceding the boys’ quads, as the young Keesha “Exploratory” Chabo won an astounding victory in her novice women’s scull. In second place at halfway and facing a Penrith adversary behind and in front, she executed an extraordinary final 500m push that saw her overtake the orange caps to win the very first race of her career. Her elder brother Lucas “Dad” Chabo also participated at the Balmain Regatta, ranking fourth place in his D single scull.


At last, the long wait was up. After a strenuous interregnum, the final combatants arrived, one swaggering in his light blue apparel for the first time: Cristian “Tinkler” Pezo, who joined the D scullers in the Dallas Smith quad; and Rahel “Captain America” Sahni, who stripped off his superhero t-shirt to join the novice rowers in the Larry Parker. Both crews had an excellent warm-up to Iron Cove Bridge and executed some killer starts in preparation. With the blood pumping in their ears and the Larry still favourably above sea level, each crew took off. Cristian’s boat ranked third in their heat, unable to match the springy St. George or wizened Sydney Women’s. The novice quad also performed admirably for their first crew race in third, their experience and racing spirit fermenting well in the competitive environ of the Balmain Regatta.


With the day’s work done, the crew began to pack away the trailer. The afternoon was livened considerably during Cristian’s C grade single scull, where he managed to keep pace with a cohort of rowers well above his division. With such a feel-good air fermented only by the breaking of new rowers to the wonderful world of regattas, they convalesced homewards, taking a couplet of black-and-yellow medallions and some fond memories with them from the waves and waterfront of Iron Cove.

Report by John Bivell