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In Summary

2014 Vanuatu Masters Regatta "Masters in Paradise"


A long weekend in June, what ever shall I do?

I decided to go to Vanuatu. I sold it to my wife as a 'Family Holiday' before telling her that on the same weekend was the 'Masters in Paradise' regatta, the inaugural Vanuatu Masters regatta being held on the very lake (Erakor Lagoon), that our hotel backed onto... How convenient, not surprisingly she rolled her eyes at me.

An entry form was filled in, Masters Single here I come. I teamed up with Andrew Goldstein from Toowong Rowing Club, and decided to enter the double sculls as well may as well make the trip worth it right.

On arrival, we proceeded to the welcoming dinner, where we were handed our race schedules. Thanks to the National Bank of Vanuatu the Port Villa Rowing club (PVRC) recently purchased 4 Singles, 4 doubles and 4 quads/fours, these would be the boats we were to use, but due to only being four of each, the days racing would be, a singles race, a doubles race, a fours race.. then repeat.

I looked down the list and found my categories, Race 5 and race 7 I can do that I tried to convince myself, it will be a quick turn around... at least the other racers were in the same boat (pun intended). Andrew tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I entered us in the fours as well? with an answer of no, he then pointed out that we are listed in Race 3 along with Paul Coates from Sydney Rowing Club, and Tibal one of the Locals from PVRC.. screw it why not make it really worth the trip, so now it is Race 3, 5, & 7.

The following morning (Sunday) we head back to the course and meet our 'fours' crew for the first time (as we collect the boat to race). After a rocky start, we find some sort of rhythm, and get the boat moving quite nicely (even if our steering wasn't), although we weren't the only ones with a wonky fin (that is our excuse anyway). On the non-buoyed course, with no real navigational points either, a few lane changes occurred. The officials (all of which who were Fisa race officials who had volunteered to help) gave up on the course corrections, and only intervened if a collision was imminent.

From lane 1 we finished in lane 4, but it is ok because lane 4 finished in lane 1. We were up against a Local crew from PVRC, and two crews from New Zealand. We were lucky enough to cross the line first.

Next up and a quick boat swap, Andrew and I were off to the start for the Men’s ABC Double, after a tough race the last 150 meters was down to Andrew and I and a local PVRC crew (who were racing by invitation for experience as these were the young men competing in the world cup). Although Andrew and I finished second due to the invitational status of the winning crew we were awarded the gold.

As we arrived back at shore for another quick boat change, we were told the Men's A 1x had been moved to the last race of the day, thankfully, because by now my lungs were really burning, and my legs were a little wobbly.

I decided to go back to the hotel and indulge on some breakfast as the last race wouldn't be until late afternoon. After trying to limit myself from eating the entire buffet counter I spent a bit of time with my daughter swimming in the pool, and playing on the beach, before heading back to the regatta for the 1x.

In the singles we had Andrew from TRC, Myself, Paul Coates from Sydney, Robin Baird from Mercer Rowing Club in NZ, and Luigi from PVRC. Out of the start it was a close race, and you could have thrown a blanket over all of the field, by 250 in Luigi had a lead by about 1/2 a boat length over Andrew, followed by Robin and myself who were neck and neck 1/2 a length again, and then back to Paul. By the 1000m Andrew and Luigi were fighting it out for first and second, and Robin and I with less than a bow ball between us. It stayed that way until the last 50 meters were Robin was unfortunately able to get about a ½ a boat length in front from a mistake I made. I ended up finishing fourth, Again Luigi from PVRC was invitational so I was awarded the bronze.

On the Monday I opted not to partake in the 6km time trial which was open to all competitors.

Monday evening we had the ‘Awards dinner’ where we were all presented with our Tam-Tam’s (AKA Medals). The Tam-Tam is a traditional Vanuatu tribal carving, usually only given out by the chief of the village. The PVRC had sought permission from the local tribal chief to be able to give the Tam-Tam as a medal for the inaugural race. Each was hand carved by members of the local tribe and as such made it even more meaningful for those of us that were lucky enough to be awarded one. After the official ceremony we were then provided a fire dancing show by some of the locals and of course dinner.

During our time at Vanuatu we were invited to attend any of the training sessions with the locals, and even go on a picnic breakfast row to the mouth of the lagoon on the Tuesday morning if we wanted.

Overall I was happy with my efforts, and was glad I had made the trip. In total there was approximately 80 competitors mainly from Australia and New Zealand, but there was a few from America, and some from Europe, and amongst it all I have made some new friends, and plan to follow up on the invitations to go rowing if I am ever travelling and near one of the clubs.

Two Gold, and a Bronze from 3 races, I'm happy with that.

And although I wanted to come home on the Tuesday, unfortunately there are no flights to Australia on Tuesday's so I was FORCED to stay an extra night... and took the extra time to see Port Villa, and to show my daughter how lucky we are to have everything that we do. But we did also look at some of the wildlife including the oversized starfish.

The event was held as a fund raiser for the Port Villa Rowing club, and the Vanuatu Rowing Association, which currently has several athletes competing in the world cup series (and doing well for a club, and country that has only been rowing for a total of 5 years).

Many thanks to the Organising committee, and all sponsors and supporters of both the Vanuatu Rowing Association, and the Masters in Paradise regatta. Of course I must also thank all members of CRC for having such a great club that has allowed me to be able to continue to row, to the point where I have the confidence to race.

So start training because it is a great experience, a beautiful course and just a great excuse to take the family on a holiday for the June long weekend.

Community of Rowing

One of the things I like scratch that.. Love about the sport of rowing, is the community of rowing. This I have been reminded of twice in recent times, the first instance has been when I put a call out to fellow rowers in Seattle, to see if anyone would allow me to sit in a shell, whilst travelling away from home. I was overwhellemed by the response.

Not only did i get responses from coaches, and athletes in the city I was travelling to, I was contacted by some of the biggest names in rowing, and given contact details of people they knew in the city I was travelling to.

At first this doesn't seem out of the ordinary, but it struck me that there is not that many sports or hobbies that you could do this with.  I thought about it, and realised that it isn't like you could just rock up at a Football club, and go 'Ahh guys can i train with you 2 days this week'.

The second was one day when i was travelling to work on the train, and I was wearing one of my rowing shirts - you know the ones we all have them, the ones we have bought/been given over the years for the various clubs, organisatins, etc. When a complete stranger started to talk to me, asking if i rowed sweep or scull, which club i was at etc, i sat there and instantly made a new friend, he was a tourist from overseas, who had recognised me as a rower by my shirt, so he decided to have a chat. Again this struck me that not many sports could claim to have the same community spirit where two strangers would happily chat, based off of a shirt.



The saga continues...

After many months of training it has come to racing season, unfortunately I have had to pull out of the for the main race I/we were training for (The Head of the Yarra),

I did this for two reasons, the first, I did not think I would be fit enough, Yes I hear you all saying WHAT not fit enough after 6 1/2 months of training? well truth be told my 6.5 months was reduced down rapidly as I was hit by an unfortunate bout of bronchitis, I had put off going to my doctor thinking 'i'll be right, this will pass in a few days', It was when i struggled to walk 15 meters to the leterbox and back one day that i thought to myself... 'Nope I'm the fittest I have been for years, and I can't even walk 15 meters, Matty you have got to got to the doctors and you have to go NOW!"" So off to the doctor i trundled, where he proceeded to poke and prod my throat, and other lymph nodes, examined the back of my throat, and listened to my breathing, which he could already hear from across the room was strained before he even got the stethoscope out. His diagnosis, - I had a fairly severe infection in the lungs, and to confirm it I was off for a chest X-Ray and blood work before you can say Crews...Attention...Go.

Results came in, I was down 25% lung capacity in my right lung, left lung they were unable to determine due to the spread of the infection, blood work came back, high levels of some mumbo jumbo that i had no idea what it was, until the doc said, your out of the boat for at least 3 weeks, here is a script for an asthma spray, and a script for some really heavy duty antibiotics.

I scoffed at the 3 weeks, thinking yeah ok, I'll be back next weekend, I'm feeling good at the moment.... well....5 weeks later I was well enough to head to the shed, where my crew mates looked at me and the most common question was not 'how are you feeling?', but infact was 'should you be here?' along with the ''you look awful' comments, I took that as a sign of 'feeling good does not equal looking good' but 1 more week down and I was finally back in a boat, about 9k into training and I had the first coughing fit, but I made it back to the shed. Of course after a 6 week break out of the boat my hands were ripped to shreds on day one (See Photo below) but of course we all know and love this feeling don't we?

The second reason I had to pull out, which from the bottom of my heart I know is the real reason, is the fact that I won't even be in the country on the weekend of the race any more.

However having had to pull out the race, I was left with a feeling of now what? with out something to train for, what was the purpose of training? obviously I could have considered the health benefits, but if I wanted that then I could just go running, or walking or one of those other sports, but none of them really appealed to me, we all know there is nothing like the feeling you get when you take a good stroke. So I had a look, what regattas are coming up? and I found my answer, a regatta every second weekend until QLD state championships... and then onwards until Australian Nationals, why not I thought.

So here I am with a renewed vigour,  I headed down to the shed, found a few extra bodies who wanted to race (ok so they may have found me) and off to the regattas we go.

Last weekend, first regatta off the blocks, a few scratchings due to other commitments (and the decision to go only being made 4 days before the regatta), but there were 3 of us. a quick car pool off to the course, breakfast of champions on the way, and here we were, all set to race, a single, a pair and a double. First cab off the rank for me was the Mens 2- it was only a Group 2 so 1500m not a full 2k. Now I should make mention that the pair that boated had 2 goals for the race,

1) Finish;

2) come back dry;

We set the second goal given that we had never rowed a pair together previously, and neither of us had been in a pair for roughly 16 years. We did infact achieve both goals, and even bettered our first, not only did we finish the race, but we infact came in 4th. from this wave of euphoria I scrambled out of the boat to hop into the single and get to the start line, now I approached this race differently, as I in reality had given up before I even got the single on the water. The single race was a Masters Handicapped race, only a 1000m - a sprint as some may consider, however after my foray into the masters state championships, and my 3rd placing at a 'state' level, along with my age (being younger then the other competitors in the race) I was slapped with a 51 second handicap, yes that's right, in a 4 minute race, I had nearly an extra minute.

With this on my mind, and having hoped out of the pair, and straight into the single, lungs still burning as they haven't healed fully from the infection, I had given myself very little chance in this race.

I am pleased to say, on adjusted times I did make up about 15 seconds, however on official times, I was still in last place.

2 weeks on, and we are approaching the second race for the season, a regatta in a country town, small, but great atmosphere to compete at. 4 of us are heading down, we have a 1x a 2-, and 2 4+ races the only issue is we are a 4- crew, so yet again, handicaps here we come. but we don't care, all we want to do is race, and have a good time, because if you aren't enjoying what you are doing then why do it? winning isn't always everything sometimes the sheer fact of just getting out and being with friends and like minded people is enough to remind me why I loved this sport so much, and why after so many years i missed it and couldn't wait to get back in to it.

A weekend away with friends, what more can you ask for?

perhaps one day I will look across the starting line and find you next to me, and if I do, then let us both just enjoy it for what it is.

As always


What have I got myself into?

After a recent trip interstate, I finally decided to bite the bullet and to get back behind the oar.

This came with a bit of a push from some people that i apparently call friends. not only did I decide to take a handle up again, but I dived into the deep end and competed at a state championships (yes it may have been masters but it still had the words State and Championship in the title). So what did this mean? well after a 14 year absence from sitting into a boat straight to a state titles race, and when i say straight I mean straight, twoo weeks of training and I wouldn't call it intense, and in that 2 weeks there was the Easter holidays where I went away with my family and didn't train, so I was feeling confident. No I am not joking, I had great confidence in myself (without any backing), for the first time I had selfbeleif... I was sure I could do this, and play with the big boys.... Oh how I was wrong, I was not comfortable in the boat, My foot stretchers wern't positioned correctly, I was rowing short, my finishes were really bad, and 100meters into the race I was drained and ready to give it all in.

Thankfully I didn't and I crossed the line in 3rd place.... (yes there may have only been 3 in the race, but that is beside the point). I re-aquainted with several old friends at the regatta, and have continued to take a handle up several mornings a week, This time with a crew who have an aim, They have a coach, a regular boat, and several short term goals set on where they as a crew wish to go.  This has rekindled several of my own aspirations which had been given up for dead many years ago, but for the first time in a long time, I seem to have attained a purpose and a means to reach that purpose, will I reach it? who knows only time can tell.

But the one thing i do know, is no matter what has happened, no matter what your reasons were for stopping, no matter how long it has been, go down to a local club, and ask to go out in a boat some days. Yes you may have to eat some humble pie and be re-taught basic technique, but at least remember that as a a rower you have achieved more by stepping into a boat then anyone who doesn't have the courage to even do that.

So draw on that strength that was there, and I'll seer you on the water one morning.

The Pilot!

AKA: The Jockey, Coach on Water, The brains, The driver, and many more!

In my opinion the most important person in the boat, is the cox'n. (No I was a bow-man so I don't have any bias here).

And one the most important things any cox can do is to make the right calls at the right time. This means it is vital at the critical moment that the voice of the cox'n doesn’t falter.

I was recently approached by a fellow coach who had one of her cox'ns with an issue. On multiple occasions this particular cox had lost his voice through races, and as the season approached the final series, this coach was concerned about the overall health of her athletes. After a few discussions, and an outing or two with the crew, we realised it was possibly a bit too late to do anything in the given time frame. And it was a concern as we rapidly approached a weeklong event called nationals and we could see this was going to be the rowing equivalent of a train crash.  

I went away and thought, from my observations there was nothing I could see that would cause the loss of the voice, could it be stress or other environmental factors? I decided to travel to the upcoming regatta and observe the crew on race day. I was trying to figure out if there was something (diet, routine, dehydration) that might be the cause of the issue.

It was about the 3rd race of the day that I had my epiphany, as I watched each crew stretch, jog, and warm up, all without the cox. The cox of all the crews I watched stayed with the coach going through the race plan, tactics, calls and planned pushes. The crew went out, and like clockwork the cox'n lost their voice through the second half of the semi's, they were starting to get stressed and concerned that they would be dropped, yet they were one of the best tacticians in a boat that I had seen for a while. Again I went away and thought.

I caught up with the cox to discuss this situation with them away from the pressure of the shed, the crew and coach, without prying I tried to find out if their home life was ok, had there been any recent traumatic events, lifestyle changes, work issues or anything. They had assured me that nothing was going on, that might put them under any extra levels of stress. Again I went away and thought.

Then early one morning (about 2am to be precise) I had the epiphany that I didn't realise I had had earlier. It might seem weird and really left field, but a few days later I met up with them again, I sat him down and had a chat, ok I spoke he listened. I recommended that he go and take some singing and drama lessons, (I had actually already signed him up at the university club he just didn't know it yet).

I did this not because I thought his voice was so angelic that he belonged on stage or anything to try and embarrass him. I did it to provide him with some discipline. I hear you all screaming - he gets up at 4am 3-4 times a week to sit in a boat, and you think he doesn't have discipline???

Not quite, I know he has discipline and dedication, why else would he have put up with the pain like this for so long otherwise, I sent him to get some discipline around his voice, and more importantly to learn how to warm up his vocal chords. After signing him up for the lessons (and hearing him agree to do them) I spoke with the singing tutor of the class I signed him up for, and set out with her what I hoped to achieve with this young fellow, at which point she removed him from her class roll, and arranged for some private lessons free of charge (provided she got an invite and recognition at the end of year rowing dinner), I agreed and the following week our young athlete was off to singing twice a week for an hour each time. after only 3 weeks, the difference was amazing, this young fellow had learnt how to prepare his vocal chords for the straining that he is about to inflict on them, and the feedback for the other athletes in the boat was encouraging as well, he isn't screaming at them as much, but is projecting his voice without having to strain as much; and this had a further knock on effect of the crew were responding to his commands better. I was so astonished with the change and such a rapid response that I then approached the singing tutor/mentor/coach/instructor (I'm not quite sure what their actual title is), and I discussed with them the possibility of doing some sessions with all of the coxes. It took a bit of convincing for most of the coxes to attend (and take seriously) the vocal classes that they now must take. I was quite surprised to learn just 3 regattas later that the coxes were actually now doing vocal warms-ups normally reserved for opera singers and it is quite funny if you catch them at a regatta.

As I mentioned the change in the way that this athlete uses his voice is quite considerable, now I’m not saying he would rival any stage performer or someone who has been singing for years, but compared to what was to what has become is quite noticeable. And I can only attribute this to 2 things, one his willingness to take the lessons seriously and see them for what they were, as an attempt to help his situation and his pain, I will not deny that he was quite dubious at first, but once I explained why, he seemed a little more willing. The second is the understanding of the singing tutor, understanding that this was not someone who was interested in becoming a professional singer nor someone who wanted to learn how to sing properly, in correct pitch, just someone who used their voice to do what they love and that they needed her help.  

The true test came several weeks after the first lesson, unfortunately on the morning of a major regatta we had another cox'n fall ill, leaving us down a cox. We had confidence in putting our new invigorated athlete forward, which he performed his rostered races, and substituted for a further 3. when it came time to load the trailer and head home, here he was still able to talk (albeit a little squeaky) but without the pain, prior to his race he had wandered off as the rest of the crew stretched and joked, and he proceeded with lip rolls, bubbles and the like.  He thanked me for my assistance, and promised to continue the classes for a little longer. I was buoyed by the fact that we had identified an issue and assisted in solving it. We didn't remove it completely as he did still have some loss of voice at the end of the day, but it was certainly an improvement on where he had been just a few months earlier.   I was glad to see that he went on to win the final for the eights in the championships, even if it did mean they beat my true clubs crew. But I don't look at it of they won, we lost, I see it that as a rowing community we were able to band together to help those we have in our care, as a coach I NEVER like seeing an athlete injured in anyway, and if I can see that they are doing something incorrect I will correct it, no matter what club.  I wish the best for this athlete and hope that his dedication and willingness will take him far in the sport, for many of us they can see the potential within, and I am glad to say that I have helped to make his success last a little longer, the rest is up to him to see how far he can take it, but who knows, it is an olympic year after all.    

I have taken this to heart, and now I insist that any cox'n I coach has to undergo vocal training with a singing teacher, and they must perform vocal warmups before a race (no matter how minor the race is). I have found that from this the control of thier voice that my cox's have through a race especially a close race has improved, and inturn this can bring out a improved response from the athletes.


So I leave it there by asking you what warm-up and training does your cox'n perform?


Back in the Saddle

After a brief Hiatus I have recently hopped back in the saddle, I don't mean that of a sliding seat, but one of the aluminium type. After making the fatal mistake of indicating to another coach in a 'power' role that i would be available to coach if anyone was sick, had uni exams or just couldn't make one session.... provided they gave me 24 hours notice, the instant I did this I knew the inevitable was coming - the 'Matty we have a need for an extra coach', it was actually put in the form of 'well we do have x crews but only y coaches, if you wanted it Matty you could take the extra crew'. a part of me was screaming 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!' yet a larger more overwhelming part of me was trying to decide which was the best way to say yes.

Not so reluctantly I agreed, and 2 days later, I was at the shed at 5:00 am, ready to coach.   It struck me the difference of culture between sheds. The crew I have agreed to coach is a 14 year old girls school crew. The last time I was coaching a group of girls this young, my current crew weren't even born. I have only come to that realisation now as i write this. That fact kinda freaks me out a bit.

However I digress, The culture differences between sheds is phenomenal and it is now that I must bring myself to adjust not only to a shed that I haven't coached in before. Thus not only do I need to learn the internal procedures, policies and even the politics of the hierarchy but I also must adjust to coaching an age group that I haven't crossed in the span of thier lifetime.

All I have to say to that is 'Here I go, bring on the challenge' because I look forward to whatever they can throw at me.

The Scar across our Heart

As many would have heard through the various news outlets Brisbane, Queensland and large areas of Australia have been blighted by a serious of Natural disasters that have combined to make the worst Natural Disater of Australia's recorded history. As life returns to normal, albeit slowly for some, we return to work, homes are rebuilt or repaired, services are restored. Yet a month on and our beautiful city of Brisbane has been left with a massive scar across her heart. The winding river that we all so keenly rely on to provide us our rowing playground is still out of action, the devastation that she caused is evident everywhere you look.

Pontoons are missing, debris is still lodged in areas of the river that were clear to row prior to the devastation. boats have been damaged, shed life for all-most all of our rowing community is still just a dream with no return in the foreseable future. Some have found ways to continue the pursuit of glory and hapiness whilst others have been relegated to continue to dream.

Bris HoTR

This weekend marks the preimer event for the Private boys schools of Brisbane, with thier Head of The River regatta being held at Lake Kawana.

After the turmoil of the floods earlier in the year, damaging sheds, equipment, training schedules and morale, it is great to see all of the athletes (albeit a restricted number for saftey reasons) band together and fighht through.


Rowdrite extends our congratulations to all athletes, named in the crews for the Cambridge vs Oxford Boatrace "The Boatrace" for 2011. Especially the Australian athletes, David Nelson & Hardy Cubasch who will be rowing for Cambridge on March 26.

Why, Why, Why Delila

One of the most common question's that any athlete is asked is:


Why do you do it?

why do you put yourself through it all?

I have personally given this much thought and have found over the years that there has been one answer that surfaces the most and that is, 'Because I am drawn to it'. I can still remember the day I knew I would row. It was infact the first time I saw an eight up close, to be honest it was the first time (that I can recall) that I had even seen or at least noticed a racing shell, it was stunning, the lines, the polished and varnished timber, the beauty and the grace of it. Sitting on the trestles in the middle of the school hall, just sitting there waiting to be christened, waiting to be placed where it belonged, on the water, waiting not only for it's crew, but beckoning them to step forth, calling out who shall pilot me, who shall accept the challenge.

I had never stepped foot in a shell before this, yet I could hear the call, I could feel it in every part of my body, every bone, every muscle hearing the challenge and wanting to step forth. I knew in my heart that this was for me. And I was only 11. I could feel the rythum and I wanted to be a part of it. The first opportunity i had, my name was on the list to row. Since then I spent my time in in heaven and hell. There is no words to explain the absolute ecstasy when the crew, either an individual in the single, a crew in an eight, or any of the combinations in between, finds that point of harmony. On the other side of the blade there is more words then one can put down to describe the absolute hell of the blisters, the energy expended day in/day out traveling the same route every morning, the early mornings, nd most of all the pain. The pain of the lactic acid that is built up in the muscles of an athlete, and for those unfortunate ones that have to experience, the pain of losing

As a coach I ask every athlete emparted to my teachings the same question, not because i care but because i need to know what drives them. Most of my school age charges respond with 'because dad did', or 'my brother/sister did', infrequently i hear 'because i'm expected to' this is normally follwed by the 'my brother/sister/father/mother did'. Unfortunately it has been too infrequently that I have had a response where I could hear the underlying passion, the draw to be on the water, the need to sit in the boat. Without this drive to be there they just athletes going through the motion, and never reach their full potential as rowers.