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History of NSW Combined High Schools Rowing Regattas

NSW Combined High Schools Rowing History

1980 – Combined Pointscore for Champion School 

For the 1980 regatta at Grafton, the program expanded from 12 events to 15 with the addition of a Girls Champion Single Scull, Girls Fourth Four for rowers in Year 10 or below and a Boys Fifth Four for rowers in Year 9 or below. At some time between 1974 and 1979, the race distances for Boys Champion Eight and Four had been reduced from 2000m to 1500m, making the distances of all boys events equal. For the 1980 regatta, while Boys Champion events and Second Fours remained at 1500m, the Boys Third, Fourth and Fifth Fours were reduced to 1000m. The title of Champion School, previously applied to the winner of the boys pointscore, was transferred to the winner of the combined boys and girls pointscores. The pointscore system was equivalent to that used by the NSWRA, with 4, 2 and 1 points awarded to the first three crews in a lockout scheme.  A new trophy was awarded to the overall pointscore winner with the original trophy retained for the boys pointscore. Although the 1980 championships saw race honours well spread among many schools, Nepean HS prevailed in both the Boys and Girls Pointscores to become the first recipient of the overall Champion School trophy.

The program of races was unchanged for the 1981 championships on the Nepean at which Taree HS won 5 of the 15 events as well as the Boys Pointscore and Champion School with Nepean HS taking the Girls Pointscore. For the 1982 regatta, the coxed pair changed to a coxless pair and a Girls Champion Pair was added to the program. Sydney Boys HS regained the Boys Pointscore trophy with 4 wins from the 9 boys events, but Taree HS’s strength overall gave them 5 wins and the title of Champion School. Nepean HS won 4 of the 7 girls events to retain the Girls Pointscore trophy. Among Nepean’s medal winners was Marilyn Kidd, who won her second Girls Champion Single Sculls ahead of selection to represent Australia at the World Junior Championships.

Marilyn Kidd
First Australian representative woman rower from CHS

A Junior Boys Single Sculls for students in Year 10 or below was added to the program for the 1983 championship regatta at Taree where Sydney Boys HS recorded 6 first placings to convincingly take out the Boys Pointscore while Taree HS’s depth in both boys and girls earned them the trophies for Girls Pointscore and Champion School. 

1984 – A Change in Rowing Philosophy

1984 saw a significant change to the philosophy of CHS rowing that had previously emphasised sweep oared competition.  At recent coaching conferences, national coach Reinhold Batschi had advocated sculling as a means of teaching the skills of rowing and, in documentation distributed by world rowing body FISA, the symmetry of sculling had been promoted as being more beneficial for the growing spines of young oarsmen than the uneven forces of the rowing stroke. A successful motion at the 1983 rowing masters meeting introduced quad sculls for both boys and girls in Year 9. At the same time, the hierarchical naming of events was replaced with “Champion” (open to all competitors), “Novice” (competitors in their first year of CHS competition), “Junior” (competitors in Year 10 or below) and “Year 9” (competitors in Year 9 or below).  The events conducted in 1984 were: Year 9 Quad Sculls (previously 5th4+), Junior Four (previously 4th4+) and Junior Single Sculls, Novice Four (previously 3rd4+) plus Championship events in Four, Lightweight Four, Pair and Single Sculls for both boys and girls with Champion Eight for boys only. The Second Four events were omitted from the program in 1984.

The 1984 championship regatta was a triumph for Nepean HS who won 9 of the 17 events, the Boys Pointscore, the Girls Pointscore and the title of Champion School. Nepean HS won all six of the sculling events conducted and was to be a strength in school and junior club sculling for many years to come. Notable among these performances was that of Nepean’s Edwin Sargeant, winning the first of his many Boys Champion Single Sculls titles as a Year 10 student.

Second Four events were reinstated for the 1985 championships on the Nepean River where a resurgence of activity from the schools of the Northern Coast Region saw 12 of the 19 events taken out by Northern crews. Grafton HS with 5 wins took home the Boys Pointscore trophy while Maclean HS, also with 5 wins, took out the Girls Pointscore and trophy for Champion School. Although Grafton HS’s participation at CHS regattas had been continuous since the first regatta in 1965, Maclean had made very few entries until a positive commitment in 1984 began a period of successful competition that has earned Maclean HS wins at every regatta since.

1986 to 1989 

Murwillumbah HS hosted the 1986 championship regatta on the Tweed River where North Coast Region schools won 16 of the 21 events conducted. In keeping with the introduction of quad sculling events for junior crews, Invitation Quad Sculls were added to the program for senior boys and girls. Sydney Boys HS chose to send junior crews only, enabling their sequence of ten straight wins in the eight to be broken by Murwillumbah HS. The major honours for the regatta went to Grafton HS with 8 wins and a clean sweep of the Boys, Girls and Champion School pointscores.

Sydney Boys HS returned to senior competition for the 1987 regatta on the Nepean River, reclaiming the Eight as well as winning the First, Second and Third (now termed Novice) Fours to win the Boys Pointscore, however, Grafton HS’s overall strength in winning 6 girls and 3 boys events won them both the Girls Pointscore and the trophy for Champion School. In 1987, Nepean HS’s Edwin Sargeant claimed his fourth Boys Champion Single Sculls title, having extended his studies by one year due to absence overseas at the World Junior Championships. Edwin also won 3 consecutive Australian Schoolboy Single Sculling championships, creating a record that will be difficult to equal and will certainly not be surpassed.

1985 National Championships - Edwin Sargeant

In 1988, the pattern of two regattas in the city followed by one in the country changed to a single year rotation between city and country, reflecting the change in participation in CHS rowing. Most of the boys schools that had established CHS rowing in the 1960s, notably Narwee Boys HS and Homebush Boys HS, had disappeared from the sport although Sydney Boys HS remained as a strong contender. 

For the 1988 regatta on the Clarence River at Grafton, the 2 senior quad sculls became championship events while 3 invitation events were added: Boys and Girls Double Sculls plus a Girls Eight, bringing the program of events for girls into line with that for the boys. At the same time, race distances for girls became the same as for boys with Championship events and Second Fours over 1500m, Junior and Year 9 events over 1000m. Novice Fours were removed from the program for 1988 although they would reappear intermittently as invitation events until cancelled completely ten years later. Grafton HS and Sydney Boys HS tied in the Boys Poinstscore, with the trophy awarded to Grafton due to their greater number of wins, however Grafton were clear leaders for the Girls Pointscore and Champion School trophies. 

North Sydney Girls HS made a spectacular debut to CHS rowing at the 1989 championship regatta on the Nepean River, winning 4 events including Girls Champion Four and Girls Champion Eight as well as taking out the Girls Pointscore at their first attempt. The 3 invitational events of the previous year had gained championship status with girls and boys rowing holding equivalent status from then on. Sydney Boys HS regained the Boys Pointscore trophy with Grafton HS being crowned Champion School for the fourth successive year. Edwin Sargeant’s younger brother Richard won the Boys Champion Single Sculls for Nepean HS and, like his brother before him, earned Australian representation to the World junior Championships. Another Australian representative was Jenny Clarke of Gymea HS who won her second Girls Champion Single Sculls prior to becoming a member of Australia’s Trans Tasman team.

The 1989 race program with 7 championship events, a second four and 3 junior events was to continue until 1995 with the addition of Junior Double Sculls in 1993 being the only change. 

North Sydney Girls HS with their 1989 trophies – Grabrielle and Geoff Pritchard (coach) at centre rear.

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