Gold Coast hosts annual Paradise Regatta

The Gold Coast region’s premier rowing event — the Griffith University Paradise Regatta — will be held on the Nerang River at Budd’s Beach on Saturday, October 8.

Now in its fifth year, the regatta was the brainchild of then-second year Griffith dentistry student and World University rowing champion David Houston.

Griffith University Surfers Paradise Rowing Club (GUSPRC) Head Coach Gordon Cameron said the regatta initially ran over a 3km winding course and attracted school, corporate and elite crews who raced in eights only. Dragon boat racing was added in 2009.

“Last year the event evolved into a Royal Henley-style match-racing format of just two crews in each race, run over a fast 500m sprint course,” Gordon said.

“The event drew crews from all over Australia and New Zealand and included Masters Racing for the first time.

“This year will see further refinements, notably the extension of the University Challenge (between Griffith University and University of Queensland) to include a women’s eight.

“The Griffith women’s eight — made up of past and present students — is looking very fast and will be very competitive.

“The men’s eight is a little lighter in terms of weight this year and will have to use high rate (strokes per minute) to beat the more powerful UQ crew, which boasts past Olympians and present Australian representative oarsmen.

“Thanks to the sponsorship of Swift Rowing Australia there will also be a fascinating all-comers handicap single scull race aptly named ‘The Swiftest Sculler in Paradise’.

“This race has attracted more than 40 entries including several ex-Olympians and current national sculling medallists. All are seeking the rich prize of a new set of sculling blades valued at $800, $200 in prize money plus a gold medal and a trophy.

“The random draw for this event will allow some younger rowers the opportunity to race against their heroes of the sport — with a suitable handicap start.”

The Paradise Regatta now attracts about 350 competitors, offers $4000 in prize money, and attracts a large chunk of Australia’s 30,000 paddling sports tourists.

Gordon said the regatta presented the University’s sporting face to the Gold Coast and beyond, and honoured the traditions of great university boat races such as the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race on the Thames.

“Rowing is now talked about on the Gold Coast and at Griffith and, perhaps more importantly, Griffith University rowing is becoming recognised in Queensland and in Australia as a new force in a sport which places us in the top three in the world at international and Olympic levels.”

The Griffith University Paradise Regatta will kick off at 8am and will conclude with presentations at 3pm, with most of the finals and the two Challenge eights held after lunch.

Gordon said there would be food, drinks, picnic facilities and entertainment available for the whole family, with a race coming down the river every five minutes.

Griffith University Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor said the University was a proud sponsor of the event, which had many benefits for the Gold Coast.

“We look forward to a great day out on the river for the Gold Coast community to enjoy,” Professor O’Connor said.