By Jason Oxenbridge
Hundreds of spectators and competitors are expected at Griffith University’s Paradise Regatta at Budds Beach, Surfers Paradise, on Sunday (October 7).
The annual rowing festival promises perfect conditions in an idyllic Gold Coast location.
And among the crowd, former Olympian Duncan Free will be the most highly-credentialled spectator.
The 2008 world champion will be a VIP guest when the best rowers in the region converge on the Nerang River for the city’s premier rowing event.
While he might love to join the action, Free is still recovering from an injury which ruled him out of the 2012 London Olympic trials. The Olympic gold medallist won the Men’s Coxless Pairs at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the same year he was crowned world champion.
Revered as one of Australia’s country’s most decorated all-round oarsman, Free was recently appointed Head of the Griffith Sports College. He is also a life member of the Griffith University Surfers Paradise Rowing Club (GUSPRC).
Griffith Rowing Head Coach Gordon Cameron said Sunday’s event was likely to attract other past and present champions and Olympians.
“The event draws crews from all over Australia and New Zealand and included Masters Racing for the first time as well as the addition of a Women’s University Challenge Eight.
“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’ — with a prize of a new set of sculling blades (valued at $800), $200 in prize money, a trophy and medals.”
The Paradise Regatta attracts around 350 competitors and attracts a large chunk of Australia’s 30,000 paddling sports tourists. There will be 12 national medallists, three Queensland champions and a national title holder in the mix.
Griffith Paradise Regatta
Sunday, October 7, Budds Beach, Gold Coast
8am to 3pm (Main races 12.45 and 1.45)
Now in its sixth year, it is the brainchild of former Griffith dentistry student and World University rowing champion David Houston. 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. In 2010 the event evolved into a Royal Henley-style format of just two crews in each race, competing over a fast 500m sprint course, mirroring the famous Oxford and Cambridge match-up.
Crews will battle it out on the Nerang River adjacent to Budds Beach, a beautiful location on the west of Surfers Paradise..
“This year will see further refinements, notably the addition of novice graded events to encourage greater participation in the rowing community,” said Mr Gordon.
“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 an impressive line-up of top representative oarsmen. However, for the first time our crew feels they have the edge over their old rivals.”
A new mixed event has also been added where crews of male and female rowers will compete as a team in a relay, comprising a mixed double scull, followed by a mixed coxed four and a mixed quad scull.
“The event promises to be a real crowd pleaser and will present spectators with some very exciting racing and tight finishes,” said Mr Gordon.
“Rowing is now talked about on the Gold Coast and Griffith University rowing is becoming recognised in Australia as a new force in a sport which places us in the top three in the world at international and Olympic levels.”
* Spectators are advised to approach Budds Beach from the south (via Broadbeach, Chevron Island and Isle of Capri) to avoid possible delays to the north associated with light rail construction and GC600 motoring race track construction. Parking is available in side streets or in nearby Ferny Avenue