“Excruciatingly intense” is how Helen Maskell-Knight remembers lining up at the start line as stroke of the first University of Tasmania women’s rowing crew.
In mid-May, the crew met in Hobart for a reunion dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of UTAS women rowers competing at intervarsity. The crew notably crossed the line second to Melbourne in the final in 1972, beating off Western Australia in the last few hundred metres.
Helen said it was fascinating to discover the memories which stood out for individual crew members and to be reminded of events which may have become hazy over the passage of time.
“A couple of us had the shirts we wore in 1972, as well as the photographs and coach’s report to the Sports Council about the event, which contributed to us being able to ‘replay’ the experience,” Helen said.
In a video made to celebrate the occasion, Helen reminisced about what it was that attracted her to the sport.
“I love the closeness to the water; I like the teamwork, the working-together feeling, the fact you have to be in sync with other people … and I like the physical exertion … testing the physical dimension.”
She commented too on the relationship-building aspects of rowing during her formative university years, adding that it contributes to “learning to be an adult because you’re negotiating and cooperating".
“The most powerful feeling that I most remember from rowing is the experience of the few minutes before the start of a race. You are literally hovering on the water, trying to maintain your boat’s position at the start line to maximise your advantage.
“You often have to ‘touch it up’ with small oar strokes to try to hold the boat in position. That is one of the most intense experiences I think I’ve ever had in life … one you don’t forget.”
Two young Tasmania University Boat Club (TUBC) rowers, Kate Oliver and Sophie Robinson (coached by Shaun Finlayson), have recently been selected as the Australian Under 23 Lightweight Women’s Pair for the upcoming World Championships in Varese, Italy, from 25 to 31 July.
Cox of the 1972 crew, Kate French, said that in her day the thought of young women rowing was unheard of.
“The opportunities for the young women now are really fabulous,” she said.
Helen agrees. “I am delighted that women’s rowing is very firmly established in Tasmania and no longer the ‘curiosity’ that it was 50 years ago!”
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