Memories from 94 – 98: Rowing for Jeppe

I was fortunate to start rowing at Jeppe in October of 1993, this was after our primary school had been visited by a couple of large fellows from Jeppe, who gave us a short explanation of what rowing was for boys headed off to Jeppe the following year. Leading them was Mrs Cantin, the Master in Charge of Rowing.

So a couple of us arrived from a number of different schools, at the October rowing camp, on the Vaal river, in a town called Orkney, for the annual Orkney October camp. This was where the Jeppe crews traditionally put in some big mileage early on in the season.

There were some fearsomely big seniors in that year, the likes Grant Hinkley (Rowing captain at the time), Jason Edgecome, Steven Bureford, Michael Wardle, Michael Steedman, Danny Mills, but to name a few. Under Mrs Cantins leadership the club was also on a resurgence. Outside of the giants, there were also some great leaders, like Trevor Ions, Zack Wood, Ryn Gill, Trevor Du Toit, Paul Smith, and others, who were shaping the culture of the club at the time. 

The previous years U13 age group was I think unbeaten, guys like Matthew Bell, Neil Smith, Kevin Page and David Barber-Garbett, had pretty much won every single A event the previous year, and our age group was expected to do the same! And we did win our first regatta as A quad coached by Anthony Short and Ozzie, in that boat was Kyle Smith, Blake Munting, Sean Anderson, and myself (Thomas Shaw). I think that race gave us a taste of winning, which we never could forget, and would become an obsession. Sadly we were not able to win SA champs that year, or even the following year. I remember clearly though that in December of 95, where tradition dictates that the U15 A&B quads are thrown into an Eight, and given their first taste of sweep oar rowing, that once the 9 of us were installed in that boat, something clicked into place, and I for one knew that in U16, we’d be very competitive. Again, we had big shoes to fill, the Jeppe U16’s from the previous year also didn’t lose a race, by that stage, when crews lined up against Jeppe “Garbett” (they had to shorten Dave’s surname so I would fit on the regatta program), they knew they were racing for second.

Coached by Wayne Severin,  with Mike McEwan as our driver, competitive was the understatement, we didn’t lose a single a single race. In that boat we had: Kyle Smith, Richard Gaddi, Blake Munting, Michael Heyl, Karl Voysey, Duane Steward, Miguel Faria, and myself in the bows. At the same time, the age group below us, coached by Carla Tischmanwere dominating all of their events, and the group above us, formed part of crews, coached by Ben Burnand, which were giving Jeppe their first taste of victory in 1st Eights for a number of years, as well as dominating 2nd Eights. Jeppe was clearly in a very healthy space, success breeding success.

The following year, considering the size of my fellow team mates, and my weight, think I was still under 50Kg, and the talent that was coming from the age group below, I calculated that the only realistic chance I had of making the 1st 8 was by coxing, so I made the change, and we had a great year racing 2nd Eights with Steven Bureford as our coach, we didn’t win every race that year, but we took all the big ones, Buffalo, Riviera Vaal, and SA Champs.  Sadly the 1st Eight that year, coached by Wayne Severin, having won every single race to that point, lost by a bow ball at SA champs to St Andrews, who broke many Jeppe hearts that day.

In that boat, and back for the 98 season were David Barber-Garbett, Michael Heyl, Karl Voysey and Blake Munting. Richard Gaddi and Sean McCann had spent the season in 2ndEights with me and both had a point to prove, and then Andrew Kew, and Brendan McCann completed the 1st 8 in their first year in the open division. That crew was fast! We’d also just taken delivery of a brand new John Waugh racing boat, named Damocles. Carbon fibre/Kevlar, top of the range at that time. And we proceeded to put lengths into our competitors, to the point where we thought we were unbeatable –until we got beaten. Decisively. Twice.

We were privileged to have a coach who wanted us to win as much as we did, and looking back, he stuck by us, without making wholesale changes to the team, but also sent us of for a10km run, and then timed the finishers, declaring that it was our fitness that was letting us down, and one of the reasons we were struggling to get our stroke rate up. 

Then began the running sessions, I think by the time SA Champs came along, we would have made a competitive cross country team as well! With most of the running training having occurred in the semi-mountainous suburb of Kensington. The work soon started paying off, with Riviera, Buffalo, Selbourne regatta wins under our belt going into SA Champs, but with the ever present threat of KES and Saints not far behind, and the St Andrews dark horse also in the mix.

SA Champs was a text book race, and we took it with clear water, and it was really the combination of the past 4 years events, and experiences which contributed to that victory, as well as all of the names I have mentioned, who played a part in some way.

That same weekend most of that crew went on to make the provincial eights race. And two members of the 2nd Eight, Kyle Smith and Greg Williams won the 1st Pair race, actually beating boys who ended up in the Jnr National team with us that year – so demonstrating just how deep the talent went that year. 11 of us got awarded full colours that year.

Richard, Karl and myself went on to make the Jnr squad, and we competed in Austria that year in the Junior World Champs, placing 5th overall. Which was the cherry on the top of such an enjoyable school boy rowing career.

Great memories!

Thomas Shaw

1994 – 1998


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