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Titahi Bay scored an poignant win at the North Island surf boat championships in Waihi Beach yesterday and in doing so, secured the national series title with a round to spare.
In 2000, three teenagers from the club were killed in a car accident when their car plunged over the edge of the Karangahake Gorge on their way to the same carnival.
Champion sweep Paul McVicar used their memory as he exhorted his crew on during the homeward stretch of yesterday's final, finishing comfortably clear of rivals Whangamata and Piha.
"They were just young fellas and keen rowers," McVicar said of his former clubmates. "That was the 10-year anniversary this year and we were calling that on the way home. I was yelling and yelling and yelling and it was an emotional way to seal victory."
Having won the first two rounds of the national series, in Wellington and Whangamata, McVicar's crew of Dean Ellis, Tim Marsden, Chris Martin and Ben Ashby were a class above the rest of the fleet, finishing two waves clear on the long-course set-up.
"They smashed it - we got the good run out but still had to chase the swells coming home. Our goal was to wrap the series up in three rounds which we've done."
They sealed a brilliant weekend with victory in the Champion of Champions race today, heading home the Paekakariki under-23 crew in the final...
It continued a big month for the current national champions, who were involved in a dramatic rescue three weeks ago while training on their home beach. They head across the Tasman to the Queensland state titles at the end of the month, missing the final round of the New Zealand series in Piha.
Yesterday's women's final was even more dramatic, with 72-year-old Waihi sweep Dan Harris steering his crew to a thrilling victory on his home beach, winning by inches from a fast-finishing Mount Maunganui boat, with Orewa third and Whakatane fourth. Orewa rowed with a composite crew after one of their members was injured in an early round.
It was a double celebration for Harris, who helped attract the biggest surf boat fleet ever assembled in New Zealand waters, with 73 crews taking part.
His crew of Claire Brezell, Emma Hodges, Nicola Staite and Sarah Woolley also secured their first-ever win at this level, after forming two years ago.
Orewa took out the under-23 boys final, Papamoa won the under-19 race and Whangamata snared victory in the women's under-21 division.
Open: Titahi Bay A (Dean Ellis/Tim Marsden/Chris Martin/Ben Ashby/Paul McVicar) 1, Whangamata (Cameron Corkill/Jonathan McElwee/Daniel Murtagh/Liam O’Halloran/Michael Tames) 2, Piha A (Mark Bourneville/Craig Knox/Matt Kirke/Bruce O’Brien/Ben Scott) 3.
Under-23: Orewa White (Jake Griffiths/Christopher McCarthny/John McCarthny/Dwayne van den Berg/Jediah Franich/Stuart Handford) 1, Piha Pistols (Cedric Bourneville/Ludovik Bourneville/Theo Commissaris/Shamus O’Halloran/Jean-Paul Smit) 2, Paekakariki (Jono Boyd/Jordan Te Paa/Nick Boyd/Steven Dickson) 3.
Under-19: Papamoa (Ethan Carter/Luke Larsen, Caleb Oakes/Thomas Steel, Darren Burke) 1, Piha Razors (Simon Cattley/Chaz Chapman/Oliver Pracey/Albert Walker/Phil Mason) 2, Piha Pistols (Cedric Bourneville/Ludovik Bourneville/Theo Commissaris/Shamus O’Halloran/Jean-Paul Smit) 3.
Masters: Whakatane (Simon Linton/Dean Oswald/Tony Oswald/Malcolm Rowson/ George Westermann) 1, Waihi (Dan Harris) 2, Omanu (Ian MacRae/Bob Mitchell/Andy Richardson/Ady van der Beek/Justin Hesp) 3.
Open: Waihi (Claire Brazell/Emma Hodges/Nicole Staite/Sarah Woolley/Dan Harris) 1, Mt Maunganui (Donna Brodie/Chelan Garnham/Isabelle Obermiller/Megan Scott/Justine Brennan/Wayne Urbahn) 2, Whakatane (Carla Linton/Annette Hahipene/Whytnee Rio/Warren McGoughan) 3.
Under-21: Whangamata (Kathryn Harris/Steve Pipe/?) 1, Papamoa (Rebecca Casey/Bridget McCarty/Courtney Thomson/Ashleigh Parkes/Darren Burke) 2, Rarangi (Bridgit Hart/Fleur Povejoy/Tessa O’Fagan/Taylor Rogers/Danielle Sutherland) 3.
Champion of Champions: Titahi Bay A (Dean Ellis/Tim Marsden/Chris Martin/Ben Ashby/Paul McVicar) 1, Paekakariki Under 23 (Jono Boyd/Jordan Te Paa/Nick Boyd/Steven Dickson) 2, Piha Pistols (Cedric Bourneville/Ludovik Bourneville/Theo Commissaris/Shamus O’Halloran/Jean-Paul Smit) 3.