A pile of thrilling races in the first day of finals

Among a pile of thrilling finals at the Aon Maadi Cup at Lake Ruataniwha today, Dunstan High School’s Pipi Horan’s effort in the U17 single was among the best.

Not only that, it secured her a brand new single scull as her prize, courtesy of sponsor Laszlo and Maadi Cup naming right sponsors Aon.

There was also a new boat for U17 boys single winner Marley King-Smith of Wakatipu High School, who was out of the blocks super-fast today, winning four of the first A finals.

With spectators in for the first time at the regatta, and making plenty of noise, it certainly helped the atmosphere on a day which began drizzly and chilly but finished up sunny.

Horan is in her final year of rowing, attending her third Maadi and today produced a really strong, assertive row.

She seemed to have the race in hand from halfway down the 2000m course.

Otago Girls High School’s Harriet Thompson was Horan’s most determined chaser and ensured Horan couldn’t let her guard slip.

‘’I’m so happy,’’ Horan said.

‘’It’s been a goal since I started rowing in the U15 season. I was going in with high hopes but had no idea what would happen. Harriet was pushing on me (in the next lane), and I just tried to hold on.’’

She was familiar with most of the other girls in the final, having raced them earlier in the season and those she didn’t know ‘’I had a sneaky look on the live stream.

‘’I knew I had to get out pretty quick and stay in touch. I knew some of these girls would have a pretty quick finish so had to hold on.’’

As for the boat, ‘’it’s pretty cool, so I’m stoked. I can’t believe it. Everyone’s been joking about what they’d call it.’’

Her regatta is over, with a clear day tomorrow, but probably to be spent basking in the glow of that win.

As for King-Smith, one of the leading lights in the burgeoning Wakatipu High programme,

He had to hold off Sacred Heart’s Oliver Leach and King’s College’s Baxter McGillivray to clinch his boat. Leach crossed three seconds back.

‘’It’s really awesome. I’ve been working hard all season and it’s such a big payoff,’’ he said.

His confidence has taken a leap with his results this week.

He had received ‘’heaps’’ of messages from his whanau and friends after winning the first final of the day.

‘’It was really intimidating, hearing the introduction into the start of this year’s Maadi.

‘’I love to get out on the water, soak up any information I can get and never waste a minute.’’

Wakatipu won four of the first nine A finals yesterday, in a prime example of a team getting out of the blocks rapidly.

Among their other successes were in the boys U16 coxed quad, and the girls U17 quad scull.

They had one thing in common – tiny cox Emily Howard. She has put up a formidable performance at this regatta and there’s no question who calls the shots in her boats.

‘’We did all our pieces exactly where we needed. When I say it, it happens. That’s probably the most satisfying part.

‘’Before our races they listen to me, and make our moves when I say,’’ Howick, in her second Maadi, said.

While there had been ups and downs this season when push comes to shove ‘’they listen because they know it’ll work.’’