Contrary to the University of Sydney, who did not demonstrate an active wish to continue the tradition of rowing matches with Russian rowers, New Zealand students precisely followed last year’s agreement to pay a return visit to St. Petersburg with a dashing crew combination, lead by their university coach G. Sinclare, came on to the Neva. Accommodated in the club’s premises, guests combined pleasure in the training sessions on the Neva with sightseeing. The Match’s presentation was held on the 17th September in St. Petersburg University, where the guests danced famous Maori dance “haka” to traditionally scare their competitors. This time “haka” brought a success to New Zealanders. But in the beginning the guests lost to St. Petersburg students in the show relay 8x250m on the rowing ergometers, and on the 20th September – in a sprint race at Sestroretsk on the Razliv lake.
This time the winners were determined by a changed system, offered by the guests. It was simpler – the final victory should be passed to the team with the fastest summary time in all three races, and virtually the main prize was competed in the last and most difficult 6km race.
For a number of reasons, some of the strongest Russian students were absent and the St. Petersburg eight’s combination was not as powerful as last year. After a very hard season, the National team members D.Kuznetsov and D.Golovin were on holiday, R.Vorotnikov and V.Yanovskiy practically stopped active rowing. N.Kulenishev and I.Charkin were not in their best form after injuries and illnesses. The team was not preparing for the Match purposefully; the crew combination was formed only two weeks before the races, after the competitions of the official Russian rowing calendar were over. Finally the Univesity’s colours were defended by Isakov, Chelohian, Salmanovich, Charkin, Belyaev, Baklagin, Kulenishev, Koreshkov.
The advantage given to the New Zealand guests became obvious in the evening of the 21st September, on the ideal glassy waters of the Razliv Lake, on the 2k course they were more than a boat length in front of their rivals. That was clear then that to save St. Petersburg Univesity on the last stage of the competition there was to be an unexpected situation – the competitor’s steering mistake or something like what happened in one of the last Boat races between Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The 6k race – the culmination of the Match should be held in a unique format: never before, at least in the last decades, were there races through the whole city. The crews were to start on the Fontanka River near the Admiralty dockyards and after 5700m to finish at the Summer Garden. All water traffic was stopped for the time of the race.
The New Zealanders took confident start and did not make mistakes, even in spite of the fact that near the Anichkov bridge they met an insane man in a leisure motor boat, who instead of giving them a way literally rammed the University of Otago eight and forced it to move to the competitor’s lane. That did not influence the race itself as by this time the advantage of the guests over St. Petersburg’s University crew was more than 6 boat lengths, and eventually became 45 seconds on the finish line.
Otago’s victory in the Match was unconditional – even according to the old point system there was no need to count the points. In this situation the host side could only use the traditional expressions like “friendship won” and “no one lost that day”. Honestly there was hard to expect any other result – the rowing sport system built in New Zealand looks too advantageous and impeccable, in comparison with the shy attempts of revival of the international positions of Russian rowing. The small country won 6 (!) gold medals (and half a meter separated Olympic champion Mah? Drysdale from the 7th gold) at the last World Championships and demonstrated absolutely unique efficiency in searching and uncovering the talents, and within it the guests from this distant corner of our planet always show modesty, politeness and impeccable manners. Perhaps a really positive outcome of this meet is the possibility to study this wonderful experience and to prove and practice the possibility to run races on the tremendous course – along the whole stretch of the Fontanka river.
The St. Petersburg University team, formed and trained with the assistance of the English Rowing Club, marked its fourth anniversary. There were gains and losses for this period. The University’s eight keeps in existence and sets new aims for the next season.