By TERRY MADDAFORD
Thirty years after stunning the rowing world with their upset victory in the glamour event at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the eights final, the New Zealand crew are set to dip their oars again.
But their return to the water at the World Masters Games in Melbourne from October 9 to 13 will be a more sedate performance.
While they sped down the 2000m Feldmoching course, rating an initial 45 strokes and never dropping below 39, to beat the Americans and East Germans, the New Zealand crew will probably settle for around 28 to 30 strokes-a-minute over 1000m in Melbourne.
"We will sit down and decide how we will tackle it," said Tony Hurt, who has slipped back into his familiar role as stroke. "Unlike Munich, where we had only the final on the day we won, we could have a heat, repechage, semifinal and final in Melbourne."
The Munich crew, assembled by famed coach Rusty Robertson, were a combination of the old and new.
Wybo Veldman and John Hunter from the eight who just missed a medal at the Mexico Olympic four years earlier, and Dick Joyce and coxswain Simon Dickie, who had won gold in the coxed fours at the same Games, were joined by five new faces.
Hurt, Trevor Coker, Athol Earl, Gary Robertson and Lindsay Wilson were brought in.
All but Coker, who died in the late 1970s, and Robertson, who is unable to make the trip, will be in Melbourne.
Their places will be taken by Tom Just (from the Mexico eight) and Australian-based Noel Mills from the silver medal-winning Munich coxless four.
Bringing Just on board has its advantages.
"Having Tom with us helps to bring the average age up, which will allow us to race in category E [for crews with an average age between 55-59] rather than the more competitive category D," 55-year-old Hurt said.
The crew, with the members spread far and wide, had their third training stint at the new West End Club on the Whau River in Auckland.
Hurt has a plumbing business in Auckland, Veldman farms in Ohakune, Wilson is a public servant in Hamilton, Dickie has an adventure company in Taupo, Joyce has an engineering business in Wellington, Earl sells real estate in Christchurch, where Hunter is an engineering consultant, and Robertson is a full-time rowing coach, also in Christchurch.
They have, however, remained a tight-knit group.
In 1998 they beat the silver medal-winning Americans at the major Head of the Charles regatta in Boston.
"That was a rare experience," Hurt said. "There were 23 crews who were sent away at 20s intervals for the windy 3000m river course. It was a real test as we raced under 15 bridges.
"The result was determined on times. We finished 13th, one place, and 12s, ahead of the Americans. It was a huge regatta, with 6000 competitors and 100,000 spectators."
The crew went on from Boston to Germany, where they met the 1972 German crews.
Not surprisingly, the crew retain a real symmetry.
"Our first row back together is a bit ragged, but after about 30 minutes things come right and we plonk away," Hurt said. "You can feel the combination coming and the boat stops rolling along."
While most of that heroic crew will cross the Tasman, their boat will not.
After years as a club boat at the Auckland Rowing Club, it was restored and presented to the Auckland Maritime Museum, where it is among the more treasured exhibits.
"Like all wooden boats, it lost its tension," Hurt said. "We now have a plastic one which we hope to take to Australia."
Win or lose, the event promises to be a fun time for a group who are still revered among New Zealand's greatest .
You just know they will enjoy getting out to "plonk along," wherever they finish.
By TERRY MADDAFORD