Young Wellington Rowing Club sculler Oliver Fahey has added his name to the likes of Mahe Drysdale and Hamish Bond after a fantastic attack in the second half of the 2020 Billy Webb Challenge this morning.
Under the new format for the challenge, which has been moved from December to an all-in regatta on Vintage Weekend for rowing boats of all classes, Fahey was the second rower to depart the start/finish line at 11.25am – heading about 3km upstream from River Traders Markets area for the turn at the buoy near Railway Bridge.
Leaving ahead of him was race favourite Tristan Gregory-Hunt of Wairau RC, part of the Central Regional Performance Centre (RPC), while behind them were another 46 boats in single, pairs, and fours varieties.
Winners for the various classes would be decided on prognostic times, another change for 2020, while individual times were recorded for the elite scullers, as they all left at 15 second intervals.
But Fahey worked hard to take the stopwatch out of the equation.
After the turn past the Railway Bridge and turning to row against the down river tide at around 11.39am, he worked away from Aramoho Whanganui RC's Luke Watts, and then set his sights on Gregory-Hunt.
In a very exciting finish in front of the healthy crowd back at the market area, Fahey would just take the gong on the finishline – both him and Gregory-Hunt nearly keeled over in exhaustion.
Next for line honours was Whanganui Collegiate's Leo Hanna after a very strong row, followed by Watts and then Collegiate's Blake Hogan from the single scullers, although the overall placings were not yet known as the staggered starts meant those at the front had left the startline up to 12 minutes ahead of those at the back.
But Fahey knew that by making up the distance on Gregory-Hunt he had certainly helped his chances, and so it proved as he was called up at prizegiving on the Shindig stage to accept the Billy Webb Trophy.
"It's unreal, really, definitely not what I was expecting when I came into it, I was just continuing my training," he said.
"It's the outcome I dreamed of."
Although he knew prognostics were the deciding factor, trying to catch those ahead of him had become the motivator on the course.
"Even I was halfway in, did the turn, I thought, 'aw maybe'."
Having seen off Watts around the 4km mark, Fahey then had to decide if he took the risk of trying to run down Gregory-Hunt, which could have blown out his energy and seen him finish with a slower time.
"I was just trying to count how high [my prognostic] was and how far behind him I was.
"I just thought, 'I'll beat him'. Took him on the line – just."
Fahey will now look forward to the upcoming North Island Club Championships, where he will compete in the single, quad and the eight, while longer-term he is hoping to qualify for the New Zealand Under 21 lightweight squad at the end of the season.
The Philippa Baker-Hogan Trophy for best woman's single sculler went to West End RC's Amy Robson.
Based on the prognostic times, the best local individual competitor was Hanna, who finished fourth, while third place went to the Collegiate Under 17 girls four of Holly Lennox, Alyana de Fresne, Jaime Maybery, Marguerite Hazelhurst and cox Bella Stevenson-Watt.
Second place was the Wellington RC crew of Finn Pethers-Boak and Sean O'Connor.