The Aramoho Whanganui Rowing Club flag has flown proudly over the past week, celebrating the club winning the women's premier coxless four championship title at Lake Ruataniwha.
While individual club rowers have been successful in various composite combinations over recent seasons, this was a complete Aramoho Whanganui crew, following the decision by officials to enable this event to be contested by individual clubs this year.
Stroked by Jackie Gowler, strongly supported by Georgia Nugent-O'Leary, sister Kerri Gowler and with Phoebe Collier in the bow seat, the crew put on a powerful performance.
Establishing a boat-length lead in the first 100 metres, the crew were not seriously threatened over the remaining 1900 metres, winning by a comfortable margin of 4.5s in an overall time of 6m 54s from a Canterbury Rowing Club crew which also contained three seasoned international rowers.
This victory was the first "Red Coat" for 18-year-old Phoebe Collier. Red Coats have been awarded by Rowing NZ to individual winners of NZ Championship titles since 1887.
The success was also of major significance for the Aramoho Whanganui Rowing Club. The only previous time the club won this title was when it was a coxed event in 1986 and, under coach John Symes, the crew of Tracey Moorhouse, Fiona Symes, Judith Fretter and Kirsty Bell with coxswain Jean Forlong, were champions on Lake Karapiro.
Phoebe Collier is the daughter of Taihape farmers Deanne and Richard Collier, who encouraged their daughter to try rowing four years ago as a Year 10 student at Whanganui Collegiate School.
Collier credits her rapid progress in the sport to the Collegiate School rowing programme and acknowledged her coaches; Phillipa Baker-Hogan, Kit Croxford and Tyler Scott, who have enabled her to reach another milestone.
Somewhat surprisingly, Collier had not previously met any of her Red Coat crew members until they assembled at Twizel for the NZ Championships, as they are all members of the Tokyo Olympic rowing squad based at Lake Karapiro. Collier has been based at Blenheim this season with the Central Rowing Performance Centre, after completing her studies at Whanganui Collegiate School last year.
Collier described the boat speed generated at the start of her race as "pretty crazy" and said she had never been in any boat that had travelled as fast.
Previously very successful in various age-grade Whanganui Collegiate crews, Collier has represented the North Island, winning both eights and coxed fours events in the annual under-18 series against the South Island last year.
Twelve months ago, Collier was nominated for a trial for the NZ team to travel to the World Junior Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia; however, this was unfortunately curtailed due to Covid-19.
Her next goal is to try to secure a trial for the NZ Rowing under-21 team which will compete in the transtasman series against Australia this year.