Saturday at the 2018 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta saw plenty of thrilling finishes as finals continued across underage and open age groups.

Schools racing returned to the waters of the Sydney International Regatta Centre and the noise from the crowd turned up a notch with all the exciting racing on offer.

The battle between Sydney RC Composite-National Training Centre (NTC) and Murray Bridge RC Composite-NTC in the Open Men’s Quadruple Scull final was the one that had everyone on their feet.

The Composite crew from Sydney Rowing Club went in as favourites, showcasing three of last year’s title winning team (Luke Letcher, Caleb Antill and David Watts) along with South Australian Jack Kelly. Meanwhile, the Murray Bridge RC Composite boasted 2016 Rio Olympic silver medallists James McRae and Sasha Belogonoff, along with two-time Under 23 World Champion Robert Black and former Australian Rowing Team member, Sam Hookway. It was Murray Bridge RC who won the hotly contested race, as Sydney RC Composite were denied victory by 1.32 seconds.

James McRae couldn’t hide his excitement following the race.

“We’re pretty stoked with that race, it was just a scratch combo we put together, we were hoping to put our Rio quad back on the water but Rob (Black) and Sammy (Sam Hookway) jumped in and did a great job so we’re really happy with that result,” said McRae.

In the Open Women’s Coxed Eight, unsurprisingly it was Fremantle RC Composite-NTC who dominated, winning the Florence Eaton Trophy by three boat lengths over second placed UTS Composite-WAIS/QAS. Fremantle Composite featured the likes of Hancock Prospecting Women’s NTC athletes Molly Goodman, Madeleine Edmunds, Jacinta Edmunds and Annabelle McIntyre, among others.

Although these athletes train together at the National Training Centre on a day-to-day basis, it’s not often they race in the same boat, which was a nice change for Goodman.

“It’s really fun to put together a crew, we’re all from sweep and scull so we hardly ever get to row together as a group. The race ended up going pretty well for us, so we’re pretty stoked,” she said.

The Under 19 Men’s Quadruple Scull ended in extraordinary fashion with Sydney RC/Sydney University BC-NSWIS taking victory over defending champions Mosman RC by less than a second.

Ash Nicholls (Sydney RC) said the team stuck to their game plan.

“We came off a really good start and then we settled into our rhythm that we planned for. In the last 500 (metres), Mosman came up on the inside so we pushed ourselves really hard,” he said.

In the Under 19 Women’s Quad Scull, Brisbane & GPS RC Composite-QAS defended their title.

It was nothing but smiles for Taylor McCarthy-Smith after the race.

“It was such a tough race, but I’m feeling awesome. We knew we had it in us and we pushed through until the end,” said McCarthy.

In the Under 21 Women’s Quadruple Scull, Sydney NSWIS took out the gold, while Team Japan grabbed the silver, which was their first medal for the National Championships.

Sticking with Quadruple Sculls in the Under 23 Men’s event, Alex Grzeskowiak, Jackson Free, Cormac Kennedy-Leverett and Nathan Kennedy (Capital Lakes RC Composite-QAS) took home the gold medal.

Grzeskowiak said the team got a fast start which put them in good stead for the rest of the race.

“We held our pace for the rest of the race following the start and we’re feeling pretty pumped now.  It’s great to have a win with all the lads.”

In the PR3 Mixed Coxed Four, Nepean RC Composite-NSWIS took the win, with Torrens RC Composite finishing second and Tasmania University BC/ Balmain RC finishing third.

Torrens RC para-rower Jed Altschwager said the team was really satisfied with their silver medal, especially considering they hadn’t rowed together before.

“We had to have a little bit of rate control with everyone’s abilities, but it came together really well,” said Altschwager.

Spectators were treated to an indoor rowing display from members of the Invictus Games 2018 Australian training squad, at lunchtime before the sprints began. The group put on a fine form, alongside World Record holders Alice Arch and Josh Dunkley-Smith.

Unfortunately, rain put a damper on the day, with storms suspending all remaining races for the afternoon after the conclusion of only 10 sprints.

Tomorrow will be the final day of the 2018 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta, with the Schoolboy, Schoolgirl and Club finals as well as the King’s and Queen’s Cup Interstate Regatta to wrap up the action-packed week.