Different strokes with CIS

6 June 2014

The CIS Lions at an early-morning training session (L-R) Debbie Fox (coach), Rachel Gale, Stuart Anderson, Victoria Bolton, Taya Gobran, Peter Mellows, Vanessa Hill, David Wiltshire, Stephane Kerr and Ellen Laughton (coxswain)

From "drunken spider" to dream team, the novice Campus Infrastructure and Services (CIS) Lions rowing crew have stormed home to win silver at the Great Autumn Regatta on the weekend.

The team of CIS colleagues overcame wet and blustery conditions - and recovered from a clash of oars with an adjacent crew - to finish only 1.5 seconds behind the winners in the Division B final.

Campus Improvement Program project director Stephane Kerr and his newly formed crew, many of whom had never rowed before, have been braving early-morning training sessions twice a week at Blackwattle Bay in preparation for the race.

"We credit our fantastic coach, Debbie Fox from the Sydney University Women's Rowing Club (SWRC), who over the last six weeks has trained the Lions not only how to row to technical demand, but also to focus like professionals during a race and drown out all surrounding distractions," says Stephane, who leads the sweep-oar crew from the 'stroke' position.

"We've all worked really hard on the water and in our ergometer sessions and we've come a very long way since our inaugural training session - the whole experience has really bonded the team together," he says.

"It's pretty tough getting up at 5am and rowing in the dark, but there's something quite beautiful and peaceful about being the first boat to break the water on a still morning and watching the sun rise over Anzac Bridge."

First-time rower Vanessa Hill, ICT's Executive Assistant to the CIO, has been part of various CIS corporate services and project teams in the past and is enjoying making an honorary return to the CIS fold. While she's definitely not a morning person ("I love the sunrises, but I think I love the sleep-ins more!") Vanessa has had a great time improving her rowing skills over the last six weeks and being part of a crew that is encouraging, fun and committed.

"It's been wonderful seeing everyone learn to follow each other and our coxswain, and progressing from a 'drunken spider' (as Stephane says) to a cohesive crew," she says.

The team thanks their CIS colleagues, Sydney Uni Sport and Fitness and SWRC for their support and encouragement in the lead up to the race. They are looking forward to taking out first place at next year's regatta.

The crew (far left) receive their silver medals at the International Regatta Centre in Penrith

Introducing the CIS Lions:

Taya Gobran, Project Manager, CIS (bow)
The tiniest of the crew, Taya has a big job to keep up with some of the lanky crew members, but takes her job in the 'number 1' seat very seriously. Always first over the finish line, Taya can start celebrating while the rest of the crew try to catch up.

Rachel Gale, Operational Grounds Supervisor, CIS (#2)
Don't be fooled by Rachel's green thumb - she runs, she rows, and when she's on the water she is focused and team-oriented. She is attentive to technique and is in the team for the experience (or maybe as an excuse to heckle all the grounds and security staff at 5.30am).

Stuart Anderson, Campus Coordinator, CIS (#3)
Stuart is dedicated: in his demeanour, in his attire (always rocking the padded pants) and as the crew court jester. Is it too soon to mention the early morning speeding ticket on the way to training? No stranger to water, he is a surfer turned rower who always commits himself 100 percent in training sessions.

Peter Mellows, Project Manager, CIS (#4)
A man who works hard to play hard, Pete is focused on the water and is always first to jet back to work. Pete, aka 'Pedro', embraces his Chilean heritage with a love of fine cask wine, long walks on the beach with his dog Wally, while listening to the classic songs from his favourite artists Peter Andre and Kylie Minogue (he loves the Locomotion).

Vanessa Hill, Executive Assistant to the CIO, ICT (#5)
Ness is notorious for getting involved in all things excellent at the University of Sydney. Like Taya, she battles with mornings and will often be hidden beneath hoodies, beanies, gloves and footy socks. A first-time rower, what she lacks in coordination she makes up for in competitive spirit.

David Wiltshire, Campus Coordinator, CIS (#6)
A surfboat rower at heart, David is a committed team member with a clear competitive streak. He travels all the way from the northern beaches for training and despite his tendency to rock thermals, David (#AgroFace) is actually a fiery force to be reckoned with.

Victoria Bolton, Architect, CIS (#7)
Despite balancing heavy workloads and a MBA, Victoria 'Veebs' Bolton also doubles as team stylist, early-morning chauffeur, team motivator and sharer of past rowing wisdom. Off-water, she has an expressive and creative personality, but in the boat her calm rowing demeanour keeps the crew in check.

Stephane Kerr, Project Director - Campus Improvement Program, CIS (Stroke)Stephane is the man who brought the CIS Lions together. He is as professional as it gets, and the crew has learnt all they can from him. A modest team member, he is always encouraging and never dull. He is also the team organiser, PR guy, finance department, marketing guru.

Ellen Laughton (Coxswain)
A long-time rower with Wesley College, Ellen is dedicated to the crew's morning training and gym ergometer sessions and is always positive and encouraging. She also knows to celebrate the little milestones, including a pretty Glebe sunrise which she captured standing up in the boat one morning.

Debbie Fox, Head Coach, SWRC (Coach)
Debbie's famous catch cry is: "I'll say it once, but I won't say it a thousand times!" The truth is, she says it 10,000 times. She is an incredibly patient and inspiring coach, always giving clear and honest feedback to help get the crew where they are today. Even when she's trying to be tough, she's still lovely!

(L-R) Stephane Kerr, Rachel Gale, Taya Gobran, Stuart Anderson, Peter Mellows, Victoria Bolton, Vanessa Hill, David Wiltshire and Ellen Laughton