For years, the men and women of the Queensland rowing community have dreamed of taking rowing to the bush. Water is scarce, but within the vast Outback, there are places where rowing shells can race.
In 2020, the first valiant attempt was made to stage the Head of the Outback on the Thomson River at Longreach - a mighty river that joins the Barcoo to flow into the Cooper Creek and onto Lake Eyre.
It was a popular initiative and many crews from all over Queensland answered the call. Unfortunately, the regatta was a victim of the COVID pandemic-induced lockdowns and had to be canceled.
Again, in 2021, a regatta was organised, only to meet the same cruel fate as its predecessor.
But then, towards the end of 2021, the tide started to turn. Restrictions were eased and Queenslanders were encouraged to get out and about in their great State. Meanwhile, in Barcaldine, the magnificent Barcaldine Rec Park was opened, providing a perfect venue for short course rowing sprint races.
It was against this backdrop that the Vikings Rowing Club embarked on the Six Rivers Outback Tour, taking racing VIIIs and crews to these venues and testing the feasibility of a dual-format regatta: a sprint series on the Barcaldine Rec Park followed by a long-distance head race on the Thomson. Local communities along the way gazed oddly at two black VIII's on the brown waters but the seeds were sown. Still, the question remained: could rowing grow in the Outback beyond a bunch of Brissos coming out for an outback tour?
The answer, it seems, is 'Yes!'. Later that year, the Barcaldine Rowing Club was formed as locals started taking full advantage of their new lake and boats were donated by the Vikings and The Rockhampton Grammar School to form the nucleus of a fleet.
Thus, from a dream but a few years ago emerged the real opportunity to create a sporting event unique in Australia, perhaps in the world: a dual format rowing regatta over two days combining the speed and excitement of a Henley-style elimination series with the endurance spectacle of a head race, all set amongst the spectacular backdrop of the Australian Outback. A series of serious competition combined with camaraderie and fun in the bush.