Picture this, it’s 5.30am, there’s a cool breeze and a glowing sunrise over the Tamar River. You’re beginning the day with a leisurely rowing session of between 16 to 20 kilometres, then going off to do a full day of work, before spending the evening doing some strength and conditioning training at the gym.
That’s an average day for Launceston-based, national rowing athlete, Henry Youl.
If we rewind back to 2007, Launceston Church Grammar School hosted a ‘try rowing day’ for all year six students. Twelve-year-old Henry went along to see if the sport was for him. It was, and perhaps he should have known it would be, as Henry’s father rowed at the same school and his great grandfather rowed at Cambridge University in England.
“I think rowing is great, as it’s so demanding mentally and physically but also so rewarding no matter the level that you compete at,” he said.
As he rowed for his school, Henry’s passion for the sport grew, and so did his dedication for it, with most weekends spent travelling from Launceston to Lake Barrington, some 120 kilometres away. For a student, waking up at 5am, exercising, then attending a full day of school takes dedication, not only by the student, but by the parents as well.
“I love everything about rowing … except the early mornings,” he said.
Henry feels so thankful for the constant support from his mother and father. Who have taken him to and from numerous trainings and regattas.
“It’s the ultimate team sport and the more you put in, the more you get back,” he said.
When Henry was faced with the last few years of rowing with Launceston Church Grammar School, he decided he wanted to continue with in the sport. He joined the Tamar Rowing Club. It is well known for its participation in state and national regattas.
A close friend of Henry’s joined the rowing club at the same time and the two young men have rowed together since.
In 2012, amid finishing his Tasmanian Certificate of Education, casually working and other sporting commitments, Henry and a few good friends attempted to achieve national selection.
“We were unsuccessful by just five seconds,” he said.
To qualify for the national selection, a rower must compete in numerous races at the domestic level and make successful times in their 5 kilometres ergo (rowing machine) tests.
Henry races in all boat categories during the Tasmanian season, from single scull to the coxed eight. He always focuses more on the single scull, as that is how he will get noticed for the national selection.
Henry has been chosen to represent Tasmania, as well as Australia. He has rowed in consecutive Australian National Championships, which are held at the Sydney Olympic course, in Penrith.
He also competed at the 2015 Australian National Championships and won the under 21 single scull event. This was Henry’s first national medal.
Henry’s first overseas rowing trip was to New Zealand as part of the under 21 Australian team. The event was hosted at Lake Karapiro, on the North Island of New Zealand.
In 2016, Henry was selected for the Australian under 23 men’s coxed four, to compete at the World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. In the race, the New Zealand and the Italian teams just scraped through in front of the Australian boat. Henry said it was, “hands down… the absolute best memory”.
This year, Henry was once again chosen to represent Australian in the under 23 men’s coxed four, in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
“The team spent a bit over a week at the Australian Institute of Sport’s European Training Centre in Italy where we trained on Lake Varese which is below the Swiss Alps,” he said.
Henry now works at Statewide Independent Wholesalers, in outer Launceston and rows almost every day of the week.
“I love finally reaching my goals and ticking them off, knowing I’ve worked bloody had to get there,” he said.
Henry calls rowing his glorified hobby. He takes pride in his achievements and loves the sport. He has the best of both worlds.
The Tasmanian regatta season starts at the end of October, and Henry has been putting in continuous effort to make this coming season as incredible as the past few.
“I love the gut busting sessions and that feeling of euphoria afterwards,” he said.
Heading into the 2017-2018 rowing season, Henry is now classed as a senior athlete. He is faced with racing against elite athletes who have been rowing for many more years than him.
He hopes to keep setting personal bests on the water and in the gym and his new dream is to represent Australia at the highest level doing what he loves.
“The will to win and the want to win drives me through all of the tough sessions, it’s constantly on my mind that I need to do the work and put in the work if I want to hopefully achieve my goal,” he said.
Henry is currently just focusing on his rowing. He can’t afford to get injured and he also doesn’t have enough time to pick up any more sporting commitments.
But he enjoys road cycling, which he counts as training for his rowing. He also says he “enjoys helping his mother out, replanting the garden”, which is a newfound, different hobby.
“I enjoy training, I’ve always been involved with sport growing up, so I just need to be doing something and keeping fit,” he said.
Henry believes rowing is the ultimate team sport and he is very excited to see what else he can achieve.
“You’re only young once, so I might as well give it a red hot bloody crack while I can,” he said.