A St Patrick's College student had to be retrieved during Sunday's regatta after becoming stuck in mud flats near where the Tamar and North Esk rivers meet, but organisers are confident a slight change of scheduling could avoid similar issues.
The female rower became stuck about 12.45pm during an event towards the end of the Launceston and Henley Regatta program, sparking a rescue effort involving three boats, and the cancellation of several races afterwards.
Rowing Tasmania executive officer Rob Prescott used a rescue boat to reach the girl, and said it required "a bit of problem solving" to retrieve her.
"We managed to get a line out and dragged her across the mud. But then the rescue boat became caught on the mud, so then I had to be pulled out of that before we got her back on the boat," he said.
"We took her back to the rowing shed and she had a long shower, that was the end of it.
"She did a great job. A lot of people in that position of that age would have panicked, but she couldn't stop laughing the whole time."
The girl descended to chest-deep in the mud and had to be dragged up to 20 metres, but was uninjured during the ordeal.
It follows growing concern from nearby businesses and sections of the Launceston community about the increasing mud flats in the Upper Tamar since silt raking ceased in 2019.
Mr Prescott said more races were cancelled on Saturday due to the wind and rain than by the mud.
"It's a river, it's got mud in it, maybe a little more now than usual, but it's just one of those things - we operate in an outdoor environment, that's just part and parcel of it," he said.
"We got through the major part of the program, and it's unfortunate that races got cancelled, but we lost more from the weather on Saturday.
"We work in a water environment. That's why safety was a high priority."
Rapidly receding tide a cause of regatta issue
The Launceston and Henley Regatta is considered one of the world's longest-running competitive rowing events, and has seen an array of different Tamar conditions over the years.
Secretary Greg Husband has been following the tides in the lead-up to regattas for 20 years, and said this year's conditions caught him a little by surprise. A four-metre-high tide quickly receded as low tide approached, revealing the mud flats.
He said the experience would be used to guide future scheduling for the event.
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"In hindsight, we probably would've started the regatta an hour earlier. Next time we will," Mr Husband said.
"We've just got to adjust next year to the tides."
The regatta is the only competitive event that uses that section of the Upper Tamar, and Mr Husband said there were no plans to relocate.
"Given the Royal Park grounds, it provides a great viewing platform so people from Launceston can quite easily come down and watch rowing," he said.
Decreasing access an 'ongoing issue' for rowing clubs
Not all users of the Upper Tamar were content to - or capable of - simply adapting to the mud flats.
Tamar Rowing Club president Peter Clutterbuck said the increase in mud had been noticeable since raking stopped, decreasing the time in which they could access the river.
"We are unable to boat from our pontoon for over an hour either side of low tide now," he said.
"When raking was happening, we could boat at any time.
"This is an ongoing issue. The fact that the regatta had to be called off before the event was completed was disappointing for everyone."
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City of Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten said the council was fully aware of the challenges faced by river users as a result of "natural accumulation of sediment".
"The impact on the regatta over the weekend is another indicator of those challenges, and is part of the reason the Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce is seeking to better understand and address future sediment management options," he said.
"The TEMT is currently developing an evidence-based assessment of the full range of options for future sediment management in the kanamaluka / Tamar Estuary.
"We expect this report to be completed in the first quarter of 2021."
Once the report is complete, TEMT will engage with river stakeholders, users and the wider community to determine goals when it comes to sediment management.
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