WEROW is the leading independent voice of rowing and sculling in the UK with rowing news, athlete profiles and rowing images. We believe that rowing has an image problem generally and that women in rowing are under represented. We want to present a different side to the sport one that speaks to dedication, athleticism, sacrifice and inclusiveness whether by coaches, volunteers or athletes.
GB Team rowing trials 2019 – images from Saturday morning at Caversham
Here are the images from the GB Team rowing trials 2019 taken on Saturday afternoon at Caversham. This gallery contains 201 images and therefore will take time (depending on your connection) to load. Please feel free to download these images for your personal use. Images from the morning session can be found here. High res, watermark-free images can be found on our sales website.
GB Team rowing trials 2019 – images from Saturday morning at Caversham
Here are the images from the GB Team rowing trials 2019 taken on Saturday morning at Caversham. This gallery contains 155 images and therefore will take time to load. Please feel free to download these images for your personal use. High res, watermark-free images can be found on our sales website.
This weekend saw the GB Team trials at Caversham held in the scorching heat under clear blue skies. Trials one of the top rowing events in the calendar as it’s held in small boats and presents the first real opportunity of the year to see some top sculling action.
This year’s event was better managed on site by British Rowing than in previous years but it was clear that some people off-site were far from happy with their governing bodies’ performance. Some complained that there was no live stream of the event – both the German trials last weekend and the French this weekend were live-streamed. Curiously one reporter was asked by British Rowing to remove all tweets containing mobile phone video taken from a static position on the riverbank.
There were also some complaints on Twitter that there was a lack of data during the event such as splits and placings beyond first, second and third. Whilst it would be ideal to have both livestream and data, it has to be said in support of British Roing that GB Trials is about trialling for the GB Team and not about entertainment. Caversham is also a very tight site and not built to cope with much more than the 150 people attending the event this weekend.
Josh Bugajski and James Rudkin, winners in the M2-
Away from the digital rants, there were some great performances all around. The men’s coxless pairs saw Josh Bugajski (Oxford Brookes) and James Rudkin (Newcastle University) win by nearly two seconds with Leander’s Jacob Dawson and Tom Ford taking second ahead of Harry Glenister and George Rossiter of Leander. Moe Sbihi and Matt Rossiter pulled the third fastest time winning the B Final, whilst Sbihi’s former pairs partner, Will Satch looked on from his sweat-drenched Watt bike on the gym veranda.
Rudkin rowed at bow for Bugajski’s senior team debut at two in the M8+ at World Rowing Cup 1 last year. They were paired together in the M2- at World Rowing Cup 2 in Linz-Ottensheim where they won the D Final. The pair won their earlier heat only to be penalised in the repercharge for having an underweight boat.
Holly Norton and Karen Bennett, winners of the W2-
In the women’s event, Holly Norton and Karen Bennett of Leander were reunited once again and asserted their dominance beating Rebecca Shorten (Imperial) and Anastasia Posner (Leander) by 1.86 seconds. Bennett and Shorten won last years event whilst Posner was second last year when paired with Rebecca Girling. Norton and Bennett had previously competed together at internationals in 2017, picking up a World Rowing Cup gold in Belgrade.
Will Fletcher of Leander, winner of the LM1x
The LM1x was won by Will Fletcher of Leander ahead of an all-star field of Jamie Copus, Zak Lee-Green, Gavin Horsburgh and returning Olympian Pete Chambers. Perhaps the standout performance of the whole weekend came from Callum Prosser of Lea Rowing Club. Prosser, who is new to the single, came third in Saturday’s semi-final and finished sixth in the final. Worth noting that he was the only sculler in the final not to have won a World Championship or Olympic medal.
Imogen Grant of CUWBC, winner of the LW1x
The lightweight women’s LW1x final was dominated by Imogen Grant (CUWBC) who is the reigning U23 LW1x Champion and who also won a bronze at the World Rowing Championships in her senior debut last year. Grant was chased hard in the first half by Ellie Piggott (Wallingford). Maddie Arlett (EUBC) came through to overtake Piggott to take second ahead of Ellie Lewis (Reading RC), Flo Pickles (Reading RC) and Chloe Knight (RUBC).
Graeme Thomas of Agecroft, winner of the M1x
The men’s sculling event was won by Graeme Thomas (Agecroft) who looked to be in fine form. Thomas cruelly missed the Rio games owing to a virus in 2016 then sat out most of 2017 owing to a hip injury. The rest of the senior sculling squad were hard on Thomas’ heels with Jack Beaumont and John Collins jostling for the lead. In the end, last years winner Tom Barras took second ahead of Beaumont, Collins, Pete Lambert and Angus Groom.
Vicky Thornley of Leander, winner of the W1x
Vicky Thornley (Leander) made a welcome return to form leading the W1x time trail, semis and finals. She seemed invigorated by her recent break from training and it will be interesting to see how the season develops in this hotly contested boat class. Chasing her down in the final with the Hodgkins-Byrne sisters, Mathilda and Charlotte who took second and third. Special mentions should also go to Alex Rankin (EUBC) who competed at the U23 World Rowing Championships in the W8+ in Poznan last year who came a very creditable fifth.
Germany’s DRV announces a new lineup for the Deutschland Achter
Following the German Small Boat Championships last weekend, the German Rowing Association (DRV) has announced the lineup for the squad’s first competition, Wedau Regatta (11-12 May). The top boat, the Deutschland-Achter, sees two changes from the lineup that remains unbeaten in the world and had secured the last two World Rowing Championships.
Maximilian Planer and pairs partner Felix Wimberger move back to the M4- after coming fifth in the pairs matrix whilst Laurits Follert and Christopher Reinhardt step into the eight. Follert went out at the quarterfinal stage in the M2- in Plovdiv whilst Reinhardt was part of the M4- who were well beaten into last place in the final at the World Rowing Championships.
German coach Uwe Bender said of the top four pairs “They are also our strongest on the ergometer. We want the most power in the boat lift.” He continued “This is a first starting lineup for the Duisburg Regatta. This is the configuration we field until the European Championships in Lucerne, we will then decide and announce our team at the final presentation”. This presentation will be held in Dortmund on 23 May ahead of the European Championships to be held in Lucerne 31 May/2 June 2019.
Torben Johannesen/Johannes Weißenfeld, Richard Schmidt/Malte Jakschik and Hannes Ocik/Christopher Reinhardt at the German Small Boat Championships
Wedau Regatta (11-12 May) lineup:
Hannes Ocik (Schweriner RG), Richard Schmidt (RV Treviris Trier), Malte Jakschik (RV Rauxel), Christopher Reinhardt (RV Dorsten), Torben Johannesen (RC Favorite Hammonia Hamburg), Jakob Schneider (RK am Baldeneysee), Laurits Follert (Crefelder RC), Johannes Weißenfeld (RC Westfalen Herdecke), Steurmann Martin Sauer (Berliner RC).
Boat 1: Felix Wimberger (Passauer RV), Maximilian Planer (Bernburger RC), Nico Merget (Frankfurter RG Germania), Felix Brummel (RV Münster)
Boat 2: Eric Johannesen (RC Favorite Hammonia Hamburg), Paul Schröter (RK am Wannsee), Marc Leske (Crefelder RC), Anton Braun (Berliner RC)
Boat 1: Felix Wimberger (Passauer RV), Maximilian Planer (Bernburger RC), Eric Johannesen (RC Favorite Hammonia Hamburg), Paul Schröter (RK am Wannsee)
Boat 2: Nico Merget (Frankfurter RG Germania), Felix Brummel (RV Münster), Marc Leske (Crefelder RC), Anton Braun (Berliner RC)
Marc Kammann (Hamburger Germania RC), Wolf-Niclas Schröder (RU Arkonia Berlin)
Rowing – learning to enjoy exercise after an eating disorder
Over the last 30-40 years, the prevalence of eating disorders has increased to become a widespread problem across the UK and worldwide. The eating disorders charity, Beat, estimates that there are over 1.6 million people struggling with an eating disorder throughout the UK. Recently WEROW spoke to Dr Nicky Keay about RED-S, formerly knows as the Female Athlete Triad. This condition of under-fuelling an overtrained athlete was renamed in recognition of the fact that RED-S is just as likely to affect men as well as women.
Ellie Simonds-Gooding, a student at the University of York has just been accepted onto the World Class Start rowing program. She has been telling the York Sport Union about her struggle with an eating disorder, her journey to recovery and how rowing trains her mind as well as her body.
‘I was never really told about eating disorders at school. Then, when I came to university, suddenly I was aware of them and felt a lot of pressure to look a certain way.’ Ellie, who speaks so sensitively and openly about her experience with her own body image and mental health, said that her illness began in her first year at York.
‘Among friends, I felt new and different pressures I had never experienced before. I felt I had to look a certain way and do things differently in order for people to like me. This is when I developed bulimia.’
Ellie, who speaks so sensitively and openly about her experience with her own body image and mental health, said that her illness began in her first year at York.
“Among friends I felt new and different pressures I had never experienced before. I felt I had to look a certain way and do things differently in order for people to like me. This is when I developed bulimia.”
Can you tell us more about the moment when your habits began to negatively change? I became completely obsessive over calorie counting, especially after I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app. Suddenly, I was able to see not only how many calories I was eating but also what kind of micronutrients they had – I had a really detailed breakdown of what I was putting into my body at the click of a button.
How did you know that the way you were using the app wasn’t healthy?
My complete, all-encompassing obsession with calories. I began weighing my food and had a dangerously low-calorie diet for a while. In my mind at the time, I thought that if I went a couple of grams over what I had set myself then I would gain weight instantly.
Everything in my life revolved around food and was a consequence of me eating it – if I failed an exam, I told myself it was because I had eaten too much beforehand. It was nonsensical.mIt was an addiction. I was completely addicted to calorie counting, exercising and making myself sick.
At what point did you get professional help for your eating disorder?
At university, my obsession over food was easier to hide from loved ones. My housemates had an idea of what was going on, but for the most part I was by myself which meant no one was seeing how little I was eating.
“I didn’t want anyone to tell me that I was wrong and I thought that’s what a therapist would do”
When I used to go home for the holidays though, I couldn’t hide it as well. My family would find me weighing my food and tell me ‘This isn’t right – it’s not healthy.’ I agreed to go to the doctors to talk about it, but only really to get them off my back.
The doctor said I should see a therapist, which I was really resistant to do. Ultimately, what I believed in my mind was the truth – that I was overweight and restricting food was the only way to fix that. I didn’t want anyone to tell me that I was wrong and I thought that’s what a therapist would do.
And did you see one?
Yes, and I’ve never looked back. They helped me to accept myself, to understand my illness and habits. Don’t get me wrong – it was horrible at times. Facing up to some harsh realities and feelings was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do but it was worth it. I think everyone should see a therapist.
For me, recovery is an ongoing journey. I still have a therapist and am still working on accepting myself. Where does rowing and sport come into all of this?
Before, exercise was part of my illness. I over exercised and punished myself if I missed a gym session. When I got into rowing, that began to change.
I was ‘scouted’ out in the gym at university! Rob, our trainer, came over to me and said ‘you’re big – you should row!’ I didn’t really like being called ‘big’ (although I’ve been called ‘big and broad’ all my life) but I knew that he meant that in a way that was positive. He meant I’d be a good rower!
After my first training session, I loved it. The team atmosphere was infectious and I loved how everyone was supporting each other. I realised there was a difference between enjoying exercise and doing it because I felt like I needed to do it. It’s helped me to love exercise again.
In terms of food, I learned that I needed it for horsepower – to fuel my body. I also deleted the app, which was a big moment for me. It took a long time as I was having to reteach my body to eat when it was hungry and to allow itself to get full.
Do you have any final words?
During Roses this year, I think people should be thinking about how important exercise is for their own mental health. It releases endorphins, gives you structure in a way that university doesn’t, and always ask yourself ‘Where’s my reason for exercising coming from?’
I still have to ask myself this sometimes and if I struggle to answer, I ask my boyfriend! Sometimes you need someone to give you permission to not exercise when you are struggling to give it to yourself – be kind!
Ric Colborne tells WEROW about an exciting new junior sculling club in the Thames Valley. Situated against the spectacular backdrop of the Hardwick Country Estate at Whitchurch on Thames near Pangbourne, Thames Scullers is the latest junior club to become affiliated to British Rowing.
There are unprecedented numbers of juniors trying to get into rowing throughout the UK, and most clubs are bursting at the seams. It is not unusual to take a junior crew to a National event and find competition against 70 other crews, all in the same boat class and the same age group.
The decline in numbers rowing at senior level is certainly not the problem for clubs catering for the younger age groups, and waiting lists are commonplace, with many clubs turning away youngsters who have missed the J14 cut off point.
Thames Scullers is in the enviable position of starting from scratch. An expanding fleet of racing and training boats purchased with the younger age group in mind. A great team of volunteer coaches that have seen the pitfalls of operating within a senior/ veteran club environment where juniors are viewed as difficult, rather than an asset. Bespoke water safety documentation and child welfare policies and a Head Coach with 25 years of coaching successful crews and countless rowers, from new starts through to Olympians. To top it off, Thames Scullers row on a spectacular 3.5km stretch of the River Thames shared only with The Oratory School Boat Club.
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Thames Scullers’ two Easter Learn to Row (scull) courses filled up very quickly with local children wishing to take advantage of everything the club has on offer and the Summer half term course is filling up fast. School years 7 and above are welcome and unlike many Learn to Row courses, places are available at the club afterwards for those that wish to take them up. The club will have representation at its very first event- Abingdon Head in two weeks time.
Thames Scullers on the idyllic Thames at Pangbourne
Thames Scullers has also been able to announce its partnership with Cranford House School, who are endorsing rowing with the club and from April will be taking to the water twice a week, offering a fantastic enrichment activity to its pupils.
All (junior) ages and experiences are welcome at Thames Scullers. We cater for everyone from the once a week recreational rower, to those seeking International representation and National medals. Membership of Thames Scullers at this exciting time really is an excellent opportunity, not only to put your mark on a new club, but to shape your future.
Oxford University lightweight men head for the Tideway
This Saturday sees the 45th running of the lightweight men’s boat race between Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club (OULRC) and their counterparts, CULRC. The first Lightweight Boat Race took place in 1975 on the Thames at Henley but this year the race is moving to the Championship Course on the Tideway, home of their heavyweight Boat Race.
We caught up with OULRC president Sooraj Mahesh who has been reading medicine at St Peter’s College and just recently qualified as a doctor. Born and raised in India and the UK, Mahesh is returning for his 4th Boat Race and has competed at both EUSA and BUCS for the university.
By comparison to Cambridge University Oxford has historically kept a very low profile on social media. We started by asking Sooraj Mahesh if this was a deliberate policy. “Historically the Oxford University boat clubs have operated independently of each other. We’ve seen Cambridge successfully unifying their programs and this is something we started to see happening at Oxford too. The Topolski fund has also helped to create a more cohesive connection between the four clubs at Oxford.”
Sooraj Mahesh, President of the Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club in the 2 seat
Named in honour of Daniel Topolski, who dedicated much of his life to Oxford rowing, the Topolski Fund is a permanent endowment fund that aims to provide the four Oxford University clubs with a foundation level of funding in the absence of sponsorship. Managed by the Oxford University Endowment Management, the fund protects the amateur status of the races and ensures that Oxford students of any background can enjoy the unique experience of rowing for the university without significant financial burden.
“We have professionalised our lightweight rowing programme for this season. The transformation from a 2K race to rowing the full 6.8k on the Tideway has been a big step up for all of us. This has meant working closely with the OUBC physiologist Filipe Salbany and a big step up in the amount of UT2 work. The regular 5k pieces have not been too popular!”
The Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club crew 2019 at Fulham Reach Boat Club for the Boat Race Challenge
This year’s crew includes one fresher, Nick Ryan, who is also the first millennial to compete in the race. Ryan won the OJ18 1x at the British Rowing Junior Championships last year sculling for Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham. Stroke Doug Chesterton reached the semi-finals of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Henley with Hampton and is a GB v France match winner.
Perhaps the most impressive athlete in the boat is Iain McGurgan, returning to the boat for a second year. Not only is he a practising doctor but he’s also studying for a DPhil in neuroscience at St Hilda’s College. McGurgan, who started rowing at Dublin University Boat Club in 2015, has managed to successfully combine working, studying and training whilst keeping his weight down under 70kgs. Full crew bios can be found here.
“We are excited to be rowing on the tideway on Saturday,” says Sooraj. We’re not looking to step on anyone’s toes or take anything away from the Boat Race, after all, it’s a completely separate event, pitched to a different audience and different rowers. However the move to the Tideway has enabled us to really move forward and step up in every area”
British Rowing appoints GB Rowing team media manager
British Rowing has finally announced the appointment of a new GB Rowing team media manager to succeed Stuart Clarke who left in December to join the England & Wales Cricket Board. Kerry O’Shea joins from UK Sport where she has led digital strategy since joining in 2017. Prior to that, she started her career in the Civil Service, where she worked in a number of government departments including the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence, before joining the innovation team at Macmillan Cancer Support.
During her time at UK Sport, O’Shea was seconded to Team England for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games working closely with UK domestic and international media and broadcasters.
On moving to British Rowing, O’Shea said: “I am delighted to be joining British Rowing and working with one of the world’s elite sports teams. The success of the GB Rowing Team over the last 30 years is truly inspiring and it is a real privilege for me to now be able to work with the Olympic and Paralympic athletes and coaches to tell their amazing stories.”
Kerry O’Shea, GB Rowing Team media manager
O’Shea was the outstanding candidate from an impressive list of applicants. For the first time, candidates were interviewed by a panel of Olympic and Paralympic athletes to recognise the importance of engaging with them throughout the process.
Kenny Baillie, British Rowing Director of Partnerships & Communications said: “We are very pleased to welcome Kerry to British Rowing. She impressed everyone during a tough recruitment process and her understanding of Olympic and Paralympic sport is excellent.”
“With fewer than 500 days until the start of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the timing is perfect and Kerry will play an important role delivering the exciting plan we have for the GB Rowing Team. We’re all looking forward to working with her.”
The cancellation of the Women’s Eights Head of the River Race (WEHoRR) this weekend was inevitably disappointing. All the preparation and anticipation came to nought after the prediction of high winds for Saturday forced the organisers to finally cancel the event on Friday evening. Saturday morning we awoke to images of a flat Tideway on social media with thinly veiled criticism of the decision. By midday however, it was clear even to the naysayers on home waters, that the right call had been made.
Guin Batten, WEHoRR Chairwoman is no stranger to strong winds having rowed the Atlantic in a Force 11 gale. She sits at the head of a formidable and experienced volunteer event committee and is acutely aware of the duty of care they hold towards the nearly 3,000 athletes competing in the event.
As anyone who has raced a Tideway head will attest, it’s a large expanse of turbulent and often unpredictable water. The obvious dangers range from the wind blowing 320 closely marshalled crews on top of each other to multiple sinkings overwhelming limited safety boats.
Consider also the fate of the young Irish sculler Amy Mulcahy of Athlunkard Boat Club who is still in hospital three weeks after getting her hair caught in the riggers when her quad capsized in February. It’s also worth flagging the extraordinary number of crews who hit bridges, banks and other boats (despite a massively extended timing gap) at BUCS head on the Gloucester canal two weeks ago.
WEHoRR chairwoman Guin Batten
“Event organisers are highly exposed,” says Batten. “British Rowing has a fundamental role and has a safety management system in operation for the sport. The first line of the Row Safe document states “Everyone involved in rowing is expected to ensure their actions or lack of action do not compromise the safety of themselves or others”. Liability is massive and every event has to have insurance, a safety adviser to advise the committee and a risk assessment plan as well as a raft of documents setting out how the event is to be run.”
“The WEHoRR committee meets once a year before Christmas to prepare and review all our safety documentation. We then meet with the Tideway Heads Group, the RNLI, the Port of London Authority (PLA) and we pool all our knowledge so that we are aligned in our thinking. One month before the race we submit our safety plan to the PLA and to the British Rowing regional safety adviser, Tony Reynolds”.
The Committee has to sign an agreement with the PLA confirming that they take full responsibility for everything that happens on the river. Quite an undertaking for a group of volunteers, especially when you consider the many factors outside of the organisers’ control that could happen on the river, despite it being closed for the event.
“In the lead-up to the race, the Weather Team of the Committee will feed any concerns into the Silver Command (made up of the Chief Marshal, the Chief Umpire and the Safety Officer) and myself. I was looking at 5 weather models during the week and by Monday last week we were regularly briefing Silver Command, the Entry Secretary and the Communications Secretary.”
“In the week of the race, the Weather Team were communicating twice a day and would agree on what aspect of the weather patterns it was appropriate to track. They would set update points during the day at which time they would update the plan, get the update signed off by the Committee and communicated out.” Batten is immensely proud of their communication structure and says, “Communication is vital because there are lots of people making lots of decisions.”
Because of the detailed nature of the Risk Assessment document, the Committee is bound to follow the terms of that document. “If we don’t do what we say we’re going to do in our paperwork and something goes wrong the PLA will want to know why. There’s no reacting from the hips here, this is really quite good, quality decision making in a really controlled environment. So when people say there’s the pressure to go out and race, I never felt any pressure to run the race, the pressure was to make a really good, non-emotional decision that would protect everybody.”
“The funniest thing is that the easiest thing to do is cancel. But it would have taken one person to have had a heart attack or an epileptic fit that we couldn’t have predicted that would have put us in a beyond-safe position and you always need to have a little bit of a safety margin. One little incident, not a problem; two little incidents, pretty serious; three incidents and we’re in a life or death situation.”
Many crews already in London were able to disperse to private matches elsewhere. Oxford Brookes hosted the Chinese national team and Newcastle University back at Wallingford. Meanwhile, the committee and volunteers were left to clear up from the party that never was, including re-distributing 170 pre-prepared volunteer meals, to the Whitechapel Mission.
Reading Amateur Regatta responds to BritChamps double-dating
Last month we published an article “Don’t mention the B-Word” which looked at some of the arguments for and against the decision by British Rowing to move BritChamps to June 15/16. One of the casualties of this move may be Reading Amateur Regatta, held on the same weekend. Nick Haskins is a committee member for the regatta and has submitted the following article.
I read your article “Don’t mention the B word – British Championships”. It made some comments about Reading Amateur Regatta and I thought was important to put our side of the story across. I should point out that I am not a rower, but I hope that your readers understand that sometimes it’s useful to get a view from outside of the sport.
I note that your article suggests that Reading Amateur Regatta 1842 could be one of the biggest casualties of the move of Brit Champs. It is certainly true that the move of British Senior Championships creates a number of logistical problems for the RAR 1842. Our biggest issue is actually the lack of consultation and the short time frame that we have been given. The announcement came only four months prior to event The RAR 1842 is a complex event to host because umpiring is done from a series of scaffold towers and it’s a two-day event over different distances. That means the plans for the race are actually made in January/February. As a result, making changes this late on is problematic. It is that lack of consultation that I just can’t understand. I just hope that the competition calendar review next year doesn’t create yet more problems for events like ours. There has to be some consultation!
We have had to make some key pivots to the event, but as our Chairman said “it is only world wars that have stopped us in the past”. Our President also said that long-term the changes that we will make to the RAR could ultimately be the best thing that happened to the race, however, it doesn’t feel like that today.
One of the key issues we have is ensuring we have enough umpires. I note that the WEROW article said that the event might not run if it is held under British Rowing rules. I’m not sure where that comment came from, however, we have a backup plan, but we hope that we won’t have to use it. One of our committee members reached out to the local umpires as soon as he was made aware of the clash of dates. The response we have had to this has been amazing. You have to remember, that over 50% of the multilane umpires are in the Thames region. Regardless, we’ve had a huge number of umpires saying that they will be at our event. We’re not quite there yet, so please keep those responses coming, but we are confident that we will get there. And we are not doing this in a vacuum, it is vital that we help Barnes & Mortlake and Marlow Town as well, so we are coordinating with them.
It is worth pointing out how important those umpires are to every rowing event. These men and women are amazing, they give up their Saturdays and Sundays to ensure that Heads and Regattas occur week in, week out whatever the weather. They’re completely unpaid and do this all in return for a breakfast and a packed lunch. So if you’re down at the river this weekend please stop and say thank you to the umpires and volunteers of the race, better still offer them a cup of tea. I promise you that they will thank you for it.
We’ve also had a great response from the coaches at schools, the universities and the rowing clubs telling us to make sure that we run the regatta. They all tell us just how important races like Reading Amateur Regatta 1842 are in keeping club and regional rowing alive and vibrant. We owe it to those clubs to run the best regatta ever. Again so many of these coaches are completely unpaid. They are the lifeblood of the sport. If you think about any sport, for it to be successful it has to be built around a pyramid. There needs to be a really strong base which in this case is the club and regional rowing. The top of the pyramid is the elite level of the sport but it can only succeed if the base supporting it is strong, otherwise it will topple over.
This is why I was disappointed when I heard that Rowing & Regatta magazine would write an article covering why British Rowing Senior Championships have been moved to June. In my opinion, that is a lost opportunity to use that magazine space to promote the races that have been affected. That’s why I’m so pleased that WEROW agreed to talk to us. So let me say what I think is unique about the events that were already on the weekend of June 15th and 16th;
Firstly you have the very successful British Rowing Masters Championship. I don’t know whether the regatta has been moved to Strathclyde from Nottingham or not, but I note a number of clubs saying that they will struggle to get to Strathclyde. I have read comments from crews in places like Cornwall. It’s a shame that crews like the one in Cornwall are saying that they cannot make it to Strathclyde given the change at such short notice because it’s a great event.
Next you have Stratford Junior Sprints. Again a great race supporting the future stars of regional and club rowing. Then moving to the Thames Region, you have three events. The first is Barnes & Mortlake, another great local race with a really strong junior presence and of course it’s on the Tideway. Then you’ve got Marlow Town Regatta and Festival. Don’t forget the festival! Marlow does an incredible job of promoting rowing to those outside of the rowing community. That’s vital if we want to grow the sport. It’s also one of the few para events and Naomi Riches does a great job of supporting this event every year. It is actually a two day event and on the second day there are a lot of races aimed at novices. Again hugely important if we want to grow the sport.
And then finally you have Reading Amateur Regatta 1842. As you said, we are only three years younger than Henley. In my opinion, this is one of a few opportunities the top crews to get to practice side-by-side racing before Henley Women’s, Henley Royal, and Henley Masters regattas. It’s amazing racing. This is side-by-side as it is meant to be. As I said before, I am not a rower, I’m just one of the army of volunteers who loves to watch rowing on my stretch of the river. Side-by-side racing is like two gladiators getting into the ring. There’s only one winner. If you lose, you are out. We know this style of racing can be a hugely popular spectator sport. Just think about the Oxford Cambridge boat race, over 100,000 people go to watch that race. The winning crew is feted and victorious, the losing crew goes home with nothing. A whole season gone in 20 minutes or even less if you are the women’s lightweight crews.
Think about Henley Royal and Henley Women’s and the enormous crowd support there. Again it’s side-by-side, winner takes all. You get that at Reading Amateur Regatta 1842. We know that the crews come to the RAR to practice, particularly before the amazing Henley Women’s Regatta. Miriam does a great job of attracting top clubs from all over the world to race at Henley Women’s. I am immensely proud that many of those crews going to Henley Women’s choose to race at Reading Amateur Regatta and then stay in Reading and train on our stretch of river before rowing through the locks on their way to Henley Women’s Regatta.
My favourite sporting moment was from 2017 when St Paul’s USA won the junior women’s eight at Reading Amateur Regatta. I spent a lot of time talking to the coaches and the parents of St Paul’s USA. We followed them to Henley Women’s Regatta and supported them there, right up until the final when they came across a local crew, Headington School, also a long-term supporter of Reading Amateur Regatta. Then we cheered for both crews in the final. It was one the best races ever seen with the UK crew forced to break the course record to win. The American crew were dejected that they lost. However I remember introducing the two coaches to each other, and in turn the two strokes to each other, who in turn introduced each crew to each other. It turns out that some of the UK crew and US crew were going to the same university the following year. I was just so proud of both crews. It doesn’t get any better than that and we were part of it.
We should remind ourselves that it is in the British Rowing constitution to promote club rowing and to promote friendship with clubs from different nations. We are so lucky that at Reading Amateur Regatta that we get crews from everywhere including Ireland, the USA, Mexico, as well as the top clubs and university crews in our region and from across the UK. That is amazing for me, as a local, to be able to watch that on my doorstep.
So what is new for the RAR this year?
We will be offering masters racing for a start. A number of clubs have contacted us saying that they can’t make it to Strathclyde. So we will make sure that we can offer them top-level racing as so many want to race that weekend. I know that at Masters Championship you may have a time trial, a heat, and then a final. As a committee, we will, therefore, think about whether clubs can double up. That may be more useful for those clubs coming from a distance. I have a feeling, it might be useful for the junior competitors as well. You will see an increasing amount of information about the race in the lead up to the regatta. We will also be reaching out to even more of those crews in the United States. We know many UK female athletes who will be racing at Henley Women’s are currently studying in the United States owing to Title IX. It is a shame that the funding opportunities to train appear to be better in the USA and as a consequence, many of our top athletes, particularly female ones, appear to be choosing US universities. However, many of those top athletes raced at Reading Amateur Regatta in the past couple of years. It would be great to attract even more of those crews to the RAR 1842 prior to their visit to Henley Women’s. Then looking forward you should expect to see the RAR 1842 raising its game in terms of branding and merchandising. We owe it to everyone who has reached out to us to offer us support.
Is there anything else you would like to say to WEROW?
Yes, I really feel that we have to support Club and Regional rowing at the moment. The debate surrounding the future of clubs like Thames Tradesmen is really worrying. So, just a massive thank you to all the coaches, all the volunteers, all the umpires, all the clubs, the Schools the Universities, the photographers and the competitors that keep club and regional rowing alive. Regattas such as Reading Amateur Regatta 1842 are vital for promoting racing and raising funds to allow clubs to offer grassroots coaching. So please get out there and support your local race, whichever one it is. The committees of all of these races will be delighted for every bit of help they can get. And if you are coming to Reading Amateur Regatta please let us know #atTheRAR.
And thank you to WEROW, it’s great that you are out there telling the story and promoting the sport. You have run some great stories such as September 2018 “The future for Olympic rowing is looking short, heavyweight and mixed” and the comment that resonated with me is “the demise of lightweight rowing should be resisted” to “broaden participation” in the sport noting the importance of the Asian Games. I could not agree more, you need to keep the base of that pyramid as wide as possible!
Article by Nick Haskins. Do you have something you want to say about rowing or the governance of our sport? Submit contributions for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org