Wednesday evening saw an unprecendented flurry of activity at the Royal Docks, occasioned by the top secret filming of the latest Walkers Crisps commercial. (Funny how it takes an entire convoy of trucks to provide the logistical support for a 30 second slot on TV....)

The intrepid Gary Lineker did indeed take the water, stroking a double with Sir Steve in the bow. The double in question was 'borrowed' from Poplar, and several of those on the bank commented how low in the water the boat was (i.e. our rowing hero couldn't actually get that far up the slide).

Knighted One (on returning the double to its rack): "Hope we haven't nicked the boat you were waiting to use."

Bemused Poplar Sculler (while taking own double from rack with crew-mate): "Nope, that one's rigged for our J16 girls."

The slug has reason to believe that Poplar now intends to use "Used by Steve Redgrave" as a unique selling point for the boat in question.

Those with longer memories of Oxford rowing may recall that the recently reported race between Oriel and Hertford is not the first time there has been a challenge match between the two.

Back in 1988 a serious rivalry developed, based on Hertford's claim that their first VIII was actually the fastest crew on the Isis, despite its Division 2 status at the time. The Oriel and Hertford crews both had a number of Blues, lightweights etc. and contested bragging rights in the run up to Eights week.

Since the races themselves would provide no decisive answer, because of the 14 or so crews in between their respective starting positions, a private race after Eights week was agreed upon between the two crews. To this end, a friendly publican with strong ties to Hertford even agreed to put up a stake of 1,000 to spice up matters - so confident was he of the outcome (and that were in t'days when a thousand pounds really were worth summat)

Eights week came and went - Oriel retained their Headship with some ease, but suddenly pulled out of the scheduled challenge match, much to the disappointment of neutral observers. The blade-winning Hertford crew was left to celebrate its double-overbump into the first Division and claim the moral victory!

Some things never change....

In an attempt to "assist" Adaptive rowing to gain the holy grail of paralympic status, the powers that be at FISA have graciously offered to allow some disabled rowers to appear and compete at the World Championships in Lucerne later this year.

To gain Paralympic status you need to have 28 nations with at least 10 holding national championships. currently there are 14 and only one has anything approaching a national championships.

Undeterred by not quite meeting the criteria, (and no doubt spoting the making of a good press release when they see one...) our intrepid global leaders offered to allow adaptive rowing a slot in the Worlds, and consulted those in the know the world over. Britain, as the world leaders in adaptive rowing, were approached and happily went into negotiations.

However, it wasn't long before an unpleasant smell started to permeate the discussions, as it soon transpired that what FISA really want is aesthetically disabled competitors... not the long hoped for showcase for disabled rowing in all its guises.

"But, I do not understand, oh faithful slug" I hear you cry, "how can this be??"

Well, quite simply, Britain leads the world in adaptive rowing, both in terns of competition and best practice, and as a result, UK disabled rowers may be found in fine boats competing over 2000m on near-club levels. Indeed, in some cases athletes are integrated into full club crews.

But this reality does not fit nicely into the FISA approved sterotype of what a disabled rower should be capable of - not for them displays of virtuosity in fine boats .. oh no,

For FISA have decided that the competitors should be very disabled; can only compete over 1000m and must use restricted barges to compete in.

Needless to say there is (understandable) outrage amongst all those involved in UK adaptive rowing and the UK based athletes have refused to attend, as a way of showing their disgust at FISA's narrow minded approach, a decision which has full backing from adaptive rowing.

As for the reasoning behind FISA's choice of criteria? They apparently imagine that by doing this, they will help adaptive rowing make the 2008 Paralympics.......

Pigs might FLY