From Thursday's Glasgow Herald...

"OLYMPIC gold medallist rower Matthew Pinsent, in Glasgow to present sports sponsorship awards, was describing the shape of the boats they used, and the fact that fellow gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave sat in the broadest part of the boat.

"He has to, in order to accommodate his arse," was his less than sporting description."

ah hem...

24-03-04 RACING AHEAD?
The results of the ARA's competition review has finally been published, it's not on the ARA website yet but there is a copy on the Thames Regional Rowing Council site at

www.thamesregion.rowing.org.uk (best to save the linked pages by right clicking then opening them in acrobat rather than opening in the browser)

The basic premise is a three tier grading of events and a change in the points system.

  • National Level- for experienced competitiors (approx inter-regional standard)
  • Intermediate level - which target experienced competitors who can't train quite as much...
  • Primary regttas - for less experienced competitiors

    No more Elite, S1, S2, S3 or S4, -- to be replaced with Status A, status B, status C and Novice categories

    You compete within your status level though some mixed of status will be allowed within a crew and there will be non-status events which are efectively open to all, but non-qualifying.

    If you don't win for a year, you can regress a status level, except for Status A exceptions(see below) who have to not win for 3 years to regress back to Status B and once you've been an A you can't go lower than a B

    If you win three or more qualifying events in your status in a season, you get put up to the next status

    If you row above status at a national regatta and 'qualify' (see below), you get put up to Status A (i.e novice wins a Status A event and then has to race at Status A)

    Winning Henley, women's henley or taking part in the Oxbridge races,or GB spring trials automatically puts you as Status A (these are status A exceptions)

    No more day tickets - you'll register on-line with the ARA

    The definition of a "qualifying place" at an A regatta, (we think), is intended to be as follows:

  • If there are 6 to 10 starters, the first 4 qualify.
  • If there are 11 starters, the first 5 qualify.
  • If there are 12 or more starters, the first 6 qualify.

    The proposed changes will be summarised in Regatta and have been circulated to clubs and regattas in hardcopy. The next stage will be meetings in various locations to allow regatta and club organisers to understand the proposals fully and provide feedback for consideration, before the final proposal goes to Council.

    interesting stuff...

  • 23-03-04 DAMNED IF YOU DO...
    In the aftermath of the Vets 2004 Swimathon on Sunday, the detail of what went on has started to come out. The offical line from the organisers is available at http://www.vrc.org.uk/vets_head/ and is likely to be the only statement until after the review meeting.

    Following the cancellation of the men’s head on Saturday, those competitors who were keen to race despite the conditions, headed down past Wandsworth to wait for the start. Though quite a few had cobbled together extra defences in the form of taped up splash shields on the riggers and cardboard bow spray shields in anticipation of rough conditions

    Saturday's race organisers had to contend with terrible warm-up and marshalling conditions, with relatively benign water for racing, however, Vesta's call on Sunday morning was altogether trickier, with generally good water for boating, but uncertainty as to what the turning tide would bring.

    Rowing down to Putney on an ebb tide at about 11.30 the water was fine, the wind more or less as strong as it had been the day before and thoughts turned to how the conditions were going to shape up once the tide had turned. The organisers sensibly decided to finish the course at Hammersmith Bridge rather than Chiswick, as the wind was blowing west-south-west, which meant that the stretch just after Hammersmith was going to be dangerously rough. Unfortunately this meant that the marshalling area also suffered similarly dicey conditions.

    Crews sitting stationary between Wandsworth and Putney bridges waiting for the start, found waves lapping over the side of the boat, In the teeth of the wind, manoeuvring below Putney was hard work - with crews lower down in the draw being pushed by the tide into the pier and by the wind onto the bank while they waited to start.

    If all the boats had been the right side of Putney bridge at noon, decisions would have been made sooner and the problem afflicting later crews lessened, however, the organisers had to wait until the race was able to be run to make a decision on the conditions and looking upstream at 11:58 (race minus two minutes) there was a course full of oncoming traffic heading towards the start and no way to start the race on time. On top of which, the decision to shorten the course meant that the timing team had to be moved from Chiswick to Hammersmith, which also caused a delay.

    Those crews that went off early reported that the race itself was relatively uneventful and at that time conditions from Putney to Hammersmith were entirely acceptable for the Tideway but lower number crews had a different experience, as conditions worsened. One rower reported: “After well over an hour of manoeuvring we were still nowhere near starting - but as the tide and wind rose the waves had got up so much that we started sinking. With the speakers now covered we couldn’t even hear the cox.

    The surface chop on the course then picked up to such an extent that the centre of the river became unrowable and late starting crews were hugging the walls of the river and sending up plumes of spray.

    As well as many tales of crews bailing out their boats with wellies, there were reports of passing a boat with most of the crew standing on a fast disappearing patch of land and stern pair and the cox sitting waist deep in water, and an upside down 8 in the middle of the river (at least with a rescue boat in attendance) while the life boat headed at full pelt down towards the start. The Weybridge crew got back to Putney minus boat altogether, as their wooden eight sunk entirely -- although it was later retrieved unscathed at Barn Elms.

    However these tales of woe were nothing compared to those of Igor Offenbach, a Vet F crew of former German Olympians. They started late in the order and having come so far were even more determined to race. They started sinking by Putney and got the boat into the embankment just in time. They left the boat there and got themselves back to Tideway Scullers, - they had to catch a plane - only to find their car had been broken into and all their valuables including their plane tickets stolen... I don't suppose they'll be coming back in a hurry.

    Conditions aside, it would appear that the Cambridge Veterans crew who broke their boat in half have no-one to blame but themselves. They tried, at the height of the bad conditions, to go through the boats at Putney (despite dozens of people on the bank screaming at them to not do it and to go around) and got swept on to a buoy.

    Perhaps the biggest problem with head races on the Tideway is that crews boat from a number of boathouses, separated by miles of water. A number of different sets of stream conditions, wind directions and river heights must be taken into account when determining whether or not it is safe to race. It might be a good idea for Tideway HORR committees to consider setting up a network of phone numbers at all host clubs to communicate formal decisions as to whether racing will or will not go ahead. In the case of both races last weekend, a more structured approach to informing participants as to the likely state of the river, or the likelihood of the race taking place at all, would have been useful.

    Of course, experienced tideway hands are perfectly capable of deciding amongst themselves that it's not rowable and pulling out if they wish -- they're certainly good at asserting it's perfectly rowable when officials tell them it's not... but that rowers will generally want to race should be of no surprise.

    Of more concern are accusations from some competitors that there was a notable paucity of marshals, rescue craft and facilities - which is potentially far more serious than the decision to race. The Putney lifeboat was moored at the start until it went to help a boat in trouble, the Chiswick lifeboat was on hand awaiting calls for assistance and there were at least 5 marshals between Putney and Wandsworth bridge, but perhaps there should have been better contingency for the frozen and soggy crews that were dragged from the river, rather than simply relying on the Tideway clubs to provide rescue, showers and hot drinks.

    Whatever your views on the event, the organisers encourage you to pass them on to them directly in time for the race review meeting (which is likely to be on Thursday), they’d also like copies of any accident/incident reports from any crews who got into difficulties, so that they can collate them for the report for the ARA.

    E-mails to: vets.head@vrc.org.uk

    Oxford wiped the board in Henley on Sunday with their second clean sweep of the other boat races since the five race format was introduced in 2000.

    Jo Lywood, bow of the winning oxford women's blue boat and the women's head cake competition!!The weather which wreaked havoc on the vets head (resulting in sinking, swamping and a shortened course) produced a powerful cross tail wind in Henley, giving a slight advantage to crews on the Berks station and freezing the large crowd of spectators.

    Coach Ian Shore continued to work his magic with the Oxford women's blue boat, a powerful confident crew which took the lead early and walked to a 4 length victory which was never in doubt. The rest of the races were close (all within one length) and exciting but Cambridge seemed unable to find that little bit extra needed. Top Formula one style commentry being provided in all races by Dr Robert Treharne Jones and David Goldstrom (from Eurosport TV).

    The Lwt men's reserve crews both received official warnings for being late on the start, so when their race was stopped after the aligner appeared to have signalled a false start, it looked for a short time like the first race of the day would be settled on a disqualification. Luckily the umpire at the start decreed that no-one had been to blame and the race was restarted.

    The lwt men's race, which was the last race of the day, was late starting after the Cambridge crew took on water but apart from some dubious steering some of the races, that was the limit of the effects of the weather on the running of the day.

    Finally James Cracknell was on hand to present the prizes and was spotted in the hospitality tent with his baby son - very cute

    While on the subject of the boat race, a reminder for those with access to BBC 3, that the coverage of the celebrity rowing "alternative" boat race starts on Monday evening at 9pm - and continues every evening this week.

    Tune in for the chance to see how middle aged celebrity novices cope with rowing with GB squad athletes - or more interestingly how the GB squad athletes cope with rowing with middle aged novices...

    More details on the BBC3 web site

    The slug was interested to spot quite a few of the slebs in question drinking at the LRC party on Saturday evening...

    22-03-04 EXTREME ROWING
    An hour before the scheduled start time for the men’s head on Saturday and the river was ominously empty, a few umpire launches and safety boats were out and about but all crew activity was limited to the bank, as oarsmen and coaches waited to find out if the race was actually going to happen.

    This was sometime after a Strathclyde crew in a borrowed wooden boat had sunk beneath the waves at Hammersmith, their would be rescuer in a tin fish with a brand new engine, unable to cope with the conditions and sinking beneath the waves too, leaving the men in orange of the RNLI to rescue the lot of them. The boat, with a large hole in its bottom was dragged back to the bank under water and nine cold wet rowers were faced with how they were going to get warm and dry when all their kit was waiting for them at the finish...

    At three o’clock the announcement that the race had been cancelled was made over the tannoy at Putney. While the course was rowable by experienced rowers, the organisers had no option but to cancel, as the conditions were such that marshalling over 400 crews would have been impossible. A lot of pent up aggression and disappointment was evident and some crews took to the water anyway, whether to row their boat to where their trailers were waiting or just to make something out of an otherwise wasted day. For the rest, the alternative was beer and watching the rugby and the host clubs did a roaring trade over the bar, as 3000 rowers settled in for an afternoon and evening of drinking.

    At 4:30pm an unofficial “Real-men’s head” took place, with some 20 crew, mainly from the Tideway but including a couple of Irish and foreign crews rowing over the course, though apparently Leander and Molesey, both boating from Hammersmith, declined the invitation to partake. The gusting winds added to the interest and one of the rowers commented that it had been hard work but great fun, though he’d never seen a cox get quite so much water in the face during a race.

    The event was won by a nicely stacked IC crew featuring several GB squad lovelies and some rather tall Germans.

    Finish Start NoStatusCrewTime
    1 3 .Imperial College I16:55.8
    223 .Lady Elizabeth Club (Ireland) I17:25.1
    3 10 . London I 17.28.1
    4 11 S.1 University of London I 17.28.8
    5 5 . Oxford Brookes University I 17.31.8
    6 22 S.1 London II 17:39.6
    7 8 S.1 Imperial College II 17:44.7
    8 57 S.2 Henley I 17:45.2
    9 19 . C.R.O. Orio A.E. (Spain) 17:48.5
    10 25 Lt1 London III 17:55.3
    11 18 S.1 Thames I 17:59.2
    12 62 S.2 University of London II 18:05.0
    13 40 S.2 London IV 18:05.2
    14 126 N Lady Elizabeth Club (Ireland) II 18:09.0
    15 13 S.2 Oxford Brookes University II 18:22.3
    16 55 . London V 18:24.6
    17 28 S.3 Imperial College III 18:28.8
    18 65 S.2 Oxford Brookes University IV 18:29.2
    19 71 S.2 London VI 18:31.6
    20 131 . Thames III 18:32.8
    21 32 S.3 Aberdeen University 18:35.7
    22 54 S.3 Oxford Brookes University III 18:43.6
    23 247 N Thames IV 19:22.7

    Picture the scene, it's Friday at the Oxford festival of comedy rowing and the embattled University College Women's 1st VIII, who have struggled all term to actually get eight people to row, are making their way down the course.

    After giving a late concession to Magdalen in the gut, for some unknown reason, bow-six just STOPPED ROWING, leaving Magdalen to ride over stroke and six's blades and forcing the UC crew into the bank... where a couple of crews row clean past to bump them...

    They get themselves untangled and do another racing start to the coach's call of

    "you can hold them, they're tired, you've just had a rest" ...

    ...and manage to hold St John's most of the way.

    Well, until attempting to "run for it" on the boathouse stretch, when their cox steered into St John's (yes, bumped again), damaged the rudder, and then parked on Christ Church Meadow (in an uncanny re-creation of Jesus III's attempt at cross country rowing during the Cambridge bumps - see below).

    Bow four then had time to get out and have some Pimms and cucumber sandwiches, while some random punters helped lift the boat back into the water for them to do their 3rd racing start of the day... bouncing off the bank all the way down to the finish line, and just holding off Linacre.

    Result: Down 7 on the day, down 14 overall, and the Men's 1st VIII presenting them with their own personalised spoons.


    The Women's Head of the river race went smoothly on Saturday, with the exception of a rather unpleasant hail storm forty minutes before the race started, which may well have had something to do with the large number of crews who were late to the start, and found themselves racing out of order at the end of the 6th division.

    The grudge match of the day was undoubtably between Leander (starting 1st) and the IC/Marlow/Reading Uni/Rob ROy/Thames/UL composite crew (starting 189), coached by Sooper dooper high performance coach Miles Forbes-Thomas (who are pretty much the GB women's squad VIII), with MFT's squad looking for revenge on Leander for their fours head defeat in the quad.

    And revenge they got, as an impressive composite crew stormed down the course, taking the dutch squad VIII soon after the start and proceeding to cleave a path past all in their way, winning in a time of 18mins 18s comfortably ahead of Leander's second place time of 18mins 30s.

    All good news for British women's rowing. Detractors have claimed in the past, that the pool of sweep women rowers available to the GB squad selectors isn't good enough to produce a competitive VIII, however, the dutch crew are said to be planning to go for Olympic qualification and with four british women's crews able to beat them on Saturday, that arguement must be weakened, even if some of those in the winning crew already have plans in other boats.

    In the rest of the pack, the usual mixture of good quality club crews; those who would have been better saving their entry fee; people coming off their seats; and good & bad coxing was present. There seemed to be a tendancy for a lot of coxn's to take a line very close to the surrey bank near Barn Elms and one of the marshalls was heard to comment that "Our country cousins are coming a bit close to the bank at St Pauls...", though to be fair, dodgy steering wasn't limited to non-tideway crews unfamiliar with the river.

    The parties after the race at London and Thames were both busy by the end of the night, though Thames filled up earlier and probably won on the numbers front, due to shrewdly including entry to their party as part of the fee payable by visiting crews. Elsewhere on the embankment, there was a flurry of excitment when two fire engines turned up outside the HSBC boathouse, with lights flashing... it turned out their smoke machine had set off the fire alarms.

    Full results available here http://www.wehorr.org/results-time.html

    This year is 175th anniversary of the first Oxford and Cambridge boatrace, and to mark the occasion, the organisers have planned a range of additional activities, including a special garden at the Chelsea flower show (no I'm not joking - but more about that nearer the time) and a replica cutters race.

    Richmond bridge boat builders, have made two replicas of the boat in which Oxford first raced in 1829, for the cutters race, which takes place before the main event on the 28th. They are wooden, fixed seat boats (as the American's didn't invent the moving seat until the late 1860's) and although Oxford will be rowing in their normal dark blue, the Cambridge crew will row in pink, the colour they raced in at the time - they will also be wearing replica 1829 rowing kit.

    The crews are made up of old Blues, including Jonny Searle, and they can be seen out practicing on the Tideway quite frequently, which is probably just as well, as despite the pedigree of the competiors, boat builder Mark Edwards has been heard commenting "the training didn't look too impressive... some of them look hopelessly out of shape".

    Hopefully readers may well be able to see for themselves soon, as it appears that cameras from the BBC children's TV program Blue Peter, have been down shooting footage of the crews recently...

    When the slug asked Mr Searle if it was true that all crew members from both boats had been given a Blue Peter badge for their efforts, he proudly reported that he now has THREE blue peter badges -- including a silver one (now that's just not fair.)

    As to how they compare with those oarsmen 175 years ago, we will never know, as unfortunately, there are no known reports of the style of the crews in that first race. However it's possible to hazzard a guess from reports of the second time the university crews raced, in 1836, as it was commented on by Bell's Life" in a rather unflattering way...

    "We cannot say much in praise of the rowing of either party. Their style is bad for the Thames, whatever it may be for Cambridge and Oxford waters...

    We saw the Cambridge [the winners] when they first went out after their arrival in London, and remarked upon their style of rowing as being nothing like that of the crack men of the Thames. They invariably begin to row where the London men leave off, and appear to have no notion of bending forward."


    07-03-04 DEJA VU-TRC?
    Upper Thames have been doing a good job of bringing on novices this year on both the men and women's side, and had two crews entered in Saurday's women's head, a S1 crew containing the usual suspects and a S3 crew mainly made up of this year's novices.

    Alas, despite all their good work, it seems somethings haven't changed at the scout hut on the Henley reach, as their Captain / paid head coach, Syd Rand showed up at the tideway to coach the men for their morning outing then left before the womens race.

    On top of which the B crew weren't allowed to upgrade to use the men's boat, despite the fact it was actually there on the trailer.

    Long time readers of this page may well remember a not dissimilar situation back in 2000...

    same old, same old...

    06-03-04 TORPID TALES
    The annual festival of comedy rowing at Iffley special school, took place last week, and, whilst unable to match the carnage of their Cambridge equivalent, the week before, the slug did spot a few things of interest while chewing on a tasty bit of hedge by the river...

    Oriel 1st 8, as well as still wearing kit with ill advised white lyrca bottoms, were overheard moaning that they havent had any school boy rowers for the last 5 years ( except a few this year )... poor dears, imagine having to teach people to row.. Of course this might explain their performance as they were nearly bumped by Exeter on Thurs/Fri, despite overating them by quite a bit. Meanwhile, Oriel II, with last minute sub Pete Hackworth (who got given Isis and quit for some reason) sitting in at 7....went down nine places in three days, and after lasts years plummet as well...

    Finally, the slug was somewhat surprised to spot Legolas (he of lord of the rings) stroking the New College VIII...