ROWING HIGHLIGHTS 2014: HENLEY, KIWI PAIR, STANNING RETURN, GB M8 & SNOWFLAKE December 31 2014
It’s been a great 12 months of rowing. As 2014 comes to an end and 2015 gets under way, let’s have a look – in no particular order – at five highlights...
Henley‘s frenetic finals day
Sunday at the 175th Henley Royal Regatta was arguably more action-packed than ever before, making it difficult to pick out just one race or event. How about Upper Thames RC’s first ever win, closely followed by their second, in a final that was halted by the umpire?
In most years, Eton’s comeback in the Princess Elizabeth or California’s three-foot Ladies Plate verdict over Leander would grab all of the attention but what about the race described as the best Henley final ever? British heavyweight double scull John Collins and Jonny Walton and the French lightweight duo Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou went neck-and-neck to the enclosures before the French snatched victory by three feet.
Azou said: “It was a fantastic race. I didn’t mean to make it so close.” Just in case you thought he might have.
It wasn’t as close a race but Oxford Brookes’ achievement in becoming the first British crew in eight years to win the Temple Challenge Cup – an event normally dominated by freshman crews from the US - was worthy of high praise. Once again, cox Rory Copus put a video/audio montage together to take viewers right into the boat.
Kiwi pair do the double
They were Olympic champions and four times world champions in the coxless pair and had gone unbeaten through their previous 18 regattas. What could Eric Murray and Hamish Bond do better? Well they could win two gold medals at the World Championships in Amsterdam for a start.
With Caleb Shepherd on board they won Friday’s coxed pair final in six minutes 33.26 seconds, breaking the 20-year-old world-best time by nine seconds.
The last time the double was achieved, 13 years ago, Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell took gold in two finals held just two hours apart. The new format meant the Kiwis had 24 hours and it was business as usual on Saturday as they were four-and-a-half seconds clear of the field.
Would they do the double again? Murray said: "We haven't spoken about it but I doubt it. It was fun for this week."
As with Pinsent and Redgrave in their prime, Bond and Murray have forced other countries away from their chosen event, to the point where crews enter with the aim of winning silver. Great Britain did so in both the pairs events, with Scott Durant, Alan Sinclair and cox Henry Fieldman in the former; James Foad and Matt Langridge in the latter.
Merry Xmas everyone! pic.twitter.com/CxADS66EaY
— KIWIPAIR-EricMurray (@kiwipair) December 24, 2014
Stanning goes from tour of duty to top of podium
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning have had a similar effect on the women’s pair field since 2012, when they won the first British gold of the London Olympics. The duo haven’t cruised quite so serenely since then, though, with Army Captain Stanning serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan that took her out of action for the 2013 season.
Even with Stanning back this year, it was far from easy as she struggled early on to deal with the training load. Polly Swann returned to help Glover to gold in June’s European Championships. In Amsterdam in August, though, Stanning played her part in a textbook final, as they took the lead from the off and extended in as they went to set another world best – their 6:50.61 was three seconds ahead of the previous mark.
The pair’s success was the lone highlight for Great Britain’s women in Amsterdam, however. Kat Copeland’s lightweight double scull suffered a shock semi-final defeat, the eight missed out on a medal and injury saw the women’s double broken up.
All of which left the stage set for four-time Olympic medallist Katherine Grainger to announce her comeback after two years away, which she duly did in as low-key a manner as she could manage.
Men’s eight on top of the world, again
Last year, Great Britain’s men loaded all their top talent into the eight and won their first ever world title. This season they put their best people in the four and went back to business as usual, right up until the World Championships final.
Third at the Euros, second in Aiguebellette, third again in Lucerne they lost to Germany in their heat in Amsterdam and had to race a repechage. The final was a different matter as the Stan Louloudis-stroked crew took the lead before halfway and held off a German charge to win by a canvas.
Perhaps happiest of the lot was five-man Pete Reed, the double Olympic champion who had feared his career could be over as he struggled through the winter with poor performances down to what turned out to be an allergy to his pet Chihuahuas.
Looking back on the year, Reed said: “I know it sounds silly to anyone retelling it, that I’m a Naval officer and an Olympic champion and I’d been broken down by two dogs – and not even manly dogs. But I still think about them every single day and I know it sounds stupid.”
December 29, 2014 Good choice!
Among Great Britain’s haul of six Olympic-class medals in Amsterdam, don’t forget Graeme Thomas, Sam Townsend, Charles Cousins and Peter Lambert, who gained Britain’s first ever world silver in the men’s quad, missed out on gold to Ukraine in a thrilling finish by nine hundredths of a second and are determined to go at least nine hundredths of a second faster next year.
Not really a highlight but …
The safety-conscious – on either side of the Atlantic - may not consider it a highlight but a parent-shot video from Riverhead Snowflake Regatta head race in Long Island, New York, has been watched by over 1.3 million people on YouTube.
If you’ve already seen it, it’s still worth another look, in part because of the comments from onlookers: “You ruined it for them!”, “How come you can't get the boat out of the way?”, “Row the boat!”, “If you don't know how to row, don't row”.
Worryingly, a veteran rowing coach who watched the whole messy farrago and spoke to the local newspaper said these sort of miscues often happen during novice races.
Mary Kay O’Shaughnessy, who shot the video, hadn’t meant its audience to be any wider that a few fellow parents, but didn’t realise that an unlisted link can still be watched by anyone.
“Maybe this can be used as a teaching tool for young kids [to learn] what to do when you get in a situation like that,” she said. “Or, you know, what not to do.”
What’s your rowing highlight of 2014?
With a bit of prodding, Twitter users have been listing their highlights and lowlights from the year. There’s still time to add yours, using the hashtag #rowinghigh2014, or you can leave a comment below.
December 30, 2014 2. Opening new boathouse and whole new piece of beautiful row-able water
December 30, 2014 3. Getting a hug from my eldest son after he won bronze 2nd Eight in May, proud Mum!
@martingough22 sculling Bembridge to Needles iow. Whole thing next year
— angus mckechnie (@gusmckechnie) December 30, 2014
If you missed it in the post-HWR edition of The Rowlup, here’s the photo-finish pic from UCL’s final:
What to look forward to in 2015
Saturday 11 April and the first Women’s Boat Race on the Thames in London has been circled on calendars for three years, since the announcement of equal funding and support for the men and women of Oxford and Cambridge. The dark blues must be favoured on form so far but anything can happen on a crazy day on the Tideway. And, as if the whole thing weren’t momentous enough, Clare Balding has announced her intention to miss the Grand National in order to host the event for the BBC.
On 8 February, British Rowing will host the national indoor championships for the first time, at the Olympic Velodrome, and if the chance to compete at such an august venue isn’t enough of a carrot, the GB team will be taking part up too.
Getting some practice in for British Rowing Indoor Champs. Enter now and get the early bird offer. Feb 8th,... https://t.co/ZgmHnlrhWo
— N. Reilly-O'Donnell (@nrodtweets) December 8, 2014
Sir Steve Redgrave, who won 22 times at Henley Royal Regatta, presides over his first regatta as chairman from 1-5 July, which may mean he is unable to take up his customary spot in the marshalling area for qualifiers on the previous Friday evening.
The world’s best youngsters will get a chance to recce the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro at World Juniors from 6-9 August.
From 30 August, the World Champs take place in beautiful Aiguebelette (where the Redgrave Four won their first world title back in 1997).
And of course there’s the head season, Nat Schools, Henley Women’s, British Champs …
Wherever you row – or spectate - have a happy and successful 2015!