Henley Masters Header

Star Shines at Henley Masters’ Regatta

As previously reported, Star Masters squad sent several boats to Henley Masters’ Regatta held on the Fawley stretch of the Royal Regatta course on 13th and 14th July. The club performed well, winning gold in the E8s category in a highly competitive field, and reaching the finals in F4+, WMC2x and C4+ categories.

Henley Masters’ Regatta may not have the glamour, crowds or caché of its Royal cousin, but for the crews that come in from around the world, it’s every bit as important. In a season that’s seen superb results for the squad, Henley did not disappoint.

Star winners of Henley Masters

Race Reports

Masters Men E Eights: Winners

Dominic Hawes writes: “When the draw was published, The E8 category immediately stood out as one of the more competitive with Brit Masters winners LRC, Abingdon, Crabtree and Broxbourne all being well-known contenders. The draw’s dark horse was an entry from Australia’s North Shore Rowing Club.

“With a bye in the heats round, our first competitor was Abingdon RC and we knew their boat had been getting faster all season. Despite near perfect conditions, a nervy and weak start saw us yield a quarter length in the first three strokes. By the tenth and striking 40, we’d reversed the deficit and gained a half-length of our own. We settled into our stride at 34/35 strokes a minute and focused on length and relaxation. By the 500m point, we had clear 1 ½ length lead when our stroke, David Sogan, relaxed the rate and took control of the race. We finished comfortably ahead in a good time of 3.13.

In the semi-final, we lined up in a slight headwind against the mighty London Rowing Club. Known for their technical prowess, ability and speed London would push us as hard as any club. Three weeks before Henley, LRC had won the E8 category at British Rowing National Masters -this was not a boat to be taken lightly. Kevan Armstrong briefed the crew before we boated and we all agreed to the kind of race plan a competitor like London warrants. With a much stronger start and striking 42 in the spin, we again managed to pull a small lead in the first fifteen strokes. Catherine Upex managed tight lanes and a slight stroke side pull off the start admirably. Settling at 36, we gradually ground out a lead. At the halfway point, London rallied but made no real impression. We crossed the line a length ahead in a time of 3.16 having rowed 115 strokes to London’s 124. Length beats rate. We produced our best row to date in the boat.

Broxbourne RC’s E8 worked its way through the other side of the competition laying down similarly competitive times. With stronger winds on day two, we rowed to the start scenting blood but not expecting the final to be a gimme. The race plan was respectful but aggressive and, while the crew never really settled as well as against London, we executed well. A similarly strong start in the low 40s settled to 36 to the 500m point by which time the race was under control. David Sogan relaxed the rate thereafter and we focused on length to take us home. A victory by 1 ½ lengths in a time of… well… who cares. We won!

Henley medalThe crew was coxed by Catherine Upex and included: David Sogan, Kevan Armstrong, David Gowing, Dom Hawes, Ivan Higgins, Richard White (Bedford Rowing Club), Andrew Thompson and Steve Colliver.

Kevan Armstrong led the crew and commented: “We’ve been working hard on improving boat speed all year. Henley gave us a chance to prove that the volume of training and attention to detail committed by the squad has not been wasted. Our boats are definitely moving a lot faster with a much more relaxed rowing style. Any master that’s interested in moving boats faster and is willing to commit to training should join us. Next year we’re setting our sights even higher.”

Men’s Masters F Coxed Fours: Finalists

David Taylor writes: “The F4+ boat, Colin Hunt, Simon Lamb, Trevor Barton, Dave Taylor and coxed by Jill Edgeley had a good regatta. On Friday morning they beat Tideway Scullers in a close race, winning by 3 feet. The semi-final in the afternoon was a better row and a comfortable win over Marlow by 2 lengths. The final on Saturday was against a strong crew from Grosvenor rowing club. Both crews had good starts but Grosvenor gradually pulled away during the middle of the race. Star came back at the finish but was beaten by just over 1 length.”

Men’s Masters C Coxed Fours: Finalists

Dom Hawes writes: “All we had to do to reach the final was show up after two crews scratched from this unpopular category. Our foe was Potomac rowing club from Washington DC about whom we knew very little. Received wisdom tells us “only quick crews travel halfway around the world”. We knew we’d be up against it.

“Potomac was lighting fast off the start. We had an uneasy spin and with boats so close that blades were nearly clashing, our start was less than good. We settled into a stride, but never really found the easy length we’d pursued in training. At the 500m point, we were ¾ of a length down, but it felt like we were gaining. 200m from the finish, Potomac turned on the turbo and our tanks were empty so we couldn’t respond. We ran out of legs and lost by two and a bit lengths to a crew we’re keen to race again… soon.”

The crew was coxed by Cathy Johnson (Bedford Rowing Club) and comprised: Steve Colliver, Dom Hawes, David Gowing and Chris Callow.

Women’s Masters C Double Sculls: Finalists

Rachel Armstrong and Lisa Boggis won their semi-final against Milton Keynes very comfortably and faced this years’ national masters winners, Strathclyde, who had won by 12sec at Nottingham in the final. The race tactic was to put enormous pressure on Strathclyde early on in the race and try to stay in touch. The Star double led at 600m and with just 300 meters to go the crews were level. Small advantages make big differences and the better equipped Strathclyde pushed home their advantage in the closing stages by lifting their pace to win a truly hard-fought race.

Kevan Armstrong was immensely proud of how the women went about it. “How do you beat a crew that’s 12 secs faster than you?” He said. “Your only chance is to nail the start, then put more than you ought into it for as long as you can!!

“At 600m they had a chance. If they had been measured, the race would have been lost by stroke 20. With spot-on equipment, they may well have nicked an extra half-length and that might just have been enough to crack a technically less than perfect Strathclyde.”

Men’s Masters F Eights

David Taylor writes: “The Star F8 despite few training outings with the final racing crew leading up to Henley, had a good race against Reading, who were the eventual winners and a long-established crew. Star was fortunate to get a bye into the semi-final on Saturday morning. The outcome was a win for Reading by 1.25 lengths in a time of 3.29. This was exactly the same result as the other semi-final.

The crew consisted of Colin Hunt, Trevor Barton, Steve Sangster, Simon Lamb, Chris Wisbey (BRC), Iain Blackley, Dave Taylor, Andy Lynn. Cox Ian Darnell (BRC).”

Men’s Masters F Single Sculls

Lester Waugh had a steady start in his Class F1 quarter-final, being a length down at 400 metres to the British National Masters Singles Champion. By 650m the gap was down to half a length with a close finish in prospect. However, an unkind launch wash nudged Lester’s boat to stroke side resulting in him clipping the barrier and handing victory to Adey (Walton RC) by two lengths.

BRMC gold medals

Star Scores Five Golds and Second Place at British Rowing Masters Championships

Star Club masters ventured North over the 16th and 17th of June to compete for national titles at the British Rowing Masters Championships. Held at the notoriously windy National Watersports Centre (NWC) at Holme Pierrepont, the two-day regatta yielded five gold medals, two silvers and one bronze. Out of a field of 91 clubs, Star Club finished in second place with Upper Thames Rowing Club securing the victor ludorum by a wide margin.

Straight backs against the wind

This year, Saturday’s headwind was a strong but steady South-Westerly. Smaller boats found conditions tough in any lane, bigger boats fared a little better, but lanes five and six, with no shelter, were at a big disadvantage. On Sunday, the wind backed a little which shifted the advantage towards the middle and higher lanes.

Competition Classifications

  • Non-Championship events are open to athletes who have not previously won a gold medal at Masters Championships, at either Championship level or Band 1 Non-Championship level (or in the previous “Intermediate” level).
  • Non-Championship races are run as straight finals across three age categories without the usual handicaps. The winner takes all as only gold medals are awarded. Unlike Championship level races, there are no silver or bronze medals.

Enough from me. This is a long enough piece anyhow so I’ll hand over to the crews for first-hand race reports. Remember… if you race and you want to be in the report, please send words and pictures to racereports@starclubrowing.co.uk by Tuesday 7pm.

Race Reports

Championship Women’s Masters C Single Sculls: Gold Medal

Rachel Armstrong writes: After what has been a tricky season, I really had no expectation of how my race would go. It’s fair to say race nerves were in danger of getting in the way of a good race, since rough water and being tense is not a good combination. So, as I pushed away from the safety of the pontoon, I had a little word with myself and then got on with the business of warming up.

Rachel ArmstrongThe aim was to stay as relaxed as possible in the rough water and get my finishes out clean. It worked. I had a good solid start and just poured everything into the next few minutes.

It was really only in the last 250m that I took a look across to see what was happening. At about the same time I realised I was heading for a win, I also realised I’d probably poured a bit too much into the first part of the race – easy to do under the influence of adrenaline. Happily, despite clipping a red buoy near the finish, which made a few people a bit nervous, I held it together and came home with a very much needed win and gold.

Championship Men’s Masters E Coxless Fours: Gold Medal


Photograph courtesy of Ben Rodford

David Gowing writes: Since the beginning of May, the Masters E4 of David Sogan, Kevan Armstrong, David Gowing and Dom Hawes, ably coxed by a selection of Cathy Johnson, Catherine Upex and Dawn Costello, had been focussing their training on the National Masters Championships. Kevan had been wearing the coach’s hat and exhorting us all to take ever longer strokes.

The big day (17th June) arrived with strong south-westerlies creating a substantial headwind and rather lumpy water (but nothing out of the ordinary for Holme Pierrepoint!) over the 1000m course. Our schedule started early with the first race at 09:10 in a Filippi boat kindly supplied by BMS. We had a clean row and produced a respectable time (3:49) given the conditions, qualifying for the final in second place behind a strong crew from Tyrian club.

In the final, an hour later, we produced a powerful start to head the field over the first half of the race, with the pressure coming from Monmouth in an adjoining lane. We waited for Tyrian’s big push for the line and it came with 200m to go. We held our form to win in a time of 3:46 maintaining a clear length’s advantage over Tyrian, who finished fast to overhaul Monmouth. They’d left it too late to catch us!

Championship Men’s Masters E Coxed Fours: Gold Medal

David Gowing writes: The same formation [as the 4-] boated again at 12:15 for the final of the coxed four (E4+) event, but now with the addition of Cathy Johnson in the cox’s seat who was participating under Bedford Club colours.

We took our place on the stake boat with some confidence, having already beaten Monmouth and Nottingham in the coxless formation and not perceiving a strong threat from Reading. But, we knew nothing could be taken for granted in challenging conditions and the headwind had strengthened further.

Again, we started well and were at the front of the field after ten strokes. We hoped to open up a lead as we went for full length. However, Nottingham, in a slightly revised formation, including a very determined stroke man, over-rated us and pushed their nose ahead. We avoided the temptation to respond to their rate and stuck doggedly to our “length in the water will win the race” mantra. That mantra began to wear thin at 750m with Nottingham still alongside us and rowing smoothly. At this point, Cathy called for the squeeze and we applied sufficient pressure to pull clear, winning in a time of 4:01 and collecting our second gold of the day at the finishing pontoon.

Championship Men’s Masters B/C Quadruple Sculls: Gold Medal

Racing in the Masters B/C Handicap Quads event, Star Club’s own Chris Callow competed alongside his composite crew mates from Peterborough City RC and Leicester RC; competing against 11 other crews in their event.

Chris Callow Wins bc 4x

The strong cross-headwind were not ideal conditions to be racing in; especially given that the crew had a 5-second handicap to make up against the other Masters C crews, but their recent experience racing in similar conditions at Nottingham City Regatta helped.

Lining up in the heat they were confident of progressing to the final having to only finish in the top 3 to progress. But they wanted more to ensure they guaranteed a good lane for the final so they raced for the win. After posting the quickest time in the heat (3:33.57) they were well placed going into the final.

The crew knew there were no guarantees of winning the final regardless of their heat result. With their focus on their own race plan, again having to chase down a 5-second handicap, Chris’ crew stormed through the field to win the gold!

Chris said “Our training had not been focused on Nationals this season and we were going into the event not knowing where we would be placed. However that said, we were wanting to win the gold!! Chasing down a 5-second handicap in both races was a tough task but we knew we had it in us to perform well and row through to the gold which I’m pleased we did. The final was one of the most exciting races I’ve been involved in for a long time!”

Non-championship Men’s Masters D Band 2 Double Sculls: Gold Medal

Ivan Higgins and David Rainbow took to the water in a double scull on Sunday hoping to replicate their quadruple scull success from Saturday’s race and they weren’t disappointed. Striking an easy, flowing rhythm, they dominated the field and made winning look easy crossing the line at a relaxed rate, well ahead of the competition.

Championship Men’s Masters E Quadruple Sculls: Silver Medal

Kevan Armstrong writes: “A dominant win in the semi-final saw us line up next to Norwich, a crew that has had a stranglehold in this event for many years. The six-boat final was pretty much between our two crews and we decided to go out hard. We were quite surprised to lead Norwich right up to about 600m where their dominance over the last few years showed through. We were most encouraged to be ahead for so long and it shows the boat speed is good enough, just learning to be relaxed when at that pace. It’s very promising for the future.”

David Sogan added: “We came to the championship short of boat time and we had a straight final which included the mighty Norwich. This is a crew that has rowed together for several years. We were quick off the start gaining a half-length lead at 250m. But, Norwich slowly clawed it back so that at 500m we were only leading by a canvas. They slowly gained the upper hand, eventually winning by a length but we picked up another well-deserved silver medal for a newly emerging crew.”

Championship Men’s Masters E Double Sculls: Silver Medal

The Men’s Masters E Double Sculls crew of Kevan Armstrong and David Sogan faced a full field of 12 competitors in their event. The crew cruised to an easy victory in their heat in a stiff headwind. In the final Star took a small lead over Norwich (the other heat winners) at 250m. However, Norwich gradually overhauled them and by 750m had clear water. Star finished well ahead of the rest of the field picking up a Silver as the first medal of the day.

Kevan Armstrong commented: “Both the quad and the double results are very encouraging. We went faster than the opposition for a good part of the race and we haven’t had time to focus in on these boat types like the opposition has. It remains a challenge to beat what are very good crews. That’s a challenge I take personally.”

Championship Women’s Masters C Double Sculls: Bronze Medal

Rachel Armstrong writes: We had a relatively easy time in the semi-final, coming second to Strathclyde but having not really pushed too hard for that. We knew that the final would be a very different race and it didn’t disappoint. This was a bunfight from start to finish, with no one willing to concede defeat.

Conditions were such that maintaining good alignment on the start pontoons was tricky and meant that when we finally got to start the race, the first 250m was a little harried.

Rough water and a significant headwind made for a challenging midsection too, our aim was just to stay clear of the chop and focus on staying long and strong. It became clear as we battled our way down the course that it was going to be anyone’s race to win. In the event, a strong combination from Strathclyde took gold. The order of the remaining 5 crews, however, changed several times over the course of the race and as we came over the line there was a stunned silence as no one knew who had won silver and bronze. After a few minutes, it was announced that we had won bronze. 1 second off silver and just 4/100th away from 4th place. Side by side racing at it’s very best and great fun.

Non-Championship Women’s Masters D-F 2x & Championship level Women’s Masters F 2x

Liz Appleton writes: Sue and Kim’s main event was the Non-Championship Women’s Masters D-F 2x- event on Sunday. They first warmed up on the Saturday by trying their luck in the Championship level Women’s Masters F 2x-. From a field of 10 crews, they raced well and were chuffed to qualify for the final.


Kim and Sue went into their main event on Sunday with two races and excellent experience of the wind and chop under their belt. They sculled well and achieved a very honourable second place to a much younger crew from Castle Semple RC, with a commanding lead over the four other crews, Exeter, Llandaff and two from Broxbourne.

Non-Championship Women’s Masters D-F 2-

Sarah and Liz’s main event was the Non-Championship Women’s Masters D-F 2- event on Saturday. Out in choppy lane 5, they knew they had to go hard to win and at 300 metres were in the lead and going for clear water. However, the umpire’s flag went up, and in a cruel turn of events, the five crews were instructed to stop racing and make their way back to the start. Seemingly, there had been an “issue” between two of the other pairs.

Star Club Womens 2-

Photograph courtesy of Ben Rodford

On the second attempt, Sarah and Liz were struck by a gust on the starter’s “Go!”, which lost them the benefit of a strong start. Upton RC in lane 2 seized the opportunity and took a length, which Star was unable to recoup and so finished in a cruel second place.

The three other pairs from Bradford ARC, Dart Totnes and Putney Town were not in contention. Sarah and Liz also raced for experience in the Non-Championship Women’s Masters A-C 2- event, in which they achieved a faster time.

Championship Men’s Masters F Single Sculls

Lester Waugh participated in the Class F single sculls but disappointingly couldn’t match the conditions or the opposition, finishing 4th in his heat.

He did, however, make it into a British Rowing Masters web page photo so all was not lost!

Nottingham Masters Yields Three Star Wins

Several Masters crews ventured North to the National Water Sports Centre (NWC) at Holme Pierrepont for Nottingham Masters’ Regatta on 27th May and the club came away with three wins. Conditions are always tough at the NWC and this year was no exception. Strong tailwinds brought the waves up causing such tricky obstacles that the race was held over the first 1000m of the course.

Winners: W Mas F2x, Mas E4+, Mas F8+

Sue Lamb reports: The Women’s F double competed in the Non- Championship D-F category against Exeter and Upton. No handicap is given for age at Non-Championship level and the opposition was a D and F crew. The Star Ladies were pleased to have crossed the finish line comfortably ahead of Exeter, after an interesting race trying to clear the sculling blades from the waives. Twice the boat speed slowed slightly due to stroke’s blade bow blade getting caught on the water, and Exeter made a little ground, but the many kms of square blade paddling practice on home water helped the Star crew to tap down more and push on to finish in first place.

Dom Hawes reports: The Mens’ E4+ faced off against Nottingham and York, both strong crews with a string of high-level wins behind them including Henley Masters, Nottingham City 2017 and National Masters. A solid start gave our crew a half-length advantage after barely 10 strokes and then quickly settled into a long stride at 32/33, which added steadily to its lead. Nottingham fared better than York ok the day and pressed our men hard at 400m and again at 850m. But, with plenty in the tank Star pushed home its advantage taking the win in a time of 03.30.5, which was the fastest 4+ of the day.

The Men’s F8+ was pitted against Peterborough and the result was certainly not a foregone conclusion. Star’s new line-up F8 hadn’t enjoyed too much water time before the regatta and, with a last-minute injury sub kindly provided by Nottingham it was effectively a scratch-crew. Peterborough got the better of the start, but our crew ground out a strong enough lead in near surf conditions to secure a well-earned win.

Other Star reports provided by racers

Report on W Mas D/E 8+
Sue Lamb reports: Unfortunately, due to 2 crew changes the day before the race, this crew went on the water without a full crew practice. But good crew spirit held up, determined to have the best race possible with a very competent cox from the Star Juniors. The crew changes meant the crew should have moved up to E from D, but a category change was not permitted for the race so Star raced York City (E), Nottingham (D), Bradford Amateur (D), and Hollingworth Lake (D). York went off 7 seconds ahead of the D crews and stormed home in a time of 3.43. The Star crew had a good start in the calmer waters but struggled as the water became choppy, not conditions the Star crew was used to but battled on to finish 4th out of the 5 crews, ahead of Hollingworth Lake. The crew all commented that the rough water experience was invaluable and hopefully useful at other venues like Tideway.

Masters Women take to Peterborough Summer

The Masters Women’s Squad optimistically entered two WMas D coxed fours, two WMas E coxed fours, a WMas D eight and a WMas E double scull at Peterborough Summer Regatta weekend.This was to have been our grand finale or racing, with participation from as many squad members as possible. We were however frustrated in our purpose; the eight was rejected due to lack of competition, two crews had to scratch due to unforeseen circumstances, and – most disappointing of all, Peterborough decided not to run any Masters Women’s Fours events on the Sunday. The Sunday fours were instead reallocated to the Senior Women’s 4+ events. Definitely not what we had hoped for from the season finale.
Over the Saturday 1000m course, our WMas E4+ of Sue Lamb, Janet Wiliams, Liz Appleton and Kim Taylor, coxed by Jo French (on her maiden race in the cox’s seat) were very fortunate to have a masters category race, and competed in the WMas D/E 4+ event. They raced powerfully, putting the Peterborough crew well behind them, but were not fast enough to beat the mighty Henley Masters winners from Milton Keynes. A valiant effort.
Over the Sunday 500m course, we fielded a WMas D4+ (Jane Pooley, Rhonda Lawrence, Nicola White and Sue Davis, coxed by coach Jack Pooley’’s girlfriend Isobel)  and a WMas E4+ (Liz Appleton, Jo French, Alison Winder and Janet Williams, coxed by Kat Morrell). Having been allocated to the Senior Women’s events, these crews faced competing against much younger athletes instead of their masters age groups. Normally we would not agree do this, but on this occasion decided that we would go for it. Both crews were game, but sadly neither was able to overcome the youngsters. The WMas E4+ were however lucky to have WMas crew from Poplar Blackwall in their race, whom they beat by some 3 lengths. “

Peterborough Summer – Masters Men Race Report

Star Masters men entered boats in eleven events over the two days, scoring wins in five of them!

On Saturday the in the C/D 8+ event the Star boat stroked by Colin Hunt scored a win rowing as Masters D. This was a good achievement in a straight race as the crew were unable to compete at their age category of Masters E.

In Masters D/E 4+ Star came first and third with the boat stroked by Andy Crook winning. This was another win in a string of wins for this crew over the season.

The third win of the day was in the Masters D 2x. This crew consisted of Rachael Armstrong and David Sogan. Although rowing in a men’s event they scored another convincing win.

In Masters D 4x and E 4x both crews finished second. The D crew (Armstrong) to the very fast boat from St Ives and the E crew (Thomson) to Norwich.

In Masters C4+ the Star crew stroked by Andy Chillingsworth came third in a race won by Worcester.


On Sunday five crews competed in the 500 meter sprint.

The Masters C/D 8+ with Andy Crook stroking scored a good win.

In Masters C/D 4+ Star entered two boats, finishing first and second. Michael Mitchell was in the winning boat and also in the winning C/D eight. A great bonus for him as this was his stag weekend and with his future wife Kat coxing!

In Masters D 2x, again two Star crews competed with a win for the Lisa Boggis double over the Clive Thomson double.

The Masters D/E 4x was won as usual by the fast St Ives crew with the George French quad finishing fourth.

Last but not least the Masters E 2x stroked by Ian Staniforth came a close third in their heat just missing the final.

All in all a very successful weekend for the Star Masters Men, which included a couple of Star Masters Women in the two winning crews

Master Squads Storm Sudbury

The Masters Men and Women took a small but select contingent to Sudbury Regatta on Saturday 5th August. Enjoying both the very best and the very worst of British summer weather, the group gained two wins from three events, including a long over-due win for some of the Masters Women. The day was especially exciting for Clive Thompson, who coxed those two winning crews –  his first time competing as a cox since 1974.

Continue reading