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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday 7pm.
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.
The 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.
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.
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!