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Archive for March, 2012

Not another Twitter spat

Posted by rowingvoice on March 30, 2012

It all kicked off again in the GB squad this week, with the news that Zac Purchase is one of several athletes using #2012Tweeps to get more tickets for his relatives.  It follows the Twitter storm which ensued when Purchase blogged that his absence from the national trials earlier this month would “give another athlete a chance at glory”, before swiftly editing his words.

A Tweep is normally a Twitter follower, but this is an Olympic-addicted version.  The #2012Tweeps group was formed to exploit the EU law which allows Britons to buy Games tickets from other EU country websites just as their inhabitants were able to buy directly from LOCOG in the UK ballot.  Those who want to join in are encouraged to learn how to hunt down still-available Olympic tickets from abroad:  some have become ticket-hunting experts.

A few Olympic supporters decided to use their own money and expertise to buy extra overseas tickets for athletes seeking them.  The most high-profile example was Dai Greene, who was sold eight extra tickets for the semi-final and final sessions of his 400m hurdes event, by a helpful Tweep, Londoner Matt de Monte, after Greene vented his dismay at only having the two per session allocated to those trialling for the Games and de Monte decided to find him some more.

Soon Zac Purchase had joined in, and was interviewed on TV with some of the strangers who helped him obtain 14 extra tickets for Saturday 4th August, the day of the lightweight men’s doubles final. But not everyone in the GB Rowing team greeted his success with joy.

“@zacpurchase, just seen you on the BBC news accepting tickets for the games from the public, you had a chance to buy 6 for your family!”, tweeted Pete Reed, frustrated at the difficulty long-term rowing supporters who don’t happen to be related to rowers have had in obtaining anything, let alone 14 finals tickets.  He later added to supporters:  “Please keep your tickets if you are lucky enough to have them and enjoy the racing.”

Purchase’s reply to Reed was, “Sure #2012Tweeps wld help you 2 if you need.”  “You’ve missed the point,” replied Reed.  “I don’t want them, I am lucky to have bought 6 through rowing. I want public to have a fair distribution.”

The overt wrangle raised eyebrows amongst Twitter followers, including Cambridge research assistant Marianna Nodale, who tweeted to a friend, “And the sad thing is, I have got tickets to see the one (Zac) while I wish I got tickets to see the other @PeteReed2012.”

M2 Sports Management (@M2_Sports) joined in, suggesting to Pete Reed, “As the M4- Final is on the same day as the LM2x Final maybe @ZacPurchase might want to share his tickets with his team mates!”  The athlete agency manages eight current-team rowers, though neither Reed nor Purchase.  Of course everyone is jumping the gun a bit since none of the rowers will be selected until early June, and even then will have a lot to do before making their Olympic final.

It is interesting that since Dai Greene’s public confirmation of de Monte reselling the athletics tickets to him, #2012Tweeps have started using the term “helping the athletes to buy”.  Technically, you see, reselling is strictly forbidden, whichever country the tickets were bought from.  “Tickets may only be used by a Purchaser and a family member, friend or colleague who is known to the Purchaser personally and who is intended to accompany the Purchaser to a session”, say the official terms and conditions.  Otherwise, it maintains, transfer of tickets to someone else, even just for face value or as a gift, make them void and the tickets could be seized or cancelled.

Earlier today, eBay removed an advert from someone trying to resell Olympic tickets, and vowed to keep monitoring its site to prevent it happening again.

The 2012Tweeps website includes a ticket database, but probably for legal reasons you have to sign up to be involved before being able to see it (thus becoming a ‘friend’ of the seller).  It has been announced that the official London 2012 ticketing website will re-open in April for a final round of sales to those unsuccessful so far in the various ballots.  The resale site will also re-open soon.

Which side of the debate are you on?  Do you think members of the public helping athletes’ extended families go to the Games is heroic, or would you rather see the extra tickets go to die-hard supporters of the sport who haven’t yet managed to get any?  Have you recently bought tickets from abroad, whether for yourself or a rower?  Are you a 2012Tweep?  Have your say below, on Facebook or on the RowingVoice Twitter feed.

Rachel Quarrell.

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Posted in GB team, international, Olympics, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Cambridge celebrate after Henley clashes

Posted by rowingvoice on March 25, 2012

Cambridge had clear water as they passed Upper Thames

Oxford and Cambridge finished a sun-baked Sunday in Henley level at 2-2 but the headline of the day had to be a victory for the light blues in the Newton Women’s Boat Race, in nail-biting circumstances, ending a run of four successive defeats.

Cambridge had clear water and were almost two lengths up by some estimates when an over-the-head crab from the two seat brought them to a shuddering halt and allowed Oxford to draw level as the crews approached Temple Meadows and the final quarter of the race.

Caroline Reid regained her blade admirably, though. Cambridge on the Berkshire station managed to regain the advantage but this mobile phone video shows just how close the final quarter-length verdict was.

Anyone who has seen Anna Railton’s brilliant blog and cartoons can guess which four-letter word went through her mind as, sitting in the four seat, she looked down to see a blade next to her.

“I could see Oxford getting closer and closer and then obviously their cox realised and they went hell for leather,” said Railton, who was in the losing crew in 2009 and ’10 before taking last year off.

“We didn’t know who had won when we crossed the line. We had an inkling it was us but didn’t know. To be that far up and then almost lose it in the last minute is not how I’d want it to be but we won.”

The race had looked over by half-way, where Cambridge were a length and a half up, going through in three minutes 46 seconds, rating higher off the start and moving out efficiently.

Cambridge Women celebrate with coach Martyn Rooney

Oxford have endured an injury-hit winter, including having four potential squad members involved in a car crash in November. One made it into the blue boat and two – eventually – into reserve crew Osiris, who won a similarly eventful race by three-and –a-half lengths in 6’57.

There was a light-blue crab in that race too and Blondie, whose deficit of two-thirds of a length at the time was a more fair reflection of the difference between the crews, blamed their opponents for the clash that caused it.

Umpire Sir Matthew Pinsent was unimpressed, ruling that although he had been warning Osiris at the time, both crews were well over to the Buckinghamshire station and he was simply making sure the dark blues on Bucks took the slight bend at the Barrier.

Oxford’s other victory came in deserved fashion in the women’s lightweight race as they went out of the start at a slightly higher rating of 42 and looked the more cohesive crew as they gained clear water at the Upper Thames RC pontoon, where several of the Oxford men’s blue boat crew were cheering.

The final verdict was one-and-a-third lengths in 6’48, in which time the crews had swapped stations as light-blue cox Harriet Marsh looked to move out of her rivals’ wash.

Natalie Redgrave and Brianna Stubbs, both winners with Oxford in 2011 who chose not to compete this year, was still in lycra at the prize-giving thanks to their Pembroke College crew’s emphatic victory over Emmanuel of Cambridge in the women’s college race that kicked off the day’s action.

Caius, Cambridge denied Pembroke a clean sweep with victory by a third of a length in the men’s race, run over a shorter course to Remenham Farm.

Umpire Pinsent was called into action again for the final race of the day but declared Cambridge’s lightweight men victorious by three-quarters of a length in 6’00, even though they were at fault for a clash in the final stages.

The light blues had taken an early lead and, despite conceding some of that through the middle of the race, had cox Mike Hook level with the Oxford bow four by the time he moved over from the Berkshire station.

“Cambridge were in the wrong. It was messy and unnecessary but did it affect the outcome of the race? No,” said Pinsent as he tucked into a well-deserved slice of fruitcake at the end of a day that also required him to paddle a broken-down launch ashore.

The light men in light blue headed straight for the champagne and celebrated in style.

By Martin Gough

In the next Rowing Voice online magazine – out in the first week of April – Martin will be asking how much the women’s boat clubs still need to do before they join the men’s Boat Race on the Thames in London from 2015. Find out how to secure your copy.

Posted in Boat Race, women | Leave a Comment »

Six of the best as Redgrave turns 50

Posted by rowingvoice on March 23, 2012

As Sir Steve Redgrave celebrates his 50th birthday on Friday, there are people now just taking up rowing who were born after he won his fifth Olympic gold medal in Sydney in September 2000, and many more involved in the sport who are too young to remember his exploits.

Martin Gough selects a few of the highlights – some obvious, some a little less so. Please vote on your favourites from this selection at the bottom of the page, or let us know either in the comments section, via Twitter or on our Facebook page if there are others that you think are more memorable.

First Olympic gold – Los Angeles, 1984

Through the mist at Lake Casitas, Redgrave, Andy Holmes, Richard Budgett, Martin Cross and cox Adrian Ellison secured Great Britain’s first Olympic rowing gold medal since 1948, rowing through the American quartet in the last quarter of the race.

When the fivesome appeared on the BBC Sports Review of the Year, the host admitted the public may not recognise them, so asked them to turn in profile, then played the highlights of their final.

First world title – Nottingham, 1986

The coxed pair is an event for hard men and Redgrave and Holmes fitted the bill perfectly, here coming from a length down to overhaul East Germans Olaf Foerster and Thomas Greiner, and holding off Italy’s Abbagnale brothers Giuseppe and Carmine in the sprint, with the aid of cox Pat Sweeney.

(It’s worth watching even if you can’t follow the Italian commentary!)

Redgrave and Holmes won in the coxless pair the following year and attempted a double at the 1988 Olympics but, although successful in the coxless event, they had to settle for bronze in the coxed pair.

From fourth to four in a row – Indianapolis, 1994

Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent came together in a pair in 1990, winning the world title the following year then the Olympic crown with apparent ease in Banyoles in 1992, but they had to work much harder to secure a fourth straight triumphant season in 1994.

They set a world best to beat West Germany in a thrilling race at the world cup event in Lucerne earlier in the season and had to work just as hard to pass Peter Hoeltzenbein, Thorsten Streppelhoff – the Cambridge stern pair in the Boat Race that spring – in the season finale in Indianapolis.

Fourth early on, they still had to come from a length down with 500 left but managed to break the Germans thanks to an amazing rate burst, hitting the mid-40s.

The World Rowing website has archive video of world championships finals through the last two decades. It isn’t possible to link to individual clips but search for “1994” then select the men’s pairs from the list below.

Great Britain’s only gold – Atlanta, 1996

The effort was obvious when, having apparently cruised through the first two-thirds of the race, Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent had to hold off a ferocious push from David Weightman and Robert Scott of Australia in the closing stages.

It isn’t on this clip but the day is often remembered for an exhausted Redgrave’s comments afterwards, managing to use the “F” word on the BBC before vowing “If you see me go near a boat again you have my permission to shoot me”.

The victory brought Great Britain’s only gold medal of the Atlanta Games, in any sport. A BBC colleague four years ago referred in text commentary to GB winning “just one measly” gold in 1996 and promptly received a phone call from Pinsent, who assured her “in the nicest possible way” that the medal was “emphatically not measly”.

First in the coxless four (and first for me) – Aiguebelette, 1997

A search for “Redgrave 1997” on the World Rowing archive will bring up a race that Redgrave won with ease.

Having decided to go on for four more years, Redgrave and Pinsent moved into the larger boat, alongside Tim Foster and James Cracknell and – at the end of a week that began with the death of Princess Diana a few hundred miles north – secured Sir Steve’s seventh world title with an impressive show of power late on.

It was the first world championships I saw live, camping on the hillside by the lake, and my biggest memory was of the celebrations by the French, Olympic silver medallists the year before, at coming second, a good two lengths behind the new British “Oarsome Foursome”.

One last gold – Sydney, 2000

After four years of trials and tribulations, the onset of colitis and diabetes for Redgrave as well as bouts of injuries and off-water problems for his crew-mates, the Great Britain four won gold by a matter of feet from Italy on Lake Penrith.

The next Rowing Voice online magazine is out in the first week of April. Register now!

Posted in GB team, international, Olympics, Video | 1 Comment »

Canal Street Blues

Posted by rowingvoice on March 6, 2012

I must say that I hanker for the day when the weighing in of the crews for the Boat Race was a manual operation. A huge contraption manufactured by Averys  was positioned on the Putney hard or in a drafty boathouse , oarsmen stood on the platform one by one, usually after drinking about three gallons of water, and an old heavy, or in latter years Robert Treharne Jones, read out the weights, and everyone wrote them down, and then there was an interminable wait while the backroom heavies tried to work out the averages and compare them with the record books (while the crews rushed to the bogs to relieve themselves of excess liquid).

Things became more complicated when the scales recorded weight in metric because, it being the Boat Race founded in the Garden of Eden, measurements must be imperial. Nowadays the weights go straight into a computer and a nerd produces a piece of paper with everything worked out and set out a matter of minutes, if not seconds, after the last foot has made its impression.

On Monday this process took place in Foreman’s salmon factory somewhere between the Docklands Light Railway and the Overground in the outskirts of Stratford (East, not on Avon, unfortunately). When I arrived late owing to the transport challenge, I was puzzled why. Was this an attempt to find a venue closer to Cambridge than customary? 

But the reason became wondrously clear once the back of the building was reached. It looked out across a canal to the London 2012 Olympic stadium. I wouldn’t describe it as stunning – not in the class of the Beijing Birdsnest, but impressive nonetheless. This was an attempt to position the Boat Race symbolically close to the Olympics. 

Surprise, surprise, the canapés to accompany the breakfast bucks fizz were all salmon based, and very nice too. The prettiest picture was photographer Peter Spurrier leaning on a small round table with a cup of coffee. On the table were six bottles of Bollinger of assorted sizes. The Boat race is certainly picking its sponsors, and, unlike the main sponsor Xchanging, it is quite obvious what Bollinger actually does.

The trick that they missed was not having a couple of eights drawn up on the canal.  If you moved a few barges and narrow boats, you could hold the Boat Race there and then on a straight piece of water with the Olympic stadium as backdrop.

Cambridge president Dave Nelson didn’t rate this as an idea. Reading between the lines, he is worried that his crew has a few things to attend to in the last few weeks before the race.  Perhaps the coming weekend’s encounter with Leander will show us what. Not least of Nelson’s worries – surely with a name like that he can sort it (no, not Dave, stupid) — is his research thesis which consists of an examination of betting odds matrixed with Boat Race results, if I get his gist correctly. I would have thought that there was not a lot of scope for such a statistical analysis in a two-horse race, but I sure hope he proves me wrong.

Christopher Dodd

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Cambridge weigh in heavier but still face ‘big task’

Posted by rowingvoice on March 5, 2012

Oxford's crew at the Boat Race weight-in

The Olympic Park watched over proceedings at the crew announcement and weigh-in for the 2012 Xchanging Boat Race – held at a function venue at Forman’s Fish Island – and Olympic champion Mark Hunter, keeping an eye on Twitter as the crews took to the scales, was one of the first to dive into the debate over whether Cambridge’s extra weight will help them overturn Oxford this year.

“You have to be good enough technically to put that weight and power on the end of the blade!” said Hunter, who at race weight is more than 5kg lighter than the lightest man who will be on display on 7 April, Oxford’s 77.8kg bowman Alex Woods.

In Olympic year, neither squad ever has the same depth of talent to call on but dark blue coach Sean Bowden appeared unworried by the fact his men are on average 7.85kg (1st3lb) lighter.

After including three former lightweights in his crew – Woods and seven man Dan Harvey are veterans of the lightweight Boat Race and William Zeng raced at lightweight for Yale – he clearly agrees with Hunter’s belief that a good light ‘un can easily beat a heavier rival.

In German Han Wienhausen and Dutch stroke Roel Haen there is senior international experience and Bowden believes president Karl Hudspith and six man Alex Davidson – at 21 the youngest oarsman in the race – could follow them.

“I think this group’s got a good mix,” he said after training recently.

“There are a couple of experienced guys in there; there’s a couple – Karl and Alex – who perhaps with another year or so wouldn’t be a million miles away from knocking on the door of the [GB] team.

“There are a couple of good lightweights in the boat, who maybe wouldn’t be that far from the standard of a lightweight [national] team.”

Both squads have been hit by injuries and illness in the last few months but Bowden had seven of his first-choice line-up available for their two victories over Germany’s Under-23s on 26 February, while Cambridge had only half their blue boat for three defeats to the University of London in mid-February.

The light blues have some hulks, like Kiwi seven man Alex Ross and Wisconsonian six Steve Dudek, who tipped the scales at 109.6kg. I had hoped to use a line about his beard not being enough to help him match the record for the heaviest ever but presenter Andrew Cotter beat me to the mark, and to the fact the heaviest remains Cambridge’s Thorsten Engelmann at 110.8kg in 2007.

Bowden, who clearly enjoys the politics of these situations, said of the weight difference: “You have to carry yourself in rowing, you’ve got to do that for the whole distance and it becomes a challenge if somebody else has to carry a bit of your weight.”

Meanwhile another Olympic champion, Cambridge coach Steve Trapmore, was disarmingly honest about the challenge facing his men in a month’s time.

He admitted that the whole Cambridge squad of 18 is close in terms of results and it would be difficult to rule out a tweak or two to the published line-up over the next five weeks and he mentioned being beaten “convincingly” at November’s Fours Head, which appears a harsh assessment as the results show that, while Oxford had the fastest coxed four, Cambridge had greater depth.

“I think we’ve got a long journey ahead of us,” Trapmore admitted.

“The guys have shown some good stuff but the Oxford guys have put the first marker down racing the Germans.

“We’re trying to row to particular performance markers in trainingand the better we do that the more chance we have.

“But what we’re very realistic about is that Sean’s a great coach, he’s got a great squad; they beat us pretty convincingly at the Fours Head so we know we’ve got a pretty big task on our hands.”

By Martin Gough

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Women’s Head wrap-up

Posted by rowingvoice on March 3, 2012

Talk about a proper processional race:  Thames winning the Women’s Head from a starting position of 12th was a fine return to the days when anyone could shoot at claiming the trophy.  Isn’t that the lowest start place for a winner (other than being a fast new entry) in quite a while?  Anyway, whether you’re a supporter of the red-white-and-black or not, it was a pretty satisfying result, particularly since it meant Belvoir Zurich didn’t manage to bag the pot they clearly thought might be theirs in Olympic year.  I laughed like a drain when I found out a female London RC cox was coxing the Thames crew.  O how times change in so many ways …

The WeHORR committee must have sacrificed a few marshals to the weather gods, because despite six inches of white horses at Harrods and nine at Putney not long before 11am, by the time the race began the wind had dropped and it was sunny and virtually calm.  But with a rapidly dropping tide it was a very slow Head – not a good day to be starting low down, there was barely any stream for the top 50, let alone the next 300.

Which made Borlase A’s swoop upwards as the biggest risers (254 new entry to 38th and the fourth school/junior club home) even more impressive.   I couldn’t find a recent Borlase eight having entered, and don’t recall one, so that might be the club’s first appearance as a full crew rather than a composite. Headington won the junior pennant (I’m so tempted to say ‘of course’ after that sentence, or at the very least, ‘again’) having lost it to LEH last year, their finish point of 17th being a good demonstration of schoolgirl power in an Olympic year.

So what did we find out?  Thames are the club on song, but Sport Imperial, Vesta and Nottingham aren’t far behind, and there’s a pretty fast non-masters group at Barnes Bridge Ladies.   How much did it cost Imperial to have to try and steer round Reading on the wrong side in the final stretch?  Who else lost out through overtaking and being impeded?  No easy way of telling:  there were so many obvious glitches in the Barnes and Hammersmith times published this morning (Furnivall fastest to Barnes, Caius B quickest to Hammersmith?!) that they have been taken down and will be republished later.

In the university classes it will be interesting to see if Brookes, Durham and Newcastle can close the 15-second Head gap to Reading over 2000m at BUCS:  if they boat top eights there, of course.  Some of these clubs will be decimated by trials, which nowadays tend to lead to under-23 small-boat crews being formed and required to train together during the summer term.  It’s not obvious that the payoff in terms of international results fully makes up for the turbulence this causes in the university squads.

But then maybe CUWBC will have a go at BUCS:  after beating new entries Oxford by 26 seconds they must be confident for the Henley Boat Races.  The time-gap doesn’t necessarily mean much, but 21st was Oxford’s worst result since 2001.  Only one other Oxbridge crew raced, which demonstrated that Blondie are about a minute slower than the Cambridge Blue Boat over 7km but makes other punditry a bit difficult.

What was your Head experience like – there must have been dramas aplenty going on in the crews we saw swan so serenely down the Tideway.  Looking ahead, who will ditch the handbrakes and take their fastest four/pair/quad/double out for the summer?  Who’s going to be brave and go for it in elite eights at Henley Women’s and Henley Royal?  A lot can change between March and June, but at the very least it promises to be an interesting year.

Rachel Quarrell.

Posted in british club scene, head racing, women | 7 Comments »