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Archive for July, 2012

The expert’s guide to Olympic road etiquette

Posted by rowingvoice on July 27, 2012

Hammer  ‘JKJ’ Smith writes:

“There is a blatant bumptiousness about an Olympic bus that has the knack of arousing every evil instinct in my nature, and I yearn for the good old days when you could go about and tell people what you thought of them with a hatchet and a bow and arrows. The expression of a man – or woman – who gazes down from a smoked glass window with a supercilious expression is sufficient to excuse a breach of the peace by itself; and the lordly honk for you to get out of the way would, I am confident, ensure a verdict of justifiable homicide from any jury of motorists.

If I may say so, without appearing boastful, I think I can honestly say that last week I caused more annoyance and delay and aggravation to Olympic charabancs than most of the taxis and white vans sharing my lanes in the metropolis.

Olympic chara approaching, I would spy in the wing mirror, and edge out to the white line to allow those noble cycling chaps, the best behaved and most law abiding people on the Queen’s highway, plenty of room to undertake me.  The vehicle behind would invariably make the same manoevre to try and see what the obstruction is ahead, and Olympic bus with its ruddy-faced pilot would be forced to a halt until the crocodile stretching for miles from West End to City to East End moved forward an inch or two.

It took me two and half days in the unsavoury company of white vans etc to reach the holy Olympic Park in a place called Stratford (which bears no resemblance to the propaganda of a sleepy tudor town beloved of the nation’s treasure, William Shakespeare, that we have been sold) only to discover that,  unless you already possess the precious accreditation that you have come all this way to obtain, you cannot get through the barbed wire to present yourself at the accreditation office.

I was about to embark on civil disobedience which I spied some rockets poking above a roof, and the place was crawling with troops in combat garb. Of course, Lord Coe is used to running round in circles, but he has lanes marked for his personal use. To say nothing of the BMWs and buses emblazoned with Olympic signage that treat the ordinary humble citizen with such disdain. Pah!

Rowing got there first

LOCOG should have studied rowing form before they mixed up the flags of North and South Korea. Rowing did it first in 1975 when the People’s Republic of China  first sent a team to a FISA championships, being held in Nottingham. The Chinese nationalist flag (Taiwan, formerly Formosa) was proudly flown in front of County Hall in West Bridgford, and an almighty argument followed which launched the world championships in a blaze of glorious publicity. Everything was eventually sorted by Nottingham and Union RC helping the Chinese mix the right shade of red for the blades borrowed from Union, and by local diplomat Martin Brnadon-Bravo and his wife Sally who hosted a 12-course banquet for invited dignitaries at the city’s Pagoda restaurant.

Hammer Smith

Bridge C, Olympic Park, Stratford


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Doggett’s 2012: Merlin rockets

Posted by rowingvoice on July 27, 2012

Doggett’s Coat and Badge, 20 July 2012 

On the eve of the 25th Olympic regatta come two really important events – Doggett’s Coat and Badge, the oldest continuous rowing and, indeed, sports event in Britain, and the River Thames Barge Driving Race that is to lightermen as Doggett’s is to watermen.

This year’s Doggett’s, on the traditional London Bridge to Chelsea course, was won by Merlin Dwan who becomes the fifth member of the Dwan family to win the severe test of sculling and watermanship over five miles and four furlongs through the bridges of the Tideway.  Merlin’s dad John won in 1977, his uncle Ken in 1971 and Ken’s sons Nick and Bobby in 2002 and 2004 respectively.

With a name like Merlin, Dwan was destined to win in his second attempt at Doggett’s. Sculling for London RC, he began well as soon as the start was given at Swan Stairs, avoiding any baulking and reaching the first bridge, Cannon Street Railway, in a good position under the centre arch and in the centre of the tide.

Ben McCann of Poplar, meanwhile, did himself no favours by taking the northern arch of Cannon Street and losing ground. It was Dan Alloway (Imperial College) and Nat Brice (Poplar) who kept Dwan on his toes in the early part of the race, particularly Alloway who opted to cut the corner on the south side after passing under Blackfriars road bridge.

Dwan, I was told, has hot head tendencies, but he kept his cool and gradually stretched out an unassailable lead in the sunshine on untroublesome water.  He was comfortably ahead at Waterloo Bridge and by Westminster, Alloway, his nearest challenger, was beginning to flag — no longer, it seems, sustained by the stunning angel tattooed on his right arm. Dwan was in command of the river, while the umpire and press launches slid past McCann, then Stuart Coleman (Poplar), then Brice. Twenty-four and a half minutes after leaving Swan Stairs Merlin became the fifth Dwan to arrive first at the race finish, the site of the Old Swan Inn in Chelsea, near Cadogan Pier. As race commentator Gary Anness (who won this race 30 years ago) said, Dwan sculled a middle-diddle race, not a foot wrong.

Christopher Dodd

298th Doggett’s Coat and Badge, 20 July 2012 (London Bridge to Chelsea)

1 Merlin Dwan (LRC) 24:28

2 Daniel Alloway (IC) 25.41

3 Nathaniel Brice (Poplar Blackwall & District) 26.16

4 Stuart Coleman (Poplar Blackwall & District) 27:10

5 Ben McCann (Poplar Blackwall & District) 29.23

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Driving out of history

Posted by rowingvoice on July 27, 2012

River Thames Barge Driving Race, Saturday 21 July 2012

The barge driving race started in 1976 under the auspices of Transport On Water (TOW) that was set up by trades unions, the Watermen’s and Lightermen’s Company and docklands MPs to sell the waterway of the Thames as a commercial prospect in the face of changes in the way trade and goods were handled.

The race is run over a seven-mile course with the tide from Greenwich Palace to Westminster Palace, open to weight categories of lighters manned by crews of five watermen. Each crew must contain at least one apprentice.  The overall winner was Diana from Trinity Buoy Wharf, a 112-year-old barge manned by the Smith family. Runner up was Steve Faldo of Capital Pleasure Boats, witnessed by hundreds of passengers on dozens of steamers and tugs that follow the race.  As the commentator aboard the Princess Pocahontas  put it, the Thames was alive again.

The three weight categories start simultaneously from Tunnel Glucose, Trafalgar Tavern and Convoy’s Wharf Lower respectively.   Each barge is equipped with three wooden sweeps, two at the bows and a steering oar at the stern. Pennants must be gathered from each of three unmanned ‘target barges’ moored in the reaches below Tower Bridge, which entails landing a man to collect the flag.

Three or four barges arrived at one of these simultaneously like giant dodgem cars, and the first to touch base with the target , the Darren Lacey , became the last to get away, while Hoppy left a man stranded on the target barge. He plunged into the deep and was hoisted aboard as Hoppy made off first. Meanwhile, a combination of the target barge’s mooring buoy and the next barge to attempt to pick up a pennant turned the Darren Lacey half circle, creating all manner of problems for the crew but excitement for the spectators.

Sculling and pulling in jubilee pageants and the like certainly adds glamour to hard work, but taking a run up a board with a big sweep oar and hurling yourself back to drive a barge is surely not for the faint hearted.  The race illuminates the skill and precision which was required before tugs came along , to say nothing of what it must have been like to manoeuvre a loaded lighter on a dark and foggy night when the tide’s running out.  It’s a sobering thought, too, that the race programme contained obituaries of two men lost in accidents on the river in 2011.

Christopher Dodd

River Thames Barge Driving Race – finishing order

1 Diana, 2 Steve Faldo, 3 Blackwall, 4 Balmoral, 5 Benjamin, 6 Shell Bay, 7 Spirit of Mountbatten, 8 Hoppy, 9 Ian Campbell, 10 Jane, 11 Darren Lacey.

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