The independent voice of rowing in Britain

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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