rowingvoice

The independent voice of rowing in Britain

Archive for the ‘general’ Category

More silence over Grobler book

Posted by rowingvoice on September 16, 2018

A briefing from Hammer Smith:

Browsing in a fine bookshop the other day, my attention was caught by a biography of Jurgen Grobler, Britain’s stunningly successful chief men’s rowing coach, published by HarperCollins in July. I had seen a few references to ‘More Power’ in the media, but couldn’t recall a mention in British Rowing’s official Rowing+Regatta magazine, the latest 64-page edition of which had just popped through my letter box.

If I was writing a diary for the magazine as I did during its Regatta imprint, I would be posing the question as to why the official publication of Grobler’s employer should banish a book that tells his story of coaching eight crews to Olympic gold (and more to World gold) after an equally outstanding career in East Germany.

I would be asking why the editor of Rowing+Regatta dropped the idea of an extract prior to publication, which I understand she wished to do?

I would be asking why a book by two well-qualified authors [Hugh Matheson and Christopher Dodd] that has received critical praise and records British rowing’s climb to the top of the world should be shunned by the governing body – especially as the story has continued this week at the World Championships in Plovdiv, where Grobler is coaching the GB eight half way through the Tokyo Olympiad.

I would be asking who is the gatekeeper at British Rowing; who is the puppeteer pulling the strings?

Surely something for BR’s new chairman, Mark Davies, to investigate?

Hammer Smith, UK 2018

Plovdiv update:  the silence over the book at the world championships has been near-total, with many international coaches appearing not to know it exists, and of course no sign of it on the tables of the WorldRowing merchandise stalls run by New Wave under licence from FISA.  Grobler himself has repeatedly said he hasn’t read the book, nor the Times newspaper piece which rather selectively extracted the most sensational parts, but apparently friends of his have told him about both.

 

Some More Power review extracts:

But it is the human side at which Grobler has proved masterly – for instance, in managing the huge talents of Steve Redgrave through the vicissitudes of colitis in 1992 and type two diabetes in 1997, afflictions that would have seen an immediate end to his career had he been in the East German system. Grobler, by so many accounts in this book, is fundamentally honest with his rowers, hugely loyal, but also practical and at all times unsentimental.

– Mike Rowbottom, Inside the Games

 

We see a man who one imagines is capable of playing multiple chess games at once. His attention to detail runs to deciding who rooms together at training camps. In the words of Andy Triggs Hodge, It’s a genius at work.

– Tim Koch in Hear The Boat Sing

 

Describing the interaction between many well-known names and institutions, this is essentially a history of the development of modern rowing from a gritty but haphazard amateur pastime into today’s professional medal-making machine. A machine hand-built from almost nothing but with considerable influence from Jurgen Grobler’s hands on the steering wires.

– Neil Pickford, Amazon

 

Enjoyable read, well researched and written, particularly valuable for bringing to life the period of rowing history either side of the well-documented Redgrave/Pinsent era. It gave me a new sympathy for the pressures Grobler must have faced working within the GDR system and of the unavoidable personal compromises that he would have had to make in order to protect his family.

– G Braham, Amazon

 

Grobler may eventually decide to tell his story in his own words. In the meantime, however, this richly knowledgeable account does an excellent job on his behalf.

– Mike Rowbottom, Inside the Games

 

It is a splendid achievement by the authors, Hugh Matheson and Christ Dodd, the literary equivalent of the pairing of Redgrave and Pinsent or Bond and Murray – More Power to their elbows!

– Tim Koch in Hear The Boat Sing

Advertisements

Posted in GB team, general, Hammer Smith, history, international, Olympics, regattas | Leave a Comment »

Wind, fairness and precedents wind up the nations in Plovdiv

Posted by rowingvoice on September 13, 2018

Dateline:  Thursday 13 September 2018

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

I was up until stupid o’clock on Wednesday night writing for the Telegraph (see a heavily edited piece here) and Row360 (see an explanation of what, who and when here) but they are more factual articles, so here’s a sprinkling of personal opinion with a bit more nerd-detail.  Those who haven’t got their heads around the 12th September 2018 fairness issue might like to read the Row360 article first.

At the time when racing was suspended on Wednesday I was bewildered. The serious lack of communication with the independent media nowadays (we are hardly ever given information proactively any more) meant that there was huge confusion about the reason, particularly once the announcement of suspension “until further notice” had gone out. Even allowing for the sheltered nature of the press tribune, the wind was so average that it couldn’t seem possible that the Fairness Commission (FC) would be unable to find a solution to the issue of wind dramatically favouring lanes 5 and 6. With all the weapons at their disposal – reorder lane draws, shift lanes over, delay until the wind direction stabilises later – they’ve not had an insoluble problem in the eighteen years I’ve been regularly covering international events. So it must be lightning, I reasoned — there was an ominous cloud gathering behind the start and thunderstorms had been predicted, indeed were being discussed by members of the FISA communications team who were clearly as much in the dark as us.

But no, the reason was solely fairness, and as it turned out the reason for suspending indefinitely then cancelling was that it became clear the wind was varying far too much and too quickly to offer any chance of being able to rejig lanes fast enough for fair racing.

Here are FISA’s FC measurements as logged from the anemometers (wind meters) after the end of racing:

I cut off the headers snapping pictures of the data quickly, but think the left-hand graph is from the anemometer above lane 6 on the bridge, where the FC members were discussing the problem during racing, and the right is from a different anemometer clearly showing that wind varied across the course. WS = wind speed, T = temperature, and I think TR (which goes to -100 below zero) is something to do with the difference between speeds of signals of the transducers in the anemometer, which provides a check on either wind speed or direction.  The main thing to notice is the wildly jumping wind numbers after 3pm.

“Every time we thought [the wind] was going down, it came back up again,” said Rosie Mayglothling, one of the three Fairness Commission members, explaining that they decided to completely cancel as soon as they realised how impossible it would be to predict anything. “And a lot of athletes had already been on the water a long time.” The wind was acting at odds to what had been predicted, especially since which lanes were affected was varying too much.

A side-bar to the team managers’ meeting was the sight of Svetlana Otzetova — FISA’s events doyenne, Bulgarian rowing icon and deeply connected to this course — telling Rosie Mayglothling of the Fairness Commission that they were using the wrong (non-local) weather forecasters and that the locals had predicted the problem. It’s easy to be wise after the fact, but FISA normally prides itself on its recruitment of really good weather expertise at every championships, and it’s a shame if the best aren’t currently involved.

The FISA Executive Committee (EC) has huge powers at a world championships, and for speed of operation at an event it takes charge of some other decisions which might normally be farmed out to a specialist commission. There is no appeal within FISA from the EC’s decisions (although countries have appealed to the overarching Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) at the Olympics a couple of times). The four federations who appealed the LM2x results (at a guess, Canada, Greece and two others) already knew that nothing would change when they entered the team managers’ meeting on Wednesday evening.

To those who think the FC was slow in reacting, in fact they sprang into action quicker than I have ever seen them do before. That is partly what tripped the situation up: within the first two races of the afternoon (109 and 110) the fairness commissioners had quickly decided racing was affected, and they shifted the lanes across to try and even out the disadvantage during the third LM2x quarterfinal (111) while they put in process the mechanism to halt racing and make a bigger change in lanes. The error came in doing this for race 113, but letting the WhatsApp message to the 62 team managers go out before race 112 had even started. It meant that six countries knew their quarterfinal, which would decide the top 12 crews this year and almost certainly impact on individuals’ funding, was definitely unfair at a point when it could have been postponed.

Was there an instinctive desire to let the whole of a set of quarterfinals take place before changing anything? That wasn’t addressed at the team managers’ meeting (and is easy to deny after the fact so I didn’t even bother asking) but there’s no doubt it was simpler to put all 24 LM2x into the exact same position. There’s overall fairness (was our race legit?) but there’s also fairness within your boat class, and both fret away at the minds of rowers and coaches. FISA go to great lengths to ensure that all rival crews have the same number of races, and if early suspension of activities had given the last two races a better chance of fairness, that would have increased the pressure to re-row the first two (with the knock-on effect that those competitors would have done an extra 2km race before the A/B semis on Thursday).

Nothing was easy for anyone yesterday. Both points of view are valid: the teams who feel they were robbed rightly point out that the decision will make it much harder for anyone to appeal a race on fairness grounds in future. Many will be discouraged from doing so even if the FC or EC are getting something badly wrong. That’s not a good outcome. But the Executive Committee’s concerns that if they did allow re-rows in this case they would be opening the door to an endless procession of re-row requests — perhaps even of Olympic finals — were also valid. Where would the line be drawn on how unfair it had to be to spark a re-row?

In the minds of some, the FC has been disenfranchised by being “overruled” but the FISA system is clear: the FC is there to inform the EC about the level of fairness during races, and to take prompt action if possible to improve fairness on the spot or delay racing until that can happen. But the one thing it cannot do is decide the outcome (eg a re-row or results standing) if unfairness is proven to have occurred. (And in fact the FC cannot restart racing after a suspension — that is done by the president of the umpire jury, though acting on their advice.) The EC made no bones about it: they totally agreed with the FC’s judgement of unfairness in the races which had already taken place, but saw greater reasons to disallow re-rows than to allow them in this situation.

Nobody wins here.

There is one lurking question to the Executive Committee which again I didn’t ask because it’s unanswerable and would not have drawn a reaction. It’s completely hypothetical, and any meaningful response FISA could give on the record would tie them to a future course they might regret. The question is this: “Had the unfair races happened in Linz 2019, with not just crew funding but Olympic selection at stake, would you have done the re-rows?”

Nobody can answer that at this point, but my gut feeling is that the Executive Committee might, faced with cutting several high pedigree crews out of any chance of qualifying automatically for Tokyo, have gone the other way. And probably insisted that this was for Olympic qualification reasons only, thus not a precedent for other regattas. Certainly the pressure on FISA would have been even bigger if it was 2019 and countries might have considered an appeal to CAS. We aren’t there, but FISA is going to have to consider that a possible scenario and work out what to do if it ever does happen.

Future options involving instant racing-suspension were mentioned on Wednesday, and sound interesting though FISA will have to work through the implications and possible unintended consequences. Another suggestion in the pipeline is athlete lane selection, trialled in May and still under consideration for the future, although all that does is shift the initial draw, and doesn’t change what happens when the FC decides wind has altered so much that a redraw is needed. Could we cope with having an athlete re-select at the start of an Olympic final? Does it make a difference when the real problem is a lack of parity between not only lanes but races?  Will those athletes with teams who can afford seriously good weather predictions do better?

There are no easy solutions which don’t create new difficulties, or which might, in shifting responsibility from officials to teams, put a burden of responsibility on crews and a drain on resources for the less well funded.  If that creates new inequality, we’re no better off.

Discuss……

 

Rachel Quarrell in Plovdiv

Posted in general, international, Olympics, regattas, technical | Leave a Comment »

Britain’s rowers top the table in the Savoie

Posted by rowingvoice on September 8, 2015

This was the piece I was asked to submit to Daily Telegraph Sport on Sunday 6th September 2015, for publication in Monday 7th September’s edition.  500 words were commissioned, along with as usual the results, but unusually a medal table and a list of the crews which had qualified for Rio (all of which I submitted).  The commission was made at about 3pm UK time, which was easily late enough for the desk to have a clear picture of which other news stories were coming in and which might need more space.

I have no idea why the piece was truncated so badly and why the other items were unused.  It’s a little depressing….


Britain’s best oarsmen beat Germany again in a battle of wills yesterday which simultaneously handed them a third successive world eights title, Olympic qualification and the top spot on the rowing medal table at the Olympiad’s most important competition so far.  The sorely-tested duo of Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley were sixth, but safely in the zone for Rio, and the women’s eight along with three B-finalist crews also successfully booked their slots for Brazil.

On the glittering turquoise waters of Lake Aiguebelette, the British men’s eight weathered repeated assaults from Germany and briefly New Zealand but with composed expertise kept their bows in front to finish with gold by 0.18 seconds.  Less than two feet, but equivalent to a mile compared with the 0.08 second margin in Lucerne.

“Our plan pretty much went spot on, but it was relentless pressure from all the other crews around us,” said George Nash.  “But it seemed like we had limitless ‘go’, every question asked of us we answered straight away, all this nervous energy being released right down the track, which was amazing.”

“That is definitely the tightest most difficult race I have ever been in,” said cox Phelan Hill.  “It was so close, we needed to have a blinder in that race,” added Pete Reed.  “Absolutely flat out from the first ten strokes and then no settling, we had to sprint.  There’s no weakness in the boat at all, I’m so proud to be part of it.”

They had to finish in the top five to make the important qualification cut for the Rio Olympics, but completing a hat-trick of eights victories to add to the three previous men’s medals, consolidated Britain’s status as the top men’s sweep nation.  “We were put together for a mission, which was to qualify, but we were always going for gold,” said Moe Sbihi.  “After 1500 metres I was sure we would win it,” said their coach Jürgen Grobler.

Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley had already qualified for next year, and put in a gutsy performance which saw them lying in medal contention for the women’s doubles until their energy gave out.  “I think we raced well, but in the last 250 metres, it felt like we ran out of steam,” said Thornley afterwards.  The women’s eight were similarly brave, and were only a second outside the medals, but having reached their most important target, a top-five finish to guarantee tickets to the Olympics.  They have been much more consistent at this regatta, a good omen for next year.

Fifteen medals from 24 boats is an extraordinary haul, with six in Olympic and four in Paralympic events, and more athletes to come into the selection frame.  The only boats not yet qualified for Rio are the women’s quad and single, who will have a chance next summer.  It would be too much to expect the results from the 2016 Olympics to match those of a home Games, but GB Rowing has made a substantial start to its Rio campaign.

Rachel Quarrell

Aiguebelette-le-lac, Savoie, France


What went wrong?  I now know that Jean-Christophe Rolland had been on BBC TV sounding what some read as alarmist about the chance of rowing being kicked out of the Olympics.  [Carefully hiding the confidence in it staying he had shown me when I interviewed him for Row360 about precisely the same subject, and which Matt Smith had backed up again a week ago in France.]

If I’d known that was going on TV – which my editors may well have been watching – then I would have included that issue in the piece.  They love a scare story.

Should I have bigged up Olympic champions Alex Gregory and Pete Reed in the men’s eight, as if they (á la Greg Searle 2012) were somehow the heroes of the crew?  After all, the Heather Stanning/Helen Glover piece I wrote the day before went straight up, and if you look at the Teleg rowing index you’d be forgiven for thinking they are the only two international rowers who count.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re great, but we can’t let the media go back to the days when we had to start any rowing report with the words ‘Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent’ (even on days when they weren’t racing – yes really….).  I didn’t want to pretend two men pulled the eight along when all nine are superb – but perhaps that didn’t help.  The media can perfectly well cover big teams when it wants to but just can’t be bothered in a sport like rowing.

Should I have done a “We beat the Germans, shades of 1966” lead into the article?  I wasn’t far off, but I didn’t spend words on comparing it directly to football, which was perhaps a mistake.  But I don’t get 500 words to talk about one result, I get 500 words to try and show how the whole team is doing.  In that sense it’s a very different job from that which either James Cracknell or Matt Pinsent fulfill if they give the Telegraph or Times a personal piece.  

In the end, it’s not really about these ‘reasons’.  They are convenient excuses for why a national paper did not cover online the world championships of an Olympic sport at which the nation is successful, and why it slashed my report.  In the end the editor on the day didn’t want to give rowing a big run, nor a picture to go with the article.  And the online team didn’t think it merited online inclusion.  And as I said in my previous blog piece, those making these decisions just don’t think we care enough, because (until yesterday) there has been so little reaction about rowing and many other ‘minor’ sports.

RQ.

Posted in GB team, general, history, international, Olympics, regattas, women | 3 Comments »

How YOU can affect online rowing coverage

Posted by rowingvoice on September 6, 2015

I wrote the bulk of this in late August 2014, during the rowing world championships.  Didn’t post it up, thinking it was too whiny.   But then what it said came completely true….  Read the first section from 2014, then read to the bottom.


September 2014

Rowing is in serious danger of being dropped even further down the list of which sports matter in Britain (and most of the world), and you can do something about it.

Somebody’s going to have to — in fact a lot of people are going to have to — or else we will become an idiosyncratic corner of the sporting world, fit only for Boat Race jokes and Olympic tolerance every four years, on a par with synchronised swimming and Greco-Roman wrestling.  Yes, really, I mean it.  If you don’t get how serious this is and what a golden opportunity we have to change things for the better, please keep reading.

It’s a long blog, this one.

Tough, it needs to be.

First, a digression.  Five years ago the situation was different.  Sports importance in the media was based largely on what the ad-men told the editors and producers the likely revenue was.  Advertising revenue was linked heavily to leisure spend.  The sports which won were those in which spectators tend to spend a lot of money — on tickets, travel to events, equipment and memberships to play the same sport in their free time, clothing and branded merchandise.  Multiply this by spectator numbers (mostly TV), and you’ve got a decent measure of what media gurus take to matter.

So football, a sport in which even a very averagely keen fan might well buy a replica shirt and travel to several live matches every year, as well as kick a ball about in his or her local club, and which probably three-quarters of the UK population wants to watch on TV regularly, was and still is top of the heap.  Behind that come ‘major’ sports with similar levels of interest/participation/buying, but lower numbers — golf, rugby, cricket, horse-racing, tennis, motor-racing and lately cycling.

Then you start to get into what the papers consider to be ‘minor sports’ territory.  Not a huge following in national terms, not much merchandise, not really lucrative in marketing terms, rarely on TV.  Rowing has long been one of these, and it has had a bigger profile than most for two reasons — the annual televised Boat Race, and the national-treasure status of Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent who are genuine household names.

Despite this, in a world where no media now tries to cover everything, and stories are picked either for shock value or because they involve an ‘important’ sport, rowing has been low in the pecking order.  As newspapers went through the Noughties depression, they mostly ditched minor sports people didn’t seem to care about.  Redgrave and then Pinsent retired, and it’s much harder for most other rowers to build a big profile in their shadow.  Since it made no difference to reaction or readership whether they bothered to carry a report on the semi-finals of a world cup regatta, editors mostly stopped doing so.  The Indy, Guardian, Observer, Mail, Express, Evening Standard and many others stopped almost completely, putting in only a few lead-rower features except in Olympic year (when the rules briefly change and reporting racing becomes sexy again for about a month and a half.)

It’s really hard to move up this ranking.  I believe that nothing will ever rival football in the UK, partly for historical reasons.   Athletics, through a combination of increased TV coverage and canny marketing of personalities as brands (think Jess Ennis, Mo Farah) has moved up into the major sports group.   Team Sky singlehandedly shifted cycling from ‘minor’ to ‘major’, aided by the Chris Hoy Effect on the track and the overlap of Bradley Wiggins’ road and track careers, but even that fades at non-seasonal times.  Without someone spending millions on major events, most sports will stay minor and then the question is, are they top of the minor league (eg equestrianism, boxing) or bottom?

Ok, digression over.  The recent change, and it’s come about mostly in the last 2 years, is the new way in which the print media, TV, radio and online-only sites are measuring interest in sports and thus how much coverage they should get.  Of course, it’s based on the internet because that is how the younger generations, the ones the advertisers are most interested in catching before their habits form, mostly engage with sports news now.  If you’re over 40, you probably won’t like it.  I’m afraid you have to deal with it — it’s not going to change.

Nowadays, simple online page-views are not enough:  not least because advertisers are now canny enough to know that people often flick ‘through’ pages and quickly on to something else.

Instead, what counts is reaction.

Anything.  Basically something which shows in measurable statistics that you have read the article, looked at the photograph, or watched the video.  This isn’t actually new – in the old days, coverage of a sport depended on how many Letters to the Editor it tended to provoke.  When I started at the Telegraph in 2002, a phone call was starting to have more impact.   Five years ago it became emails.  Times move on and now publicly visible internet reactions rule — probably because of the very fact that they can be seen by every reader, not just the editors.

It was announced at the Telegraph in mid-2014 that the success level of stories, ie whether they supported the DT’s aim to increase its readership, would from now on be based on what’s loosely called ‘social media reaction’.  This is a broad church.  It includes simply pressing ‘like’ or ‘favourite’ at the foot of an online article or video, or adding a comment, as well as more obvious SM methods such as retweeting on Twitter, sharing on Facebook or other hubs.

For newspapers, making a comment at the foot of the online version of the story is by far the best.  But it really doesn’t matter what the comment says, as long as it is not pure gobbledygook.  You can slag off the piece, the sport, or the author.  You can be positive, add something interesting related to the story, or just express your support of the sport or athlete.  Or you can say ‘good coverage’ while simultaneously whingeing about why the paper/news site/TV station doesn’t do more on this particular sport.  [Eg:  “Great Boat Race article, but why isn’t there anything online about the Head of the River?“]  It must be coherent, clearly written by a real person not a program, and show that you have fully read the piece.

Look at today’s sport in the online Telegraph – because it’s one I know tracks this information.  A piece (nearly any piece) on football gets published online, and within a day there are dozens, sometimes hundreds of reactions.  Dozens of comments, lots of +1 FB likes, retweets, the whole shebang.  Now compare this to minor sports, and you’ll see what I mean.  Often (including most rowing) they attract complete silence.  I finally received a decent level of likes and retweets for my 2014 world champs eights report (and two whole comments!), but the rest of my Amsterdam articles pretty much led to interaction in single digits, or zero.  People were reading the stories, but they were simply not reacting.  As far as the editors go, it might as well have been a mis-click.  The same is true of the Guardian and many other papers and sports news sites.

The Telegraph sport index is quite dynamic:  if a story is getting lots of reaction on its day of publication, it will first move onto the front webpage and eventually move higher.  (Football stories top the list on most UK pages because hundreds of people react to them.)  I am certain other websites are the same, even though the BBC and ITV sports news websites don’t yet show how many comments they’re getting.  They will soon.  They will already be counting them, you can be certain.


September 6th 2015, Aiguebelette

That’s what I wrote last year.  Then, in early summer 2015, the new Telegraph sport policy hit rowing.  Nothing from trials after the Boat Race fuss was over.  They put my European championships pieces online, then the final report from Varese, then blank again.  Nothing from Henley Royal Regatta despite amazing results and large numbers of column inches in the print paper.  Nothing from Lucerne at all.  Nothing on the team selection (by the way, all these got space in the paper), while the story of James Cracknell gallantly saving a man from drowning, which is not sports news, had prime position in the rowing index.  Nothing from Aiguebelette for day after day this week.  And then, suddenly, the Saturday Olympic-finals piece was published online last night.

So today, for the first time since May 2015, a Telegraph international rowing story has gone online.

If this is going to have ANY impact at all, lots of people need to react.  If they don’t, I suspect we will subside to a point where rowing in the Telegraph only gets online when feature articles about big stars are published.  News stories about racing will be ignored as they have been most of the summer.

If you want rowing through the winter on the Telegraph website, before the Olympic fracas kicks in, go and post a comment, share the article, or tweet the link.  Comments are best but any reaction is good.  I don’t care if you hate my writing, just react to it.

This is your chance to show the Telegraph sports editorship that rowing supporters DO care that their sport is covered properly.  If we could get 20-odd comments on this weekend’s piece, perhaps they will put more online.

It’s up to you.

Measurements of these social media and online interest stats takes place constantly, and is collated at every level: daily, weekly, monthly and yearly.  Comments, likes and retweets are still have some value, even if they are made several weeks later.

If you support rowing and want to see it have a higher profile in the UK, then go to an online newspaper article about the sport — recent or a while ago — and comment, or like, or retweet it.  Doesn’t matter which paper or magazine, but it DOES have to be the independent press – there’s no need to persuade bloggers, national federations or team publications to carry on covering the sport.  The difficult area is the press which doesn’t HAVE to cover rowing, the publications which cover other sports too and currently only choose rowing occasionally because they think it doesn’t have many supporters.

If you don’t want to join Twitter, Facebook or other social media yourself, then ask someone else to do it for you.  Athletes, you should be like-ing and sharing articles which mention your crew, routinely.  Hopefully so will your friends and relatives.  Say something, it doesn’t matter what.

Do it now.

Thank you.

Posted in Boat Race, GB team, general, international, Olympics, women | 16 Comments »

Nereus smash Temple record by nine seconds – Telegraph Saturday 4 July 2015

Posted by rowingvoice on July 4, 2015

Most of this one made it in, barring the last couple of sentences.   Again not online.

 

History was made at Henley Royal Regatta yesterday when Dutch students Nereus obliterated the Temple Challenge Cup record, taking a staggering nine full seconds off it while beating Oxford Brookes University by a mere six feet in one of the regatta’s most competitive events.  Rowing records usually fall by a second or two, but a combination of a light tail-wind and zero stream put both crews well inside the previous mark as they battled along the Enclosures, filmed by a drone camera capturing stunning footage of Friday’s races.  No UK eights now survive in the Temple, after University of London lost to Cornell’s lightweights.

Five other crews set or broke records yesterday, including Nereus’ Prince Albert coxed four, and Sydney’s Visitors’ coxless four.  South Africa’s reigning Olympic and world lightweight champions James Thompson and John Smith equalled a formerly heavyweight Barrier record for the Double Sculls, while Glasgow Academy rowed through to beat Sydney’s junior scullers in a course record for the Fawley Cup, taking one second off the time equalled a few hours before by Sir William Borlase.

The national minute’s silence was held at noon, when thousands of spectators stood to remember the victims of the Tunisian shootings.  Single sculler Genevieve Bailhache-Graham was still trailing Olympic and Henley champion Mirka Knapkova as noon struck, and composedly sculled over the line in complete silence before bowing her head in her boat.

Princeton and Sport Imperial were forced to make last minute crew-changes as a result of injury, which in Imperial’s case turned into a nightmare situation.  Lacking their usual substitutes, who are away in Germany, Imperial were forced to draft in Fred Vystavel, a full member currently studying in Princeton and racing in their Ladies Plate B crew, when their usual five-man Geordie Macleod woke up with back pain.   However, a complaint was made that Vystavel as a junior varsity oarsman was ineligible to race in the lower-standard Thames event, a point upheld by the Stewards.  Sport Imperial could not race, and the decision handed their opposition, the impressive University Barge Club from Philadelphia, a very easy day paddling over.

Princeton’s B-crew stroke man, former junior international Julian Goldman, had to race the 2112-metre course twice, the Princeton Ladies’ Plate ‘A’ crew stroke also out for medical reasons.  Goldman’s B crew were flat out unsuccessfully trying to get on terms with Leander in the morning, before Goldman stroked the A-crew against undisputed US champions Washington six hours later.  The Princeton Tigers manfully held the Huskies level to halfway, but could not quite match their power.  A mishap was narrowly avoided when an umpire’s launch, which had accidentally entered the course while the crews were mid-race, backed rapidly off again in front of a full grandstand of spectators.

A different accident beset Düsseldorf’s Ladies’ Plate crew, who clipped the course-edge booms soon after the start, ending any chance of beating Yale’s varsity eight.  “It wasn’t the cox’s fault, we were caught by a current,” said the stroke.  “He usually steers very straight.”

The Princess Elizabeth schoolboy eights started to get interesting as Eton College lost by a length to Gonzaga High School, the Americans managing to match Eton’s pushes to stay ahead.  That puts Gonzaga up against Westminster, who beat Andover by a similarly narrow margin, while St Paul’s and Radley race the other semi-final.

Today the British national eight is in action against Australia, an unknown quantity as they have not raced yet this season.

Rachel Quarrell.

Posted in british club scene, GB team, general, Henley, history, international, Olympics, regattas, women | Leave a Comment »

Steering mishaps at Henley Regatta – Telegraph Friday 3 July 2015

Posted by rowingvoice on July 4, 2015

This is the piece I had in the Friday Telegraph, again not online (see earlier posts).

 

The Red Arrows flew across Henley Royal Regatta in dramatic fashion before lunchtime yesterday, but the roar of jet engines did not faze the junior scullers of Pangbourne College, who were racing Y Quad Cities at the time.  The result, a two-thirds of a length win to Pangbourne, was one of a handful of close races on the second day of the regatta.

A gusting cross-wind threw several steersmen off their game, their errors being caught on camera for everyone to see in this first year of live online streaming.  The worst culprits were Ruderverein Münster, whose Visitors’ Cup coxless four veered sharply across the course as soon as they started, colliding with Harvard University’s ‘A’ crew and stopping the race.  Steering was little better on the restart, Münster being repeatedly warned until Harvard, who had calmly rowed straight on, put in a push at Remenham which brought them through the erratic Germans and to a clear-water win.  Later on in the same event Eton Vikings and Griffen hit the wooden course-edge booms at Temple Island, allowing Yale University to row away.

The shock result of the day was a victory for Boston College High School over the Canadian schoolboy champions Shawnigan Lake, who led at first but were soon rowed through by the Americans.  Other comfortable winners in the Princess Elizabeth Cup were Radley and Westminster, while there were verdicts of less than a length for US crews Gonzaga and Phillips Andover.  Eton were pushed relatively hard by Salisbury School, who had lost two crucial oarsmen who had to start their naval cadet training.

Another upset came in the Thames Cup, where Thames Club ‘B’, having put out selected crew Tideway Scullers the day before, defeated a new crew from 2014 champion club Upper Thames by a length.  Today the London club meet Leander’s Star and Arrow journeymen, who managed to cling on for a half-length win against a spirited assault from Agecroft.  In the bottom half of the event lurk Americans University Barge Club, who posted a Barrier time only three seconds off the record, albeit in the best conditions of the day.

The Temple student eights are shaping up for some hefty fights today, as holders Oxford Brookes meet perennial Dutch rivals Nereus in the top half of the draw, and Princeton’s third varsity eight meet Lyon in the other half.  Headington and Y Quad Cities won the opening heats of the expanded Diamond Jubilee junior women’s quads.

Today the senior women’s events begin, and the internationals join the small-boat events, including European champions Matt Langridge and James Foad in the Goblets pairs.  The high-quality Ladies’ Plate event for elite eights also starts, featuring an east-west match-up between Princeton’s Tigers and the Huskies from University of Washington.

Rachel Quarrell

Posted in british club scene, general, Henley, history, international, regattas | Leave a Comment »

Heat takes heavy toll on Henley spectators – Telegraph Thursday 2 July 2015

Posted by rowingvoice on July 2, 2015

My piece as submitted to the Daily Telegraph, which went into today’s print edition but not online.  They tweaked the starting paragraph a little, arguably for the better.

Spectators sweltered at Henley Royal Regatta yesterday, as temperatures by mid-afternoon became hotter than both Barcelona and Cairo, and ten spectators collapsed in the burning sun after lunch.  The traditional heatwave announcement “Gentlemen may remove their jackets” had been made before noon, but by late afternoon six spectators had needed intravenous fluids to rehydrate and cool down, the medical team took an emergency loan of one of the physiotherapy couches, and the enclosures had run short on chilled champagne.

Despite long periods spent waiting in the full glare of the sun before the start, no rowers collapsed on the water, and only two needed to have minor first aid treatment after their races.  The worse accidents were to their equipment, members of two different schoolboy eights finding the spoon at the end of their Wintech-made oars suddenly dropping off as they rowed along, a phenomenon put down to the glue melting in the heat.

Canford School were the first victims, losing a spoon just before their morning race against Latymer Upper, which was then postponed, Latymer winning later on.  Three hours later the stroke of King’s School Canterbury found his spoon dropping off while his crew was already trailing British national champions Westminster School by two lengths.

A tougher problem faced several crews who have been trying to transport their boats to Henley from the continent this week and found themselves blocked by the strikes.  Those with delayed trailers included the Canadian women’s eight, who race Imperial on Friday, and Ratsgymnasium Osnabrück, who had to borrow the boat intended for Shrewsbury’s alumni crew to do a row-past on Saturday, but still managed to beat London Oratory by three lengths.

The new YouTube streaming coverage was a huge success, the regatta’s website receiving more hits in one day than in the whole of last year.  It gave ring-side seats to thousands watching the most exciting race, in which Upper Thames’ Wyfold Cup coxless four was rowed through by the better-steering Tyne Amateur just before the line, for a verdict of two feet.  A roster of top rowing commentators broadcast from Sir Steve Redgrave’s office at the regatta headquarters beside Henley bridge, and a catamaran zoomed beside the first minute of each race.

At the start of the day Thames Rowing Club had four crews in the club eights.  By the evening this was down to two, but not for want of trying.  Drawn against the more powerful Kingston, Thames ‘D’ manfully held them to a canvas (six feet) gap, until they caught a lump of water two-thirds of the way up the course and Kingston pulled away.   Kent School’s American juniors, pushed into the adult eights as a result of two boys having their nineteenth birthday during June, managed to overturn Newcastle University’s second eight, while Liverpool rowed through University College London.

The junior men of Y Quad Cities, an American club from the Mississippi making its first appearance at an overseas competition, rowed through early leaders Kingston in the Fawley quads event.  Their junior women, who are US national champions, race on Friday.

There were few steering disasters despite a cross-wind which at times became strong gusts, but one pair of Wyfold coxless fours found it tricky, Henley and Oslo clashing in neutral water early on and having to restart for an eventual Norwegian win.

Today thunderstorms threaten the racing programme, which must be suspended if lightning approaches.  At least thunder might scare the waterfowl:  at one stage three different boats had to be pressed into service to herd flocks of forty or more geese away from the race course.

Rachel Quarrell.

Posted in british club scene, general, Henley, regattas | Leave a Comment »

React to online print coverage or lose it

Posted by rowingvoice on July 1, 2015

View from the press boxSitting in the press box at Henley Royal (glorious day, nice sharp breeze to offset the hot sun) and I’m asked the question “why wasn’t your Telegraph coverage from this morning’s paper put online?”  The short answer is ‘lack of reaction’ and if you do nothing else after reading this blog, please go online and like/favourite/retweet/comment on something in the national press to do with a minor sport, ideally rowing.  Doesn’t matter which paper, doesn’t matter whether it’s favourable or rude, but do it if you want the papers to continue being interested in the non-lucrative sports, because they’re rapidly dying out.

 

One problem with the difficult issue of print newspapers is that they’re still trying to work out how to keep a business model going in a world where nobody wants to pay anyone to publish written coverage.  Advertising simply won’t ever pay for everything, yet when people are asked, they do want to retain newspaper-style reporting.  However, the same readers who will shell out £50-odd per month for Sky TV and broadband, who will buy bells and whistles for their racing bikes, triathlon suits, and download apps and music tracks for 99p a time, jib at paying either online or offline to read what a sports (or indeed news or politics) commentator has written about something they follow unless it’s one of those sports where there is loads of money slushing about.

 

So, a few months ago the Telegraph sports desk had a policy change, and now they have tightened up the online edition so that it doesn’t have everything in.  It will only carry sports stories which are gauged to be of interest.  This makes for a tricky vicious circle for rowing:  they think nobody’s interested, so they won’t publish online, therefore robbing us of the chance to react and show we _are_ interested, therefore reducing the chance that rowing will in future be taken online, let alone in print.

 

I think I’ve had a couple of dozen pieces online this year for the Telegraph (see this link for most of them), and I can count the total number of comments for all of them combined on one hand.  Doesn’t matter whether they are complimentary or nasty, it’s the reaction which counts when editors are trying to work out what readers want to see.  Page views count for nothing.  Ignore the fact that rowing has been published, and you knock another nail into its nearly-complete coffin.  I’ve blogged about this before, but it doesn’t do any good.

 

Given that I’ve asked but it looks unlikely the Telegraph will put my morning piece up, I’m going to publish it next.  I’m going to tweet the link, and include the Telegraph twitter handle.  I hope someone reacts, because otherwise they will think we just don’t care.  We’re already down to minimal newspaper rowing coverage – we have to fight to keep the rest, or lose it.

 

Rachel.

Posted in british club scene, general, Henley | 2 Comments »

FISA racetracker audio for smartphones?

Posted by rowingvoice on August 24, 2014

***UPDATED – for instructions on the FStream app to hear live audio, see green section at the bottom.

So, I was asked by a couple of spectators to see if FISA could get audio commentary over the racetracker they run for live rowing events sorted so it can be heard on mobile phones. Not everyone is able to have computers running so they can listen (eg at work or away from proper wifi).
Here are the fruits of my conversation this morning with FISA representative Jillian O’Mara, who is the liaison for web and internet matters:

  • The old racetracker did not work (either race icons or audio) on mobile phones at all
  • The new website at least does have a version of the racetracker which works on smartphones.
  • But the audio does not work on smartphones, whatever the browser.  (Not sure it was particularly intended to.)
  • This is because it’s an .asx stream, which doesn’t apparently work on any smartphone browsers even if you paste the code into the URL box.
  • FISA does intend for it to work eventually, but in discussion with SwissTiming, who produce the audio stream, resulted in them all deciding that it was too big a risk to try and fix before the worlds, in case the whole system falls over.
  • I have recommended that FISA re-broadcast the live audio (from speaker output) via a digital radio app such as Mixlr, as I did, but it looks unlikely.  I am not willing to tie up my computer for the entire week doing it, so unless I can persuade someone to dedicate a separate computer to it, chances are not high.
  • I’ll do a bit of rebroadcasting, but not full time.  I will also keep looking for another robust enough way to make the current stream work on mobiles, ideally one not needing my involvement.
  • Nevertheless Jillian was emphatic that this problem is on FISA’s radar, and they do intend to get it sorted out eventually, if not this year.

So there you go.  No, and one day yes, but probably not now.

Rachel Quarrell.

UPDATE SUNDAY 23rd August:  there IS a fix for iDevices (iPad, iPod, iPhone).

a) Download FStream, a free app compatible with quite old iDevices and also new ones.

b) Open it, and click on Favourites.

c) Click “edit” and then “add new webradio”.

d) Paste in the FISA stream URL which is http://www.sportresult.com/federations/fisa/streaming/stream_audio_source.asx and give it a name.  You can leave Encoding blank.

e) Click “Done” and then hit the “Play” icon at the bottom of the screen, and select the FISA stream.

You will hear the FISA audio commentary when it is running, in perfect clarity.

I don’t know of a similar app for Android (the other smartphone which has trouble with .asx) but a search for apps might bring one up, so give it a try if that’s your platform.  Windows phones should be able to use their inbuilt players to do it easily, with the same URL above if the main FISA page doesn’t work.

Result!

Rachel.

Posted in general, international, regattas | Leave a Comment »

Poll: would YOU be willing to pay something for online rowing coverage?

Posted by rowingvoice on July 29, 2014

Something new happened last weekend.  The RowingVoice twitter account was taken over – without me there – by another tweeter.  Don’t worry, it was all legit:  Oxford Brookes steersman Rory Copus asked if he could help with my coverage of the under-23 worlds in Varese, and ended up keeping @RowingVoice going all by himself, since I could not get to Italy.

Rory did a brilliant job, much appreciated by parents and friends, and is a fascinating guy (see later) but that’s not what this blog is about.  I’m writing because the reason I could not go to Varese was that I simply could not justify the cost. (Rory was already planning to be there all week, so it cost him nothing to get involved.)

So I’m asking the question in this poll, below:  when would YOU be willing to contribute to help create the kind of rowing coverage I offer?  (You might want to read the rest of the blog before you add your vote.)

 

Regattas nowadays frequently cost close to £500 a time for journalists to attend, and from this year’s under-23 world champs I will have earned the stunning total of £45 after the Telegraph has paid me.  Before tax.  It wouldn’t have been any more, even if I’d attended and tried to drum up extra work.  It doesn’t make sense to go, not when I’m trying to fit in family commitments, admin for my ‘real’ job, and a proper holiday.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being at regattas, but I have to make my time away earn me a living.  I already lose money on the world champs and only just make a miniscule profit on the world cups:  I can’t pretend that I can afford to go to several other overseas regattas every year purely for fun.

Yet — and Rory proved this last week in spades — having independent journalists at a regatta, offering a different slant from the sanitised efforts of WorldRowing and GB Rowing, is pretty darned popular.  There are things we can and do say which the official channels would never go near.  I’d do it much more if it could be worth my while.

Even better, if I had a way of earning enough money to cover the costs, I’d hire keen young rowers like Rory to come and help for my busiest days at the biggest championships, so that we could keep the tweets flowing properly while I’m busy interviewing coaches and medallists and writing articles for the Telegraph.  I already do this with great success at Henley Royal Regatta, where for the last few years the excellent tweet-merchant Zoe de Toledo has kindly joined me in the press box (without pay) whenever she has had time between outings with her own crew – a godsend particularly on the last two days, when I have masses to do and can’t be at the finish line for every race.

I’d LOVE to do this kind of proper coverage more often.  I just can’t see how to make it break even.

Now, it should be possible.  There are easy ways to gather hundreds of small online donations nowadays, and maybe (just maybe) the support is out there after all.  But my efforts at asking people to buy rowing coverage before haven’t been successful.  Whether I don’t ask the right way, or whether readers of my non-Telegraph work don’t ever think it worth paying for, I can’t tell.  I sometimes think it’s partly an attitude that it must be possible to get enough reportage and information for free, so that nobody needs to pay.  Perhaps that is true in practice, but my argument would be that not all online coverage is the same, and that sometimes it’s worth contributing a little to get the right sort of coverage.

Hence this blog, and this poll.  If you haven’t already, please whizz back up to the top of the page and give me your answer. Any further comments, either tweet to @RowingVoice, or email to me at rq@rowingservice.com.  I’ll admit, I’m a pessimist about this type of problem.  I don’t expect much reaction to this blog post, nor much positive support for the idea.  But if enough people say they would indeed donate to create a proper budget, to help the RowingVoice cover more events properly by tweet and blog, then I promise to give it a real go.

 Rachel Quarrell.

 

Rory Copus in The Poseidon Adventure, 2005

Rory Copus, former junior and U23 M8+ cox for GBR, now steering for Oxford Brookes and anyone else who will have him, has a semi-secret past as a child actor.  I haven’t seen it myself, but his premier role is probably as Dylan Clarke, young son of the protagonists, in the 2005 TV movie remake of The Poseidon Adventure.  

Here’s the picture to prove it, and there are plenty more embarrassing ones online if you do a spot of googling.

Sorry Rory!

Posted in GB team, general, Henley, international, regattas | Leave a Comment »