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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.

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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 »

Revamped Henley enters the digital age – Telegraph Wednesday 1 July 2015

Posted by rowingvoice on July 1, 2015

This is the piece I filed for publication in today’s Telegraph – it was mostly used (barring the last three paragraphs of competition preview) in the print paper today.  Not online because according to the editors, rowing’s not interesting enough to enough people.

If you disagree with the above statement, then like this post, or reblog it, or favourite/retweet my Twitter link……

HRR GOES DIGITAL

A bumper crop of 526 crews entered Henley Royal Regatta, which starts tomorrow, in celebration of two major changes to the event.  Olympic rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave has taken over from Mike Sweeney as chairman of the illustrious event, and for the first time this year those who can’t reach the regatta will be able to watch racing live on the internet and the BBC.

Henley Royal has been televised before, with the BBC last taking live footage in 1968, and ITV some highlights in 1976, but limitations in technology made the expense too high.  Since then the problems had been considered insuperable, but a team led by Stewards Neil Chugani, Sarah Winckless and Sir Matthew Pinsent has developed a system of 10 cameras and modern streaming technology which will broadcast all racing live.  It will be streamed on a dedicated YouTube channel throughout the regatta, with a highlights programme added each evening.  On Sunday the finals will be broadcast live on BBC Online and via the red button.

The rowers this year come from 18 countries and include a record American entry of 59 crews.  Amongst the titans defending 2014 titles are scullers Mirka Knapkova and Mahe Drysdale, while the British team has entries in all seven of the open events.  They are headlined by the GB men’s eight, who have now been joined by Constantine Louloudis after his final exams, and are starting their charge towards winning a third world championship title running.  Matched against Australia on Saturday, the Brits are expected to reach Sunday’s final against Olympic champions Germany, whom they beat by 0.3 seconds in Varese 10 days ago.

Wednesday opens the racing with the big-boat events for clubs, students and schoolboys.  Most of the strongest US student eights are in the Ladies’ Plate, which begins later in the week, so Temple Cup holders Oxford Brookes are up against a slew of lightweight American crews, along with French students Lyon, and in the same quarter of the draw, the ever-dangerous Dutchmen Nereus.

The Thames Challenge Cup for club eights lacks last year’s winners Frankfurt, but has two German entries and top clubs from three continents, including Australians Mercantile and British high performers Sport Imperial.  Thames Rowing Club itself managed to qualify no fewer than four eights for the event, and its lead crew has its best chance of a victory for many years.

The two junior events starting on the first day are the Princess Elizabeth schoolboy eights and the Fawley quads.  National Schools eights winners Westminster have last year winners Eton and Americans Phillips Academy in their half of the draw, while runners-up St Paul’s have been landed with the hardest race of the day, a battle against Abingdon, who were four places behind them at National Schools, and later on could face Canadian champions Shawnigan Lake.  The top crews in the Fawley do not start until Thursday.

Rachel Quarrell.

Posted in british club scene, 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 »

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 »

Year-off Olympians return to the top of the heap

Posted by rowingvoice on June 24, 2014

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Heather Stanning and Kat Copeland returned to their winning ways in Aiguebelette this weekend with confident gold-medal performances at the second world cup regatta.  The Olympic champions spearheaded the charge, in the women’s pairs and lightweight doubles, which saw Britain top of the medals table with six golds and 13 medals, including para-rowing.

Stanning, who was suffering from fatigue during the European championships three weeks ago, returned to her place in the women’s pair as if she had never left, claiming a majestic gold with Olympic partner Helen Glover.  Polly Swann, who had won the Europeans with Glover, anchored the women’s eight to a brilliant bronze medal later on in a nail-biting sprint.

Kat Copeland’s own win in the light doubles with Imogen Walsh was considerably more assured than their bronze medal result in Belgrade.  “I’ve never won a world cup before, only the Olympics,” said Copeland, with an echo of her 2012 glee.  Behind them, understudies Ellie PIggott and Charlotte Taylor were inspired to rush through Germany to claim silver.  With single sculler Ruth Walczak taking silver too, the entire lightweight women’s team finished as medallists and are oozing determination and focus.

If the women’s pair were majestic, the men’s four of Andy Triggs Hodge, George Nash, Moe Sbihi and Alex Gregory were clinical, accelerating to the line with space to spare ahead of Australia.  It was a superb weekend for the men’s sweep squad, who also won bronze in the pair and an excellent silver behind the USA in a revitalised eight.

Now the decision must be taken whether to mix the four into the eight again, as coach Jürgen Grobler hinted in May was an option, or to leave it as lead boat and develop the best possible eight behind it.  “We’ll say when we’re ready – the four are a great unit, but we have choices,” said performance director Sir David Tanner.  “I’m not saying we won’t [move the four into the eight]”, he added, “but I will say it’s on the no side of the radar now.”

Both crews are entered at Henley Royal Regatta in ten days time, and talent Constantine Louloudis, until now training in Oxford, is available to the squad again from this week now that his student term has ended.  Also performing at Henley will be the men’s quad, who surged to a powerful victory with increased confidence ahead of Olympic champions Germany.

Rachel Quarrell.

This article was originally commissioned by the Daily Telegraph.

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

Regatta Radio needs YOU!

Posted by rowingvoice on April 25, 2014

Today’s blog is the result of an email I had through this week, from the chairman of Regatta Radio, Pete McConnell.  It was news to me, but he’s had to organise a fundraising dinner for the temporary radio station, which broadcasts every year at Henley Royal Regatta, covering racing, features, vox pop interviews, music and generally bringing the regatta alive through FM and online radio, for all those who can’t be there (and some who can but are stuck one end of the bank).  It’s been going eight years so far and is universally acknowledged to be a great addition to the regatta, but it is an independent venture and can’t keep going without public help.  This year it might not be able to happen.

Regatta Radio started in the summer of 2006, and was an instant hit, with people in scores of countries tuning in.  That year we heard from Australian boat clubs with crews in finals, who had rigged up an internet connection at their boathouse, and held midnight parties so that people could hear the live commentary of their crews racing for glorious Henley trophies.  We also heard from the 2005 GBR W4x, who were training at Caversham for the defence of their title, and who managed to get what had been expected to be a 4-mile radius radio signal, at the national team centre – they rang in to request songs, and promised to bake cakes for the DJs.

Rowers and spectators dropped into the Regatta Radio caravans in the Leander car-park as they were on the way home, to big up their clubs and celebrate victories, and many shops in Henley itself put Regatta Radio on over their speakers, instead of the usual loop tapes, so that those out shopping could keep up with what was happening on the river.  I’ve been involved since ’06 and it’s been a privilege and a pleasure every year.

Over the years Henley Royal Regatta has supported the radio station with incredible access, allowing the commentary system to be improved.  HRR still provides ‘trad’ commentary, the type which doesn’t interfere with conversations in the Stewards’ Enclosure, but RR has the official blessing to offer a racier, more detailed coverage which can be heard by anyone with a smartphone and earpiece, or willing to stump up a fiver for the excellent-value RR ear-radios which have become fashion accessories as important as a blazer or programme.

 

So why is RR at a risky financial point?  The first few years were OK, but the recession bit hard and though it has just about proved possible to keep going with sponsorship, the continuation of austerity has made this kind of enterprise pretty expensive.  RR raises money from some local sponsorship, advertising, and the sale of the radios, but there are huge costs to be met.  The equipment and licence to broadcast at high quality are not cheap, and if you want the smooth continuous commentary which has become its usual standard, that adds more to the bill.  For those who don’t have experience raising sponsorship, one problem is that it often evaporates as the sponsoring company raises its profile, so it’s a continual battle to line up more and Henley’s 10-days rowing focus isn’t the easiest prospect to sell to larger national companies.  There are good reasons why HRR itself does not simply foot the bill:  trust me that all such apparently easy options have been fully explored by the inventive and well-connected RR team.

This year, if the fundraising dinner does not raise enough to fill the gap, it is likely that Regatta Radio will not be able to broadcast at all.  It would be a terrible shame if the ninth year came to nothing, and since a dead year will reduce potential for future income, it would almost certainly spell the end of a great addition to Henley Royal Regatta.

So what can you do?  Well, if you have a few pennies to spare, buy a ticket to the Regatta Radio dinner on 1st May and donate generously in the silent auction.  It should be a sparkling occasion:  sadly I can’t go (I only just heard about it and am already busy that night) but if I could, I would, because the Regatta Radio crowd are a great bunch and know how to party.

fundraiser-rr14

Other ways you can help include pointing potential advertisers their way or suggesting them to potential sponsors.  Contact Pete McConnell on peter@regattaradio.co.uk for either of those.  As someone who has been involved in sponsorship before, I would plead:  don’t just give RR names of possible sponsoring companies.  If you know someone in the company, find out first if they would even be interested, and then if the answer is yes, you can introduce Pete to them directly.  Cold-calling for sponsorship has a very low success rate:  it is introductions, and knowledge about what a company might be looking for, which work better.  By the way, there is nothing to stop companies based overseas advertising on Regatta Radio:  the fact that there have been listeners in 144 countries, all over the rowing world, makes it an ideal advertising medium for those selling rowing products.

Got a little cash but can’t go to the dinner, or live overseas?  Keen to help?  What about a direct donation?  This is my idea, not Pete’s, but I’m sure he would be incredibly grateful and not a penny would be wasted.  And if RR 2014 does end up going ahead, you can listen to this summer’s commentary knowing you have contributed towards having commentators right up the course, and will have added hugely to the pleasure of crews and supporters from all over the world.

Rachel Quarrell.

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

Heat turns up for Daddy Oldfield

Posted by rowingvoice on July 3, 2013

Christopher Dodd at the first day of Henley

leanderflagSigns of the times in Henley: the recession has arrived on the town side of the river, with at least six shops boarded up within spitting distance of the Town Hall. Inflation has hit the regatta side, with Pimm’s at 10 quid a pint in the champagne bar, I hear. Flag at half mast at Leander Club to honour Harry Parker, Harvard’s coach of 50 years, who passed away last week. Gloriana moored outside the boat tent, the most gorgeous lady in town. Ran into Walter Hoover, son of the Walter Hoover who beat Jack Beresford Jr in the Diamonds in 1922 in a boat he designed himself. Crews from all over the country and many parts of the world and thousands of people without cares in the world, or so it seemed on a crowded first day of Henley. As the racing programme sorted 80 winners from 80 losers, it got me thinking about elitism, protest and rights.

The Aussie with two surnames, Trenton Oldfield, has found that the water he jumped into on Boat Race day 2012 is hotter than he first thought. The Home Office rejected his application for a spousal visa, declaring his presence in Britain ‘not conducive to the public good’. After living in the UK for 12 years he will be deported back to Australia, barring a successful appeal. His British wife Naik gave birth to their first child a few days later.

According to Decca Aitkenhead in the Guardian, Oldfield hadn’t worried about his immigration status when he dived into the Thames in front of the crews to protest about ‘elitism’ in Britain. ‘It was a peaceful protest, so immigration stuff didn’t seem relevant,’ he said. Nor was he worried when officials pulled him from the water into a police boat. ‘There was no feeling of threat – it was very smooth, not dramatic. People were joking and laughing, and the police were saying: “What was all that about then?”’

Ahem. From where I was sitting in the press launch, I didn’t notice that Oldfield was wearing rose-tinted goggles. I would say that he slightly misjudged the tone of the reception he received. I think a great deal of restraint was shown, especially on the umpire’s catamaran when the privately educated ex-rower from Sydney was yanked aboard. The smile on his face was not reciprecated.

The water began to boil for Oldfield later when the police upgraded his charge from a public order offence to public nuisance, an arcane common law carrying a maximum sentence of life. ‘That’s when we began to worry,’ said Trenton’s wife Naik.

Deportation, according to Oldfield in the Guardian interview, would set a precedent of undermining British people’s human rights. Asked what his protest achieved, he said: ‘I believe my thesis has been proven, that elitism leads to tyranny.’

The Home Secretary may decide that the six-month prison sentence, of which Oldfield served two in Wormwood Scrubs and has turned his experience into a book, was punishment enough for seditious disruption of a boat race. It’s hard to find sympathy for such an ill-thought out protest or such a crass life-endangering act.

But the issue of deportation certainly has a nasty taste on top of the question of what’s the point of time-serving in the Scrubs on the public purse. I find myself in agreement with Tobias Garnett, who wrote in the Guardian that, as someone who had rowed in the Boat Race before 2012, his main reaction was of anger at this act of sabotage, which cruelly robbed both crews of a fair resolution to this increasingly tight race and to their months of training.

But, he went on, ‘if the sabotage of the race was what I felt most viscerally, for Oldfield that was mere collateral. His real intention [having settled on elitism as his target] was to spark a debate.’ The Home Office’s decision to reject Oldfield’s application for a spousal visa leaves Garnett thinking his actions were indefensible, yet wanting to take him up on the invitation and defend him as he is swept into a much larger debate about the politicisation of legal sanctions.

‘To outsiders, the Boat Race may have looked like an over-hyped coin toss, but in reality it was not the best target for Oldfield to make his point…  The rowing event is completely free to the hundreds of thousands of people who come to watch it each year… The Boat Race is an amateur event; there is no prize beyond winning. It has minimal environmental impact, and means a lot to the Londoners who line the route every spring.’

But when it bangs to rights, the principles of human rights should apply to everyone, says Garnett. ‘The Human Rights Act enshrines those principles in UK law, providing protection against the anger and changeability of public opinion, or a home secretary too prone to pander to its excesses. That we apply these principles equally to those with whom we fundamentally disagree, is the proof of our commitment to them.’

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Philosopher who kept the Crimsons on top

Posted by rowingvoice on July 2, 2013

Harry Parker, coach at Harvard for half a century, died peacefully on 25 June, aged 77. Christopher Dodd marks his passing

Harry Parker must rank as the most successful college coach of all time. His crews were undefeated in 22 of his 51 seasons as Harvard coach and won 43 of his 50 races against Yale. Parker also coached US crews six times in the Olympics, his eight winning silver in 1972 and his double a gold in 1984. His Olympic eight of 1980, forced to boycott the Moscow Games by President Carter’s government, came to Henley instead and won the Grand.

Parker’s introduction to a life of coaching, role-modelling, leadership and friendliness began at the University of Pennsylvania under another legend, Joe Burk. Both their lives wove in and out of Henley. Burk won the Diamonds twice before the Second World War and coached Penn, with Parker on board, to win the Grand in 1955. Parker was obligingly posted to Philadelphia for his service in the US Navy and sat in the single for three years. He had a go at the Diamonds in 1959, losing the final to Stuart Mackenzie, and finished fifth in the 1960 Olympics behind the great Soviet sculler Ivanov and the Pole Kocerka.

Harry Parker carrying his daughter Abigail on the back of his bike at Henley in 2002.

Harry Parker with daughter Abigail at Henley in 2002, the year his Harvard crews won the Ladies, the Temple and the Brit between them. Photograph: Peter Spurrier/Intersport Images

In 1961, aged 27, Parker was appointed freshman coach at Harvard, and was promoted to the varsity post two years later following the sudden death of Harvey Love. The philosophy graduate from Penn quickly became the personification of Harvard rowing, coaxing the Crimsons along a star-studded course of achievement and drama. A goodly mileage of this he observed from a bicycle saddle on the Henley  towpath.

Harvard crews have won 11 Henley events during Parker’s reign. Trips to Henley from Cambridge, Mass, do not occur lightly. You have to win the Intercollegiate Rowing Association championship or the Eastern Sprints to earn a shot at Henley, which explains why you can never write off a Harvard boat at HRR. Harry, a coach of few words, was a member of that rare school of coaches who command unquestioning respect from their charges. Dick Cashin, who rowed in Parker crews for Harvard and the US, told me that Harry’s the only man in rowing he trusts entirely: ‘If Parker says it’s going to rain on a fine day, bring a slicker.’ That was in at the boat tents in 1980, and countless Crimsons would endorse it.

At around the same time, Harry shared his approach to coaching with me in an interview at Harvard’s Newell boathouse.  ‘What I see at Harvard is the people who are in it, highly motivated and willing to work for it,’ he said. ‘Obviously the coach has some role in drawing that out… When you try to work people really hard it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the full benefit from that and not working with them too hard… Unfortunately, that’s not an easy thing to judge.’

You have to live with injustices, he said, when performance can be the only criterion. ‘Even for people who are motivated, there’s a pretty natural built-in resistance in the body to working hard. The coach has to help the oarsman overcome that. It’s probably not a good idea to trick them, because you can only get away with that so often.’

One of the enduring images of Harry was him stalking along the tow path to the Secretary’s office clutching the piece of driftwood that had attached itself to his eight’s fin in the final of the 1989 Ladies’ Plate, won against all the odds by the Notts County lightweights. He obtained a justifiable re-row on the grounds of interference by outside forces at his audience, only for his crew to be trounced three hours later by a Notts boat on fire. It was a devastating result for the Crimsons, but it was typical of Harry that he kept the piece of wood and loaned it to the River & Rowing Museum later for its Americans at Henley exhibition.

Harry’s true grit grimace, his physical hardness, was only one of his faces; he also broke frequently into a broad and twinkle-eyed smile. While keeping his distance from his charges, he wasn’t aloof. Another enduring Henley memory is Harry pedaling along the towpath with his little daughter Abigail on the back of the bike. Abigail is now at Radcliffe, and two days before her father died she switched on that smile by filling a vacant stroke seat in an eight at short notice for a 1980 Olympic team row-past on the Charles. Sure as crimson, you’ll find Harry with his bike in the Great Enclosure in the Sky.

Christopher Dodd


Christopher Dodd’s book, Pieces of Eight, the story of Bob Janousek and his Olympians, is available at the HRR shops or by mail order from http://rrm.co.uk/visit/shop/pieces-of-eight

“Pieces of Eight is a fascinating book, full of drama and colour, essential reading for anyone interesting in rowing, sport in the 1970s or understanding what it takes to build world-class teams.” – Professor Tony Collins, Director of the International Centre for Sports History & Culture, De Montfort University

For information on Chris Dodd’s books, visit www.doddsworld.org    

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