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Rio-on-Sea

Posted by rowingvoice on August 9, 2016

Greetings fellow rowing cognoscenti.

Imagine my delight when my agent booked me to Rio for an overseas gig. Imagine my disappointment when I was diverted from beech volleyball at Copacabana to the Lagoa at Flamengo FC, where there was supposed to be a regatta on, although ocean waves had postponed it by the time I got there. still, beggars can’t be choosers…

 

Unrequited taste buds

The media room, a cool and airy space on the second floor of the Lagoa’s vast grandstand, is a great location for yours truly to pick up gossip, but with the athletes’ restaurant and volunteer ‘rest zone’ both on the floor below, the gentlemen (and nine ladies) of the press are regularly tantalised by the mouthwatering smells wafting up the stairs.  Alas, hacks have no amenities at the course, and must join the endless queues of spectators for overpriced cardboard hot-dogs, plastic ‘chicken’ fried in concrete, popcorn and sugary snacks.  Or they would, but the (Coca-Cola) catering franchises promptly pack up and stop serving as soon as the crowds have gone post-racing. Time to show a re-run of Alive! in the basement cinema doubling here as a press conference room…

 

Aye aye cap’n

Australian sculling star Kim Brennan was in a bit of a mood on Saturday after only just managing to qualify for the W1x quarter-final in water described as “oceanic” by some rowers.  With the flat calm experienced by the first three men’s singles races, Brennan had chosen her lighter-weight shell to race in, not the heavier one rigged for bumpy water, so her slow race was partly explained by lugging a couple of dozen extra kilos along with her svelte self.  Saturday’s epic boat-swamping wind blew up in less than ten minutes, heat 4 of the M1x suddenly encountering whitecaps in the Bermuda Triangle between 500-1500m which made them look like novices taking full strokes for the first time.

 

Bob caught in the frame

Dr Robert Treharne Jones is a man of many parts. Some may have known him as a medical columnist in the old Regatta magazine. Some will have come across him as Leander’s press officer, tirelessly promoting the pink’uns’ role and status in the world. Some may even have benefitted from his considerate bedside manner when he practised as a GP. Some know him as a FISA race commentator, and excellent at that, in which capacity he is serving at the Estadio de Lagoa in Rio. Wearing many hats is common in rowing, but becomes a heightened bone of contention at the Olympics because, as I have remarked before, the IOC’s protocol is chiefly aimed at barring social intercourse at their great festival of sport. Media, athletes, officials, functionaries and spectators are kept apart by armies of volunteer Jobsworths as much as humanly possible. Only mosquitos float unhindered between the classes.

Thus the scene at the gate of the Olympic boathouse area the other day, when the Pink Palace’s press officer made to pass through with a camera round his neck. The volunteer gatekeeper, well known in other walks of life as creator of bespoke rowing clothing and wielding cameras, refused him entry as instructed. Oh, protesteth Bob Jones, but the women’s eight have invited me to photograph them. Then I suggest you engage an accredited photographer, came the stinging reply as the gate failed to yield.

(PS – I hear the Minister for Sport from Uruguay was dealt with in an equally summary fashion two days later.  Sir Matthew Pinsent has also been denied entrance, and Romanian grande rowing dame Elisabeta Lipa, who said “But I am Lipa!” when challenged.  “But you’re not supposed to be here” came back the lofty reply.  “Yes, I know,” said a crestfallen Lipa, turning away.

 

Don’t trust the press

One journalist came asking the media services team for help getting exactly the shot he wanted.  “What do you want to photograph?” he was asked.  “The dirty water,” the journalist replied.  “But there isn’t any.”  “I must have dirty water” insisted the desperate hack.  “Sorry — the only picture of dirty water I have is from two years ago,” said the local volunteer.  A large clean-up operation has taken place since then.  There are rather a lot of fish visible in it now:  better than the Tideway…..

 

Hammer Smith, Lagoa Rodriguo de Freitas, Copacabana

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Hammer Smith – up to no good in Lucerne

Posted by rowingvoice on July 13, 2014

Sunday 13 July 2014

Oswald drops a mal mot

_Q7T1365The International Rowing Federation staged a massive banquet at the Palace Hotel, Lucerne on 12 July to invest the Aussie oarsome Drew Ginn with the Keller Medal and to bid farewell to their president, Denis Oswald (right), after nearly a quarter of a century in the chair.

The guest list was stiff with Olympic movement blazerati including Jacques Rogge, former IOC president, and big cheeses from the Association of Olympic Summer Sports, the Paralympic Games and the like. New FISA president Jean-Christophe Rolland (far right) paid tribute to his predecessor and Matt Smith, the executive director (below, leaning away), presented Denis with a secretly compiled scrapbook of his life and times.

_Q7T1491Unfortunate, then, that in his otherwise chivalric reply, Denis revealed that he had had close discussions with Rolland before the election that elevated the Frenchman into office. FISA council members Trish Smith and John Boultbee, the unsuccessful candidates in the presidential election, were not amused.

This blip apart, the succession from Oswald to Rolland is sweetness and light compared with the poisonous days of Denis’s succession to Thomi Keller in 1989. Oswald had been secretary of FISA for 15 years on a promise, he claimed, that Keller would make way for him as president.

At the 1989 congress Keller, at the end of what Oswald hoped would be his final four-year term, was re-elected for another year, causing a bitter spat. Keller, a popular and charismatic leader, died suddenly a few months later, and Oswald was propelled into office. For some time he had to live with the whiff of treachery within the FISA hierarchy.


Musical coaches

The coaching merry-go-round continues to whizz on its jolly way, and the idea that you have to coach your own country is long gone.  So the Lucerne finals are serving up a British men’s eight coached by a German, a Russian men’s eight coached by a Brit who used to coach Canada, an Irish women’s sculler coached by a former Danish lightweight champion, and a Kiwi men’s pair coached by an Australian.  Meanwhile the Swiss are advertising for a new head coach and two peripatetic Aussies have moved again – Brian Richardson (ex-CAN coach) is heading up the Danish team, and talent ID guru Peter Shakespear, having rattled the AUS and GBR systems into shape, has hoofed it off to Canada.


Royal flush

One topic at Belgrade in May was the fistful of titles collected by Brits Alex Gregory and Helen Glover, who became, at that point, reigning Olympic, world, European, national 1x and Henley champions.  Glover missed HRR since it doesn’t have a women’s pairs event, so no longer has a full set, but Gregory swapped from the Grand to the Stewards’ Challenge Cup, and has now added Lucerne champion to his list, which is unmatched by any other current rower in the world, though Mahe Drysdale is very close.


Ginn’s honest tonic

_Q7T1284Drew Ginn, the amiable Aussie with three Olympic golds and a silver, brought his family to the Palace for his Keller Medal investiture, rowing’s top award named after the above-mentioned Thomi.

He gave a graceful speech in which he questioned why he, an individual, should be given this honour when all his success was achieved in crew boats, notably the Awesome Foursome and the pair with Jimmy Tomkins. Tomkins was awarded the Keller Medal when he retired in 2010.

Hammer Smith can confirm that boating-area rumours Ginn was considering a return to racing for Rio are emphatically not true.


The power of eight

Chat continues to swirl about the plans for a GreaterEight (only sweep oarsmen need apply), being created by Kiwi star Hamish Bond to challenge the scullers’ GreatVIII at this year’s Head of the Charles.  Apparently several national team coaches aren’t too happy about their best sweep oarsmen running away to Boston USA in the middle of October, but they are planning to do it anyway.  A reliable source says the top scullers are insisting that Hamish is only allowed to ask one sweep oarsman from each country – just as they do.  Who’s Bondy going to pick:  himself or Eric Murray?


Flippin’ ‘eck!

When the protocol chaps were announcing medals for Antarctica and Greenland in their rehearsal of award ceremonies at the World Cup on the Rotsee, a Slovenian sculler flipped at practice in the middle of the lake, right opposite the ceremonial pontoon. While the hapless lightweight disentangled himself from his boat and prepared to tow it to the shore, the rehearsal continued awarding medals to Greenland.

No rescue launch in sight, the swimmer struggled towards the pontoon with his boat. A couple of protocols helpfully grasped his oars and lifted the boat from the water, leaving the sodden sculler to climb out under his own steam. Nice to see the Rotsee has its priorities right.


Marlow to Moscow mentioned in dispatches

The only coach mentioned on World Rowing’s preview of World Cup III is Mike Spracklen – late of Marlow, Leander, Oxford, India, GB, USA, Canada etc. Now he’s coaching the Russian eight. His last employer, Rowing Canada, posted a complaint to FISA through performance director Peter Cookson suggesting that there were other deserving cases worth a mention at such a star studded regatta.


Overheard

“We waste all winter in singles” — a member of the GB lightweight men’s four, shortly after coming in third behind the Kiwis (who also scull quite a bit) and the Danes (who don’t).


COPYRIGHT HAMMER SMITH ESQ, 2014.  HERR SMITH MAY POST FURTHER UPDATES IF HE HEARS ANYTHING ELSE OF INTEREST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Golden girl Glover leads the British charge in Korea

Posted by rowingvoice on August 25, 2013

BSew5JkCcAAAEu22013 World Rowing Championships, 25 August to 1 September, Tangeon Lake, Chungju

One year and 24 days on from appearing on that first glorious Olympic celebration stamp, 2012 Games star Helen Glover leads the 19 crews of the British rowing team into action today in the first heats of this year’s world championship week in South Korea.

This time there will be no painted postboxes for victors, and Glover’s Games partner, Captain Heather Stanning, is 3500 miles away on Army duty in Afghanistan.  But for Glover and her 2013 partner Polly Swann, there is a new unbeaten record to maintain, a new standard to set.  After dominating for five months, they are seen as the crew to catch, and Britain’s most solid chance of an Olympic-class gold medal.

The 25-year-old, 6 foot 1 inch medical student Swann isn’t quite the newcomer she seems, though this is her first senior appearance.  She started rowing at George Heriot’s School aged 14, appeared at the under-23 and European championships and last year she was originally named as stroke of the women’s Olympic eight, an impressive new recruit expected to begin a glittering career.  Days after the May press announcement, she had to withdraw from the crew with a worrying back injury, and spent several months undergoing rehab treatment.

“It was really difficult,” says Swann.  “I’d been in quite a lot of pain for a long time, and while in one way it was really great to watch all my friends and colleagues racing, on the other hand it was so upsetting and I wanted to be there.”  She went and added her voice to the Dorney roar as the eight raced, but there was a pang that her chance of performing at a home Games had vanished.

After sorting out her injury, Swann joined Glover in the pair this season, and they immediately went intriguingly fast, completing six races so far without loss.  “We realised that scratch combinations can go fast in time, but we weren’t going to sit back and wait for a year to gel together,” said Glover earlier this year.  “It’s fantastic having a pairs partner who’s as reliable as Polly is – how young in racing terms, but to sit behind her and feel utterly confident that she’s in the right frame of mind is testament to her.”

“When we got in the pair it wasn’t a million miles off anyway,” said Swann.  “But we kept pushing ourselves – with these sort of competitors you can never afford to be complacent.  Helen is easy to get in a boat and row well with, and she is very commanding, which I think is a good thing.  It’s been such a great experience to be able to pick her brain and find out how they went so quickly last year.”

In Sydney in March they were on pace for a world best time until halfway, before they had to throttle back for a minimum-effort win because they were doubling up in the eight later the same day.  “I didn’t know – if we had, we’d have stuck to the rules – well, maybe we would have pushed it on,” said Swann, who describes herself as ‘ultra-competitive’.  Since then they’ve come within six seconds of the 11-year-old record, twice.

Since the initial GB team announcement a new men’s pair has been added of James Foad and Oliver Cook, while Caragh McMurtry has moved into the women’s eight in place of the injured Sarah Cowburn.  Ten crews begin racing on Sunday, with the rest starting on Monday including former Paralympic champion Tom Aggar, on a quest to regain his place at the top of the sculling rankings after fourth place in London.  The men’s eight, on whom Jürgen Grobler’s hopes largely rest, have a tough draw against the USA on Monday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is from the host town of Chungju, formally opened the championships in a spectacular ceremony on Saturday evening, saying that “sport is a powerful weapon against discrimination.”

Rachel Quarrell in Chungju, South Korea

 

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Brice takes 299th Doggett’s

Posted by rowingvoice on July 12, 2013

Coat and Badge, 12 July; Chelsea

One hopes that next year’s 300th Doggett’s will provide as good a race as the 299th on 12 July when Henry McCarthy, son of previous winner Simon, challenged Nathaniel Brice, a captain with City Cruises who was third last year, all the way. Brice reached Chelsea by an official three lengths ahead of McCarthy, but to my eye it was a bit more. Hard to tell, though, while following in a launch on a balmy day with a slack tide, or any kind of day for that matter, but it’s an honourable result for winner and loser in a race of more than five miles.

Brice had a flying start – he went on the ‘g’ of ‘Go” smartly a fraction before the umpire, newly instated Master of the Watermen’s Company Bobbie Prentice, dropped his flag. Brice (Poplar) in light blue, Stuart Coleman (Poplar) in green and McCarthy (Poplar) in red were the early leaders, bunched together and clashing their sculls almost before they cleared the shadow of London Bridge.

Dominic Couglin (Medway Towns) caught a crab early on and was dropped by the umpire soon after the first bridge. Samuel Metcalf (London RC) made a strong challenge in the early stages, despite having only apparently started rowing four months ago. McCarthy and Charlie Maynard (orange, Poplar) took the inside Surrey bend at Waterloo, which did them a power of good in emerging in the centre of the river before Hungerford and Charing Cross bridges. At Lambeth Bridge Brice and McCarthy were duelling a substantial way ahead of Maynard and Coleman, while Metcalf faded and was dropped at Lambeth Bridge.

McCarthy harassed Brice all the way from there and looked as if he was going to catch him two or three times. But the 299th Doggett’s was Brice’s, in 25 minutes 57 seconds (2.5 minutes off the record) on a slack tide. No other times were taken.

The long deceased actor-manager surely rejoiceth from the wings of the Drury Lane Theatre. Next year sees the 300th anniversary of the oldest continuous sporting event in Britain, and long may it continue thereafter.

Christopher Dodd

Thomas Doggett was an actor and eventual theatre manager who relied heavily on the London watermen to taxi him around in the 17th and 18th centuries.  He founded the race in 1715, originally ‘a rowing wager for the best six young apprentice watermen in their first year of freedom’  and left money in his will for it to be continued.  Nowadays apprentice watermen are permitted to race again in their second and third years, since entry numbers have declined. 

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Wheels of tragedy

Posted by rowingvoice on July 8, 2013

Christopher Dodd

Sadly, cycling continues to take its toll of rowers. Toby Wallace, who rowed for Cambridge in the 1988 and 1988 Boat races, was mown down and killed by a truck on the A30 near Summercourt on Tuesday 2 July while undertaking a charity cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats for the Kirsten Scott Memorial Trust. Also killed on the first day of the ride was his Aberdeen Asset Management colleague Andrew McMenigall.

The charity that they were riding for was set up in memory of an Aberdeen colleague who lost her battle with cancer in October 2011. The driver of the lorry was arrested by Devon and Cornwall Police on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and bailed until October.

Wallace was a senior relationship manager for the company, based in Philadelphia. He joined Aberdeen immediately after graduating in geography at Jesus College, Cambridge, in 2000.

His coach at Cambridge, Robin Williams, sent me this tribute: ‘Some people in life draw energy from those around them while others give it. They are ‘radiators’ and everyone wants to stand next to them to feel their warmth, energy and positivity. Toby was most definitely one of those people. In the years he rowed at Cambridge I never saw him in a bad mood. Not once. Always cheerful, always giving his considerable efforts to the crew and the club.

‘Toby was one of those individuals you uncover now and again who are perfect for rowing and you get in a boat as quickly as possible. He learned to row from scratch at Cambridge. He trialled for the CUBC in his second year, secured a seat in the Goldie crew and won the Goldie-Isis race. The following year he won his seat in the Blue Boat and won that too. In the 1999 crew he sat at bow – all 6ft 7ins of him, and did a superb job in a brilliant crew which became the benchmark for later generations. He went on to row for Great Britain and could clearly make a success of anything he turned to in sport or in life. A true natural talent.

It is sad in the extreme that the world has lost him and in such tragic circumstances. It is hard to find the words to express his loss.’

In 2012 Wallace joined an eight-man crew that rowed across the Atlantic to raise money for the Kirsten Scott Trust.

Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen, said: ‘I knew both Andrew and Toby well. They were dedicated and popular members of our senior team. The fact that they died in such tragic circumstances while trying to help others less fortunate tells you much about their selflessness and humanity. This is a terrible time for the company. More importantly our thoughts are with the families of Andrew and Toby.’


On a more cheerful note, I see that Jimmy Tomkins has been sworn in to the IOC’s athletes commission. The Aussie veteran of the Oarsome Foursome who competed at six Olympics and won three gold medals, was elected last year at London 2012. ‘It is a very exciting and proud day for me becoming a member of the IOC and representing athletes worldwide,’ he said. ‘I’m really looking forward to contributing to the ongoing success of the Games and ensuring the Olympic movement is a beacon for society.’

Tomkins wasn’t in Henley yesterday, but there were sightings of former Canadian men’s coach Mike Spracklen buying a round of Pimms for Russians, Alan Campbell’s former coach Bill Barry interviewing Brazilians rowing at American universities, and Bob Janousek, the former GB coach and boat builder who set British rowing back on the Olympic medal path in the 1970s.

The celebrity of the day was Dr Charles Eugster, the world’s oldest comepetitive oarsman. The 93-year-old is holder of 36 world masters golds, many of them in a double with Thames’s Pauline Rayner. His rowing began at St Paul’s School, continued at Thames and transferred to Zürich Ruderclub when he moved to Switzerland.

By the hand of a Steward, Race No 5 on Thursday: ‘Poplar led down the island as Taurus suffered from errotic steering. But Taurus found a stronger rhythm…’


Christopher Dodd’s book, Pieces of Eight, the story of Bob Janousek and his Olympians, is available at the RRM and 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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The expert’s guide to Olympic road etiquette

Posted by rowingvoice on July 27, 2012

Hammer  ‘JKJ’ Smith writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Rowing got there first

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

Hammer Smith

Bridge C, Olympic Park, Stratford

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Doggett’s 2012: Merlin rockets

Posted by rowingvoice on July 27, 2012

Doggett’s Coat and Badge, 20 July 2012 
 

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher Dodd

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

1 Merlin Dwan (LRC) 24:28

2 Daniel Alloway (IC) 25.41

3 Nathaniel Brice (Poplar Blackwall & District) 26.16

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

5 Ben McCann (Poplar Blackwall & District) 29.23

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Olympic watch: dirty deeds in the docks

Posted by rowingvoice on June 17, 2012

I am privy to some wonderful imaginative developments in the London docks, as a result of the history-making events that are going on all around us. I hear that there is an Olympic marina coming to Albert Dock and that a cruise ship will be moored outside the London Regatta Centre for easy access to Stratford East. IOC members and Olympic sponsors who understandably wish to avoid the Park Lane hotels will be offered these prestigious moorings, and naturally we at the Voice have reserved a berth for our superyacht Hammer Smith just opposite the City Airport’s runway.

The Hammer Smith will offer continuous hospitality to IOC members, heads of state and politicians on their way to the daytime TV hit  ‘Levenson’ — indeed, we are open to any poseurs, lobbyists and Cabinet Ministers keen to cosy up to members of the fourth estate (phones must be checked at the door, of course). Dr. Q will be your host.

This glorious development has come as a bit of a blow to those rowing teams booked into the London Regatta Centre for pre- Olympic training. In the interests of LOCOG’s intention to make these games the highest, strongest and fastest etc, they are being unceremoniously kicked off the water. Compensation? How do you spell that?

The occupation of the Docks by the super rich is another notch in LOCOG’s campaign to ensure that London 2012 will be nothing out of the ordinary. First came the ditching of the River & Rowing Museum’s pavilion at Eton-Dorney to celebrate the roots of rowing and canoeing. Then came the ditching of the plan to bring a foreign warship, the Athenian trireme Olympias, up the Thames to deliver the flame to the stadium. Now the docks, the nearest piece of rowing water to Olympic park, are to be disrupted. What next?

Well, I’ll tell you what next. There is a post-Olympic scheme to moor a ship at the London Regatta Centre on a 20-year lease and operate it as a time-share; that’s what’s next. With a marina attached. I’m afraid to tell you that Voice has been utterly seduced by this, and our name is the first on the time-share list. Imagine! Cocktails on your balcony logging take-offs and landings of City airport jets! Take a moonlight stroll to catch a glimpse of the Thames Barrier! See dawn rise over the Tate & Lyle factory! Collect the numbers of the Docklands Light Railway trains as they duck and dive to the airport!

I hear that Fred Smallbone and the people who raised millions to convert the Royal Albert Dock and revive rowing in East London are not totally in agreement with this latest incarnation of a Boris enterprise zone. As they say in taekwondo, WTF is going on? Here is a facility that offers recreational opportunities to the community where it is set as well as a superb facility for London’s rowing clubs, being shafted by developers and sadoes. Rowing needs to marshal its big guns to see such schemes off. Where are the hard hitters of British Rowing, UK Sport, Sport England, the Watermen and the livery companies? This is an hour of need.

You should have realised by now that the world is going barmy. If doubt remains, then this jolly tale from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant may cheer you up. The watermen’s cutter Royal Dolphin, which is owned by the Honourable Fishmongers’ Company and based at the London Regatta Centre, took part in the jubilee pageant. Some of its crew are survivors of brain injury for whom, rowing is helping on the road to recovery. Some are on disability allowance.

Until recently it has been the practice for the Royal Dolphin to be locked out onto the Thames through Galleons Point Lock at the end of the Albert Dock, under the Sir Steve Redgrave Bridge. But the Royal Docks Management Authority (RODMA) has decided in its wisdom that for security reasons all boats must exit the Royal Docks via the King George V dock. The King George, by the way, used to be an ocean liner terminal and is large enough to take the Titanic. Full dimensions of the Royal Dolphin were required, and the presentation of an invoice for £200 for locking her out.

That’s two hundred pounds for giving brain-damaged rowers the ability to join the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant. Is it just me, or is RODMA arse over tit? Who is the brain-damaged party here? If RODMA continues to speak through its backside, it’s them that should undergo brain damage therapy.

In the event, by the way, Ted Manning and Bobby Prentice hoisted the Royal Dolphin onto a trailer and transported her to the Thames by road. It’s a barking world.

 Hammer Smith

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Multi-tasking on the Rotsee

Posted by rowingvoice on May 28, 2012

Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger salute the crowd                                Photograph:  Peter Spurrier/Intersport Images

Lucerne, Sunday 27 May 2012

I spent most of my time watching people with two oars, the multi-tasking sector of rowing. And exhilarating it was, too. The men’s and women’s quads were an extreme contrast. If there wasn’t six weeks of waiting before rocking up at Olympic Dorney, you could give the women’s gold to Ukraine now. They had time to take in the sights of the Rotsee, so dominant were they – the same crew but in different seats as won in Belgrade three weeks before. The Germans, who once dominated this event for generations, were about three lengths back and the rest, including the Brits, were fighting it out for the colour bronze.

The men’s quads were totally different. Whereas Olympic champions Poland were off the pace and world champions, Australia, who had a substitute stroke on board, were relegated to the B final and beaten there by the Brits, there was a right old race for glory up at the front. Croatia, who won the first round and are into the fourth year of their ensemble, robbed the flighty Russians of the gold medal. Then the Germans robbed the Russians of the silver medal and the Estonians nearly got the bronze. This event is hot. The British quad looked a lot smoother in the B final than in the semi that sent them there.

In the lightweight doubles, Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter seemed to be fooling around in the semi-final, doing enough to qualify but dropping to a cruise in the last quarter of the race. ‘We’re trying something new,’ they said, but when they flat lined in the final it was clear they were not fooling around. ‘It’s our Lucerne curse,’ Hunter told us. Zac had a minor bug that took them a step back. Apologies to all watching, said Hunter. But better to happen now than in a few weeks’ time.

At the sharp end the Canadians led the charge and then faded. Former world champions Uru and Taylor (NZ) looked set fare, but it was the French Delayre and Azou who took gold, with veteran Danes Rasmussen and Quist behind the Kiwis in third place.

The women’s lightweights was a struggle all the way, Sophie Hosking and Kat Copeland making their lives harder by getting entangled with the buoys at halfway, a mistake you can’t afford to make at  this level.  The medals went to the Chinese, Kiwis and Greeks, with the Brits beating the Americans in a battle for fourth.

Watkins and Grainger had a good day in the open double. They lead all the way and held off a German attempt at ruffling them that went badly for the Germans in the end. The Poles beat them. This was the sort of race that the British crew yearned for; a race where things were not as easy as they have been, but a race that they could control.

Five seconds separated the finalists in the men’s doubles, with GB’s Lucas and Townsend at the wrong end of the spectrum. However, these guys are on a learning curve, and the order in this race changed often. The French emerged on top but could not sustain it, being overhauled by Germans with a couple of hundred metres to go and then near the line by the Aussies. Slovenian vets Spik and Cop were also there or there about.

Which brings us to the singular multi-taskers, the ones with no friends to help them. In the women’s race Australia’s Kim Crow was all set for gold until she crabbed near the end, and Zhang of China went through. Knapkova the Czech finished third behind Crow, with Azerbaijan’s Mustafayeva also in the scrap.

Nobody crabbed in the men’s race, another contender for the single sculls hall of fame. Alan Campbell led at the first marker, Ondrej Synek at the second, Mahé Drysdale at the third, and Synek again at the line. Campbell’s start was blistering, but he couldn’t find his finish. ‘Hugely disappointed, to be truthful,’ he said. ‘I didn’t have the legs in the second half.’ Angel Fournier Rodriguez, the enormous Cuban and relatively a new kid on the block, went past the struggler in the last quarter to claim the bronze medal. Synek judged his race superbly, eking past Drysdale passing the last few lines of orange buoys. A race worth crossing the world to see. Especially from Cuba.

Christopher Dodd

Also read:  Dare and flair rescues a patchy day in Switzerland
GB team results summary

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Swan stand-off on the Red Sea

Posted by rowingvoice on May 26, 2012

Mahe Drysdale being attacked by a swan while dunking his back in the lake

Lucerne, Saturday 26 May 2012

The most vicious encounter on the Rotsee today was the fight between a huge aggressive swan and a kiwi. It looked one-sided as the champion NZ sculler Mahé Drysdale, cooling off in the lake after winning his quarter final, was attacked by a bird who realised that the intruder on his water could not fly.

Three times the swan charged, spreading his immense wings. Three times the kiwi stood his water and fixed his gaze. On the third volley he rose up and raised a flipflop to strike his attacker. At this the swan recoiled and sailed away, and Drysdale lived to tell the tale to an intrepid Radio Berkshire reporter who gingerly rolled his trousers up and paddled into the lake. I understand the Swiss are appealing for swan uppers for next year’s regatta.

Later, Drysdale stole first place in his semi-final from under Alan Campbell’s nose. He won by hundredths of a second after Campbell had led all the way. Ondrej Synek took the third qualifying place.

Marcel Hacker won the other semi by a country kilometre. This was a new smooth, relaxed Hacker. Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba followed him home easily with his sights set on China’s Liang Zhang in third. These three and the South African Peter Lambert dropped Olympic champion Olaf Tufte right at the start. Tufte was miles off the pace. But the Norwegian has come back from the dead before.

The final is, as usual nowadays, a lottery among usual suspects Drysdale, Synek, Campbell and Hacker, with Zhang and the smiling Angel breaking down the door to the last six. The women’s event is without Ekaterina ‘Choco’ Karsten-Khotodivitch, the strongest woman on the planet. In her absence the finalists are Xiuyun Zhang (China), Mirka Knapkova (Czech), Emma Twigg (NZ), Kim Crow (Australia), Nataliya Mustafayeva (Azerbaiyan) and Ilia Levina (Russia).

The second day was a Lucerne classic – sunshine, calm water with an occasional flutter of breeze, but not to the strength of the previous day’s record-assisting talewind. In a few years hence the Rotsee will become the New Rotsee if plans to rebuild the rowing centre and construct a new finish tower work out. Architects Andreas Fuhtimann and Gabrielle Haechler have come up with an imaginative design for buildings in a nature reserve, and other amenities are due for a scrub up as well.

Britain’s men’s eight, still without its new stroke Constantine Louloudis— he hasn’t rowed in anger in it yet — and with the veteran star Greg Searle now in the bow seat, qualified for the final in a storming semi that was won by the Aussies. Coming into the season there was a blinkered view in some quarters that this event was between world champions Germany and GB. It’s clear, though, that the Canadians are going faster than they were in Bled last year, and ‘we haven’t finished yet,’ their coach Mike Spracklen told Voice today. The Australian boat is fizzing, and so are the Poles and the Dutch who ran the Brits very close in the rep.

It is crucial, too, to remember Bled last year, when the American eight failed to qualify. The response of the Yanks to the unthinkable was to draft Mike Teti back into the national team and charge him with building an eight. What came out of San Francisco earlier this week qualified by clear Rotsee water for an Olympic place. They’ve gone back home to tune the engine. There is a lot more on board Teti’s boat than go-fast stripes.

The overall British results were successful but salutary today — the appearance of four combative countries (Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada) since Belgrade has considerably upped the ante. Ten boats progressed to finals as expected, to join the men’s four and women’s double scullers who qualified on Friday. The exception is the men’s quad who head for the B final. Difficult boats, quads, especially when their line-up changes, for whatever reason, every week or two.

The women’s quad also faced failure, but managed to turn their Friday lack-lustre performance round today. The lightweight world and Olympic champion double scullers Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter led off their semi-final and then faded into the third qualifying place. Unusual tactics. It’s all right, they told Voice later —‘All OK. Good to try stuff. Bring on the medal!’ you heard it here first.

In the men’s pairs, the Eric Murray and Hamish Bond continue the dominance that chased Hodge and Reed back to a four with their old Bejing mate Tom James. In the other semi George Nash and Will Satch  had a fight with Niccolo Mornati and Lorenzo Carboncini of Italy and beat them, but were overhauled by the 2011 bronze winners Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen of Canada. The current state of play is that the Kanuks are probably about to inherit the silver slot, with the bronze up for grabs, and the new Brits in the running.

Outstanding British performances were by the pair of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning and the lightweight four with Paul Mattick subbing for Pete with-a-damaged-rib Chambers. Both won their semis. Glover and Stanning fought off a challeng by the Americans Erin Cafaro and Eleanor Logan with a sprightly sprint at the finish. The four led a tight race all the way in a time a fraction slower than the other semi. No surprises there, then.

Adam Freeman-Pask blasted out of the blocks in the final of the lightweight singles like a greyhound before the traffic light turned green. “I have 15 dogs at home,” he said.  “I’m used to being chased by them, so my usual tactic is to run away.”  At the second attempt he become Britain’s first winner at Lucerne 2012. He led the final all the way, seven days after being shifted to the solo boat.  “A week’s notice to do the single is about right, otherwise I get bored,” he said.

Christopher Dodd

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