World Masters in Varese

Wins for ‘E’ eight and ‘F’ four, “Apple-boy” bags four golds, but Gill claims five … whilst the WAGS lunch and shop Milano

Seventeen DARC oarsmen and oarswomen travelled to Varese in Northern Italy for the World Masters Rowing Chamionships. Over 600 races spread over 4 days with competitors from 28 year olds to 85 year olds from all corners of the World.

With 38 entries DARC had the most UK entries (from the 400 plus UK entries .. Germany had 700 plus). The venue was stunning, an eight lane world class course on the beautiful Lake Varese, with the Alps as the backdrop. It was HOT, but conditions were near perfect with calm conditions. Not only that, but a year ago Sarah Rutter had booked us the Veccia Riva Hotel on the shores of the lake, adjacent to the finish. With the white gazebo pitched on the lawns of the Hotel, the DARC enclosure was complete, and we all came to rely on the DARC roar with 250 metres to go. (Lets draw a veil over Sarah’s attempt to erect the gazebo on the VIP lawn, and her altercation with the Carabinieri)

The DARC ‘Enclosure’

The DARC Enclosure

So here’s how it works at the World Masters. With 100 plus entries in many of the events in the different age categories it would be impossible to run the event as a traditional regatta with knock-out rounds. Therefore each event is sub-divided by age and country into a series of 7 or 8 boat, straight ‘finals’ – so, for example the ‘F’ single sculls had 14 ‘finals’ starting with the younger competitors moving through to the older ones. This means you are often racing people from the same ‘vintage year’ as yourself.

Anyone (old enough) can enter, so first-timers there for the experience (means beer), vie with ex-Olympians. The competition is very hot, but with such a range of ability, everyone can find their level with close racing at the front, in the middle, and at the back of each field. There are ‘clubs’ that cherry-pick their athletes from right across their country, and ‘International’ crews drawn from more than one country. So to compete with these crews for a club such as DARC is a tough ask.

First timers, George Adair and Gerry, experienced oarsmen, but relatively new to sculling performed creditably in their double scull and appreciated all the advice and support. Novice scullers Helen Adair and Sarah Rutter have been training every day for weeks and had a gutsy and neat scull down the course.


And the Adairs and Rutters combined for a good scull in their mixed quad (better known as a ‘Double Mr and Mrs’)

There was a smattering of 3rds, 4ths and 5ths all requiring good rows from practised and experienced crews … and then like buses ..

Gold for the ‘E’ eight rowing through the opposition in the last 250 metres to win by half a length.


And Gold for the ‘F’ four

And Gold for John Appleby in his single scull … or “Apple-boy” as dubbed by the commentator at the medal ceremony. In the mixed quad on Sunday, he also won gold with the Durham/Strathclyde composite, so the Apple-boy bagged 4 golds

Gill Prescott continued her impressive record with 5 wins: WD1x; WC2x and D 2x with Ailie Ord of Strathclyde Park; WC4x with Ailie, Liz Davison (also Strathclyde Park and Eva Rankin of Loch Lomond) and finally MxF4x with Ailie, John Appleby and Gordon Kerr of Nithsdale. Gill was delighted,

“This is the third year in a row that Ailie and I have won both C and D2x so really pleased with that hat trick! Very happy to have won again in my single as I still find that mentally my toughest event. Finally had a great last race in the mixed 4x and nice to finish on a win with a fellow Durham crew member, John Appleby” (Apple-boy, Apple-boy, Gill, but thanks and well done.)

Proving that there IS life beyond rowing, the WAGS lunched, shopped, and had a great day out in Milan (16000 steps on the pedometer) including a trip up the Duomo. And they also found time to give fantastic vocal support in some key races.

And so to the awards …

The Biggest Bar Bill award: To Martin Judson succeeding last year’s winner Paul Stanley .. sorry Martin we owe you a few pints

The Ladies Luncheon club award: Jointly to Maggie Appleby and Moira Jaggard for searching out wonderful Italian restaurants in the hills around the lake, and selflessly tasting the menus

The WAGS top shopper award: To Sandra for 2 dresses, a white lacy top, leggings, and various accoutrements

The WAGS last minute shopper award: To Mary ‘Is-it-reduced’ Gordon for a 100 euro dress at Malpensa airport. “Shall I text Derek?” (who was on a 12 hour drive back through Europe) .. “No, I don’t give a damn

The Closest brush with the law award: To Sarah Rutter for her near arrest by the Carabinieri whils erecting the Gazebo on the VIP lawn .. “Chinchin, Mr Carabinieri, do you fancy a beer?”

The Fixer award: Also to Sarah Ruttter for booking the Hotel a year ago, for her calm organisation of the bookings, the money, the comings and goings, and, crucially, negotiating the booze allowance with the Hotel in lieu of puddings. Thanks Sarah.

Dinner Veccia Riva

The Most Chilled Spectator award: To guest WAG, and ex Olympian, Diana Bishop who continued her knitting whilst husband Tom (ex DARC, now Quintin) recorded yet another win. (To be fair, she did look up briefly over the top of her glasses as he passed)

The Intrepid Traveller award: To Maureen Stanley for accompanying Paul and Derek on their long drives across Europe and back, towing the trailer (and for counting all of the – how many was it Maureen? – emergency exits in the 16 kilometre tunnel through the Alps!) And THANKS Paul and Derek for towing the boats. Your reward will come in .. Belgium?

Trailer ready to go home

And finally ..

The Cross-Cultural Understanding award: To the German rower staying at our Hotel who explained, “You English, you like to row nicely, skilfully, but you need to understand, for us Germans we row .. we row to go to work”.  OK …. we know, pretty boys lose.

As John Appleby said. “We first went to Trakai (Lithuania) in 08 …  and were amazed by the hoards of boats .. watching Moscow Dynamo going down the course in an eight in 3 minutes was .. eye-watering. But now we pick up things year by year ..”

Australia next year .. too far in the minibus, Maureen?

So it’s Belgium in 2 years time. Why not come and join us.

As for me .. in the single, I came second, just .. to a German sculler. I was trying to scull “nicely”? My advice for 2 years time .. Go to vwork on your training now.

Buongiorno, prego, ciao …