Monthly Archives: December 2019

A successful year over, many yet to come

The passing of another year, and depending on your point of view, another decade, allows for some reflection on what has passed and what is yet to come.

Although successful 2019 has been a mixed year, with only 2 out of 6 competitive events scheduled on the River Wear actually taking place, Durham Regatta, Durham Long Distance Sculls and Autumn Small Boats Head being cancelled because of elevated river levels and Durham Autumn Sprint Regatta being unviable due to a shortage of suitable entries.

In fact 2019 has been a difficult year all round for cancellations, notably the South Yorkshire Head, Ponteland Junior Head, Women’s Eights Head, the Junior Inter Regional Regatta and York Autumn Sculls and SBH all hit by bad weather, while Tyne Regatta and the Head of the Don failed to take place due to receiving insufficient entries. In February Durham SBH went ahead, but only after surviving a weather scare which led to many entries being scratched. The Schools’ Head and Fullers Fours Head on the Thames went ahead with reduced numbers after entries were culled by the organisers in response to forecast difficult conditions.

Oversubscription of competitions was another recurring theme, with many potential competitors thwarted after being too slow off the mark when submitting their entries, Durham LDS and Rutherford Head being among those affected.   

Despite the difficulties DARC achieved greater success in competitive events during 2019 than in the previous year, with 126 wins in 28 competitions out of around 40 entered,  distributed between the Junior, Senior and Masters squads. Masters fared best with 63 wins, Juniors winning 45.

The club has had a strong tradition of performance in Masters competition over the past decade and beyond, illustrated by the most successful competitors this year once again coming from Masters – Gill Prescott gaining 11 victories including several in regional and national competitions, Paul Rutter winning 12 events and John Appleby 13 including 3 at the World Rowing Masters Regatta in Hungary and 2 at the British Rowing Masters Championships at Strathclyde Park. Several victories went to John Appleby and Micky Stevens in the MasG 2x and to Paul Rutter and David Heppell in the MasE 2x.  DARC also claimed the Masters Victor Ludorum Award at the Long Distance Sculling Series, and there were 9 wins including doubles, quads and eights and a Championship bronze medal for Gabrielle Moore.

The Junior squad enjoyed a successful Easter training camp in Banyoles in Spain which was followed by some good performances over the regatta season, four entries at the National Schools’ Regatta, and the highlight being the J14 girls winning two bronze medals at the British Rowing Junior Championships at Nottingham in July. The J16 girls and boys quads also had a good season and successes for the J15 girls eight included the Head of the Trent at Nottingham, plus some outstanding performances against senior opposition. The J13 squad shows good promise for the future, winning at Durham, Hexham and Talkin Tarn.

The seniors entered a double at Henley Women’s Regatta in June, then won the Open eight, quad and pair, and the women’s four, at Talkin Tarn, as well as open and women’s singles. The senior men won the Open 8+ at the Boston Marathon with the second fastest time overall and senior men’s and women’s crews entered the Fullers Head of the River Fours in London in November.

Hope Cessford was selected for the Great Britain under-23 squad, winning a gold medal with the Women’s coxless four at the World Championships in Florida in July. Another DARC junior alumnus James Snowball won a bronze medal with the GB men’s eight at the European under-23 Championships in Greece in September.

The Sunday League was less well supported than in previous years but a highlight of the series was the return of competitive rowing to Ebchester in August for the first time since 1973. DARC also provided 2 crews for the Great Tyne Row. The recreational rowers celebrated the festive season with a Santa Row on December 22nd. Anyone is welcome to go along to the recreational sessions each week on Monday and Thursday mornings.

Social events have been well received by the public, notably the classic car rally and fireworks party, while quiz nights have gone down well with members. The proposed gin & rum party was a victim of the Durham Regatta cancellation.

With an already packed schedule enthusiasm for more competitive events continues. Following a successful trial the inaugural Derwentwater Head is an addition to the Northern calendar on March 7th 2020. The Club’s first competition of the New Year is Durham Small Boats Head on February 1st.

As always events rely heavily on volunteers who at times can be hard to come by. Is there a need for a rethink as to the nature and number of events? Perhaps this is something that can be discussed at the Northern Regional Conference at DARC on Sunday January 26th. There continues to be a great need for volunteers and we are most grateful to the staff and volunteers who enable the club to function.

As a new year approaches the ongoing sedimentation of the river is a concern that needs to be addressed if competitive rowing is to continue on the River Wear in Durham. For several years the directors and committee of Durham Regatta have been dutiful in their efforts to bring about a sustainable solution to manage the situation and it is hoped that there will soon be meaningful progress.

Best wishes for a successful 2020.

Victory for Roger at BRIC

Roger Stainforth may have been Durham ARC’s only representative at the 2019 Mizuno British Rowing Indoor Championships (BRIC), officially the largest indoor rowing event in the world, but he returned triumphant with a gold medal and a British record in the Masters age 75-79 heavyweight 2km event!

On Saturday December 7th over 1,800 competitors took to rowing machines at the Lee Valley Velopark, home to the 2012 London Olympic cycling events. There were over 2,300 entries across 140 events, with athletes from as young as 11 right up to age 88 racing in front of a sell-out crowd.

Since turning 75 in September it was the second occasion that Roger had lowered the British record, having broken the previous mark that had stood for 11 years at the Scottish Rowing Indoor Championships 2 weeks earlier, his time of 7m 25.2s at BRIC on Saturday being 4.5 seconds quicker. A total of 3 World records, 10 British records and 62 Championship records fell at the event, including many in adaptive and masters categories. Results from all categories can be found here.

This year was the fifth occasion since being re-branded as BRIC that the Championships has been held at the Velopark and Roger has won his event at all 5! The 70-74 age record of 7.08.7 which he set at the February 2015 British Championships still stands.

“The atmosphere in the velodrome is inspiring. there are pictures of the British Olympic cyclists around the corridor as you walk to the competition area, it’s wonderful to think that the likes of Chris Hoy, Wiggins, Cavendish, Pendleton etc have trod the same route to glory!” he observed.

BRIC attracts athletes of all abilities and from around the world. One of the highlights was Olympic Champion Eric Murray of New Zealand taking part in the Mixed 4km relay with a wild card team drawn from all the competitors entered on the day. “BRIC is such an iconic event worldwide, it’s great to be able to come here, share a bit of advice, talk to people and just experience what it’s all about,” he said.

Very happy with Saturday’s performance, Roger predicted “I’m confident my race training is bearing fruit and I hope to go even quicker at the next event in Manchester – the English Indoor Rowing Championships on February 2nd 2020”.

Roger only took up rowing after his 60th birthday, the motivation for taking up the sport at an advanced stage of life being provided by his daughter Rebekah taking it up, closely followed by wife Hazel, herself now a former world masters gold medallist and record holder on the water. Since then he has been a great ambassador for the indoor version of the sport, winning many times at national championships, including victories at the Scottish, Welsh, Irish and British Championships in the 2017-18 season, but has only ventured on to the water for one year, in 2016 forming a successful partnership with Martyn Calkin, the pair winning the Novice Masters F double sculls at the National Masters Championships in Nottingham.

Last year was a difficult one as Hazel was undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with breast cancer. In March 2019 Roger organized a 100km Big Pink Ergo Challenge which raised over £770 for breast cancer charities.

Meanwhile Hazel has made an excellent recovery, returning to competition with the Women’s Masters G coxless quad, and winning races in the Long Distance Sculling Series on the Tees and Tyne.

Good conditions for Rutherford Head 2019

A large entry of 264 enjoyed some unusually good conditions for Rutherford Head on Saturday December 7th with a breeze in the afternoon providing the only real difficulty.

Organised by Tyne ARC the head is the northern region’s premier race for large boats in the winter season and attracts some of the best rowers from clubs, schools and academic institutions around the country. Saturday was also a busy day for other competitions elsewhere, with around 500 taking part in the Scullers Head on the Tideway, and the British Rowing Indoor Championships also in London attracted over 2300 entries.

Such was the demand for places at Rutherford Head that for the second year running entries were suspended when capacity was reached barely 2 hours after opening at 6pm on November 10th with many joining a waiting list in hope of withdrawals.

Competitors came from far flung corners including Aberdeen, London, Canterbury, Manchester, Nottingham, York, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as from local clubs and Universities to race in 2 divisions over the 4.5km Championship course between Scotswood Bridge and Newburn. Excellent planning and organisation enabled all crews to go afloat on time and return to one of the 3 allocated boating location at Tyne ARC, Tyne United RC and Newcastle University BC before December darkness descended.

The size of entry, including over 100 eights, enabled British Rowing’s competition structure to be put into effective use with some events seeing competitors allocated to up to 5 bands according to ranking points. 

The University of London provided the fastest open eights of the day, the open 8+ taking victory in division 1 in 14m 16.8s, and the fastest women’s eight completing division 2 in 16m 29.3s, each holding off rivals from Newcastle and Durham Universities and Tideway Scullers School.

Durham ARC entered 16 crews including 4 composites, claiming 3 wins. The first, in division 1, went to the DARC J18 girls stroked by Elicia Baldwin finishing in 19.48.2 in band 2 of the Women’s J18 coxless quad. In division 2 the composite Masters E eight (involving John Lyons and Richard Court and crew members from Hexham, Cambois, Kings School Canterbury and Tyne United) won the Masters DE handicap in 18.01.8 (adjusted to 16.46.7), and the DARC/Loch Lomond Women’s Masters F coxless quad of Gill Prescott, Eva Rankin, Joyce Collett and Christine Heppell, won the WMasCFD 4x- in a time of 20.53.4 (adjusted to 19.03.8).

In division 1 the J18 girls also finished 4th in band 1 of the WJ18 4x-, 8 seconds ahead of the band 2 winners, while the senior men finished 9th in band 4 of the Open 8+. The senior women were 3rd and 5th in band 3 of the Women’s coxless quad.

Also in division 1 the DARC/Blue Star MasF coxed four was 2nd to St Neots in the MasDF 4+, the Women’s Masters E eight was 3rd in the WMasCDE 8+, and the MasD coxless quad was 4th in the MasADEF 4x-. 

In division 2 the Junior girls competed in band 4 of the senior Women’s eight and finished 2nd to Hatfield College. The senior men were 3rd in band 3 of the Open 4x-, and the DARC/Yarm School composite were 2nd in band 2 of the J18 4x-.

Masters events were subdivided into a MasDE 8+ and a MasDEF 8+, and Women’s Masters events into a WMasCFD 4x- and a WMasCDEF 4x-, with DARC having involvement in all. As well as the composite wins in the MasDE 8+ and WMasCFD 4x- David Oliver’s DARC Masters E eight was 2nd and the DARC Masters D eight stroked by Stephen Kay was 3rd in the MasDEF 8+ competition, and the Women’s Masters C coxless quad stroked by Carole McCarthy was 3rd in the WMasCDEF 4x-.

Full results of division 1 and division 2 can be downloaded from the Tyne ARC website.

With the repeated issue of oversubscribed entries Tyne ARC are considering how to respond to calls for a 2-day Rutherford Head next year. Would this dilute the traditional one-day Rutherford, fought out in just one day, whatever the weather? Views are welcome by email to

After a year away the BUCS Head of the River Race returns to the Tyne in 2020 and will be raced on the same course over the weekend of February 22nd and 23rd, a week after Tyne Head, and the week before the Yorkshire Head.