It is generally accepted that in the northern hemisphere September marks the start of the head racing season, although several national and international regattas buck the trend, such as the World Rowing Championships and World Masters Regatta, the former taking place this year in Belgrade, Serbia between September 3rd and 10th while the latter migrates to the southern hemisphere in Tshwane, South Africa between September 21st and 24th.
The Northern Region is blessed with numerous opportunities for competitors to get the autumnal time trials off to a prompt start, the first being Tyne Single Scullers Head on September 9th,
This is closely followed by the Long Distance Sculling (LDS) Series, beginning on the River Tees on September 30th and continuing each Saturday until November 4th at Durham. The full schedule can be found on the Northern Rowing Council website here. Separate Small Boats Head competitions complement four of the six rounds, at Tees, Tyne United, Wansbeck and Durham. LDS races are for single, double, quadruple and octuple sculling boats (octuples can only be accommodated on the Tyne). Small Boats Head races include sweep-oar pairs and fours as well as sculling boats. Entries for Tees and Tyne United SBH are now open. Entries for each LDS will open 3 weeks before the date of the round.
The LDS Series is one of several events organized annually by the Northern Rowing Council, others being the Sunday League, the Great Tyne Row and the Junior Inter Regional Regatta Trials. These are organised by a group of volunteers to build a stronger and more varied events programme for the clubs of the Northern Region and beyond. A fuller competition calendar can be found here.
The popularity of the LDS Series has sadly seen the demise of Durham Autumn Sprint Regatta, which in the past provided an ideal opportunity for members new to competition. However as the scheduled date of September 23rd falls too close to the LDS Series for sprint racing to be of interest the Regatta may soon be disaffiliated.
The North is fortunate to have so many competitions in quick succession at this time of year, albeit that they don’t attract entries in as much abundance as the larger events on the Tideway and elsewhere. Competitors are well catered for in terms of having regular opportunities for racing, if not in having the possibility of amassing large numbers of ranking points.
By contrast head races on the Tideway over the same course as The Boat Race are less frequent but larger in capacity per division, although drawing the bulk of entries from a limited geographical area. Autumn competitions take place in increasing order of boat size, with the Vesta Scullers Head on September 23rd, Pairs Head on October 8th, and Veteran Fours Head and Fours Head on November 4th and 5th. Entries for the Pairs Head will open on September 5th.
The Tyne Single Scullers Head, for which entries are now closed, is organized by Newcastle University Boat Club and despite its name provides competition in doubles and pairs as well as singles. With 4 divisions offering doubling up possibilities at £12 per seat it is less expensive than the Pairs Head, with a capacity of 380 entries, for which racing in a single division is £25 per seat.
Oversubscribed events have been a theme of competitions in recent years and the Fours Head on November 5th is seeking to address this with a revision to its entry system for this year. Entries will open at 12 noon on Monday, October 2nd and will be suspended 10 days later, after which a maximum of 450 will be accepted in order of Crew Ranking Index. With opportunities to gain significant numbers of points at smaller competitions away from the Tideway being limited this will of course mean that entries from far flung locations will have little chance of acceptance.
The Veteran Fours Head on November 4th is for Masters and usually has a capacity of 260 entries, though oversubscription for Masters is less of an issue than in Senior competitions.
Meanwhile the penultimate round of the Sunday League at Talkin Tarn on September 3rd sees a DARC crew taking part for the first time in 2023, the fifth round being a splash & dash event before the finale of skills at Hexham on October 1st. The Great Tyne Row, over 25km of the River Tyne took place on August 26th but with no entry from DARC. An entry for the 2024 event would be the first from the club since 2019.
The Boston Marathon, over 50km, would have provided the longest competition of the year on September 16th had it not been cancelled because of excessive weed on the River Witham. Organizers are considering an alternative date, possibly in April/May.
The Indoor Rowing season builds towards the British Rowing Indoor Championships (BRIC) which after last year’s cancellation move to a new venue at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on December 9th. Durham University hosts a round of the BUCS Indoor & Adaptive Series at Maiden Castle on November 11th, an event that in previous years has combined with the North East Indoor Erg Championships, offering a good opportunity to prepare for BRIC. The Scottish Rowing Indoor Championships, usually held in November, has suffered from a low entry in recent times and it has been decided that it will not take place in 2023.
There is no shortage of opportunities for competition outside the region at places such as Nottingham and York for those who wish to seek it out.
The season for eights racing commences with Rutherford Head on December 2nd.