Author Archives: Colin Lawson

Junior Formal Dinner

The third annual formal dinner for the Junior squad and coaches took place on January 4th 2020. Organised by the Junior Captains Adam Morris, Ella Sampson, Matthew Harrison and Ella Metcalfe the 3 course meal celebrated the successes of 2019 and got the new year off to a flying start, with awards presented by the captains to selected athletes and coaches.

Thanks to the kitchen volunteers for their hard work. We look forward to another successful year in 2020.

 

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 entries@tynearc.com

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.

Derwentwater Head trial

The weekend of November 23rd/24th was a frustrating one for rowers on the River Wear with high water levels causing the cancellation of Durham College Rowing’s Senate Cup competition scheduled for Sunday, but it was certainly a busy weekend for club members with plenty of action on offer elsewhere. Three DARC quads went to London for the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours and Veteran Fours Head, the Scottish Rowing Indoor Championships took place at Motherwell, and three more crews went to Keswick for an invitation trial in preparation for the inaugural Derwentwater Head in 2020, while back in Durham on Sunday DARC was proud to host the first of a winter series of British Rowing’s Women’s Training Days, focusing on Movement Patterns.

The Derwentwater Head trial was hosted by Lakeland Rowing Club who moved to a new location at The Isthmus earlier this year. Lakeland welcomed eighteen crews from Chester le Street ARC, Hexham ARC, Tyne United RC, York City RC and Durham ARC who accepted the invitation to take part in 2 divisions for the time trial over 3000 metres, the morning division being rather damp but conditions improving by the afternoon. Lakeland had prepared an alternative course for use in the event of windy conditions but fortunately the lake was relatively calm.

DARC was represented in division 1 by Gary McCarthy, Dave Murray, Mick Downworth and Peter Robinson in a Masters D coxless quad, and in division 2 by the only eight to take part, a Masters D 8+ including George Peattie, Angela Purves, Vaughan Gordon, Dave Murray, Arthur Glasfeld, John Liddell, Tom Dower, Stephen Kay and cox Niki Tough, and by a Women’s Masters C 4x- comprising Carol McCarthy, June Davidson, Hannah Gravatt and Emily Hanscam.

Medals were presented to winners in each event, each hand-painted on Honister slate. The medals were originally intended for Lakeland Explore Series which was cancelled last year because of the weather.

Results are shown here. It was an enjoyable day for all concerned in what must be one of the most spectacular settings in the UK for a head race. Rob Grange Photography has provided an album of photographs.

Several years in the planning and subject to official ratification Derwentwater Head will be added to the calendar of British Rowing affiliated competitions in the Northern region, the first head provisionally scheduled for March 7th 2020. Details are available here. Lakeland have already provided several trainees to boost the regional umpires’ pool.

Thanks to all at Lakeland Rowing Club and to Paul McCarron and Colin Percy for umpiring the private match.

Tideway Fours and Veteran Fours

DARC was well represented at the Tideway Fours heads last weekend, with men’s and women’s quads in the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours (HoR 4s) on Saturday November 23rd and a women’s masters quad in the Veteran Fours Head (Vet 4s) on Sunday 24th. But for the untimely intervention of the weather there would have been more.

Both competitions are rowed on the Championship course, the HoR 4s over 6.8km downstream between Mortlake and Putney, while the Vet 4s is rowed upstream on the flood tide over a shorter course between the Mile Post and Chiswick Staithe.

Attracting crews of international calibre the HoR 4s aspires to be the pre-eminent head race for fours and quads and is capped at a maximum entry of 480 for reasons of safety. The Vet 4s was able to accept 215 entries this year.

The race committee of the HoR 4s was taken by surprise when capacity was reached 15 days after opening on September 30th and entries were suspended, with DARC having a remarkable 5 crews in the start order including the senior men’s, two senior women’s and 2 junior girls’ quads. Last year’s winners Leander was one of the clubs to miss out after failing to submit their entries in time. Vet 4s entries filled up soon afterwards.

Difficulties started when a warning about the likely conditions was issued a week before race day, following heavy rainfall in the Thames Valley. With a strong stream forecast and the Port of London Authority issuing a Yellow Flag warning of strong fluvial flows, clubs were given the option to withdraw any crews for whom the conditions might not provide a positive racing experience. This initially reduced the field by 40 but two days before the race the committee considered it necessary to reduce numbers by a further 60 in order to provide sufficient space to allow for safe marshalling under the prevailing conditions.

The cull was made according to crew ranking points, leaving the two DARC J16 girls crews and one of the senior women’s disappointed and forced to scratch.

Conditions improved slightly with the PLA flying a Green flag the day before the race but remained challenging.

The senior men’s crew, David Rutter, Tom Richardson, Aidan Rome and Nicholas Baird (top), finished 13th in the Club 4x- band 2 in 20m 22.8s, and the remaining senior women, Gabrielle Maxfield, Rachael Colling, Lucy Lloyd and Emily Grant were 17th in Women’s Club 4x- band 2 in 22m 07.7s.

The fastest men’s crew of the day was a composite quad representing Tideway Scullers’ School, Edinburgh University BC, Nottingham RC and Durham University BC in 18m 02.2s, while the fastest women’s crew was a quad from Tideway Scullers’ School in 19m 23.3s. Results by time are here.

The performance of the weekend from DARC came in the Veteran Fours Head on Sunday when Gill Prescott and Helen McMillan in the composite coxless quad with Jackie Darling of Barnes Bridge Ladies and Birgith Sims of Kingston RC, overcame Tideway Scullers, Walbrook, MAA/Twickenham and Lea RC to win the Women’s Masters F 4x- for the third year in succession by over a minute, finishing 125th overall in 22m 11.8s (photo from Ben Rodford Photography here). Vets 4s results are here.

We are grateful to our trailer drivers and to the clubs on the Thames for hosting our crews and to the army of volunteers, launch drivers, marshals, umpires and timekeepers for keeping everyone safe and without whom the events could not take place.

The weather has not been kind recently. York Small Boats Head was cancelled last week and the issue of river dredging has once again been raised following devastating floods in South Yorkshire earlier in November. We look forward to better conditions for Rutherford Head on the River Tyne on December 7th.

After the Scullers’ Head, also on December 7th, the next Tideway heads are the Women’s Eights Head of the River Race on Saturday, March 7th 2020, Schools’ Head on Wednesday, March 18th, and the Head of the River Race and Veterans’ Head on Saturday, March 21st and Sunday, March 22nd.

Record for Roger at Scottish Indoors

Having moved up an age category in September Roger Stainforth added to his indoor rowing achievements on Saturday by setting a British record for the age 75-79 heavyweight 2km while competing in the over-70 event at the Scottish Rowing Indoor Championships at the Ravenscraig Sports Centre in Motherwell.

His time of 7m 29.7s beat the previous record of 7.32.6 set in 2008 by Jim Brownlow of London Rowing Club by 2.9 seconds.

Improving on the 7.35.2 he recorded at the North East Indoor Championships at Durham’s Maiden Castle 3 weeks ago Roger is still working his way back to fitness following eye surgery but  looks well prepared for the British Rowing Indoor Championships at the Lee Valley Velopark in two weeks time.

The result adds to the British record that he already holds in the 70-74 age range for 2000m of 7.08.7 and the 70-79 Scottish and British records for 1000m of 3.23.5, set in the 2014/15 season.

With the Scottish, Irish and Welsh Indoor Championships all taking place on the same day there will however be no repetition of the 2017/18 grand slam of victories in home nations championships.

The 2019 Scottish Indoor Championship results are here.

British records are recorded on the Concept2 website.

Early finish for Sculling Series

The Long Distance Sculling Series (LDS) finished a week early after it was decided to cancel the final round at Durham along with Durham Autumn Small Boats Head (SBH), planned for November 9th, because elevated river levels made it impossible to provide safe and fair racing.

2019 has been a difficult year as regards unpredictable river conditions, with both days of Durham Regatta also cancelled in June – and Durham Autumn Sprint Regatta was called off in September because of an unviable entry.

The river level chart below illustrates the rise and fall over the week preceding the LDS/SBH.

Demand for competition during the autumn heads season has increased hugely in recent years. The Northern Rowing Council’s LDS Series had been running for several years but the number of events and their location had remained uncertain until 2013 when the event returned to Durham following a break. Some rounds included an associated SBH, others didn’t.

For a long time Durham has staged a very popular Small Boats Head with 4 divisions allowing for up to 400 entries in February each year, but it was not until 2015 that an additional Autumn SBH was offered to coincide with the Durham LDS round, allowing sweep-oar entries as well as sculling, which made it very attractive particularly to the College sector who focus on sweep-oar competitions, of which few were available in the region during the heads season.  

The LDS settled on 5 rounds, increasing to 6 with the addition of Berwick in 2015, four of them having an associated SBH in the afternoon.

From around 120 entries for the 2013 Durham LDS the combined entry increased to over 200 in 2015. Demand continued to increase and in 2017 it was decided to add a second division of the SBH, thus accommodating over 100 in the LDS and almost 200 in the SBH, SBH results being aggregated over the two divisions.

Such was the demand this year that entries were suspended the day after opening and it was decided that, rather than reject around 25% of entries, a second division of the LDS would provide places for a combined entry of 378, This was the plan until the weather intervened! – an early LDS/SBH division 0 for the City based clubs, including 29 SBH entries representing 11 of the 16 Durham Colleges, and 51 LDS entries from Durham ARC, Durham School and St. Leonard’s School, followed by LDS division 1 and SBH divisions 1 and 2, each including around 100 entries.

Naturally the cancellation was a great disappointment for the 59 DARC crews entered (up from 44 last year) as well as for other clubs around the region.  

With entries and weather equally unpredictable are we heading for 4 divisions in the autumn to match the 4 in February? The limiting factor is the hours of daylight.

The previous week’s competition at Wansbeck, in ideal weather, therefore proved to be the final round of the LDS Series and included some good performances from the 23 DARC crews taking part, although times recorded suggest the distance was shorter than the advertised 3.5km.

Paul Rutter and David Heppell in the Masters E 2x won for the 4th time in 5 LDS starts. Unlike previous rounds Kim Forster and David Muse in the Mixed Masters C 2x had some opposition so were awarded a win in the LDS, as were the MasD 4x- (Gary McCarthy, Dave Murray, Mick Downworth and Peter Robinson) and Andy Jaggard in the MasG 1x. The Women’s Masters G 4x- (Lynn Pain, Hazel Stainforth, Carolyn Edwards and Caroline Scholl) overcame the DARC WMasE crew (Julie Kitson, Vickie Jackson, Linda Forwood and Nicola Field) but missed out on extending their winning run, taking second place by 0.7 seconds after the handicap to the Talkin Tarn WMasC 4x-, while Joyce Collett and Sarah Rutter in the WMasF 2x overhauled Berwick’s WMasC 2x by 17 seconds after application of the handicap.

George Watson’s College from Edinburgh entered a strong team in both the LDS and SBH divisions but the DARC J16 boys 4x- stroked by Thomas Woods emerged as the fastest open coxless quad in the SBH division, in which Jennifer Napora and the Chester-le-Street/DARC J15 girls coxed quad were also winners, as were the DARC MasD 4+ (John Liddell, Tom Dower, Alastair Edge and Arthur Glasfeld, coxed by Clive Hole) who won for the second time in 2 starts. Competitive times were recorded by several other crews.

The most successful DARC crew in the LDS Series is therefore the Masters E 2x of Paul Rutter and David Heppell with 4 wins and a second place, with the Women’s Masters G 4x- (Lynn Pain, Hazel Stainforth, Carolyn Edwards and Caroline Scholl) gaining 2 wins and 2 second places, and Jacob Windle winning twice from 2 starts in the J16 1x.

Over the 3 SBH competitions there were 2 wins from 2 starts for the Masters D 4+ (John Liddell, Tom Dower, Alastair Edge and Arthur Glasfeld, coxed by Clive Hole).

Links to full results and times from each round can be found on the LDS Series page.

As a postscript to the weekend cancellation Sunday’s Ergathon organized by Durham College Rowing at DARC was a great success with 19 teams and 220 people rowing in relays on ergos the distance from Lands End to John o’Groats to raise funds for the mental health charity Mind.

The next Durham College Rowing events are the Senate Cup on November 24th and the Novice Cup on November 30th and December 1st.

The next rowing competition at DARC is Durham Small Boats Head on February 1st 2020.