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Explore Series winds up on the Tyne

The 2018 Northern Explore Series reached its conclusion on October 7th with the final round, the last of 7, taking place in breezy conditions at Tyne Amateur Rowing Club.

Completing its seventh year the competition is organized by the Northern Rowing Council and is aimed at novice and recreational rowers, those returning to rowing after a break, and racers who have retired from competition. It offers fun but competitive side by side racing in stable coxed quads or fours over a short course at selected venues around the region on the first Sunday of each month during the Spring and summer season, providing opportunities to visit Berwick, Tynemouth, Talkin Tarn and Hexham as well as the Tyne and Durham clubs.

The winner’s prize in the open league was presented to Barcing Mad from Berwick ARC (the club’s first success in the event), while Tynemouth Buoys from Tynemouth RC were runners-up. The women’s league has been a close contest all season between TURC Ducks from Tyne United RC and Tyne of your Life from Tyne ARC, and a victory for Tyne ARC in their head to head brought the two level on points, so it was agreed that the winner’s prize would be shared.

After winning prizes in both competitions last season Durham ARC fielded scratch crews in each round of the open league this year, while Rock on d’Arc  (consisting of Margaret Richardson, Maureen Miller, Linda James and Denise Greenwell, and coxed by Caroline Scholl), who only took part in the women’s league from the third round onwards, failed to claim third place in the league by a single point.  

The background to the Explore Series is explained on this page of the Northern Rowing website, on which the draft timetable for 2019 can also be found.

New teams are welcome to enter next year’s competition which starts in March 2019.

Pairs Head survives blustery conditions

The 2018 autumn heads season got underway on the Tideway with the Pairs Head on October 6th with 470 crews representing clubs from across the UK, and Juniors, Seniors and Masters rowers racing in pairs (sweep-oar) and doubles (sculling) in age categories ranging from J16 to Masters H (70+).

The race starts at The Boat Race finish post downstream of Chiswick Bridge and finishes at Harrods Wall downstream of Hammersmith Bridge, competitors being timed over the course of approximately 4.5km.

Blustery conditions played their part and a troublesome northerly breeze meant the race was in doubt until given the go-ahead only 2 hours before the scheduled 3pm start.

Durham ARC was represented by Kim Forster and David Muse, boating from Cygnet Rowing Club and putting in a great performance in challenging conditions on their first outing in the competition to finish second in their category in a Mixed Masters B/C double scull, and 223rd position overall in a time of 16m 26.9s, adjusted for masters handicap to 16m 18.56s.

The event is organised by Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Club (BBLRC). The final results are posted on the BBLRC website.

Photos are available from Ben Rodford Photography and AllMarkOne.

The Pairs Head is the first of several rowing events taking place on the Thames during the autumn months. The Head of the River Fours and Veteran Fours Head take place on November 3rd and 4th, followed by the Scullers Head on December 1st, before the focus shifts to eights heads after the New Year, including the Schools’ Head on March 15th, Women’s Eights Head of the River Race on March 16th, Head of the River Race and Veterans’ Head on March 30th and 31st 2019.

Juniors make waves at Autumn Sprint

The Regatta season drew to its conclusion with around 100 entries for Durham Autumn Sprint on September 29th. Traditionally this is an event that appeals mainly to junior competitors and this year was no exception, with Durham ARC, Durham School, St Leonard’s and the Tyne clubs well represented.

For the second year omnium competitions were included for J13 to J15 scullers. This entails single and double scullers carrying out skills exercises next to the landing stage, including roll-ups, hands off at the catch, 360 degree spins and standing rigger dips, before continuing to the start line for a time trial and side by side races over the 500 metre course.

Another feature was a good sculling competition between members of the DARC senior squad.


Masters race in Sarasota

Undeterred by the 4000 mile journey four members of the Masters squad headed for the early autumn heat of Sarasota-Brabenton in Florida for the 2018 World Rowing Masters Regatta, joining athletes from 48 countries taking part in 445 races over the 4 days between September 27th and 30th, with the USA accounting for more than half of the 2000 competitors.

The combination of George Adair and Paul Rutter was first to take to the water on Thursday, placing 4th in their heat of the Masters E double sculls (age 55 to 59) behind Australia, Peru and the USA.

The best performance came from Paul Rutter on Saturday, finishing 5th in heat 4 of the Masters E single sculls. This was the event with the most entries in the regatta, with 12 finals being raced. Paul was also the fastest of four scullers representing Great Britain across the 12 heats, completing the 1000 metres in 4m 18.41s.

As is customary at the World Masters the Sunday of the regatta is reserved for mixed races, which was the opportunity for Sarah Rutter and Helen Adair to join in to form the only Mixed Masters E coxless quad representing GB, taking 5th place,  with the opposition consisting of 5 USA crews and one from Brazil.

Earlier on Sunday Paul and Sarah finished 7th in a Mixed Masters E 2x against opposition from USA, Denmark, Brazil and an International crew.

All the results are on the Regatta Timing website. Regatta photos are from

The 2019 World Masters Regatta takes place on September 11-15th at Lake Velence in Hungary.

Additions to the fleet named

Around 120 members of the Junior, Senior and Masters squads gathered on Sunday September 16th for the naming of the club’s three new boats, a Stampfli quad ‘Darc Side of the Moon’ and double ‘Darc Legacy’, and a Janousek quad ‘Great White Darc’, whose purchase has been funded in part from the bequest of former long-standing member and Club Captain Kim Metcalfe who died in 2013.

Kim rowed for the club during the 1960s and 70s, and formed a successful partnership with John Appleby in the pair, before going on to success in veteran and masters competition, winning at the World Masters Championships at Strathclyde Park in 1988 and again in 2005, and winning several national masters titles in the pair, four and eight. He was also an outstanding ambassador for the club as a coach and was an advocate of the Explore Rowing movement introduced by British Rowing in 2010 to integrate new recruits into the sport.

Kim’s son Alex and brother Phil Metcalfe had the honour of naming Darc Legacy, while Great White Darc was named by last year’s Junior Captain Harry Coe, and Darc Side of the Moon by Women’s Vice-Captain Alison Danforth, watched by a delighted Captain George Adair, who explained ‘Kim Metcalfe had a massive influence on the membership. He was an excellent oarsman but also a great coach and one who could offer advice and guidance in an approachable way. He would work with every section of the club so the legacy was partly monetary but mainly his effect in general around the club and the legacy he left behind in memories and advice’.

A row past by the three boats followed, with crews selected to represent the diversity of the membership. Recent graduates from the club’s Learn to Row courses as well as more experienced members will benefit from the new boats.

DARC Legacy was crewed by John Appleby and Hazel Stainforth, members of the masters squad which competes nationally and internationally. Both are long-standing members of the club and great representatives of the DARC spirit. John has competed for DARC for over 50 years, achieving one of his 3 Grand Challenge Cup successes at Durham Regatta in 1969 whilst a member of the club, and as well as much success rowing in crews with Kim at national and international levels has partnered Hazel in a mixed double at World Masters Championships, winning at Strathclyde Park in 2005. Hazel took up rowing later in life after following her daughter Rebekah into the sport, winning the first of several national veterans titles in 2001, and after earning victories in a single scull at World Masters Championships went on to partner Rebekah to World Masters success in the Women’s Masters C double sculls at Zagreb, Croatia in 2007, becoming the first mother and daughter combination to win gold medals at that level.

Members of the club’s successful Juniors squad made up the crew for ‘Great White DARC’, Ella Sampson, Adam Morris, Katie Strangward and Sam Taylor representing the J15, J16, J17 and J18 year groups who have had a successful year including competing at national Junior Championships and winning at Durham Regatta, while ‘DARC Side of the Moon’ was crewed by Gabrielle Maxfield, Alison Danforth, Vickie Sincock and Beth Holmes, a crew representing the Women’s squad, including those who joined from Learn to Row courses, from Durham University colleges, and from school/junior rowing to become performance rowers.  ‘Beth and Alison have been with the squad for many years while Gabrielle and Vickie are new to the squad and have great races ahead of them’ said Alison.

The acquisition of the new boats marks a major addition to the fleet prior to the commencement of a project to refurbish the boathouse, and comes in time for use during the autumn heads season which gets underway on October 6th with the Tyne ARC round of the Long Distance Sculling Series and Tyne United Small Boats Head.

Masters take accolades at Boston

Although without opposition the Durham ARC Women’s Masters D coxless quad (Clare Woodward, Gabrielle Moore, Jacki Patrickson and Susan Jackson) were the fastest of all the female quads in the Boston Marathon on Sunday September 16th, and even beat several men’s crews, completing the 50km course from Lincoln to Boston in 4hr 47m 20.3s.

Conditions were difficult and as Gabby said ‘The weeds were horrendous, covering the river from bank to bank making it impossible to steer and causing a huge drag factor’, leading to course times being much slower than anticipated. Despite this they survived and rowed well, and even enjoyed it!

The results list is here and photos are available from David Dales.

Rowing the Canal du Midi

Rowers from Durham ARC took part in the 37th Rallye du Canal du Midi in August, an annual rowing tour taking in 200km of the Canal du Midi in Southern France. Now a World Heritage Site the Canal is a marvel of 17th century engineering, the work of engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet, connecting the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea.

Following on from their exploits at the Vogalonga in Venice in 2017 Gill Prescott, Helen McMillan and Caroline Scholl set off from Toulouse in a stable coxed quad on August 13th joining around 200 rowers from around the world on the 5-day journey to Beziers.

Participants arrived from as far afield as South Africa, North America, Brazil and New Zealand as well as from France, Germany, the UK and elsewhere in Europe for what is a unique experience organized by the Association Toulouse Pierre-Paul Riquet. Other British representatives came from Weyfarers Rowing Club, the UK leaders in touring and recreational rowing.

Their accommodation for the week was arranged in the fortified medieval city of Carcassonne, situated at the midway point of the route, with transport provided to and from the tour each day. Around 5 locks were negotiated daily by means of crews trolleying their boats round the lock to relaunch at the other side. Meal breaks were arranged alongside the canal and nothing was left to chance with a medical team on hand at the end of each day’s rowing to tend to blisters and minor ailments.

As if that wasn’t enough crews rounded off the tour with some short sprint races against one another on the River Orb in Beziers on the final day before a reception at the town hall and departure for the journey home.

BR Tour on the Upper Thames

The annual British Rowing Tour took place over the weekend of August 31st to September 2nd 2018. Being the 25th tour gave added cause for celebration for all those taking part, none more so than John and Caroline Turnbull from Weyfarers RC, chair and secretary of BR’s Recreational Rowing Committee, who first took on responsibility for organizing the tour in 1994. As in 1994 the 2018 tour took place on the scenic reaches of the River Thames, this time between Bablock Hythe and Mapledurham, passing through Clifton Hampden (above) and Oxford along the way, and visiting the boathouses of Oxford University. A list of previous routes can be found here.

Touring takes place in stable recreational boats and is safe and straightforward but involves learning some specialist techniques, such as those for passing through locks. Weyfarers have produced some useful guidance.

Among the hundred or so taking part in 20 coxed quads were Linda Forwood and Julie Kitson from DARC who joined rowers from Tyne United and Leeds RC, covering around 25km per day for the three day paddle, with 13 locks to negotiate. Other participating clubs included Nottingham, Broxbourne and Maidstone Invicta.

Funding for eight of the boats used was provided by Charles Stanley Wealth Management with whom British Rowing secured a 3-year sponsorship deal for Recreational Rowing in March.

Julie was also fundraising for The Seashell Trust, a national charity supporting children and young adults with complex learning disabilities.

Tourers were accommodated at a hotel in Oxford and enjoyed a gala dinner at St. John’s College on Saturday night.

Touring can easily become addictive. Linda is already planning to visit Lithuania for next year’s BR European Tour. To find out more about the work of the Recreational Rowing Committee including details of forthcoming tours and events in the UK and overseas see the Recreational Rowing website.


Successful weekend at Sculling Festival

Durham ARC had three entries in the 2018 British Rowing Sculling Festival which took place in sometimes challenging conditions at Nottingham over the weekend of August 18th and 19th. The festival is a fun and competitive event that challenges a sculler’s technical skills, manoeuvrability and competency, and is run as an omnium with points from individual events contributing towards the overall rankings.

Hope Cessford was second fastest overall in the Women’s U23 category in the Long Distance time trial over 3.8km (2 x 1900m) in 17.58.105, Rachael O’Connor representing Durham University BC finished in 22.37.037 in the WU23, and Grace Stewart-Piercy 22.46.027 in the WJ18. In the 250m time trial Hope was the fastest woman overall in 1.00.000, Rachael  clocked 1.11.000 and Grace 1.17.000. Time trial results for all competitors are listed for 3.8km and 250m

Side by side races took place on Sunday, with scullers being placed in finals A to F according to their time trial performance. The schedule was revised and races shortened to 500 metres because of the conditions. Hope was the best placed from DARC, coming 4th in the A final in a time of 1.50.9, Rachael was 4th in the E final and Grace 4th in the F final. Race results are availabe here.

After the completion of 10 exercises over the 2 days the overall points placings were as follows –
Hope Cessford 2nd in Women’s U23
Rachael O’Connor 11th in Women’s U23
Grace Stewart-Piercy 9th in Women’s  J18

For full results listings in each category see U23 and J18.

Photo by Drew Smith Photography

James in Henley Ladies Plate final

Former DARC junior James Snowball, now in his second year at Oxford Brookes University, followed up his success at BUCS last year by reaching the final of the Ladies’ Plate at Henley Royal Regatta in July.

James rowed at bow for the Oxford Brookes and Edinburgh University composite eight, beating Cantabrigian and Leander in the quarter-final and semi-final, before going down in the final against the Brookes first eight who retained the trophy for a seond year, setting a new course record in the process, the winners receiving their trophies from Olympic Gold Medallist and Oxford Brookes University Chancellor Katherine Grainger.

There is YouTube footage of the semi-final against Leander and of the Brookes v Brookes final.