The 2012 British Rowing Championships (BRC) have been given a makeover this year - ahead of some major changes to the format of our national championships in 2013. In a special article for The Stream, BRC Chairman Jim Harlow explains some of the difficult decisions that have been made, and why they were vital to recapturing the magic of a British rowing institution.
'The British Rowing Championships are entering a period of major change. A lot of debate – some of it misinformed – has gone on since it was first announced that we were going to split into separate Junior and Senior Championships from 2013. Here’s why we’re changing, and what we’re going to do.
'Our over-riding aim is to raise the standard of senior competition at British Rowing’s national event. When the Championships started 40 years ago they featured the best crews in the country, often including the national squad. But times have changed and now we have effectively become the Club Championships, which don’t attract the size or quality of entry that you would expect of a national event.
'If we are to have a real British Championships once again, we need to attract the country’s top rowers, including those who are away on international duty through most of the summer regatta season. The only time they are reliably available for domestic competition is in October, so we are taking the radical step of moving the Senior Championships into the autumn from 2013. The plan is that international rowers will compete for their home clubs so we get the best racing possible, and so that winning a BRC medal truly means you are the best in the country.
'Of course this is a big upheaval for us all, but we hope that regaining a true national championships is worth the effort. We also hope that British Rowing’s Council will support our view that the move needs to be part of a wider change to the early autumn racing calendar, so side-by-side racing isn’t concentrated into a few weeks in mid-summer.
We will continue to offer a full Junior Championships in July. The size and quality of the Junior entry has grown in recent years and, in line with the sports development programmes, we want to continue to make it attractive to coaches and competitors. Regulars will know that we respond positively to feedback, and so this year we are making some minor changes to the race format after consultation with the Junior Rowing Commission. Full details are on our website at www.britchamps.org .
'In the meantime 2012 is a transitional year. We are running over three days at Holme Pierrepont in July, when we celebrate our 40th Anniversary. British Rowing has decided to run a separate Diamond Jubilee Rowing Championships at the Eton College Rowing Lake, Dorney this October, which will trial some of the racing formats that may be suitable for the future, and give some indication of whether an October multi-lane regatta is viable. It has been determined that the events offered this October will not be offered at the BRC in July.
'We will publish our plans for 2013 next autumn, so everyone has plenty of time to plan for the change. What won’t change is our commitment to running high quality Championships that are there for the competitors not the organisers, and our commitment to Holme Pierrepont and Strathclyde Park as the natural homes for the country’s national event.
'For more information about this year’s 40th Anniversary British Rowing Championships at the National Watersports Centre, Holme Pierrepont on 13th – 15th July, visit www.britchamps.org.'
Chairman, British Rowing Championships