Thames Ditton trials pathfinder eights

Organising Committee member Ann Colborne reviews the new pathfinder format offered at this year’s Thames Ditton Regatta…

Held on Saturday, the same day as Tees Regatta, Thames Ditton also piloted an experimental pathfinder event for eights – with an entry not based on points and with none awarded.

The objective? The committee wanted to provide more races for all the crews, giving everyone at least one close race against fairly equal opposition. Crews entering included schools, colleges and clubs. Their racing status was not required, but all crews had to be of current IM2 or below.

The regatta committee felt that at least eight crews were needed to meet these criteria, but in the end with eight open crews but only five women’s crews, it was decided to go ahead anyway.

The first round in each case was a timed side by side race; the five-crew entry meant that to achieve this all crews raced twice and aggregate times were used. The eight-crew entry only needed one round to give each a ‘raced’ time. Without stake boats, the timing was done from the bank just above the start.

The second round was drawn by time; first versus second, third versus fourth etc. The fifth crew in the women’s event was eliminated from this round – but at least they had two races.

So how did it go? From the regatta’s viewpoint it went successfully. We achieved the objective of giving everyone at least two races and the racing in the final rounds was mostly well matched, particularly in the women’s event. It cost us a total of four extra races in an already very crowded day, so this element will have to be watched.

Food for thought – we will never know if we would have had a better entry if we had provided our usual J18, IM3 and IM2 events, but if the entry had only been the same number then probably none of the events would have actually run.

What of the competitors? Well it is early days and the comments so far have been anecdotal, but the general outcome seems to be positive. The crews and their coaches were grateful for the extra racing experience. 

Some of the finals involved racing the same crew again, but in one final the slower crew from the timed race won. This would be less likely with a larger entry and if this format is to continue will have to be addressed.

Ann Colborne is on the organising committee of Thames Ditton Regatta –