Top class racing at 2014 Brit Champs

The wind may have affected the senior British Rowing Championships, but it couldn’t blow away the enthusiasm as the nation’s top club rowers mixed it with GB’s Olympic and world medal stars in Nottingham.

A full programme was completed on Saturday, but Sunday’s racing into winds gusting above 40mph was curtailed after the time-trials, with medals awarded from racing against the clock.

Saturday saw the open doubles decided by just 0.42 seconds, while New Zealand’s Emma Twigg added a British doubles title to her world singles crown in the women’s equivalent.

GB doublers John Collins and Jonathan Walton found themselves trailing to world medal quad scullers Charles Cousins and Peter Lambert, but were just feet down at half way and moving through.

They had a length with 500m to race, but a powerhouse finishing push almost lifted their Leander clubmates back in front as Collins and Walton held on by just feet in 7.10.23.

“They were coming like a train, but we just got there. What a race,” said Collins.

Twigg, studying in the UK for a sports marketing masters and racing with London 2012 Olympian Mel Wilson in Imperial colours, said: “We wanted to get out fast and control it from the front, and we did.”

Gloucester RC double Olympian Beth Rodford and Gloucester Hartpury product Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne in Reading University colours took silver three lengths back, as Tees RC Olympic lightweight champion Kat Copeland snatched bronze in the dying stages with GB partner Tina Stiller, from 2013 world junior singles champion Jess Leyden and Leander partner Emily Carmichael

“I’m so pleased to get on the podium for our club, it’s great to put them on the map,” said the London 2012 star.

You couldn’t back against three of the GB world champion four – Andy Triggs Hodge, George Nash and Moe Sbihi – winning the coxless fours for Molesey with Olympic and world medallist James Foad, but world 8s champion stroke Constantine Louloudis and his Isis crew kept the pressure on.

“We know Oxford have been hard at it since the start of September, so big respect, they kept pushing us,” said Sbihi after taking gold by 2L.

London 2012 silver medallists Chris Bartley and Richard Chambers and their Leander lightweights almost took bronze, but GB heavyweights Will Satch and Matt Langridge and their Henley-based outfit’s B crew squeezed by in the run in, while Olympic champions Pete Reed and Alex Gregory were pushed into fifth in their Leander A boat.

Minerva Bath’s Helen Glover became the first British woman to hold Olympic, World, European and British titles as she and GB pairs partner Heather Stanning (Army RC) teamed up with Jess Eddie (London) and Zoe Lee (Imperial) to win the women’s 4- by 2L from Leander GB teammates Polly Swann, Louisa Reeve, Ro Bradbury and Katie Greves.

“We entered the fours to be in our comfort zone and the quads to challenge us as sweep rowers,” said Glover, before adding the women’s 4x title in Sunday’s time-trial format.

Coaches were informed that day two’s medals could come down to the clock, so it was race on over 1750m.

But once the spray had settled from charging through two-three foot waves and further side-by-side racing was cancelled, there were some surprises.

Wallingford’s club lightweights took an impressive silver just 2.7secs down on Glover’s boat, with Beth Rodford‘s Gloucester mix of GB seniors and juniors, including Hodgkins-Byrne sisters Mathilda and Charlotte, awarded bronze from Copeland’s Tees boat by just 0.02secs.

World medallist Sam Townsend (Reading University) secured bragging rights over his GB sculling mates with Agecroft lightweight Zak Lee-Green and Sir William Borlase juniors Rufus Biggs and Chris Lawrie, winning men’s quads by 1.3secs from Leander B, with Collins, Walton, Cousins and Lambert having to settle for bronze 2.7secs back.

Leander’s GB squaddies were all powerful in the women’s 8s winning by 17 seconds, as Imperial pipped university plaque winners Newcastle to silver by just 0.4secs.

And the Henley-based outfit’s sweep men, with eight Olympic and world medallists on board, were back on top in the open 8s, winning by 2.8secs from Oxford Brookes, with Molesey’s world beaters back in bronze 1.2secs back.

The two 8s wins saw Leander win the Victor Ludorum with 3,684 points, more than twice the number of points of rivals Oxford Brookes, (1,516) who just pipped Molesey (1,499). 

BRC chairman Jim Harlow said of the second year of the new-look championships: “We knew it was going to be a challenging weekend with the weather, but Saturday went really well in headwind conditions. The racing was great and competitors were really embracing it.

“It’s disappointing to cancel after Sunday’s time-trials, but I really felt everyone, organisers, volunteers, coaches and competitors, were pulling together this year – it’s that idea of a team of the whole sport building this event into an international standard regatta. It’s definitely stepped on from last year.   

“Just look at the talk on Twitter, people were really looking forward to racing and were excited about competing and winning medals.”

By Nick Hartland