Danson Dashes 500m sprints

On 5 July, entries open for the Danson Dashes, revived last year after a gap. The sprint regatta is on 18 August and is hosted by Erith and Gravesend Rowing Clubs

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Last year's Danson Dashes (c) Simon Davis

After an absence of over three decades, the Danson Dashes is back on the race calendar and is taking place on Saturday, 18 August. Located in Bexleyheath, southeast London, the regatta plans to offer a full programme of events this year.

Phil Simmonds, Erith RC captain, said: “It was a fantastic day’s racing last year with nearly 70 races of 500m sprints held on the lake in the tranquil setting of Danson Park. We even had Paralympic champion Naomi Riches down to hand out the prizes!”

Umpiring stalwart Andrew Blit – 27 events umpired in 2017 – was in charge of the microphone at last year’s regatta after Erith crews had enjoyed his lively commentating style while competing in Blit’s home event at Sudbury.

He says: “I can do a po-faced Henley style but I prefer being ironic and banter.

I think shorter-distance racing should be given a higher priority. There’s much entertainment to be had and it’s almost always closer racing

“For the Danson Dashes I researched the towns in which the crews were based – so mainly Chatham, Gravesend and Hackney. I looked at the history of rowing there so that was interesting.”

Blit thrives on making mischievous comments to spice up proceedings.

“If I see a hat that offends my senses then I’ll say so. I’ve also been known to contrast rowing styles, so if there’s two scullers and one has finesse and the other has brute strength, I might ask the audience who they think will win, finesse or brute strength?

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“I get a lot of positive feedback – people will ask how I got away with whatever I said or tell me that actually they’re really proud of their hat!

“My performances at regattas probably involve enough amateur dramatics to last a lifetime. But I hope I’m enhancing people’s enjoyment of the day.”

This year’s Danson Dashes will miss out on Blit’s inimitable style as he’ll be at the British Rowing Sculling Festival instead.

“I’d love to go in 2019,” he says. However, there is sure to be more lively commentary this August.

Commentating on sprints provides a different challenge from longer races, though. “You have to pick it up quickly before they finish,” Blit says, before adding: “I think shorter-distance racing should be given a higher priority by rowers. There’s much entertainment to be had and it’s almost always closer racing.”

Find out how you can enter the Danson Dashes here.

This article was originally published in the June / July edition of Rowing & Regatta magazine.