Para and adaptive racing success at Sudbury Regatta

Ben Pritchard, GB development Para rower, competed at Sudbury Regatta’s adaptive event on 4 August. He recalls his day, which culminated in a final with his great friend and rival Kingsley Ijomah


Ben Pritchard racing at Sudbury Regatta (c) Bill Hiskett

Hosted by Sudbury Rowing Club, Sudbury Regatta took place on Saturday 4 August and is a traditional market-town regatta on the beautiful River Stour, along the Essex and Suffolk border.

Sudbury Regatta caters for all sorts of athletes and crews and this year it ran a four-boat adaptive rowing event for local and national athletes.

Ben Pritchard, GB development Para rower, took part and relates his experiences below:

“Unlike the international stage, the domestic adaptive scene can be a little scarce at times, with athletes often having to race out of class, usually being smoothed by the introduction of a time handicap system. However, a little bird told me that Sudbury Regatta would be different, and that I would get the chance to race against not one, but two, other PR1 arms and shoulders male rowers, Kingsley Ijomah of Marlow Rowing Club and Luke Payne of Sudbury Rowing Club; along with one PR2 trunk and arms female rower, Sophie Brown of Sudbury Rowing Club.

“Delighted, I decided that the trek to Suffolk would be worth it and decided to enter. The drive to Sudbury is relatively easy and it’s very picturesque when you arrive, so definitely worth it!

“My advice to those in a chair is – take your free wheel – as if you are a social butterfly and want to get involved in cheering others, you will need this to navigate the meadow unless you are an expert at back-wheel balance.

Kingsley and I have a great friendship so getting to face him in the final was very special

“The 650-metre course is held on a meandering river encompassing an 80-degree bend and crews were positioned on either the Suffolk or Essex stations. First up were Kingsley and Luke, with Kingsley taking the win.

“Then Sophie and I began our battle down the course. I was ahead at the bend and thought to myself, ‘Time to take this home’ and in an attempt to turn on the afterburners, I managed to get myself caught in the reeds. Overcoming my initial panic, I navigated my way out and managed to win, despite Sophie putting in a great performance.

“Kingsley [below] and I have a great friendship, which in turn creates a great rivalry, and so getting to face him in the final was very special. He is adamant that before this, I had never beaten him, although this is up for debate!

“Unusually, unlike any other regatta, Sudbury RC offered to have Ella Willott, British Rowing Paralympic Pathway Coach, commentating on the race. Who better than a coach who had spent a year having to put up with Kingsley and myself? Double trouble.

“So we took to the water mano-a-mano to settle the debate. I had the inside of the bend (Essex) and Kingsley, the outside (Suffolk). ‘Marlow, Twickenham – Attention!’ We were off.

“Since training with Kingsley last year, he has certainly spent the winter working on his ability to rate and he was off the start at what seemed like 100. I tried to match him rate-for-rate but decided I needed to focus on my own strokes and settled back down to my usual 32. Half way up the first straight it was neck-and-neck – we took the corner and there was still nothing to it.

“But, having got the better line around the corner, the time was right and I dug in for 10 strokes. A gap opened and I pushed on. BEEP. I crossed the line, followed closely by Kingsley.

“I believe the Kingsley v Ben series is now at 2-2. But Kingsley will say 2-1.

“Next up for me is the Oxford City Royal Regatta on 18-19 August so I look forward to seeing everyone there.”

If you’d like to find out about adaptive or Para rowing then take a look here

The next issue of Rowing & Regatta magazine profiles Ben Pritchard – available from 31 August. Details here.