Students organise lockdown regatta with 2km run open to everyone

Students from De Montfort University and Bath Spa University rowing clubs are organising a regatta this weekend to raise money for the NHS

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The Lockdown Regatta is the brainwave of three 20-year-old university student rowers from De Montfort University (DMU) and Bath Spa University who are organising the virtual competition over this weekend’s bank holiday weekend. The regatta is a 2km run and is open to everyone from J14 and upwards to masters K category – no rowing machine needed!

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We caught up with student organisers Abi Watson, newly elected President at DMU RC, Tabitha Clarke, outgoing President at Bath Spa University RC and Kate Unwin, who is replacing Tabitha as President, to find out more. Bath Spa University RC was voted sports club of the year by their athletics union and Tabitha was also awarded female sports personality of the year.

How did you get involved with organising the Lockdown Regatta?

Tabitha: DMU RC organised the BUCS Virtual Regatta and we thought that the format was really good and easy to use with any age group. So we contacted DMU on Instagram and Abi replied and we started working together! We hadn’t met each other before, but it’s gone from there.

Abi: We didn’t expect the BUCS Virtual Regatta to be quite so successful and then when we put it on social media it took over the whole weekend!

We had lots of comments from people checking their results, so it was great to see that people were getting quite competitive! One guy from Newcastle Uni wanted to do his race again and he ended up running again at nine o’clock at night. He ended up being a second off first place in his category! Newcastle still won the overall Victor Ludorum.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how much we can raise [for the NHS]

What categories can people enter?

Abi: We’re offering J14 to J18, open men and open women’s and masters from A to K. Because some people are really good runners and some aren’t, we also have elite and beginner categories for open women and open men to make it fairer. I think a lot of people have parents who’ve entered the masters and they might never have rowed before, but they can all run so it’s great to see.

How are the entries going?

Tabitha: Fifty-one crews have entered with 186 individuals at the moment including juniors, students and masters of all ages.

Clubs have entered from across the country including six junior crews from RGS High Wycombe, Weybridge, Birmingham University, University of South Wales, Newcastle, Northumberland and UCL Medical School crews – RUMSBC. Oxford Brookes have entered an elite eight from their Temple-winning crew at Henley.

We’ve also had interest from people abroad – from Hong Kong for instance. Singapore RC and Johannesburg University have asked if they can join in. Everyone is welcome to take part!

How will the running races work in practice?

Abi: So, for the BUCS Virtual Regatta everyone recorded it on their Strava and then at the end of the day we had to go through this and it took ages to do the results. But this time we’ve paired up with Karl Stapleton at RaceLeader, so you can submit your time and you will get your final position automatically. We’re really thankful for RaceLeader! Karl has spent a week putting the system together and he’s been really helpful.

You can run at any point during the day, as long as you submit your Strava link by 7pm. On Saturday evening we’ll announce the results of the time trials. The C and D finals will be on Sunday and A and B finals on Monday, so we’re following the same format as a rowing regatta.

I miss rowing so much and I miss just being in a community, so I just wanted to do something

Tabitha: You’ll also be able to see how your club is faring on the RaceLeader website and you can click on other people’s Strava links to see how they did – so it’s a bit more interactive!

How important are these virtual events to the rowing community during this time?

Tabitha: The whole of the regatta season has gone which people were looking forward to, and now it’s ideal rowing weather and the water’s flat, so it’s really frustrating. I think having these events is keeping the community going. It’s good to have the social interaction.

At Bath Spa, we all do our runs in our new rowing kit – which is quite bright with garish leggings so at least it gives passers-by something to laugh about!

What have you all enjoyed the most about being involved so far?

Abi: It’s a good distraction from my work! It’s nice to have something to do in lockdown. Other than this I just have my uni work.

Tabitha: It’s nice for our clubs because we’re not the biggest university rowing clubs. Bath Spa has only been going for three years since 2017.

What are you looking forward to most about the weekend?

Abi: I’m really looking forward to seeing how much we can raise. We raised £800 at BUCS Virtual Regatta, so we’ve set the target at £1,000 this time – if we can get to £1,000 that would be amazing!

Tabitha: I think just seeing how many people take part from all the different clubs. There are a lot more rowing clubs than I realised – I was looking at the British Rowing Almanack for their names and it was actually quite useful!

Kate: It’s been quite fun to organise it. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone come together and do stuff even though we’re in the lockdown.

Having these events is keeping the community going. It’s good to have the social interaction

How can people donate to the NHS?

Abi: We’re suggesting that people pay £5 per seat, but it’s a suggested donation and if they can’t afford it then any donation is appreciated.

We’ve partnered with Square Blades and they’ve created a special T-shirt for the event. They cost £20 and £6.67 of this will then go to the NHS.

Finally, on a personal note, how has working on the regatta helped you?

Kate: I miss rowing so much and I miss just being in a community, so I just wanted to do something. I miss the competition and doing exercise so it’s quite important. I’ve been involved in rowing for eight years of my life, so it’s been quite tough not being able to do it and this is the closest thing to it.

Tabitha: Kate and I have done our first coaching qualifications, so we normally spend a lot of time rowing and coaching at the club every week.

Everything we were meant to be doing has all been changed – for instance, we don’t have our graduation ceremony anymore, so it’s nice to be involved in something.

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