British Rowing Awards: COVID Hero shortlist

We share the citations of the regional winners for our new award – COVID Hero – with national winners to be announced in a live webcast on 20 January


After receiving a huge number of nominations for British Rowing Awards from clubs up and down the country, it’s been a tough job for our judging panels to narrow them all down to this year’s shortlist. Thank you to everyone who made a nomination and congratulations to the volunteers, coaches, clubs, crews and other rowers who have been selected.

There are five regional winners for the COVID Hero award and all are now shortlisted for national awards. They are:

  • Aidan Hunt – Runcorn Rowing Club and North West Umpires (North West Region)
  • Aline Heyerick – Birmingham RC (West Midlands Region)
  • Chris Elder and Hayley Shipton – Peterborough City Rowing Club (Eastern Region)
  • Clay Knowles – Ardingly Rowing Club (Thames Region)
  • Zoom Ergos

Aidan Hunt (Runcorn Rowing Club and North West Umpires)

Aidan has kept the club going through COVID, but also, as the club’s unpaid boatman, he has put in new security and kept us vigilant over social distancing as well as also contributing to the COVID working group. At the same time he has repaired all our boats, completing most of the day-to-day maintenance on an aging fleet – all for free and while feeling poorly himself. He has also volunteered at the region’s COVID centres, organising the use of our gazebos where needed.

On top of this, as an umpire he has kept and maintained the North West Region’s radios and umpiring equipment, ensuring that it is kept clean and inventoried.

Aline Heyerick (Birmingham RC)

In March last year when all club activity ceased overnight, Aline spent a lot of time developing a weekly club newsletter and coordinating a series of activities to keep members entertained with quizzes and informed with webinars on coaching and performance.

She motivated members to take part in the British Rowing challenges – the club won most of these. All her great work and enthusiasm played a huge part in keeping the club cohesive and ready to get back on the water when restrictions made this possible.

Chris Elder and Hayley Shipton (Peterborough City Rowing Club)

Chris Elder and Hayley Shipton are a married couple and are the men’s and women’s captains at Peterborough City RC (PCRC). When the first lockdown came into effect they formed part of the club’s COVID Management Panel and played a leading part in restarting rowing in the summer of 2020, including setting up and managing an online booking system for members. This was an important part of establishing procedures to comply with Government guidelines.

When their 12-month term of office came to an end, they volunteered to remain in post to continue to help the club through the difficulties created by COVID. After the third lockdown they again played a leading part in getting rowing activity going. They have encouraged former members to get back into the sport in 2021 and helped devise rules for members to participate safely.

In September 2021 they both agreed to stand for a third year as captains at a time when rowing activity was still recovering at the club and there were no strong candidates to take over. They have shown great resilience in helping the club through this unprecedented period.

Clay Knowles (Ardingly Rowing Club)

The Reverend Canon Clay Knowles, pastorally called Father Clay, is a mainstay of Ardingly RC. Clay is actually retired, but has been locum priest at St Edward the Confessor in Burgess Hill for nearly two and a half years. Clay was in the extremely vulnerable age group of the over-70s during the pandemic.

In the first lockdown he had to do everything from home. When allowed to get back into Church, he managed to live stream services with reasonable success. Parishioners were encouraged to stay in contact with each other through WhatsApp or other social media which helped maintain the sense of parish cohesion during the enforced isolation, particularly benefiting the lonely.

Clay kept fit and involved with the rowing club throughout lockdown – fully participating in our online activities and was often the first to report his distance rowed in our Virtual Row to Tokyo. As one of our two welfare advisors, he was always available for a guiding hand and a word of wise counsel. He finally returned to sculling himself in the summer and has been coaching our taster sessions and taking out the safety launch again. We can’t wait to have him christen our boats at an upcoming boat naming.

Zoom Ergos

Zoom Ergos, which started in lockdown in November 2020, has helped and inspired both rowers and non-rowers in so many ways – improving fitness, sharpening technique, understanding motivation, and simply sharing the joy of non-competitive indoor rowing with others (which has helped greatly with loneliness and mental health issues too) – and all for absolutely no charge.

Guin, Jonny, Lucy and the other fabulous hosts – many of them Olympians and world-class athletes – have given, and continue to give, their time and their expertise free of charge, and are always so open, friendly and helpful.