Recreational rowing races make a splash in the North West

The 2023 Explorer Series of six informal events ran from April to October with 14 clubs participating from all over the region


Explore racing at Liverpool Victoria RC

By definition, recreational rowers are those who row for pleasure and prefer not to race at formal regattas or train towards doing so. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to race at all. The Explorer Series is the ideal opportunity to join together with other recreational rowers for social racing in a relaxed environment. It’s also a great way for those just out of Learn to Row courses to get their first taste of racing.

There aren’t any medals, just the honour of lifting the trophy at the end of the season. This year Lambs to the Water (Lakeland RC) hardly lost a race all season and won the overall honours in the Open Series, but were chased hard to the finish by Hollingworth Hooligans (Hollingworth Lake RC). The Women’s Series was won by the Eager Beavers (Trentham RC), but Ladies that Launch (Sheffield RC) are the ones to watch for next year.

Susie Loates, a member of Trafford RC and the North West Representative on British Rowing’s Recreational Rowing Committee, said, “This year’s Explorer Series was a great success, with a real buzz at each of the events. We’re looking forward to having even more clubs and rowers getting involved next year.”

Emma Brant from Lancaster John O’Gaunt RC said, “I started my Explorer racing journey with three others at the Liverpool Victoria RC event in April 2023. I’d started rowing the previous October, so I had no race experience when we hopped into a boat and set off! From the start, I was hooked on the atmosphere, the competition, meeting lots of like minded people (all of us mad for rowing!), and of course the vast quantities of tea, cake, and bacon butties – a winning combo, even if we lost.

“Rowing is so different to most team sports as a beginner – learning to synchronize with others, remembering to feather, lean back, swing forward … and then… MAKE IT FAST!  I took stroke position for two races, and learned the hard way that it’s not as easy as it looks to control the nerves, do a racing start without catching a crab, and not SOAK everyone… But we were on a high all the way home after winning.

“The ups and down of racing followed, as only three of us were available for the Runcorn event. But we borrowed a trusty crew member from Lakeland, whom I soaked (and everyone else in the boat), and lost a couple of races before promoting them to stroke – their experience, plus calm and steady pacing improved matters no end!”

Explore racing at Runcorn RC Explore racing at Runcorn RC

Laura Eaves, also from Lancaster John O’Gaunt RC, said, “I am a new rower and with slight trepidation I jumped into the bow position in a stable quad at Warrington RC in August 2023 with people I had met only once or twice previously. Explorer races are so much fun and a great way to utilise skills learned in a new setting. We won both the races we competed in and it was brilliant. The rush we felt after can never be rivalled (until the next race) and the camaraderie bonded us together as a team and friends forever. Explorer is the way forward for beginners wanting to up their rowing and racing ante. ‘See you in the stable quad, you smashers!’

“Although not part of the Explorer series, Hollingworth ran an extra set of races in stable quads for us all that were like the ‘big girls and boys races,’ where we got to see what formal race days can be like – and the amount of silverware on offer! We also got to start from a stake boat for the first time, which was a great experience, handled very capably by our brilliant coxes. We had two crews, and the excitement at getting into the final was huge – the drive to keep getting back in the boat and get that feeling again was sealed.

“When it was our club’s turn to host – Lancaster John O’Gaunt RC – so many other club members helped us and shouted from the bank for us – we really felt integrated into our club!

“The feelings of unity when things go well, and trying to hold it together when it doesn’t go well, have really united us into fast friends, even if it could get a bit fraught at times! We went through ‘speed friendships’, as we learned more about each other than could ever be expected in the same space of time in ‘normal life’. Thanks to everyone who organises these races and to David Oates who kept us all racing!

“I’ve learnt far more about rowing (and myself) by doing the Explorer races. It’s been a great way to get into the sport and experience the elation of winning as well as crushing defeats. I’ve totally fallen in love with rowing in the process. Just try getting me out of a boat now…”