Photo of Caradon Ladies A above courtesy of Mandy Callaghan. All others below our report – copyright of GigRower.
Caradon Gig Club have won the Ladies Cornwall County Championships for the first time ever. Stacey Best, from the winning crew, said “It’s all a bit surreal, but awesome.” Crewmate Leanne Woodward said “I can’t believe it! We’ve waited such a long time for this. I’ve been in the final at Newquay eleven times but I’ve never won”.
The final on the Sunday afternoon saw a tense battle to the finish between Caradon and the previously season-dominant, and current World Champions, Newquay Ladies A. Finishing just under a minute ahead of the rest of the fleet, these two highly experienced crews seemed in a race of their own for much of the final. Another stand out performance this year came from Flushing & Mylor who finished in 3rd place after coming back from behind in the final and, as a club, having never finished higher than 13th before at the Championships.
A record 93 crews took part this year, including the strongest crew from Holland (Scheveningen) who hadn’t been over to race in the UK for a couple of years. They said they wanted to come back and see how they compared at this point. Having been in the final at Scilly on their last visit, they were keen to see if they were still up there. They eventually finished 8th overall and had a fantastic time. Mariska Hooymans said “We love this water. It’s an amazing atmosphere here at Newquay today.”
As usual the event was organised by Newquay Rowing Club with support from the CPGA. They had warned on the Friday evening that conditions might make for some necessary rescheduling during the weekend. Saturday morning dawned and was rowable but a strong wind and tide to contend with, especially when racing to the first mark, meant a battle for all crews to really go for it on that first leg; shortened by 150 metres from its usual length along with part of the final stretch, in the hope of getting through as many races as possible on the first day. The head wind certainly helped contribute to ensuring mostly clean starts, as boats were held back behind the line until the off.
The opening rounds each included a seeded crew, based on their result at the last County Championships as well as this year’s Scilly.
Newquay Ladies A crew set the pace in the first race of the day, completing the course in 15 minutes, 22 seconds. No other crew beat that time on the Saturday.
By lunchtime, the less able crews were struggling and with the tide dropping and seas becoming rougher, a curtailment to proceedings was suddenly announced. Julie King, on behalf of the organisers, said “We were extremely disappointed to cut Day 1 short, as wind conditions meant that the surf near the harbour gap and start line was becoming a concern for safety”.
Sunday morning fortunately delivered sunny and relatively safe conditions although there was still a messy sea to contend with. The racing started early at 8am and the Junior Under 16s Championships was yet again postponed to ensure that all the Ladies’ racing could be completed today. For fairness, the remaining five 1st Round heats would be treated separately in terms of qualifying times for Round 2 but half of the fleet were, as usual, knocked out after this stage, and then again after the Quarter Finals and Semis.
By late afternoon, the line-up for the Championship final was decided. In order of Berth position, with the first being closest to the quay, it went Mounts Bay, Flushing & Mylor, Caradon, Newquay, Par Bay and Fowey.
A great start from both Caradon and Newquay meant they pushed ahead of the rest of the fleet pretty quickly. Mounts Bay were in third place initially followed by Flushing & Mylor, then Fowey and Par. Whilst Caradon created, and held, a small lead on Newquay, the other four gigs changed places at various stages during this first leg; with Fowey and Par overtaking Flushing and then Flushing pulling back to retake the lead, getting level with Fowey by the 6 length buoy which gave them the clear advantage on the mark.
Caradon had safely secured the inside line on Newquay round the turn. Possibly assisted by starting closer to the quay but we took a rating from them of 36.5 strokes/minute well into that first leg compared to a rate of 32 from Newquay at a similar point. Into the second leg, this pair of gigs extended a huge gap between themselves and the rest of the fleet. Three quarters of the way to the second mark, Flushing got past Mounts Bay to move into 3rd.
Into the home stretch and the spectator boats were starting to disrupt the rowers’ rhythm with their wash but Caradon kept the power on, eventually finishing 6 seconds ahead of Newquay, with Flushing & Mylor in 3rd, 50 seconds later. Mounts Bay had to fight to stay in 4th, pushed by an ever challenging Fowey crew but they steadfastly held them off and came over the line followed by Par.
The new Ladies County Champions looked stunned once they’d stopped on the water. But shock soon turned to elation as the Caradon girls realised what they’d achieved. Huge congratulations to the crew: Leanne Woodward, Naomi Philpot, Natalie Smith, Stacey Best, Beatrix Holman, and Kate Bourn.
Julie King, from Newquay Rowing Club, said “Caradon have never been able to get the top spot, so I was delighted for Steve Kent and his crew that they had finally done it as they certainly deserved to be there.”
The Flushing & Mylor crew were also thrilled to finish in 3rd place. Lynn Stonehouse, their number 2 rower, said “We were delighted to make it into the final, but once there, our confidence and training really paid off and the whole crew rowed a stonking race. It was an unbelievable feeling to pass so many other crews.’’
Julie King summed up the host’s feelings “Overall the racing over the weekend was excellent, with crews of all abilities enjoying their races.” Anne Curnow Care from the CPGA said “It’s great to see that the numbers rowing continue to grow.”
Well done to everyone who took part, whatever their level of attainment. Some clubs fielded lots of crews (Newquay taking the record by far!) and many had more than one in the Quarter or Semi-Finals. Some travelled some distance but didn’t eventually get their first race until the Sunday, including both Lyme Regis crews. Well done for hanging in there!
The teas and food supplied were, as usual, superb and the extra portaloos (though pitch dark in some!) extremely welcome. It was nice to see so many tourists enjoying the spectacle and asking questions about our sport.
Thanks for the great feedback about our End of Season GigRower magazine which was on sale during the event, with a donation to the host club. We’ll be back at the Men’s Weekend and copies can still be ordered online from HERE.
Geraldine Day from Bridport, and racing for her 5th time at Newquay, summed things up for most rowers we met when she said it had been “An eventful weekend with lots of highs and lots of friends”.