Falmouth’s Men’s A crew have retained their title as Cornwall County Champions at Newquay. Despite crew changes over the summer since winning in Scilly, they won all of their races last weekend, looking comfortable for most of the time in their usual position at the front of the pack. Caradon A finished in silver position and Looe, just 2 seconds behind, in bronze.
18 year old Tom Worden, brought in to the number 2 seat for Falmouth declared himself “speechless” at winning his first ever senior event. Moving up from the B crew and with the credibility of having come from a background of winning in past Under 14 and Under 16 crews, he was delighted to have now won his first senior medal. Sam Fortey, new to the stroke seat said he was “elated that all the training had paid off”.
The 45th annual Men’s County Championships, hosted by Newquay Rowing Club, saw a record 96 entries. Conditions could not have more been more different from the Ladies weekend, with flat calm seas. Some might say that meant it was less exciting, but it certainly levelled the playing field for crews, whether they came from coastal or river-based clubs. Matt Robins from Newquay said “home crews don’t necessarily have the advantage in these conditions”. Whilst the Penryn A cox, Craig Pound, summed it up for rowers and spectators alike when he said “We’ve got beautiful conditions today. You couldn’t really ask for more”.
In the opening round heats, a few late entries meant that Help for Heroes, two Isles of Scilly crews, Salcombe A and rowers from Polperro Rowing Club were added at the last minute. They were told they would not follow the usual progression (we’re not sure why?) but would have to qualify purely on time for the next round. This heat was therefore a fast one and their experience of skiff and flash boat racing must have stood Polperro in good stead as they went on to record the fastest time of the weekend around the course, completing it in 12 minutes 33. Robert Hurrell said “this was our first race as a crew in a gig. It was certainly a fast and competitive heat”.
Photo above of the Polperro Rowing Club Crew, taken by Jo Zimber.
The 2nd round races were all won by expected crews including A crews from Ilfracombe, Newquay, Penryn, Falmouth and Caradon plus Falmouth’s B crew.
Lyme Regis, in Race 6, were particularly pleased to go through to the Quarter Finals on the Sunday for the first time in their club’s history. Henry Barlow, crew captain said “We’ve just missed out by finishing 25th twice. We’re so pleased to have done better this year”.
The sun had disappeared on the Sunday but the water was still relatively flat. There were the added races of the Junior Under 16’s Championships to fit in to the day (report below), so the men’s rounds were spaced out a little more, giving some a bit more of a rest than usual.
The Men’s Quarter Finals saw very close racing between Caradon’s A & B crews and other wins from Falmouth, Fowey and Looe. It was the end of the road however for Penryn B, Lyme Regis, Bridport, Polperro, Cadgwith, Isles of Scilly B, Padstow, Cotehele A and B, Swanage, Coverack and Appledore as well as Roseland who were disqualified.
The first semi-final of the afternoon was a fast one, with Falmouth A in berth 6, the opposite end of the line to Caradon A who, all other things being equal, would have the inside line if they reached the first mark together. Every crew was therefore rating high from the off. Falmouth did indeed take the first turn and continued on to win the race, with Caradon in 2nd and Penryn in 3rd. Truro, Newquay and Falmouth B didn’t do enough to qualify on time. In the second semi, Mounts Bay and Coverack had some good tussles, and Ilfracombe were pushing Caradon B on the 2nd leg but then dropped back again. Caradon B did well to come back through to finish in 3rd place. They, Fowey and Looe therefore went through to join the others in the final.
The line-up for the mens’ final was therefore almost a repeat of the 2014 event, but with Looe replacing Coverack this year. Berth positions on the start were Caradon in Lane 1, then Falmouth, Fowey, Caradon B, Looe and Penryn. With the prospect of the traditional two lap circuit of the course ahead, Looe rower Nathaniel Rothwell said “we’re excited about being in the final, but slightly dreading doing two laps! We’ll try and go out and enjoy it though”.
Rowing two rounds in one race in a time of just under half an hour is obviously not what the top crews focus their training for the County Championships on. Arguably an anachronism of the traditional format which may need addressing. But for spectators it’s obviously exciting to watch and even if it was overheard on the VHF radios that the umpires didn’t expect crews to be racing in the final lap, it was obvious that the crews would take every moment as seriously as they could; a top 6 position being at stake.
The majority of finalists were coxed by women this year. The importance of all up crew weight is obviously affecting coxing choices more these days as well as there being a depth of experience and skill amongst the women which means they’re rightly in demand.
From the start of the final race, Falmouth took a small lead over the other crews, though they were rating one stroke per minute lower than Caradon at about 4.5 minutes in at 37.5 spm. They still reached the mark just ahead of an evenly matched Looe and Caradon, though Falmouth’s cox had to fend off the bow of the Caradon boat as it turned. Caradon had the inside line on the mark and advantage over Looe who had to go wider; could this moment have dictated Looe’s eventual placing? Into the 2nd leg and Fowey were in 4th place followed by Caradon B and then Penryn.
Wash from the Umpire boat going out to the first mark, and spectator boats throughout the race, clearly affected most crews and it was a shame to see rowers having to deal with that unnecessary distraction and disruption to their rhythm. At the top of their sport, with all the dedication that they put into their training, why shouldn’t some respect be shown to these crews by the other vessels keeping at a suitable distance?
The race order of gigs continued unchanged until nearing the turn into the 2nd lap, when Looe and Penryn challenged the two Caradon crews for the 2nd and 5th positions respectively. Falmouth kept out of trouble in the lead whilst Fowey did the same in 4th. Penryn eventually found their moment, however, during the 1st leg of the 2nd lap and moved into 5th place.
The first lap had taken Falmouth 13 minutes, 36 seconds to complete; at the end of which they were rating at 35 strokes per minute. Caradon A were still challenging and were up at 38 spm, whilst Looe in 3rd were down at 33. Once Penryn had moved up to 5th, the overall positions were then maintained throughout the rest of the race until the finish, though Looe pushed Caradon A hard until the line.
The victorious Falmouth crew eventually finished in 27 minutes, 27 seconds, 40 seconds ahead of Caradon A, who only just beat Looe by 2 seconds. Fowey were 4th, followed by Penryn and Caradon B.
With their oars up, Falmouth could now savour their achievement and relax after a hard weekend’s racing. Jamie Maxted said he felt “Relieved and elated” whilst Adam Anderson added “We are delighted. We never take winning for granted. We are particularly pleased for the two new rowers in our crew”.
Ashore, Chairman of Newquay Rowing Club, John Cuthill, paid tribute to his team of organisers and said “It’s always an honour to host the County Championships here, as this is where gig racing began. It’s been a wonderful weekend. 45 years ago, in 1970, there were only 4 men’s crews competing. Look at it now.”
Olympic cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel presented the prizes at the end of the day.
The winning Falmouth A crew were: Sam Fortey (stroke), Jamie Maxted (5), Fergus Muller(4), Adam Anderson(3), Tom Worden(2) and Simon Moses (1). Cox: Lizzie Anderson
Juniors Under 16 County Championships
The Junior U16s Championships was held on the Sunday of the Men’s event, having been postponed twice from earlier dates in the summer. Caradon came away with the Gold medals after some tight racing particularly between themselves and Fowey. Rhiannon Bailey, Caradon A cox, said “This is our 3rd year of winning. But our first mixed crew. As well as training & racing in gigs, all 6 also row flash boats for Saltash which has played a big part in developing their technique & stamina. I’m so pleased for both our A and B crews”.
The postponement of the U16s event from earlier dates in the summer, due to weather conditions, was a blow for some clubs who could no longer field a crew in mid-September due to other commitments. Daisy Lambert, from Fowey, said “training has been affected by the changing of dates but we’ve still managed to get out about 3 times a week”.
Most crews included a mixed line up of girls and boys and we think that this may be the first year in which a mixed crew has won overall. With 14 crews entered, and everyone guaranteed at least two races on the day, with a semi-final, final or plate final to race in, it was great to see so many juniors taking part and the support that they received from their clubs and families.
Winning Junior crew: Alice Flanagan, Josie Maddever, Ryan Bailey, Lee Welsh, Leonie Carroll, Ben Russell. Cox: Rhiannon Bailey.
Bude A won the Plate Race.
Photo above courtesy of Rhiannon Bailey