The weather gods were (relatively) kind at Holme Pierrepont last weekend and all racing went off largely on schedule. Most of my predictions turned out pretty correct. But what to make of the new look Senior British Championships?
Pete Reed has written on his blog a very open and honest appraisal of his feelings about the event Its probably safe to assume that his views are mirrored by other members of the national squad. You can read his thoughts here:
The most telling comment for me is this: “Here’s the rub, could I care less? Not really, no.” There were other comments on twitter from the likes of Dan Ritchie and Graeme Thomas regarding Leander’s dominance and the point of the top internationals taking part.
On the flip side there are comments from the Universities and clubs saying how much they enjoyed the event, Newcastle’s report praised the format for “giving the crews an unmissable chance to gain experience against the top crews in the country”. When I tweeted that I was going to write this blog I received comments like this from Kieran Clark @kieranclark7 “personally I enjoy the current format and like having the chance to race against the top guys”.
So what is becoming clear is that for the University and Club rowers they loved the opportunity to race in the same event as the world and Olympic champions and test themselves against the very best in the world. This is a rare opportunity and only really happens at the likes of the Eights head and the Fullers Head of the River Fours. This means there is a demand for a championships that involves the top GB guys as well as the top student and club-level crews.
But, for the squad it was a burden, a three-line whip that they would have rather avoided. It was, perhaps the rowing equivalent of a golf Pro-Am tournament. A great experience for the amateurs but a bit of a bore and a trial for the internationals.
So what’s the solution? I would not be so conceited to suggest that I have the answer. But here are some thoughts and suggestions (both my own and a few from twitter).
Option 1: keep the format the same.
All the squad athletes are required to compete for their clubs. The students and club rowers enjoy the racing and come away with nothing as all the senior medals are won by Leander 😉 The squad guys get increasingly pissed off and resentful of being included.
Option 2: A National Club Championships
Held at the end of July. A full range of boat classes, but no athlete who has raced at the U23 World Championships, European Championships, World Cups, World Championships or Olympics within the previous 4 years is allowed to compete. There is merit in this sort of championships, and is very much what has happened in the past few years. But, crucially, it doesn’t involve the GB squad members. As mentioned earlier there is a desire (I think) in the British rowing community to see its top athletes competing domestically.
This brings me onto option 3, where things start to get interesting:
Option 3: A “hybrid” Championships
Held over 3 days this combines GB small boat trials with intermediate, student and “Club” level events. This is how I see it working:
Friday: All GB trialists compete in 1X, 2X, 2- (Heavyweight and lightweight, Senior and U23) with time trials in the morning and finals in the afternoon.
Heats and semis for Club and student events. “Club” crews are not allowed to contain any athlete who has competed internationally in the past 4 years (as above).
Saturday: Club and Student finals. Also there would be “intermediate” events in M4-, M4X, M8, W4-, W4X, W8 These crews can contain no more than 1 international athlete in the 4- and 4X and no more than 2 in the 8’s. All these events would be raced over 2K
Sunday: now the “fun” starts. International class mixed sprints…races in lightweight and heavyweight doubles (1 male and 1 female). Also quads with 1 heavyweight man, woman and lightweight man and women and 8’s with 2 of each. These races are over 500m…could even attract a bit of tv coverage (LeylandDaf Power Sprints anyone?….google it if you’re too young to remember them!!)
other options that have come from twitter include:
Option 4 (from Eton’s Head Coach, Alex Henshilwood)
@fatsculler the format for the Australian Youth Olympics works well. Three boat classes, 8 athletes and a cox, men and women. 2 days of competition. And 4 categories: Masters, U21, Internationals (incl OG & WRC previous 4 yrs); everyone else (students, clubs, the lot).”
This has events in 1X, 2X, L2X, 2-, 2X & 8. This is definitely a good idea and would be relatively easy to run, although it does limit the number of athletes able to compete from each club to 8 (plus cox).
Other comments include:
david martin @BostonGunner
@fatsculler one boat per event per club and must have raced for that club at least twice prior to the champs. Stops flags of convenience
Lewin Hynes @Kodi_bear
@fatsculler tbh love the idea of random lottery to row with the big guns but maybe after racing with fixed known crews.
Lewin Hynes @Kodi_bear
@fatsculler pro, educational and amateur categories would be my vote, representing, roughly, the three levels of time commitment.
graham everitt @allcorknobottle
@fatsculler I’d prefer something that allows club crews to compete for medals but with the close racing & entries absent from the old system
If anyone else has any suggestions then shout…either here on on twitter.
At the end of the day it’s clear there is a will from the likes of Reed, Ritchie, Sibhi etc to race for their clubs but they want to compete in meaningful competition. There is also a desire from the clubs and universities to measure themselves against the very best….there is an answer out there….I’m just not sure what it is!