British Rowing Championships – What next?

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:
http://www.petereed.com/britchampsreview/

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 πŸ˜‰ 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)
” ‏@abhenshilwood
@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!

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5 thoughts on “British Rowing Championships – What next?

  1. annoyedrower

    I found his comments quite disheartening – i travelled down to participate so that my partner can trial this year – a lot of expense and effort for someone who is working or studying full-time. Then to hear that they didn’t want to be there / didn’t think they should be there. If it is a requirement to compete at the regatta for you to trial for the team, then the current team needs to go – can’t be one rule for one and one rule for another, even if you do have an olympic title to your name. And yes Nottingham isn’t exactly the best place in the world, but really even commenting on catching germs is a bit much.

    Reply
  2. Rebecca Caroe (Rowperfect)

    The New Zealand national championships has a format similar to one of your options for the future. May encourage others to consider this as an option.
    1 – it’s held in February and final trials for the squad are in March/April. If you want to go to trials you have to do the champs
    2 – there are status races so you can go there and race novice, club, intermediate or premier races (equivalent to novice, IM3, IM1, Open). You get to be national champion in YOUR category racing your peers. You still get to see the Olympians but you aren’t racing against stacked opposition. As a consequence the regatta takes 8 days to run BUT the entire sport from every club (excluding juniors and masters) is present at a single venue, all racing to become national title holders.
    3 – the national team development programme is run in 4 regional performance centres – all the aspiring internationals trial in September to get into these squads – they train through to February and as a result of this national champs regatta get selected for final trials for U23 and Senior crews. If you want to get to final trials you have to race 1x or 2- as well as other events with development athletes as decided by the RPC coaches.

    Advantage – nat champs is integrated into the national team selection system. Everyone has to be there
    Advantage – everyone races at the level that reflects their experience and skill.
    Advantage – up-coming athletes get to race in crews with the greats.
    Disadvantage – the regatta takes a week to run BUT it has a full programme of heats, A/B and C/D finals so you get a full speed order.
    Disadvantage – once athletes are in the RPC they can’t row for their club although they wear club colours to race. Therefore clubs are only participating in the bottom categories. Everyone in an RPC has to race premier (open).

    Comments / Observations?

    Reply
  3. positivepete

    The British Rowing Championships in this form serves no purpose. It seems demand has been dreamed up by administrators who are out of touch with competitive sport.

    If you are an International athlete, why would you care about beating students crews or clubs? There is no value in being a “National Champion” when the standard is so far below your level. If you are a promising student, getting panned by a stacked Leander crew is irrelevant. Only club rowers with no future or talent would feel the need to “compete” against Olympians who don’t want to be there, getting thrashed in the process.

    No, it’s demeaning for everyone involved – the British Championships is only meaningful without International athletes there. They should be held in the same format (keep the great time trials) on the weekend of either Ghent or Nottingham regatta, with the best clubs and universities in northern Europe thrashing it out for the title of Brit Champs.

    Wouldn’t it be great to finally have an event that provided as an accompaniment to HRR, highly prestigious, hard to win, elite but without 7/8 winning crews being Leander? Bring it on.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Caroe (Rowperfect)

      Postivie Pete – didn’t you think it interesting that Pete Reed says in his blog that he’s NEVER been a national champion before now? What’s wrong with the system that top athletes fail to pas through the “normal” club regatta wins before hitting the GB system. I think that’s a shame.

      Reply
      1. positivepete

        The truth is that many internationals have never passed through clubs other than Leander or their university these days. As soon as they get any good, usually by age 21, they are plugged directly into Caversham. For better or for worse, Caversham is a monster fuelled by government cash, and lots of it – clubs are not its concern.

        In some ways that’s a pity but since there is nothing we can or, in my view, should try to do about that inevitable reality, the best approach is to give those of us not in the Caversham machine a vibrant competitive scene – and at the moment, Dorney 123 is a little lacking.

        One thing that would excite would be a gathering of the best universities and clubs from northern Europe (a bit like non-representative HRR or HORR entries) coming together for an elite race at the beginning of the season, filling the gap between Ghent and Ratzburg in terms of standard. Think winning Temple Cup / Thames Cup / Visitors / Wyfold standard crews, open to any athlete not in a national system, e.g. Laga vs Nereus vs Brookes vs Molesey vs Thames from 2013.

        HRR dominates the UK season in an unhealthy way, it would be nice to have another prestigious event in the calendar to aim for, best arranged to ensure exams allow full (European) student and club participation.

        I think trying to cajole reluctant internationals to a Nat Champs dominated by Leander every year simply doesn’t help anyone I’m afraid, and after the initial enthusiasm wears off I think that will become clear.

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