At least two records were broken at the British Masters Championships at Nottingham on Sunday 18 May. With around 750 crews taking part, the organisers believe that this was the biggest one-day regatta ever held in this country. And seven of these crews came from Upton, which must surely be a record for our club as well.
The steady increase in the popularity of this event in recent years has been matched by a rise in the quality of the crews taking part, and medals are harder than ever to come by. Veteran rowing in Britain has become highly competitive, and all of our crews found the pace pretty hot. But even though we didn’t bring home any prizes, it was a very enjoyable day out for all the Upton rowers who took part, and an excellent way to kick off the season before we turn to local regattas.
All of our women’s crews ended up having to row in Championship (i.e. elite) events, in which the pace was even hotter. First up were Debbie and Sally in Mas A coxless pairs; since Mas A starts at the tender age of 27, this is really an elite event and the crews at the front soon opened up a big gap. The main consolation is that next year our crew will be in Mas B!
The women’s quad of Liz, Linda, Jo and Maggie came next. Having only six sculling points between them they had entered the IM3 event, but a rule change made by the organisers this year made them ineligible; this was because Maggie held four of these six points and was thereby not entitled to race in IM3 in this regatta. So up to the Championship Mas E/F event they had to go, where their opposition included the gold medallists from last year, from Tyne United. And to add insult to injury, Tyne United were to be given a 10 second start by virtue of being Mas F compared to our crew’s Mas E! After an interminable delay at the start caused by a very strong cross-headwind, the race got under way. The Upton crew rowed extremely well but couldn’t quite match the pace of the winners – with 200 metres to go they were holding on to third place, but lost it by under a second to Mortlake Anglian and they finished only 7 seconds behind Tyne United, who had defended their 10 second start by just enough to take the gold medal again.
Our quad then split up and rowed in two other events – Mas E double sculls and Mas E coxless pairs, and again these were both Championship events; this time Jo and Linda had legitimately entered the IM3 event, only to find that the organisers then elected to combine the two events so that they had to race against the top crews anyway. They didn’t help their cause by a disastrous start in which they stopped for several seconds under the mistaken belief that the starter had called them back, by which time all the other crews were heading over the horizon. After they finally got going they managed to row very well, but found themselves chasing a lost cause. Liz and Maggie also had a good row, but were outgunned by two much bigger crews.
Julian and Tabitha made their debut in Upton colours in Mixed Mas D double sculls – another Championship event. This again proved to have attracted a highly competitive field in which they finished fifth, although only a length or so away from the bronze medal.
Our remaining two crews had Andrew and Jeremy in a MasE IM3 double scull and Maurice, Duncan, Dan and Matt in a MasC Novice quad, and both performed creditably. In the double sculls event, Derby showed a turn of speed that belied their status and left the remaining three crews well behind. In the end, Andrew and Jeremy had to settle for fourth place, but they were in close contention with these other two crews throughout the race. This was their first competitive appearance in a double, and they should be able to achieve better results in the future. The quad managed to come second in a three-boat race, ahead of Newark but behind Norwich, who took first place. Since they had had their first outing together for several weeks only the night before the race (after suffering from various work-related absences in the last month), this was quite encouraging, and with more time together this crew should have much more potential.
We clearly have some way to go to match the standard of the top crews at this event. However, it’s still a great event to go to and be part of, and we can only benefit from the competitive experience of testing ourselves against the best Masters crews from all over the country. Let’s see if we can break our new seven-crew entry record again when we go next year!