Club stars shine at the DJRC
On Saturday 20 October, the cream of British rowing gathered at Dorney Lake for a one-off celebration of our sport – the Diamond Jubilee Rowing Championships.
Stars from the London 2012 Olympic Games were joined by the country’s top club, university and school rowers at the unique event – competing side by side in just four events, with race-qualification determined by speed and boat-type rather than by category.
After a series of time-trials over 1900m, crews were placed into semi-finals based purely on their speed and boat size, ensuring competitive, fiercely-contested racing throughout the weekend-long regatta.
Among the GB rowers taking part in the regatta was gold-medallist Alex Gregory, who joined fellow London 2012 Olympians Ric Egington, Richard Chambers, Chris Bartley and cox Phelan Hill in Leander’s Open Eight.
The top-billed eight were beaten into second place in a furiously competitive final, however, by a Cambridge boat containing Olympic bronze medallist George Nash and three returning rowers from the Light Blues’ victorious 2012 University Boat Race crew.
London 2012 bronze medallist Moe Sbihi returned to Dorney Lake in the third-placed Molesey crew, ensuring a GB presence on each step of the DJRC men’s eight podium.
“Fun racing between Cambridge, Molesey and Oxford Brookes,” Richard Chambers said on Twitter after the race. “A great standard & show piece of British rowing @djrc2012”.
“Had a great day of racing at Dorney!” added Leander and GB cox Phelan Hill. “Really good racing format, lots of excellent races.”
In the Women’s Eights, GB Rowing Team cox Caroline O’Connor steered an Imperial College/Oxford Brookes composite to the championship title – in a boat containing GB rowers from September’s European Championships.
In the smaller boats, Leander completed an impressive double by claiming victories in both the Men’s and Women’s Quadruple Sculls on Saturday.
Peter Lambert and John Collins – members of the gold medal-winning Leander double on Saturday – picked up a second medal each on Sunday, in the Men’s Quad. As did the bronze medal 2x winners Nick Middleton and Jonny Walton. The victory added a glossy finish to a memorable year of regattas for Collins, who also took home the Double Sculls Challenge Cup at this year’s Henley Royal Regatta. Leander went on to win the Victor Ludorum, The Di Ellis Trophy.
Kat Copeland provided one of London 2012’s most iconic moments with her gold medal-winning performance alongside Sophie Hosking in August, but the 21-year-old Tees RC star was unable to finish at the top of the podium in her club colours.
A London / Molesey composite took top spot in the Women’s Double Sculls, with Copeland securing a silver lining alongside Bethany Ryan – picking up the U23 LW2x pennant.
The Championships also saw the introduction of a new U19 category for the quadruple sculls event, which aims to bridge the gap between school and university for young rowers who want to stay in the sport.
Leander and Eton Excelsior crews claimed the inaugural U19 Men’s and Women’s 4x titles respectively, and competitors were optimistic about the impact the category can have on rowing for young people.
“The competition here this weekend has been fantastic,” Runcorn RC’s Val Edwards told the Young Person’s Panel’s Patrick Keefe. “It’s so inspiring to see that, and to be part of it. [The U19s] are all looking to go to Rio, that’s what their aspirations are, so they really want to be a part of it. Knowing how well they’re doing at Junior level, they can see that they can develop and move on to the next step.”
After a fantastic weekend of top-quality racing, the Victor Ludorum went to Leander – who took home a new trophy commemorating British Rowing Chairman Di Ellis’s contribution to our sport.