British Rowing Awards: Club Crew of the Year shortlist

We share the citations of the regional winners for the Club Crew of the Year Award, with national winners to be announced in a live webcast on 20 January

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After receiving a huge number of nominations for British Rowing Awards from clubs up and down the country, it’s been a tough job for our judging panels to narrow them all down to this year’s shortlist. Thank you to everyone who made a nomination and congratulations to the volunteers, coaches, clubs, crews and other rowers who have been selected.

Five club crews have won regional awards and are now shortlisted for national awards. They are:

  • Cantabrigian RC Women’s Club Eight
  • Leander Club Prince of Wales Men’s Quad
  • Olivia Bates – Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association
  • Pengwern BC Men’s Masters E Crew
  • Tideway Scullers’ School Men’s Eight

Eastern Region – Cantabrigian RC Women’s Club Eight

Despite the highly disrupted season and amateur/volunteer status of its athletes and coaches, Cantabrigian RC was able to put together its fastest ever eight, and were able to race against the top women’s clubs in the UK, many of whom benefit from central funding, full-time athletes and full-time coaches.

At the Metropolitan Regatta the Cantabs club eight qualified for the women’s championship eights A-final winning the club eights event. They reached the A-finals of the women’s eights at Marlow and won the women’s eights category at the Peterborough Spring Regatta.

At Henley Women’s Regatta, the whole squad qualified six crews and 33 athletes for the knockout stages, with the Cantabs club eight reached the final, where they were beaten by Tideway Scullers School. They then raced the Cambridge Town Bumps where they held the Headship and broke the course record. The crew then pre-qualified and were selected for the new Wargrave Challenge Cup at Henley Royal, where they were beaten by Tyne on the Friday.

Thames Region – Leander Club Prince of Wales Quad

The Leander crew worked through a pandemic, their studies and injuries to fulfill their dreams last season. They went undefeated all year, winning the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup at Henley Royal by beating a Twickenham RC and Queen’s University, Belfast composite in the final.

The hours of work these four athletes put in on Zoom during the various lockdowns was phenomenal – all under the guidance of coach Ali Brown. This crew was his first Henley winning crew in 15 years of coaching.

East Midlands Region – Olivia Bates, Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association

2021 was a season to remember for Olivia ‘Liv’ Bates. After the three-month lockdown in 2021 she started back in the boat in April by winning the U23 trials in the LW1x by an impressive 20 seconds.

As Liv continued to improve in the boat over the next several weeks she entered the championship lightweight women’s single at BUCS for Nottingham University and dominated the A-final. This was her first medal at BUCS Regatta and the top medal for the university during the course of the regatta.

A week later Liv was racing at Henley Women’s Regatta back in Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association (NCRA) colours in the championship lightweight single sculls. Liv dominated both her semi-final and the final winning the event with an ‘easily’ verdict.

Four weeks later Liv qualified the single in the Princess Royal Challenge Cup at Henley Royal – she was the only British lightweight to qualify in the women’s single sculls.

Liv’s seasons concluded with her first GB vest, competing at the U23 European Championships in Poland. In the A final Liv dominated throughout the race narrowly missing out on gold by 0.5seconds – it was an impressive silver medal in her first international race.

This has been an incredibly impressive season for Liv who balances all of her training with the multiple placements she has to complete on her Veterinary Medicine course at Nottingham University.

West Midlands Region – Pengwern BC Masters E Crew

The Pengwern BC men’s masters E4+ crew of Jim Wilkinson, Andy Turner, Gary Dee and Richard Barnes have faced adversity through the near-loss of their crew mate.

In July 2019 the day before Henley Royal, Richard Barns (Digger) had a major stroke. He was rushed into hospital and his family were told he probably would not make it through the night because he had a blood clot in the back of his head.

However, Digger survived and over the next few weeks Jim, Gary and Andy supported him, ensuring he did nothing but rest while keeping him involved with the crew and remaining positive.

Prior to this the crew had planned to complete at the Head of the Charles and Head of the Schuylkill in America.

Amazingly, 10 weeks later Digger was reviewed by the consultant and given the go-ahead to train. Through sheer determination and the support of his crew mates the crew trained as much as possible to build their fitness and still with the aim to race in America.

Digger was signed off to travel by his consultant and the raced a coxed four at the Head of the Charles and coxed four and composite eight at the Head of the Schuylkill.

The crew have continued to train hard and have had a successful regatta season this year at the British Rowing Masters Championships and then winning at Burton, Ross and Worcester.

Through this difficult time they supported Digger and each other to come through it and successfully complete both in America and in the UK. It is testament to their friendship and their passion for rowing.

Thames Region – Tideway Scullers School Men’s Eight

This young crew is being nominated for resilience and commitment in the face of adversity.

Selection for the Tideway Scullers School (TSS) Thames Challenge Cup eight crew for Henley Royal was from athletes aged under 20 taking gap years before university, two former TSS juniors returning from US universities, and two club athletes. With no one older than 20, the original crew was young and inexperienced and had not raced together before. However, what they lacked in experience they made up for in commitment and enthusiasm.

Approximately two weeks before Henley a rule change by the Stewards precluded the two TSS members returning from the US from racing in the Thames Cup.  There were no substitutes and it looked as if the crew would have to withdraw from HRR.

The crew worked hard to find club members fit to row and eligible and two rowers were identified, though neither had trained with the crew. They qualified for HRR and all went well, but on the Monday of Henley week, one of the late recruits – a doctor in the Army – was informed that all leave had been cancelled. A withdrawal was back on the cards.  Fortunately, a TSS junior, who had some experience of sweep rowing although few races, had failed to qualify for the Fawley, so he was now in the Thames eight crew.

HRR started on the Wednesday with the TSS eight having had four outings in their third crew formation in ten days. Racing exceeded expectations and TSS went through to the semi-finals where they lost to Molesey, but with their heads held high after impressive performances along the way.

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