Loughborough Boat Club is once again back on the water and racing side by side against other rowing clubs. The weekend of 10/11 July saw crews competing on the picturesque River Trent at Burton on Trent, and the event provided Loughborough’s first chance to race in a river regatta for nearly two years. This time span highlights the dire effect that the extreme Covid rules have had on the sport. The organisers of the Burton Regatta, all of them volunteers, are to be hugely congratulated for their willingness to adapt to the multitude of extra rules and precautions imposed on outdoor sports events, and to take on the challenge of enabling their Regatta to go ahead – their first since 2018, due to flooding and lockdown in previous years.
With overseas holidays having been pretty much eliminated for the past year, the opportunity was taken for the Club to have a UK ‘minibreak’ by camping overnight in the glorious setting of the watermeadows at Burton. This is perhaps the first time members have stayed here overnight since it is so close to home but at least this gave ‘Mouse’ a sporting chance of reaching the venue, in spite of being heavily overladen with a military style field kitchen and yet another large black dog. A wonderful evening was had by all with Mike’s mystery paella proving a triumph, into which was emptied whatever unspecified foodstuffs the other campers wanted to get rid of.
The format of a river regatta is a knockout draw, with each race consisting of two crews racing side by side and the winning crew progressing to the next round. This is the most challenging form of rowing possible, but also the most enjoyable, with the demands of a twisting river and variable water currents all playing an important part. Keeping a course in the fastest stream at all times is vital and in some places there are only a few yards available between oars and riverbanks. Add to this the fact that many of the boat classes do not have coxswains, and are steered by one of the rowers who regularly has to look back over his shoulder to see the course ahead, and the difficulties become obvious. To quote one of the LBC steersmen half way through his race ‘Where’s the bleeping course gone?’
With the numbers of available races restricted by the social distancing rules, and many rowers having lost ‘race fitness’, Loughborough fielded a smaller than usual band of rowers over the two days but still managed to enter 11 crews made up from 15 individuals. Particular highlights included watching the Club’s Mixed Eight take to the water, followed by a first race in Loughborough Colours for new member Phil Gunning, and first ever races for novices Natalie LaValley and Paul Corrigan. Natalie has made huge progress in quickly mastering the single scull and looking smoothly coordinated in her boat, whilst Paul has settled very easily into the number 5 seat in the central powerhouse of the Eight. Meanwhile, Club stalwarts Mike Targett and Scott Ferris impressed the crowd with their extremely brightly coloured pink racing strip in the Masters Double Scull, whilst Tom Haines and Jerry Heygate continued the challenge of their coxless pair having recently swapped seats, with Tom now in charge of steering and Jerry setting the stroke. There was the usual strong turnout from the Club’s Ladies, both in the Coxed Four and Mixed Eight, under the determined leadership of Victoria Haines.
Most of the Loughborough Masters crews were hindered by having to row in an Open age group, due to the lack of equivalently aged opposition. However, the Club fielded one genuine Open Category crew in the outstanding combination of Ruaraidh Little and Tom Scholefield, who raced against a crew of similar age and ability in the Open Double. Tom and Ruaraidh have put in many hours of training and beat their opponents from Trent Rowing Club convincingly to ensure that Loughborough came home with a win.