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Silver/2 Golds Rowing Medals

An explosive start to the season for Great Marlow School Boat Club (GMSBC). A very busy training Easter break culminated in GMSBC competing in three events at the British Rowing Junior Inter-Regional Regatta (JIRR) and coming home with three medals.

The Year 10 and 11 Boys’ Coxed Fours, returned from training camp and went off to Nottingham on Saturday.

They had been selected to represent our region (Thames Upriver) at the JIRR. This is the first of four National Regattas that are due to take place over the summer.

Sadly, the weather had a major impact on the regatta, because of very high winds the racing schedule had to be cut back. Instead of Heats taking place before Finals in each event, the crews raced just the Heats, two races of six crews each: the fastest three were awarded the medals, so it was possible to win your race but not be awarded a medal.

The Year 10s took to the water first. The row to the start line was an ordeal in itself, with a raging headwind and waves crashing over them. They had to work hard just to go forward. At the start line, however, there was more shelter and a relative sense of calm descended, which lasted for the first 100m or so of the race.

Lining up for their first race of the season the boys looked remarkably focused. Beside them was Norwich School, who have often put out strong Fours and looked to be hot contenders for a medal. On the other side of the lake was a Four from Mossman Academy, a state school in East London, that hit the Sunday Times quite recently because they had won the Schools Head in this age category. Chatting to their coach at the start, this was apparently their top four from that Eight and he was testing it out to see whether to race the Eight or this Four at National Schools at the end of May. It was looking like our team would have their hands full to come in the top three.

As is often the case in stormy conditions, the umpire was keen to get the race off as soon as he felt the boats were sensibly aligned. Sadly, the GMS boys were still tapping the bows straight when the umpire rather hastily said, ‘Attention GO’. They coped well with this, however, and made a good start; meaning they were in reasonable shape, despite being half a length down on the field, and by 100m they were the best part of a length behind the leaders, Norwich.

The boys rowed with immense maturity and resilience and settled down to just pull hard and race their race. It was quickly clear that they had better boat speed than any other crew and by 500m, halfway, there were only really two boats in contention. They had reduced Norwich’s lead to half a length, with Mossman a length of open water back in third. The shelter from the wind was now gone and the conditions became very choppy. Over the next four hundred metres the crew edged closer and closer to the lead, making up inches with each stroke. It was impossible to say whether they would run out of race track before they could overhaul the opposition. With 50m to go, GMS took the lead, and Mr Murison was hoarse from screaming. Sadly, the choppy water caused a minor stoppage, just as GMS took the lead a particularly large wave hit them and gave the lead back to Norwich: for the next four or five strokes the bows of both boats surged back and forth depending on which crew had just taken a stroke. On the line, it was Norwich whose bows jumped forward to take Gold by just a foot.

The Year 11 Boys’ Coxed Fours had been rowing very well at camp and shown to have a particularly fast start, so despite a strong looking field, Mr Murison was hopeful of another medal after the Year 10s fantastic result.

GMS was in the second of the two races this time. Kings Chester and Walton rowing club had an exciting neck and neck race in the first heat, predicting a pretty fast time. In the GMS heat, there were a number of public school crews, but probably Shrewsbury on the opposite side of the lake was the one likely to be the biggest threat.

As hoped for, the start was great for GMS: they had a half length lead on the rest by 100m. The question was, would others now hit a better rhythm and start to put them under pressure? Not a chance, the GMSBC crew just kept moving away and had open water on everyone very soon. They continued to move away from the field to the end of the race. The question remained how was their time relative to the previous neck and neck encounter in Heat 1? The team had to wait over an hour for the result. When the times for first heat came up, the boys were paddling down for the last event of the day, and given the winner, Kings Chester, was only two seconds faster than our Year 10s, Mr Murison was quietly confident we had added a Gold to our collection.

Their last Year 11 event was J16 Eight. Mr Murison had been in touch with the coach from Windsor Boys to suggest they joined forces to compete in this event as a composite.

Under the JIRR rules, it is only a requirement that crews come from the same region, not necessarily the same club. What was going for all involved was both halves of this crew had won Gold in their respective events; what was not so good was that the Windsor crew were scullers rather than rowers and it was a completely scratch crew racing in challenging conditions.

Waiting at the start, there was the usual banter between coaches and the Shrewsbury coach admitted that his crew was possibly the best he had coached, and this was from a man with numerous Henley Royal Regatta medals to his honours list.

A good start from both crews saw Shrewsbury take a half-length lead over the GMS/Windsor crew at 100m and both these crews pulled away from the rest of the field. Sure enough, coming into the halfway marker the lead was possibly just under a half length. The choppy conditions helped the GMS/Windsor team because Shrewsbury caught a boat stopping crab and by the time they were back in the race, the GMS team were in the lead by ¾ of a length. Mr Murison had jestingly suggested the crew would gain speed over the second half, and he was proved right – in fact the crew continued to pull away from Shrewsbury, finishing with open water by the end.

A very satisfactory result and a second Gold for the whole crew. It was enjoyable to see these rivals celebrating together and marvelling that they had pulled it off.

It will be a very busy term for GMSBC, as there are many races to compete in. Mr Murison says, “We could not have wished for a better start to the regatta season.”

Thank you to everyone involved for making GMS a proud participant in the rowing regatta world.

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