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Glorious Weekend for GMSBC

The Bedford Amateur Regatta is a wonderful, traditional, river regatta with two-lane racing over 1.2 km downstream. On May 7th this year, the Regatta celebrated its 157th year competing, with the usual long list of independent schools, Oxford and Cambridge Colleges, and of course, Great Marlow School. The regatta is a knockout event with up to four rounds to win the final: races from different categories stream down the river every 3 minutes from 0800 to 1940. It’s a long and exciting day.

Due to it being the Coronation weekend, a few rowers were unavailable for this event and so we had a chance to try a few different combinations and line ups in the crews.

Of our nine crews, six made it to their finals.

The first crew to win was our Sixth Form J18 Coxless Quad. Due to crews scratching the semi-final became the final. GMS lined up on the start against Windsor Boys School. The course is not straight like Dorney, or even Henley Royal, but a long right-handed bend with a two-arched road bridge halfway down. As a result, the start is staggered with the inside crew starting a length down. For many years, the regatta did not have any coxless boats racing but the growth of the sculling discipline has made them incorporate Coxless Quads. I mention all this because steering had little influence on this race. Noah Grottrup, the steersman, took a good line from the start, but as the river started to bend, Noah didn’t. Some shouting from both coach and umpire on the bank, eventually got a reaction and from there on Noah steered an immaculate course. By this stage, we had already drawn level with Windsor making up the initial stagger, but the Windsor steersman was taking an aggressive line to keep in as close as possible and was over the lane marking buoys. More shouting and concern for the upcoming bridge caused a quick alteration in course saving their boat. GMS put in a big push through the bridge appearing on the other side with clear water on Windsor. The remainder of the race was uneventful and our J18s won the first of our victories.

Next up were the Sixth Form Girls, Coxless Quad; Charlotte Greening steered a great course, again on the trickier inside station. They were racing a local club, Bedford Star, who had a fast start and marginally extended their 1-length advantage in the first 150 m of the race. GMS fought back, entering into a race rhythm that reaped benefits closing down the lead and emerging from the bridge at halfway. For a time it looked like the GMS rowers would win, but the Star crew lifted their pace, meaning that as both crews came into the home straight the opposition managed to hold GMS off to win by ½ a length.

Our Year 11 Girls’ Quad (WJ16 4x), stroked by Elise Whyte (Year 10) had had an eventful Regatta meeting the South African Schools Rowing Union in the first round. The girls had, understandably, been nervous ahead of this encounter. Starting with the stagger against them, they made a strong start and quickly hauled back most of the length disadvantage. While the South Africans were a strong crew, the girls executed a superb race to win by 1 ½ lengths. This made the next few rounds seem easier and in the final, against Bedford Modern, they dominated the race from the off and won with an easy verdict. An impressive day’s racing.

After 10 hours of racing the finals were now coming thick and fast. Our Year 9 Girls’ Quad faced another Bedford Modern crew in their final. Starting a length down on the inside was an unusual experience for them but this powerful crew soon drew level and as they did their confidence grew. A strong settled rhythm saw them move through and away from their opposition, cruising over the line some 5 lengths ahead. A well-deserved outright win for this talented crew.

Straight after them came our Year 9 Boys’, who having beaten Windsor Boys in the semi-finals, felt confident despite having to take the inside station and starting down. Obviously, the stagger evens out over the course: many athletics meetings have staggers. The difference in rowing is that far from seeing the runners ahead of you, as you are going backwards, the crew ahead can see the others and pace themselves accordingly while for an inexperienced crew, never seeing your opposition is disconcerting.

The boys did not cope as well as the girls, and in a far tighter match of speeds they let the lack of contact fluster them. By halfway they had closed the lead to ½ length but Mossbourne Rowing Academy opened up to win by 1 ½ lengths. It was a good race and a positive learning experience.

Last, but not least, came our two Year 11 Boys’ crews (J16 4x and 4+). The Quad was stroked by Alexander Eldridge ( Year 10) and had Conor Quaan (Year 10) at 3. They had a comfortable race in the semis against Star Club, which provided them with much needed river experience. When they lined up for their second final against Windsor Boys, GMS were on the inside, with a length to catch up. Sam Terret as steersman did an excellent job: rowed well and steered impeccably. The crew kept up a lively pace but at the halfway point Windsor still held a length lead. At the corner of the course GMS were only down ½ length. However, despite working hard, this contest went to Windsor by 1 length.

Our last race and the final one of the day was the Year 11 Four against Hampton School. The crew had raced their B-crew in the semis; plus, they had beaten the South Africans. Hampton had posted a time 3 seconds faster than GMS in the semis. However, they had been beaten by a couple of lengths the weekend before by our team. The difference was that race had been over 2 km and at the 1 km mark the crews were neck and neck. All was to play for: a close race as expected. The Year 11s started a length down; the race progressed pretty much as one would expect from two equal crews. Just after the bridge, the halfway mark, GMS started to pull away and desperate cries from the Hampton cox could be heard, “They’re moving, they’re moving, stay with them.” This galvanized his crew to go again. The closest race of the day was captured on video; it shows both crews at full tilt down in the closing straight, matching stroke for stroke. Neither crew knew who won and unless you had great hearing or happened to be close to the public address system neither did the crowd. The verdict was 1 foot (the minimum before it is a dead heat) to … Hampton in the fastest time for a Coxed four for the day. Ahead of any J18 or Open Men’s Four by at least 3 seconds. A loss but a superb race none of them, or those watching, will ever forget.



J18 4x Sal Dunn, Tom Wiles, Owain Meredith, Noah Grottrup

WJ16 4x Elise Whyte, Abi Forgenie, Poppy Spence, Charlotte Greening

WJ14 4x+ Lucy Platt, Bea Spence , Natasha Pendlebury, Kayla Shillito, Bea Radnage

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