It’s time for a change. A big change. Whilst British rowing on the world stage in the guise of GB Rowing goes from strength to strength, the domestic racing calendar, to put it mildly, is boring.
To be clear on one thing, Henley Royal Regatta is a fantastic event whilst other events throughout the racing calendar offer real competition and a great deal of excitement. This excitement, however, doesn’t really start until the Head of the River races.
Copying the format of the Swiss Bobsleigh team didn’t work for the Jamaicans, but perhaps Britain copying a format of the U.S domestic season is something to certainly start with.
Whilst our universities and schools try their best to avoid each other until it is no longer an option, the American universities actively seek each other for racing. At the time of writing the duel racing system is starting up with Washington defeating Brown in the Varsity by around half a length over their own course in Seattle and upcoming races including Princeton racing Yale and Harvard taking on Northeastern. On the women’s side, it is the same; Ohio State defeating UVA in the Varsity boat with upcoming fixtures including Cal racing Washington and UVA racing Texas.
Top ranked squads racing against each other. A lot is made of the Varsity eights, but it is the squads racing each other in fours and eights that is a big draw to introducing it to our domestic racing calendar.
A university or school could take most of their rowers to race against relevant opposition both in rank and speed. It would be very cheap for them to race, rather than the extortionate amount of money currently being paid to receive a time for racing in procession. How many alumni, parents, supporters would go along to watch Newcastle racing Brookes in Wallingford? Or Headington racing LEH on the Thames?
An example of racing this way could be as follows;
|Matched Racing||Head Race|
J16 B VIII,
J15 B VIII,
J15 C VIII
Fresher 2nd VIII
I believe it would keep costs of racing down. Revenue for hosting races, for some clubs or universities, is a vital way of making money. An equal problem for a lot of schools is racing for those lower down in their squads. This way, the club would get their much-needed funds for the event and the athletes get to experience competition. The standard of racing for some head races would inevitably suffer though.
We do currently have matched racing in the form of the boat races and the pre-race fixtures with other clubs that take place, but our racing calendar is starved of any sort of excitement between British Championships in October, which in my opinion should be raced in April, and the Tideway races.
When recruiting athletes in schools to try rowing, it’s a hard sell. The sports they currently do compete against each other every week. Most week we head down to the river and go and train. A lot of school aged athletes are not interested in training for weeks on end and perhaps it’s time we made it easier to sell our sport. Racing your rivals one-on-one, side-by-side, in winter!
Lastly, what is the incentive to take part in the new structure of racing? For the schools, how about the top two crews from the dual racing get selected for their events at Henley Royal Regatta? For student level, this could equate to gaining BUCS points based on their overall position at the end of the winter racing?
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have any comments, insight or contributions, please feel free to leave them at the bottom of the page.