Rowing into 2022

13th January 2022

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In an article from the Wadham College Boat Club newsletter, Head Coach Rod Andrews reports on a disrupted year of rowing and the challenges ahead.

  • Head Coach, Rod Andrews

    Head Coach, Rod Andrews

I have started this article with the final paragraph from last year’s newsletter!

‘This coming academic year will be very challenging for the BC, we have lost a whole year of activity, several experienced rowers have now left, others are going into their third or final year with only one season of activity behind them and the returning novices will be starting from scratch! We are also likely to lose some to other sports that you can participate in, not train five times a week and have no river time! It is unlikely the College gym and rowing tank will be open during Michaelmas so we will look for alternatives such as moving the ergs to another more open area, group running and cycling. Forthcoming fresher development will be very difficult, but I am sure we will find some way to get them involved, maybe one to one using the bank tub so I will be looking for lots of help and support.’

A year later and very little changed from my original assumptions. After a period of restrictions and boathouse closures, only a limited number of outings, mainly sculling, were possible before last year’s summer vacation and a lengthy shutdown.

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Michaelmas 2020 started with a large promising fresher intake, despite covid restrictions, we were able to undertake one to one ‘bank tub’ and erg induction sessions. From this we put together novice/senior combined crews and boated for a limited number of outings before yet another lockdown! A combination of ‘red flag’, Government and British Rowing guidance reduced Hilary term to a handful of outings ­ the river finally reopened at the end of March, but restricted boathouse access determined how little water time was possible between the BCs’ within the boathouse consortium in contrast to others, particularly the Graduate BC’s who had unlimited multi­crew outings. OURC advised there was no need for rule changes to make a level playing field, something that is now reflected by the results of any competitions!

With all restrictions lifted we were back on the water and quickly moved four eights and two launches up to Godstow during ‘0th’ week of Trinity ready for 6.30am outing times we were restricted to!

  • Erg training

    Erg training

With a strong men’s squad, we were able to boat two senior eights as well as two novice crews on the Isis ­ unfortunately due to revision, exams and unavailability, crew orders were continually rotated so regular but reduced number of outings could proceed. Similarly, the much smaller and inexperienced women’s squad encountered similar restrictions meaning most would only fit in two outings weekly. OURC went ahead with ‘Summer Torpids’ delayed until seventh week but after some discussion we took the decision not to enter any crews as we were not prepared nor had enough coxes with suitable experience to race safely! On reflection I think the men could have raced had we decided to settle crews rather than boating matched crews throughout the term which may have reduced the progress in preparation for next year. However, we will go into next year with the potential to start with three or four senior crews.

For the women, not racing was the sensible option, with only novices rowing their first full term and others with limited experience there was no time to prepare crews capable of racing safely. W1 would have started Head of the River ­ to race and lose so many places under Torpid rules would have been dangerous and demoralising for those involved. So, despite our justifiable protests all WCBC crews were subjected to six penalty bumps which could take a while to recover ­ the women will be restarting with a very inexperienced squad plus the incoming fresher group. I draw a comparison with 2013­14, we encountered eighty consecutive days of river closure, but the crews committed to a lengthy spell of intense land training – we all know what happed next and in subsequent years.

We have done it before so we can do it again!

Throughout the year I have been really impressed with the amount of land training undertaken, either in isolation, zoom sessions, outside circuits or working in groups to introduce a competitive spirit including an external event against Jesus Cambridge. Sculling has also become quite popular particularly with the senior women, something I am keen to encourage ­ the progress made can only benefit sweep rowing.

Thanks to all joint Captains and coaches for all the effort put into what has been a unique year, next year will be just as challenging ­ we will be asking the coaches to give up yet more time at unsociable hours to help guide what I think will be a very positive forthcoming year. We cannot expect an increased amount of voluntary coaching without offering some incentive for it to continue ­ but I am adamant we should try and continue to develop from within, especially as I begin to step back my own commitment level.

In Michaelmas we will be purchasing new blades for both squads, looking further ahead to early next year we hope to add two new eights, not only giving Wadham one of the most impressive racing fleets but surely an incentive to those wanting to row in them! Longer term goal is to upgrade and extend the number of small boats, but this requires more racking space before considering how ‘you can help fund this’.

By Rod Andrews, Head Coach, Wadham College Boat Club Society

This article is one of many which appears in the Wadham College Boat Club Society Newsletter