Michael Wale, Kingston cox of Kingston’s first boat, reviews Henley Royal, the senior squad season and their hopes for the future.
You really do feel that they should broadcast the draw for Henley Royal, always made on the Saturday afternoon at the Town Hall. I would liken it to the FA Cup Third round when the smaller clubs can draw the likes of Manchester United.
One of the favourites to win the Thames Cup this summer was Upper Thames, rumoured to have previous Leander oarsmen among their crew. So it was that Kingston’s first crew drew Derby for their first appearance on the Wednesday. Should win that we all thought, which we did, but not without a fight. But then we had to meet the conquerors of our second crew on the same Wednesday, yes Upper Thames! The second crew, who had won a good final earlier in the season at Reading, but was still made to qualify, drew, you guessed it Upper Thames in their first race. That was that. So it was the same story on the second day when Upper Thames dismissed our first boat. The Henley based crew were eventually to lose to Griffin (Abingdon school old boys) by a length in the Thames Cup final. Oh well.
Bow: Matt "Pie 'n' Chips" Piechowicz, Andrew "Jeremy" Bedford, Chris "Cheddarhead" Sim, Sam "Big Chest" Richards, Rob "Death Wish" Blackie, James "Marsden" Marsden, Ben "Handy" Handy, Str: Hal "HBP" Bedford-Payne
Cox: JP "Frodo" Salter
Two weeks later a crew with only three of the first boat, and the rest from the seconds won the Jubilee Spring Cup at our own Kingston Regatta over a sprint distance of 340 metres. In the third race and final they beat Clare Express, by three quarters of a length. This proved that there is a healthy future for the senior squad, as rowers from other clubs start to reckon our performances. Previous to Henley and the second boat’s victory at Reading the whole squad won a couple of races at Bedford Spring regatta. The seniors had made a good impression at the Met regatta at Dorney reaching two finals. They also competed at the wind wrecked Marlow regatta at the same venue.
Senior coach was Danny O’Dowd, who was to row in the first boat at number two for most of the season. He was poorly rewarded for all the hard work and thought he had put in, especially during a wet, cold and sometimes snow ridden winter. The appalling highlight being the cancellation of the Head of the River in March, the event for which we had all been training.
The Kingston first boat looked a top 50 bet on its training performances. With the red boards out at Kingston for long periods we moved to the ever hospitable Mortlake club. This was to turn out to be a blessing. Always before when I have coxed a senior Kingston boat I have felt that the oarsmen built up a complex about rowing on the Tideway. Now for several weeks this is what we had to do and the crew responded superbly. We took part in several minor heads, but never had a regular crew. But coming to the Head we were ready. Pity the weather was not. However, the redoubtable O’Dowd ordered us to Mortlake on the morning of the abandoned Head. It was snowing and we took on an elite Quintin eight from Hammersmith Bridge to Kew. We only lost by eight seconds. Never did a boathouse seem warmer afterwards! Thanks Mortlake!
So to the future. We have a good young squad who now know that to win needs hard work and that winning is more fun than losing. Hopefully we will pick up an oarsman or two, but it is up to the younger members to take this opportunity to win and hold their seat. One bit of advice from my mentor of old Imperial College days Bill Mason. Row on both sides. It not only does your back good but it gives you two chances when it comes to selection for the final eight! The great Canadian eight of a few years back trained by Mike Spracklen changed sides every month!
Special thanks to Igor, who drove our boats wherever we wanted! Once he had to drive to Reading, Windsor, and then Dorney dropping boats off for three regattas on the same day. You also need someone to curse!