Talkin Tarn Rowers Win in Winter

Whilst other water-sports take it easy in the winter, Rowing continues competing all through the year. Whereas the Summer months are characterised by Regattas, with sprint races over 700-1000m, this time of year it is all Head races over much longer 3,500m to 5,000m courses. These are all held on the larger Rivers, it would be a challenge to hold one of these at Talkin Tarn without competitors getting dizzy!

In our North-East region, autumn is dominated by the Long Distance Sculls series of races held on different rivers over six consecutive weekends, each event also having “small boat head” races for singles, doubles, quad and fours. This autumn however, events at the Tweed at Berwick and the Tyne at Newburn were cancelled due to high winds, leaving just four events in the series.

The first event was on the River Wear at South Hylton in mid-October. This is a 4750m course, and as with all the Head races, the crews have to row up to the start, hang around in the cold for up to an hour for all the other 100+ crews to get there, then race down in series after a rolling start with a 30 second gap. This section of river is well known for the floating flotsam, and this year didn’t disappoint with several boats hitting logs and other detritus! The weather was good for a change; Talkin Tarn put in a limited number of entries, but James Smith shone by storming home the fastest Junior single sculls category.

A week later Cambois Rowing Club hosted the event on the River Wansbeck. This starts as a twisty course with overhanging trees to catch the unwary, before heading through a couple of bridges and heading out to exposed water near the sea. It is normally run over 3350m, but this time was shortened to 2500m due to forecast high winds. Talkin Tarn put in a good entry of Junior and Adult crews, and in the afternoon race Ben Norman won his J15 single race and Jo Lewis won her Women’s Masters D single sculls.

Durham Amateur Rowing Club held their event in early November; this is a 2000m race upstream along the River Wear, with the challenge of getting a large boat with outstretched blades through the narrow arches of the mediaeval Elvet Bridge at race pace – sight to be seen (and heard!). A large number of College crews enter this as it is on their “home stretch”, so competition between the 182 entrants was very stiff. Tarn’s Ben Norman again won in his J15 single scull, and the Masters crew of Jon Britton, Dudley Smith, Denis Burke and Peter Pearson won in their coxless quad. This was the first race together for some of the Tarn crews, who were very excited to make it to the end safely.

Tees Rowing Club then hosted the final Head race of the series over a dry but chilly 5000m course. Out of 96 starters, the fastest Talkin Tarn crew home was the coxless four of Ian Machin, Keven Wilson, Denis Burke and John Lewis in 30th position; Ben Norman won in his J16 singl;e scull and Jo Lewis won in the Women’s Masters single scull.

In other events in our region, York Rowing Club held their Small Boats Head on 19th November over a 3,000m course on the River Ouse in sunny and almost warmish conditions once the frost had melted. There was quite a strong flow on the river, and the racing was held upstream to add to the effort. There is the added challenge to this event of narrowboats and motor cruisers using the same water… Despite the long drive to tow over, Talkin Tarn put up a good show, with Ben Norman joining in with a composite crew from Durham Schools to win in the J16 coxless quad, and the first win for a “new to rowing” ladies quad comprising Rachel Dodsworth, Elaine Bell-Bourner, Ann Kendrick and Alison Clarricoats, coxed by Jo Lewis.

Last weekend was the Rutherford Head, hosted by Tyne Rowing Club at Newburn. This is held over a 4,500m course against the flow and tide up from the old Armstrong tank factory and under the A1 bridge. Conditions were dry but very cold, and holding the boats still for an hour against the flow for all the Eights to get started was arduous work – before the race even started! A very large number of University crews from Edinburgh to London were entered, some of whom were inspirational to watch. Two Tarn “Senior Gentlemen’s” crews had a good battle, and Tarn’s Dave Harte joined a composite boat with rowers from Hexham, Cambois and Chester le Street to win the Masters E/F age category in their coxless quad in the morning, and then in an eight in the afternoon. Ben Norman joined a Durham Schools composite quad, and won the J16 category.