Sport Sunday, June 5th Words by: Adam Knight, pictures by: easyregatta, Hereford Rowing Club, HCS - Marcus Blackburn, British Rowing - Nick Hartland

Sun and skulling: Pics from Hereford Regatta and a jargon-busting Q and A with the club captain

Sport Sunday, June 5th

Sun and skulling: Pics from Hereford Regatta and a jargon-busting Q and A with the club captain

Back after a three-year hiatus, the Hereford Regatta welcomed 300 boats full of the region’s top long-limbed and large-lunged rowers to the banks of the Wye this weekend.

With the sun beating down, and the BBQ’s fired up, it was the perfect return for what is a historic meet, which next year will celebrate 150 years of racing on this  straight stretch of water.

If rowing in Hereford has a history, it also without doubt has a present and a future, both of which were on show over the weekend.

On the water the club picked up nine wins – or ‘pots’ – over the weekend, while their GB U23 star Jamie Coombes was on-hand to man the grill, telling GB Rowing, “it’s a big boost for the club.”




If Hereford’s showing was good – nine wins landed them joint fourth – then teams from Stourport and the City of Bristol stole the show, finishing as the top two of the 25 clubs involved with 15 and 11 pots each, and starring across the 1000m races on Saturday and the 500m sprints on Sunday.

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As a sport, rowing is embedded in to the British psyche – from the Boat Race, to those iconic images of Olympians, breaking down after crossing the line, hulking men crying as they realise a dream four years and many, many long hours in the making.

It’s a tough sport. It’s one that asks its participants to push their lungs and legs to their absolute limit.

So what makes a person want to rouse themselves early on a cold, wet morning to go backwards up a river?

We caught up with Hereford Rowing Club captain Hayley Birch to get an insight in to the sport, rowing on the Wye and what exactly a 'cox' is:

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First up, do you ever get bored of going backwards?

Hayley: Haha, well having the Hereford Kayak Club affiliated to our club, we always have good banter about which is the best way... obviously, it is rowing!

For anyone who’s never been to one – what is the Hereford Regatta?

The Saturday course is 1,000m and then Sunday is a sprint day of 500m. Crews are made of competitors from the age of 12 – 65  and this year we hosted the West Of England Challenge Vase, which has attracted Elite Men's coxed fours from Worcester, Las Vegas Institute of Sport, Evesham, Hereford, Gloucester and Monmouth. It always provides some excellent racing.

The banks just upstream from the clubhouse are a great place to watch from, the Hunderton footbridge gives an excellent view of the entire course.

The Wye’s finally getting used more and more with things like the River Festival – what’s it like for rowing?

Our stretch of the river is EXCELLENT because it is really straight, which provides a fair course.  And during the winter months, the higher water allows unlimited rowing upstream. The longest recorded upstream trip was a double scull to Hay on Wye and back in a day!

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For those who haven’t watched much rowing – what is a 'cox' (and what makes a good one)?

A cox is the person who steers the boat and motivates their crew, the minimum weight for a cox for a men's crew is 55kg so sometimes our junior coxes have to take weights with them to make the weight up.

Ideally the cox is as close to the minimum weight as it means that there is the least amount of weight for the rowers to move.

Hereford Rowing Club has seen a lot of coxes and rowers been thrown in already this season. We have had several rowers win their (novice) first competitions and coxes get a dunking from their crew for their first win!

How did you start out in the sport, and for those looking to get involved – how can they go about it?

My husband started rowing in 1984 (at the age of 16) and I figured 10 years ago that if I couldn't beat him I should join him. I stopped rowing a couple of years ago - being Captain takes plenty of time up.

We have adult learn to row courses throughout the year, and are always looking to add to our senior squad. Unfortunately, our Junior Squad is full - with quite a waiting list. We will hopefully be looking to take on some Year 8's in September.

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What’s the favourite stretch of water that you’ve rowed on?

You cannot beat rowing on our stretch of water on a clear, fresh morning when there is a slight mist over the water.

But I really have enjoyed doing the Tideway from Mortlake to Putney on the Thames in Women\'s 8\'s or 4\'s. It is the course that Oxford and Cambridge have their boat race but they go from Putney to Mortlake. Saying that the conditions have always been kind to me, not like the Oxford v Cambridge crews experienced this year.

What’s the best thing and what’s the worst thing about being a rower?

Personally for my family the best feeling ever is having excellent competition and winning - the worst is losing!

What’s the hardest training session top club rowers go through?

I would say that any erg (rowing machine) work is pretty gruesome. The worst for me would be the 3 x 6km at max 20 strokes per minute! Mind you the men never look too peachy after one of my winter land-training circuit sessions!


And finally, help us out with a bit of jargon busting. Can you explain what rowers mean when they are talking about ‘skulling’, ‘sweep rowing’ or ‘coxed 8’s’?

Boats come in various sizes - you have sculling which is rowing with two 'oars' and then you have sweep rowing which is with one oar per person (like the oxford and Cambridge racing). Sculling boats come in singles, double, quads and octuples. Quads can be coxed or coxless, doubles and singles are also coxless - this means that one person has to concentrate on rowing and looking around to see where they are going, this is no mean feat!! Sweep boats come in coxless pairs, coxed and coxless fours and coxed 8's


If you want to get involved with rowing, check out the club's website here for more information.

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