British Junior Rowing Championships 2017

By Rowan Kohler-Hoon, Year 11 & National Champion

British Junior Rowing Championships 2017 In the weeks building up to Nationals the training was intense, very intense. Each week we would be doing four to five two and a half hour sessions of rowing and land training on the rowing machine. These sessions were grueling. Training would often consist of a challenging erg (which would have in the past been the entire session) followed by a series of two or three 2000 meter pieces on the water alongside the rest of the “Nationals” crews. These sessions where absolutely exhausting and mentally draining, with an endless mental battle to not give up. But this training was always done with your crew and in that way you were driven on by their presence and with the thought that if you gave up you were not only failing yourself but them as well. On top of this training, I would be running almost every day to build up my fitness alongside frequent trips to the gym to build up stamina and strength. Each week, we would carry out fitness tests to ensure progress was being made, in these tests you would give all you had so that when the race finally came you knew you were ready. This type of training didn’t stop for anything; we had to apply discipline to combine training and exam preparation, we studied and then we trained and then we studied.  When we were tired, we trained; when we thought we had no more to give, we found more and we trained.

 In the days before the race I began to grow nervous. The thoughts of whether what I had done was enough began to grow and I struggled to keep the self-doubt at bay. I mean what chance did we, a comprehensive school in small Welsh town, have against the private schools and clubs with levels of resources we could only dream of.  But this doesn’t win races; it’s blood, sweat, tears, an awful of a lot of hard work, dedication and support from a great coach that wins the race.

After qualifying straight into the final on the Sunday of the event, we had a long wait in a long day; our race wasn’t until 5:30pm. We’d spent the morning in the hotel making sure we were rested and ready. We had all talked about winning, but it had only ever been as a joke.  However, in the qualifying time trial on the day before we had come second and it had become an actual possibility. Despite coming second, we knew it wasn’t a good row with a lot of room for improvement.  This fact drove me to concentrate on correcting all the mistakes I had made in the heat of the moment in the time trials so that when it came to the final I could have the best row of my life. We spent the hour before the race getting ready for the race making sure we were warmed up and mentally in tune and the boat was checked and ready. We had all discussed what we wanted from this race. We wanted the best race we had ever had, so that in turn we could have a shot at getting gold.

As we were waiting on the start, I had finally managed to get the nerves under control. I was ready to do everything I could. As I stared forward waiting for the green starting signal, I knew I was surrounded by five of the best crews in the country. I knew I couldn’t do anything but focus on me and making my boat go fast. When the start signal sounded we were off, the thrill of the race hit me as I pushed to get the boat ahead. After the start it became a blur as our boat surged to the front of race.  I could see the boats slightly behind but I knew that I had to keep pushing and driving us forward as any mistake could see us caught.  As we crossed the 1500m marker the final 500m sprint began and I was fuelled purely on the adrenaline that we could actually win. As we crossed the line all I could do was gasp for air, I had nothing left but that no longer mattered. We had done it. We had won.   We were National Champions!!

At that moment I felt on top of the world.  It was an indescribable feeling of pride, joy and happiness. As we got out of the boat I was met by Mr Cowton and my parents, seeing their proud faces made it so much better.  It made all the training and all the early mornings worthwhile it made me feel like I was part of something great. Because at the end of the day I am part of something great, rowing has changed my life and none of it would be possible without the day-to-day support from Mr and Mrs Cowton and the rest of the school squad around me pushing me to get better at every opportunity. I can’t thank the rowing club enough for what it’s given me and I hope in some way winning the gold medal has given something back.


Now, a few days later, what we have accomplished has finally sunk in. it’s made me think to the future about what we could achieve, about where we could go. It’s made me realise what hard work and dedication can get you. I’m so excited to make the next steps to go further and may be even to represent Wales. I hope our crew can stay together and keep achieving great things.

“It’s never too late”

By Mrs E Newman, parent and trustee of the Friends of Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club

 “It’s never too late”, that well known saying, well that is the story of my introduction to and progress in the sport of rowing! 

It all started when my son came home from school at the age of thirteen and said “I am joining the rowing club“, it came totally out of the blue.  He started as a junior at Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club (MCSBC) and his enthusiasm and passion for the sport was infectious right from the off.  I started going along to watch at events in wind, rain, sun, snow and sleet and cheer the athletes on.  I then began to wonder if I could give it a go - it couldn’t be that difficult surely?

My very first introduction to actually partaking in the sport was at the MCSBC Midsummer Regatta in June 2014 where Mr Cowton put on a taster session in the morning for any interested parents.   I wobbled around in an Ahoy (grey training boat) with other parents for ten minutes and thought afterwards this is definitely something I want to pursue. Monmouth Rowing Club (MRC) then advertised a Learn to Row course and I signed myself up straight away along with a number of other parents of MCSBC athletes - I haven’t looked back , I am totally hooked. I have progressed from the training boats (Explorers and Ahoys) into finer boats.  It can be an incredibly challenging sport, both mentally and physically and it most definitely isn’t easy even though the younger athletes make it look so!  When it goes right (which is only very occasionally for me at the moment) it is incredibly satisfying. I am still on a very steep learning curve but I feel as the weeks go by I am learning more and more.

My son David is in the sixth form now and still doing five training sessions a week and competes at many events. He continues to be totally committed to the sport, never complaining about the early starts or sessions that push him to the limit both mentally and physically. I go along to as many events as I can to cheer MCSBC on.  I have met a wonderful group of people both through MCSBC and MRC, some of whom have become great friends of mine. I have been physically pushed to my limit especially when I did the Boston Rowing Marathon (48kms) last October in an eight with a fabulous group of ladies from MRC. We completed the course in 4 hours 28 minutes.

I am now sculling with Mrs Cowton in a coxless quad with a group of mums of MCSBC athletes. We have entered a couple of events and had a brilliant time. Sometimes I do think when I am queued up at the start in my crew with athletes that are at least 30 (!) + years  younger than me, what an earth I am doing and I am sure some of the youngsters probably think what on earth are they doing(!) but there are categories for “senior” athletes at most events which makes it an even more appealing sport for an “oldie” such as myself.

 Junior Inter-Regional Rowing Regatta 2017

by Oliver Chilcott, Y10

On Saturday the 22ndApril, the Junior Inter-Regional Regatta took place at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham. The weather was clear and bright, the perfect conditions for racing. The regions were kitted out with their own t-shirts and race suits in their regional colours ranging from the bright yellow of Eastern to the deep black of our WAGS & Wales team.

The location of the event could not have been better, as it had a clean and dry landing stage and a big clubhouse open to all, with a cafe inside selling amazing burgers. From a rowers perspective it was perfect.

The racing ran smoothly throughout the day and the event was well organised thanks to a great marshalling team and was on time with very few delays. The races were also very spread out and allowed good timings for rest and food. The course itself was easy to steer and a safety boat followed each race to make sure there were no problems.  The regions’ teams were mostly set out in their own area, but none were very far from the boating area and there were plenty of spaces to leave blades and other equipment down there.

The racing itself was tough. We didn’t realise how hard it would be until we were in the thick of it. All the rowers there were very technically good and very fast. Teams were literally flying off the start line and covering plenty of ground with each stroke. I specifically remember one team’s boat which lifted out of the water as the crew took their first stroke. This was the first competition that David and I trialled our new “held” race start and it was pretty awful even though we had worked on it in training. Our second race saw our start go much, much better. Throughout the middle bit of the race no teams seemed to tire. They were all keeping a rapid pace when most other crews would have started to fade and drop back. On the last stretch of the race, teams were pushing even harder even when it looked as if they had nothing left to give. When people crossed the finish line however, you could see the huge effort they had put into the race as some just slumped in their seat or others were gasping for air. No one came over the line with any energy left in their bodies.  Carrying the boats back was hard after such races, but the journey wasn’t far and adrenaline was high so nobody minded.

After a hard day’s racing, everyone was glad to be on their way home, but there was still plenty of talk on the bus of the day’s events and everyone had a story to tell of their race. It was a great experience to go to and be a part of and we all thoroughly enjoyed the day. My next goal is to represent the school at the National Championships.

Winning my first medal

by Millie Thomson, Year 9

Winning a medal was a great achievement for me as it made me feel that all of my hard work had paid off. It now makes me determined to carry on and strive to become a better rower. On the day before the race I had eaten some pasta for carbohydrates and the energy they give. I went to bed early; it was hard to sleep because I was both nervous and excited. It was race day before long and I had already packed my bag the previous night so I was all set. I then made sure I had had enough breakfast and had a banana milkshake for slow release energy. The bus journey was fun with friends and I was pumped for the day ahead.

We arrived and the nerves kicked in again because I was in one of the first races. We worked together as a team to unload the boats and blades ready for our race. The time soon came and I had to take the boat down with my crew. I think we were all nervous. Next we had the boat checked over and placed it in the water, we had to wade in a little,  the water was warmer than expected and made me more relaxed. The marshals were kind and helped push us out and reassured our team that we were going to do great.  We were to do greater than we thought!

After we had finished our warm up laps around the buoys, I felt more in control and focussed on my goal (to go out on the water and push myself to achieve the best I could) It came to lining up the boat which was fairly easy as we had practiced this in training camp a few days before. Our opponents pulled up their boats next to us; I had a quick glace round, just enough to decide how good they were. Before I knew it we had started the race. My heart was beating fast but I remembered to keep my technique. I was in the moment and wanted to see how the other competitors were doing, however I kept my eyes and head in the boat to keep focus. We had won our first race, but we weren’t done yet. After this we did some more warm ups for our next race. The adrenalin had kicked in and I was ready for the next race. “Attention… GO!” the marshals exclaimed, we were off. It was an intense struggle and it was only in the last three hundred meters that we overtook. We had won.

My coach awarded me with my medal and it felt amazing to win, I was so proud of my team and of myself. Now my goal is to impress my club in future races. I had taken from that day that focus and control is everything and to set goals before hand so you have an aim.

Review of the Year

By Harry Dalrymple, Club Captain

This is perhaps a rather odd captain’s review. I will not try to list every win at every event in the last year, I often feel that simply listing them doesn’t do the achievement justice. We don’t after all spend the hours on the river just to keep a nice tally. Nor will I not mention them, as we are a racing club those cherished moments of success are one of the things we really care about. In essence I hope to share what’s so special about rowing, but also reflect upon our club and why it’s important.

The year starts with a meeting of the whole club on the first day of term. It is a distinctly familiar setting; the familiar faces reflecting on prior campaigns and anticipating that to come, as well as those taking their first tentative steps into the sport. It is an odd atmosphere, not only because it is one of those rare occasions when the whole club is gathered in one room, but it is often a time in which we look back as well as forward.

However, the autumn term’s reflection is normally that we really wish we’d done a bit more exercise over the summer, and that training was more tiring than remembered. Luckily this soon passes, and racing begins in earnest. Monmouth and Bristol Heads saw some encouraging early wins that helped galvanise the squad for the winter ahead and the arctic conditions of Wycliffe. The senior group had an astounding work ethic, with personal records being set on an almost weekly basis. In my five years at the club, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. When a group get into such a mentality, it is really something to behold.

Wycliffe was also the first place where the juniors raced. It was good to see their progression from the very tentative strokes at the beginning of term to something a bit more full bodied on such a cold December day. It was also nice to see them watch the more experienced athletes, and see what they could become. It is one of the advantages of a club that has a broad range of ability and aspiration.

The equally cold, but more optimistically titled spring term; started with a similar realisation that eating mince pies does not constitute training. However it wasn’t as bad and most groans seemed to be gone within the week. For rowing, it is a difficult time of year. There are very few races to focus the mind, most training is done in the dark, and the promise of sunny and fast regattas seem like a distant dream. At this time of year you often rely on the shared momentum of your crewmates to carry you through. This is one of the reasons they are so important, rowing is a team sport with no substitutes. The race is won or lost with those around you, trust them and let them trust you otherwise you will not succeed.

The importance of our half marathon fundraiser to the club can’t be overstated. The money raised by each member completing the run, allows us to continue existing and racing competitively at both a local and national level. We may not have a private lake and palace like boat house like Eton’s, but through raising our own funds I believe that we derive a different sort of strength. I believe that the unity and ownership that comes with raising our own funds contributes hugely to our success and identity as a club.

The National Sculling Head at Eton’s absurdly vast Lake Dorney, was the crescendo to the spring term. From that event, three crews went on to represent Wales and West of England at the Junior Inter-Regional Regatta, a fantastic privilege.

As I’m writing this the summer term is still ongoing, but some excellent summer racing has already happened. Side by side racing is very different to the head season. It is often just two boats scrapping to beat the other. Adrenaline runs high, muscles ache, but if you have enough patience and stamina to beat the other crew, there is no high greater than that. This is why rowing is hard. The early mornings, exhausting sessions, blisters and the irritating frustrations of the boat not improving quickly; come to nothing if in those few moments you can’t pull together. This is where the unity, friendships and trust come in. When the feeling of victory and defeat are totally consuming, the people you share it with become very important. When you are in a boat, you must give yourself wholly to it, and the rest of the boat give themselves wholly to you.

My words to anyone starting the sport, or joining our club, are to enjoy it. It’s easy to forget when trying not to fall out of a single, or preparing for a big event; it is actually supposed to be fun. The people around you may become your closest friends as you share some brilliant highs and the occasional withering low. You’ll learn a lot of lessons that you could never learn in a classroom, some practical, some just helpful. For me, rowing shaped who I am today and I’m proud of how the club has grown, but also I with the club. So I suppose the question is: What could rowing do for you? 

Becoming a coach?

By Harry Dalrymple, Club Captain

National Junior Championships 2016, Nottingham J18 2- A final, result, MCSBC 5th. Not quite a medal, Marlow again!

As we drank cold coke from the ice cream van, refreshing our weary limbs and slightly sunburnt faces and watched the rest of the racing, we discussed our campaign for next season. Another go in the pair? A quad for Henley Royal Regatta? The world was our oyster, and we felt invincible.

When September came, we were slightly plumper, but I was now injured. A mystery back injury had decided my fate, and I had to refocus my aims. Rowing takes a lot of time and focus in order to have the chance of success, it is as frustrating as it is rewarding, but now I couldn’t even enjoy the frustrations! The solution I chose was to swap my set of blades for a megaphone and become a coach.

Coaching is very different to rowing; as a rower you’re used to spotting things that are wrong, as a coach you’ve got to be able to do something more productive than just stating what’s wrong. It may seem quite obvious, but in a sport where the majority of the feedback comes from the boat itself, it can sometimes be tempting to do just that. You also need to understand what you’re coaching, sometimes as a rower you do something because it “feels better”, but feeling good isn’t always moving fast.

To become a qualified coach, I did the British Rowing level 2 coaching course. To do this, first I had to do some basic first aid, safe guarding, and learn how to run a capsize and recovery test. After doing the prerequisites, I was able to join the course proper which involved two weekends at Saltford rowing centre near Bristol. The course comprised of some classroom learning as well as some practical hands on coaching with the fellow members of my course. It was very useful, in that it made me think about my coaching in a different way which helped me improve.

To pass the qualification, I had to write up, deliver and evaluate six linked sessions, the final one being observed. This was surprisingly nerve racking as everything I did was noted down on a criteria, which included “dealing with inappropriate athlete behaviour”. I now had an irrational fear that something might kick off! Thankfully it didn’t, and I passed. However coaching, like rowing, is all about continual learning. I may just be waiting for the certificate in the post, but I’m still learning how to do things better.

Becoming a coach has made me think more about my rowing, but also how I communicate and organise. It has also allowed me to still take part in a sport I adore and would sorely miss otherwise. It was also quite good fun!

Heartstart Course

by Bobby Scott, senior rower

After a morning spent running, I didn’t feel I could effectively take part in a first aid course. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I found the entire experience enjoyable and educational.

HeartStart courses are two hour long workshops in which you learn lifesaving skills such as CPR and abdominal thrusts, both of which can save a life, you also learn how to deal with an unconscious casualty, how to identify the symptoms of a heart attack and what to do when someone is seriously bleeding. HeartStart is an initiative of the British Heart Foundation, it is run by volunteers and I have no doubt has saved multiple lives. There are over 3,800 HeartStart schemes across the UK; educating over a huge 3.5 million children and adults alike.

We cleared plenty of room in the Monmouth Rowing club house ready to practise our lifesaving skills.  Fourteen of my fellow athletes and I sat down to watch an inspirational introductory video before directing our attention towards Cara Hopgood, our instructor for the course.  She kept the seriousness necessary for a potentially life changing lesson, whilst creating a friendly atmosphere which allowed me to become fully involved, yet still enjoy myself. For each topic there was a video to display how real world situations may pan out and to show how abruptly incidents such as Heart attacks can strike.

As rowing is a physically demanding sport, exertion comes as an essential part of my workout. This is common among many sports and can lead to complications. Now I know what to do if someone faints. Also, I now know to help someone who is choking, possible on their own vomit.  Vomiting is surprising common after particularly testing workouts.  The final and key focus what how to recognise the early signs of a cardiac arrest and what to do.

Cara got us all involved, putting us into pairs and practising putting each other into the recovery position.  This was enjoyable because we could try out what we had just seen in action, as well as having a laugh pretending to pass out. We also used ‘Anne’ training manikins to practise CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation).  Using them really did convey just how difficult it is to deliver CPR consistently, but the environment was friendly and overall I feel I had learnt a lot over those 2 hours.

The most alarming aspect for me was when Cara showed us how anyone can fall victim, how even physically fit people can suffer from an attack which I had originally thought almost exclusively affected unhealthy people. The heart attacks suffered by young athletes such as myself and my peers who attended the Heart Start course are generally caused by cardiovascular diseases. Especially as we are young and physically fit, heart disease and defects can be hidden, as well as fatal. Luckily it is rare for young people to suffer fatal heart failure. On the other hand, according to statistics that you can find on, the percentage of deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases in men under 75 is 28% and for women under 75 it is 17%.

My family has a history of heart disease, but there are ways of diagnosing early signs cardiac anomalies such as CRY. CRY stands for Cardiac Risk in the Young.  They take an echocardiogram, basically an ultrasound of your heart to check for any anomalies. I have attended a CRY screening at the Grange School, and I am fine for now but I believe it is fantastic opportunity for others to reduce the risk of any heart problems for free. Looking at the CRY website, at least 12 young people die of undiagnosed cardiovascular diseases a week. The fact it could happen to anyone scares me. As athletes we increase the risk of a heart attack and I am glad there are so many great organisations that educate young people and work to diagnose potential risks for young adults like myself. For more information, look at their website

After the HeartStart session I received a leaflet, containing key points on every subject covered by Cara. I also received a card, with an emergency number on it to phone in case I needed information or support using some of the skills I had learnt. To top it all off, I also received a certificate for my attendance. The session was nothing like a full first aid course, but simple actions such as the DRS ABC (Danger, Response, Shout, Airway, Breathing and CPR) will stay with me. The thought of having to use the skills I’ve learnt does terrify me, and I hope I’ll never have to use them, but I know the difference I could make, even if the only thing I can remember is the recovery position. I think it is important that everyone should have at least a basic knowledge of simple first aid as anyone could save a life with the right skill set. Volunteers such as Cara who have used these skills outside of the classroom provide great mentors and I am thankful for all the work they do. I may never be a substitute for an ambulance but this experience will stay with me.  I thank volunteers such as Cara and those who run CRY for fighting against Heart disease and teaching people like me how to potentially save a life.  

Captain’s Report on the 2014-15 Year for the Boat Club

by Ben Metcalfe, Captain

We began the 2014-15 season with the same determination and focus as in our previous years. I had been named Club Captain at the end of the summer season, I position that I was honoured to take after five years of rowing for the club and as Vice-Captain the year before. Captain of the club is a prestigious and important role, especially with our membership rising to over 75 athletes, the most we have ever had!

Our year began as normal with winter training. For rowers, winter is the time of year that involves cold, early mornings and long distance ergo pieces to build a foundation for the season ahead. The focus of this year was particularly on the 30 minute pieces which can only be described as 2 minutes of powerful and focused rowing, followed by 28 minutes of ever-increasing exhaustion as the end draws nearer. Never the less, every single athlete applied themselves fully to the pieces (perhaps regretting the lack of exercise taken through the summer).  Soon, the once gruelling sessions became just another part of our extensive training programme.

The competitive season opened at our local event, Monmouth Autumn Head. This was a successful first event for the club, with four crews bringing in medal-winning performances. Lauren Waycott and Emily Richards both won their single scull races with Emily winning the title of ‘fastest female sculler of the day’, following on from her success with the Great Britain team in the summer. Our second event was a new one for us. City of Bristol Autumn Head is a 3,300m race down the river and into the heart of Bristol docks, rowing past the SS Great Britain. What with some very tight turns, and several bridges down the course combining with other boat traffic, it was a challenging but very rewarding course – especially for J15 (Year 10) boys Sam Bainbridge and Louis Proctor who won their double sculls event, and for Sam Morgan who won his single sculls event. Well done boys.

Soon after these came our first few fundraising activities of the year. Our club must be self-sufficient in terms of money for equipment; both purchase and maintenance, race entries and many other running costs, fundraisers are of great importance. Over £300 pounds was raised at the Iceland Bag Packing event in December with all the athletes getting stuck in with a smile: a big thank you to Sarah Bradley who kindly gave up her entire day to help organize and run things. This followed £180 from the “Swish” event in September and a further £700 was raised at the Race Night in January, and what a great evening it was. A big thank you to all those athletes and parents who helped with all these events, and especially to Mark King, the Chairman of the Friends of MCSBC, who organized and ran the Race Night evening.

Soon we were racing at Wycliffe. These races are held on a beautiful (if often very (!) cold) section of the canal in Gloucester with the December event covering a distance of 2,000m and the following February event covering around 3,500m. In December, we had three wins from a large entry of 26 crews, including the 6th form Girls Quad, Emily Richards in her Single and for myself and Seamus Cooper in a Double, a further 2nd place for Molly James in her Single and the two J18 Boys Quads who both came third in the respective categories. It was also the first racing event for many of the new Year 9 squad members.  In February, the WJ15 (Year 10) girls octuple (coxed by Jacob Sutton) came to a convincing victory over their opposition. Good job girls and Jacob.

More recently, the WJ15 girls (again coxed by Jacob Sutton) picked up another win for the club at Avon County Head, showing their increasing development and excellent competitive attitude. This was again a large entry of some 17 crews from our club and whilst we didn’t all win, the atmosphere of mutual support was just great.  Well done girls.   The National Junior Sculling Head gave our athletes the chance to row on the Olympic lake in Eton against the best crews in the country. Eight crews went to this event from all years and they prepared well and raced hard to perform well in their categories. This was a satisfying end to another successful winter season of training, fundraising and of course, racing.

The Half Marathon fundraiser in March was a particularly strenuous event, and quite possibly the most challenging in terms of mental strength. Nonetheless every single athlete in the club, from year 9 to 13, participated with a really positive (and in some cases an inevitably competitive) attitude. Nearly £10,000 was raised, which is a phenomenal total, surpassing the previous years’ totals.  This included Gift Aid with our charity, The Friends of MCSBC is able to claim.  A massive thank you to all athletes and I’ve got to say, you guys did an awesome job with the sponsorship. A big thank you to Graham Jephcote for organizing provision of all the lifesaving drinks and snacks on the route and at the finish, and thank you to the many parents who gave up their day to ensure our safety and the smooth running of the event.

Currently, our summer regatta season is underway bringing with it a new style of racing new to those less experienced athletes in the club; side-by-side racing. These ‘sprint’ races will be only 1,000m or less in length for most events, but require athletes to reach the very peak of their power, strength and mental toughness. Events at Birmingham, Evesham, Shrewsbury, Monmouth, Nottingham, Ironbridge and Glasgow beckon in the term ahead and I wish all crews good luck in their races.   A final thank you to Mr and Mrs Cowton for providing such tremendous coaching and organisation for us, and for allowing us the opportunity to participate in the great sport that is rowing.  It’s been a great year to be Captain!

 “Training to Success”

by Emily Richards, Vice-Captain


It has taken hours and hours of training in all weathers, but I have finally met my goal for the year.  I have my first Great Britain cap, 2 lycras, a couple of shirts and a hoodie. Not forgetting winning the gold medal!

The journey started twelve months ago after winning the National Championships.  There was a lot of training and my first GB trial in November, cold and bleak in Eastern England.  I managed to hold my own against some very tough opponents, with much more experience than I.  I had done enough to win a place on the Great Britain potentials training camp in France just before Christmas. Staying away with people I hardly knew, these girls have now grown to become good friends through the trials and training throughout the year.

Several more trials in February and April combined with the never ending land training of core strength circuits, weights and ergos to make for a long Winter’s preparation for the Summer season.  This type of training is a key focus for the junior women as Great Britain Rowing push the triallists to raise their standards for international rowing.  Then, I was finally chosen in the top 20 in the country for the finals trials at the Great Britain training centre near Reading. I felt this was an amazing achievement in itself as I spent so long off the water with the floods at Christmas, which the River Wye is so well known for. I was able to stay within the top ten girls throughout the entire process.

The final trials were hard work with lots of head to head racing over four physically intense and mentally draining days.  At the end, the athletes were left to worry as the coaches had a summary meeting which went on and on.  It was a heart breaking moment for those who didn’t make it.  Finally, I had made it and I was ecstatic with my Mum there with me to celebrate with.  I returned home for a couple of days in order to pack, which was followed by a three week training camp in Marlow with my new crew.  I lived with three wonderful and very different families during this time away from home.  

Then the day came to leave; off to the airport to fly to Bordeaux in France, where we raced our quadruple sculling boat in the Coupe de la Jeunesse (The European Championships).  After an opening ceremony and a nervous wait for our first race, our plans fell into place and we won our heat.  Fantastic news…we had the fastest time in the heats going into the final.

After a hard and fast start, we gained a small lead. Building our rhythm, we stretched out to a length’s lead at halfway when the crews behind began to chase hard.  Approaching the finish, we kept our cool and remained focused on the goal.  We won; relief, delight, exhaustion overtook us all.  My whole family had travelled to France to see me race and to share my success with them was very special.  

Standing on the podium with the national anthem playing was an experience I will never forget. It made all the training and major financial costs worthwhile for my parents and me.  After a summer’s rest, I am even more determined to do all the training and trials again this year, but this time harder than ever before with the goal of competing and winning a medal at World Junior Championships to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August 2015.

Boat Naming – “Bethan Lloyd”

By Tasha Bradley, Club Captain

Early this year, the Boat Club was proud for Bethan Lloyd to name their Boat Club’s new quadruple sculling boat.  Our senior girls’ squad has grown markedly in recent years in both numbers and ability, showing how popular a sport rowing has become for girls, whilst our equipment was unable to meet their needs.

The purchase of this high quality boat will allow us to accommodate and extend our best athletes. The boat is to be used by our growing and dynamic girls’ squad and I believe that it will help to motivate and bring us together. The new boat gives us the confidence to compete with the same quality equipment as other competitors and allows us to race on equal terms with the best clubs in the country.

The new boat has been named after rowing old girl Bethan Lloyd, a former National Champion cox, who is now racing for her university.  She has been a role model and has inspired many of us girls. The girls racing and training in the boat over the coming season have been coxed by her, so racing in a boat with her name on it will remind us of her strength, determination and motivation.

With hard work and good fortune, we have recently been able to confirm the purchase of several further new boats for the club, without using any school educational funds.

A Parent’s View of Rowing

By Mrs Metcalfe, rowing parent

The location of our school right by the river offers an almost unique opportunity in the state sector, for a school boat club.   Often seen as a sport of the privileged, our students are extremely fortunate to be able to take up rowing under the guidance and tutelage of Dan and Julia Cowton, who run the club with enormous enthusiasm and dedication.

I have had the pleasure of watching my son take part over the past 5 years. Being a member of the boat club means being part of a team, both in terms of the crew in your boat, and the club as a whole.  It means supporting, and being supported by your fellows, in training and in competition.  Crews are interdependent, they must work together on an all for one, one for all basis. It encourages responsibility, organization and focus, and commitment.

The training schedule is quite demanding, rising from a session a week in the first summer term, to 3 per week in year 9, to 4 and more in year 11 and above, including a 6.45am on the water start one morning a week, rain or shine.  Students must learn to be aware of their own fitness and stamina, ensuring a sensible approach to training, diet, and injury management.

Boys and girls who join have the pleasure of rowing on the beautiful River Wye, using high quality equipment, all owned by the club from funds raised by all members through the charity, The Friends of MCSBC. This encourages respect and careful usage.  Every member takes part in the big fundraiser each Spring, and it is very impressive to see even the youngest members complete the half marathon, rising to meet a challenge they weren’t sure they could achieve.  When the new equipment is delivered and named, all members can genuinely feel they have contributed.

All members share the challenge and thrill of competitive rowing against other school and club crews around the south and west of England and Wales, the excitement of rowing on the Olympic lake at Eton Dorney, of taking part in National Championships at Nottingham.  As supporting parents, we too can share these moments, cheering our crews home on the banks of the river or lake, feeling a surge of pride as they lift their boat from the water.

Being a member is about much more than just the rowing.  Being the parent of a keen athlete, we are ourselves in a small way an extension of the club/team.  We are there to help and support, whether getting up at 6am to get them to the training session, or to the coach for an early start for a regatta, or attending as a DBS checked helper at events.  We pay the membership and racing licence for our children, about £85 per year, and buy the club lycra, the only mandatory piece of kit and membership of British Rowing (including a monthly magazine) which is required for racing so a total outlay of some £150 per year. A small cost for the enormous pleasure and pride of seeing you son or daughter grow and develop in so many ways...and have so much fun doing it.

My first race at National Junior Sculling Head

By Amy Howells and Annie Tattersdill, Year 9

With so much flooding preventing us from rowing for much of the Spring Term, we were unable to race at small preparation events, so it was quite a surprise when Mr Cowton told our crew that our first race would be the National Junior Sculling Head on the Olympic course at Eton Dorney!

At 5:15am a group of eager faces met at school and started a very lengthy three hour journey to Dorney Lake. When we arrived, our quadruple sculling crew of Amy, Grace, Livvi and Annie prepared for our race, fuelling up on lots of pasta and Lucozade, whilst a heavy fog on the course took a long time to clear!

Racing for the first time and also on the Olympic course was very exciting, although it made us even more nervous. For the hours leading up to our race, we watched and enthusiastically supported the other eight crews from our boat club race. Finally it was our time to race. Rushing to put our blades in, we got in the boat and started rowing around the practice lake towards the start.

Due to there being lots of other quads (50 in our class!), we ended up waiting a while, giving us time to clear our heads and settle our thoughts. Making our way to the start we lined up to race. As we powered away from the start line, adrenaline shot through us, giving a big burst of energy. As we settled into the race, we began gaining on another crew. Soon we passed them and this gave all of us the confidence and determination to keep pushing through aching muscles, as well as Meg Butler’s (our Year 11 cox) encouragement and support throughout the race urging us on. Crossing the finish line we were all exhausted but it was great fun and an incredible experience.  We hope to be able to go back next year and go faster next time!

Friends of MCSBC

By Mrs S Bradley, Trustee of the Friends of MCSBC

The Friends of MCSBC is a registered charity set up six years ago to support the Boat Club with raising funds and other activities.  Our July Midsummer Regatta is always a great way for new junior athletes and their families to get to know how the club runs and meet existing parents and rowers.  This year, the sun shone brightly on us - an unusual experience for parents of rowers to get sunscreen out rather than wrap in their thermals to watch their children!  The whole club, Year 8 to Year 13, and their families got together for a fun afternoon’s racing followed by a barbeque.

Fundraising continued in earnest during the Autumn Term.  Our purchase of a quadruple scull and blades was a major talking point whilst on display at the school Open Evening in October.  The boat was purchased using funds from five different grant and fund raising sources and was our biggest purchase for four years.

This past year, parents have supported fundraising in many ways; as helpers whilst our athletes bag packed in the Iceland Store in Monmouth at Christmas, providing us with the opportunity to do a fundraising Ergo (rowing machine) demonstration in Barclays Bank and securing grants through their employers (Yorkshire Bank) to name a few.  Our thanks go especially to Graham Jephcote for taking the time to contact hundreds of golf courses and other sporting establishments to obtain free tickets and rounds of golf to auction.  His efforts have added over £3,000 to our funds this year, earning half of the cost of a brand new double sculling boat which has just been delivered.  The boat will be named “Graham Jephcote” as a mark of our thanks.

Our next ‘get together’ was a family Ceilidh in January with music provided by Mr Wheelock and family. Tickets sold quickly for this very enjoyable evening lifting some of the post-Christmas gloom!

The main fundraiser of the year is the club’s half marathon which took place in March.  Many parents ran, walked and cycled to support 65 athletes at this event.  Many more parents provided support at various points around the route with a welcome smile and words of encouragement.  Refreshments were provided for all by Graham Jephcote which added a fitting end to a fantastic event raising over £8,000, which could not have happened without the support of the 42 parent volunteers.

The year has ended with the fabulous news that with fundraising and some very generous donations and grants we have been able to purchase an additional quadruple scull and a further double sculling.  These purchases will replace boats purchased over 20 years ago when the club was originally founded in the early 1990s. This equipment will support the ever growing club and provide athletes with the opportunity to race in boats of equivalent standard to their competitors.

We must not forget the other main role of parents supporting our club.  This is as the parent supervisors on the coach at 6.00am with athletes for an, often, chilly day by the water (the summer days are popular but unpredictable with our British weather).  A usual 13+ hour day supporting and cheering athletes at an event.  These, I admit, are some of the most rewarding days I have spent watching a team of committed athletes race with passion for a club they are proud to be part of.

Thank you to all friends and family who have supported us again this year in any way. 

Captain’s Review of the Year 2013-14

By Natasha Bradley, Captain of MCSBC

This season has definitely had its ups and downs – many wins, but a lot of time off the water due to flooding. Last season ended with our Mid-Summer Regatta in Monmouth, where I was named captain. Following an afternoon of interclub racing, the winning crew consisting of first year rowers; Liam Richards, Cam Bradbury, Bobby Scott and Thys Beetge along with 2nd year Jess Williams. We also went to the British Rowing Junior Championships, where we found great success and greater motivation for girls rowing for this season. With a crew that she barely knew and had never coxed before, Tilly Greenstreet coxed a J14 girls quadruple sculling boat from Avon County Rowing Club to a silver medal, following this she was awarded the Bethan Lloyd award for coxing by the school. Also at the Junior Championships, with a new course record, Emily Richards received a gold medal in the WJ16 single sculling event. This time was also faster than all the WJ18 singles.

This season has set the girls squad up with equal opportunities to any other “higher end” school/club. With the purchase of a new quadruple sculling boat “Bethan Lloyd”, this boat saw its first win at its first ever race with Zoe McCarroll, Beth Tattersdill, Beth King and Lauren Clarke on board at the home waters at Monmouth Autumn Head. This win went along with eight other wins by the club, with the prize for fastest female single sculler of the day going to Emily Richards.  A week later, our first away event at Worcester saw us two gold medals both going to girls crews and yet another win in “Bethan Lloyd”.

Frustratingly, an operation during the end of the summer holidays had caused me to be out of action for both coxing and racing at the beginning of the season, but this gave me the time to reflect and enjoy watching the races of my fellow athletes without the pressure of knowing it was me up next. However, watching races only made me want to be back as soon as possible. Luckily I was out of a cast within 6 weeks allowing me to get back into the coxing seat and back with Cam Bradbury, James Williams, Ben Main and Harry Dalrymple to win at Pangbourne Junior Sculling Hear race.  This result gave a lot of hope for the rest of the season and beyond for this promising squad of 12 highly motivated guys in the full J15 squad. Along with this win at Pangbourne, there were more wins for the senior girls with a single and double both winning their events.

In December, we had our last race until March due to the frustrating flooding of this winter.  At Wycliffe Small Boats Head, we had largest medal haul with two golds, three silvers and six bronze medals (including medals for first time racers, Emma Johnston, Itsy Walsh, Lauren Waycott and Lydia Smith).

We are now getting back into racing with the Regatta season in full swing. Following a successful Easter training camp on the River Wye in Monmouth we have a J16 quad representing the West of England and Wales yet again, but this time going along without a cox (Ben Warmington, Sam Winder, Henry Edwards and James Johnston).  This season we have some exciting new events that we haven’t raced at before - seven senior crews went to Evesham Regatta which is a 500m sprint race on the 4th May winning 4 events including a 2 foot win by one of our girls' double sculls over another one of our crews!

40 athletes are racing at Bristol Avon on the 10th May, whilst we intend to race the whole club at Monmouth and Ironbridge Regattas, likely to be over 25 crews per event!  We also have triallists for the Wales U18 team; Lauren Clarke, Ollie Pearce, Sam Rugg and Ben Metcalfe, along with our GB triallist Emily Richards!  All this and for the first time this year for some time, we will again be racing at Henley Women’s Regatta with our strong senior girls squad.  Being part of such a strong entry makes me proud to be Captain. 

Frustrations of the Flooding!!!

By Ben Metcalfe, Vice-Captain of MCSBC

The recent flooding of the River Wye has caused some frustration in the boat club, and disrupted our training programme this season. As we were obviously unable to be on the river during this period of time, our focus switched to land based training. Long distance/timed ergo pieces became normal, along with core strength and conditioning circuits to maintain and build fitness levels through the whole club.
These, as you might imagine, started off being almost dreaded by us rowers, but as we got into it, it became just another part of our training, all-be-it a rather painful one, which did have great benefits for our rowing and we did look good!  In light of the fact that we had several races coming up including the National Sculling Head, this was not ideal, and initially produced worries across the club about whether the amount of water time that we got was going to be enough to perform well at upcoming events.

However, our squad went into the new programme of training with just as much enthusiasm as they did for normal training, and over the period, many impressive personal records were set and beaten. After the first few weeks, the frustrations began to fade as we just had to accept that our water time was to be limited this winter. Once this was realised, and our new training methods became normal, the usual competitive atmosphere began in the gym as we all did our best to beat the scores of those around us.

Our first event that we were due to race at during this time, Wycliffe Big Head, was cancelled due to the weather and for most of our squad it would have been their first time out on the water in their racing crews in over a month. The cancellation was a disappointing development for us but training continued as our end game for the term was the fast approaching National Sculling Head. Unfortunately, our second event, Avon County Head, was also cancelled due to the weather conditions and the flooding. Frustration began to boil in our crews again now as this left only a few weeks of training for us to prepare with not much sign of the river levels dropping.

When it came to it, there was time for some of our crews to train on the water before Nationals, and for them it was a huge relief, however, for some crews it was their first time on the water for several weeks and there were aspects of worry and optimism in all crews. Despite this, there were many respectable performances from all age groups, including the Boys J16 quad who, qualified for the Junior Interregional Regatta, and went on to represent WAGS and Wales there. The boys were very happy with their result and were very grateful for their strength and core training through the winter, which would not have been of use without the positive, mental attitude of the whole club.

We are now entering our regatta season and, with the river levels back to normal, our water training has resumed with crews applying themselves with their usual vigour and determination!

The Captain’s Review of The 2012-13 Season by Harry King, Year 13 (May 2013)

We began the 2012-13 season full of promise on the back of a very successful previous year. Our top crew had qualified for Henley Royal Regatta for the first time in the school’s history, Sixth former Richard Russell-Broome had represented Wales at Home International Regatta and we had a record number of 41 wins under our belt.

Olympic fever meant that we had an unusually high intake in the lower years, with many Year 9s choosing to continue on from their Summer beginner sessions. This was a challenge, but also a fantastic example of the growing popularity of the sport and how far the school club has come over recent years. Helped by invaluable contributions from more experienced members across the squad, particularly Cole Telford, Tasha Bradley and Matt Royston the group made quick progress in the early months. In the first batch of races in September we followed on from last year’s success and secured victories for Year 10 and above, with a particular stand out performance from Richard and Tom Clarke who blew away the opposition at Worcester despite a time penalty for being late to the start (this won’t surprise those who know Tom and Richard!), we were convinced they found a short cut, even on a river!  We also saw a new positive rivalry emerge for the top quad as Kings School Worcester proved tough to beat and we exchanged victories with them throughout the winter.

Several year 9 athletes enjoyed (as much as you can enjoy an icy December morning) their first races at Wycliffe Head performing excellently.  Sixth form newcomer Liam Richards also impressed alongside Ben Metcalfe to win on his debut. An injury early in the season meant I was frustratingly out of action for too many months, but this gave me an opportunity to enjoy race day without the pressures of competing, however it was very strange not racing at venues that I had been visiting for the past five years.

One area of focus for the club outlined at the start of the year was the growing strength of the senior girls squad, participation among girls in sport typically tails off after the age of 14, so it was encouraging to see fantastic performances from our year 11 athletes in the spring, even beating their male counterparts from other schools comfortably, showing great promise for the next few years.

The gruelling National Sculling Head in early March provided us the first chance to size up the competition from across the country. It also gave many athletes their first experience of the impressive 2012 Olympic venue at Dorney Lake. Despite the tough course, poor weather and ridiculously priced burgers it was a very successful and enjoyable day, with four of our crews gaining selection for the Wales and West of England team at the under 16 Junior Inter-Regional Regatta a month later, where they went on to hold their own against excellent opposition.

As the summer season began, many senior athletes turned their focus to Wales under 18 first trials. We had eight rowers involved who all impressed selectors with their performances, Josh Kings and Tom Clarke in particular who came second in their pair after only a few weeks of rowing sweep (one blade rather than our conventional 2!).  They finished just 10 seconds behind the top boat from Monmouth School, a marker of a sound performance.  With this year being my last chance to qualify to represent Wales, I was really pleased to go fast and make it through to final trials which will take place in early July.

On a more local level, our year 9 and 10 athletes set the standard for the rest of the club at Birmingham and Shrewsbury Regattas. These events are always highly enjoyable and Monmouth Comprehensive was very prominent, winning nine events in total.

After such a strong start to the year we have very high hopes for summer, for myself and the rest of the senior squad, we will be targeting Wales selection and a second successive Henley Royal Regatta qualification.  Our younger rowers are looking forward to continued local success, and competing against the best schools and clubs at National Championships at the end of the Summer term.

This past month, it has also great to see so many ambitious new rowers from current year 8 students, helped out again by tireless volunteers from across the year groups.  I would urge any young students at the school to seize the opportunity to try out the sport when the chance comes. We are extremely lucky at the school to have the rare chance to compete in such a fantastic support, with a competitive and supportive group of athletes and coaches.

It will be a shame for me to leave behind such an enjoyable and successful club after five brilliant years. The early mornings, hard winter sessions and narrow defeats have definitely been worth it, and the club continues to grow from strength to strength and is now the second largest rowing club in Wales!

Representing Wales and the West of England by Tasha Bradley, Year 11 (April 2013)

With a good win in early March at the Avon County Head, the girls under 16 quadruple scull was looking good for greater things.

Facing our first stage of our challenge to get into the Wales and West of England team for the JIRR (Junior Inter-regional Regatta), at Dorney Lake, Eton, our expectations were high. The race on the Olympic course was even more of a boost.  After an early start for our journey to the race, we waited and watched while a lot of our other crews’ raced until finally it was our turn to get on the water. The weather had been wet all day and the end of the lake was shrouded in mist.  As we boated the 2000 metres to the start, everyone else took cover as the rain started to drive down on us. As we turned and saw what we were letting ourselves in for, the nerves starting to set in, all the pressure building up to that moment seemed to fall upon us.

The three lengths of the course seemed to have gradually taken its toll, as we got off the water we had no idea how we’d done and were anxious for the results. We loaded all the boats and got back on the coach after a very long Friday, but results for our race still hadn’t been posted online.  Had we got through to represent Wales and the West of England or not? Saturday came - no results, just an apology on the website for the delay.  Sunday came - still no results, the pressure was showing.  Finally, on Monday, the results were posted.  We were through to the JIRR at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham along with three other crews from our club. 

It was another early start for our trip to Nottingham.  We had trained hard and our four crews (J16, WJ16, J15 and WJ15) knew what we had to do.  In Nottingham, the wind blew along the length of the lake at the National Watersports Centre.  Our crews first had to get through to the A final as one of the fastest six of the twelve regions entered. 

The tension was high as we boated to the start. Being the last crew to arrive we had to cross the lanes to get to our place.  We knew we had to stay relaxed after the feeling the pressure of Dorney, where we felt we hadn’t shown our full ability.  As we raced, you could feel the power building in every stroke.  Fourth place - support was high as we waited to find out that we had done enough, we had as the other race was much slower.

It was not long until we were back on the water in the A final.  All of our training sessions in the wind and rain had prepared us well for this race. As we turned to start, we knew we had to give all we had.  Our start was good, setting us up for the rest of the race.  As I called the race, I could see that all crews were pulling level.  We needed to push harder and did just that with our friends and family supporting us from the bank. All our power could not get us to a medal place - missing out by just over a second in a six minute race.  Well done to our crew of Zoe McCarroll, Briony Waycott and Emily Richards with excellent efforts put in by the other three crews at the event and onwards to the National Championships and going one (or more!) steps better. 

With high hopes for our home event Monmouth Regatta and our biggest entry yet at one event (35 crews!), we hope that with hard work, we will beat our number of wins from last season. All with the coaching and encouragement of Mr and Mrs Cowton.

Birmingham Regatta by Jemima Greenstreet, Year 9 (April 2013)

The day finally arrived. We had been counting down to this event. What would it bring? What would happen? How will I do? The date was the 27th of April; this meant it was Birmingham Regatta. It wasn’t our first race of the year as I had raced several time trial Head of the River races over the winter, but this was my first side by side summer regatta.  The nerves were high as we reached Edgbaston Reservoir, where we would be competing in a number of races over a 700 metre course. When we reached the reservoir, let’s just say it wasn’t the warmest day we had experienced but thankfully it wasn’t the coldest. The wind was up and the rain was out, so it meant thermals, jumpers, and waterproofs were on. The water looked rather sinister as we looked out over the water. It was dark, choppy and cold, but that didn’t stop us. We got boats out rigged up and put the first crew out on the water.

There were people everywhere, people supporting, people rigging, people trying to find shelter from the hail that kept pelting us every so often during the day.  Despite the erratic weather it didn’t stop us from racing and Monmouth Comprehensive School kept on being triumphant with many race wins through the day.

For the first time this year, Mr Cowton entered a girls J14 single sculling boat at the event.  Her name was Hannah Kay. She was amazing and did extremely well. She won two out of her three races and only lost by half a length, which is hardly anything.  She said “I was excited until I saw the course and then my nerves really set in. I didn’t want to do it initially, but once I got started the nerves went and I put my competitive head on.” All of us are very proud of Hannah and that she did so well.  We were also incredibly impressed and proud of the boys J14 double that raced, including Cameron Bradbury and Harry Dalrymple. They went on to achieve a medal, because they won all of the races spectacularly.  Cameron who was stroking and setting the rhythm said “The day went well because we did well in our races and the races were good fun. We felt nervous before our races but as soon as it started we felt confident and competitive”. 

The day was incredible and great fun. And we are proud of everybody who raced. Despite the nerves we all went out there and tried our best which is all anybody can ask for. The day was long and we were all tired at the end of day as we headed home, but it was worth it. It is a day everybody should look forward to. I had never experienced a regatta before and I didn’t know what to expect, but now I have I can’t wait to do it again.

Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club Half Marathon by Cameron Bradbury, Year 9 (March 2013)

The half marathon for me personally, was a very social event. Everyone took part who rows for the boat club.  Although I was sceptical the first time I heard about it, rather doubting my ability to complete the event and my friends had similar doubts,  I personally found it very enjoyable and found it to be very fun overall. The people I was running with were very nice and supportive (they were not from my year group).  There were a number of drinks stops and support points along the way, which I found lifesaving.  The setting for the event was the Forest of Dean and it was very nice and peaceful which made it twice as nice to be running there. Whilst running it, I was just talking with the other people in my running group, and they too were finding it to be fun, which we were all very surprised at, given the hard work we were putting in.

Completing the run gave me a massive sense of self-achievement.  I was extremely pleased, as I managed to finish the run without an older group overtaking my own group, which I was told they were trying to.  The day overall was extremely enjoyable and I am looking forward to next year’s half marathon a lot.

National Sculling Head by Ben Warmington, Year 10 (March 2013)

On Friday 8th of March, at quarter to six in the morning, I and about forty five other rowers were setting off to the Olympic Rowing Lake at Eton.  The National Sculling Head is one of the largest junior rowing events of the year.  In just my division (under 15 coxed quadruple sculling boats), there were forty-six other crews, National Events are always a big day.

Dorney Lake is the man-made lake built by Eton College for their own crews. It is 2000m long and has space for eight boats to row side by side (and a large warm-up lake alongside the main lake). The first thing I noticed as I stepped into the veritable mansion of a boat-house was the rather large Rolex clock on the wall.

My squad was rowing later in the day, so we had a fair amount of time to not do a lot and take in the surroundings. The aftermath of the Olympic stands and crowds had several people re-turfing the several acres of land that surrounds the lake, a light mist had descended overnight just obscured the far bank, and several hundred boats were making their way to and from the pontoons that jut into the water. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t hold and rain forced us inside to rest and wait.

3 o’clock saw me and my squad preparing for our biggest race so far this year.  First warming up, then carrying our boat into the traffic jam of the boating plaza.  We placed our boat in the water and presently got shouted at by an official that we weren’t moving fast enough.  About two minutes and several shouts later we pushed off from the pontoon.

The race is 3800m long overall, 1900m up and the same back down, it’s a time trial.  At a good speed it should take from twelve to sixteen minutes. In that time we overtook three other boats (one of which, twice).

When we were de-boating we were once again half-heartedly shouted at by an official then we took the boat back to our area, to be de–rigged and loaded onto the trailer. About five minutes later and back in dry clothes, we were back to shelter and eating.

The results took an excruciatingly long time to be released, but when they were, we were quite pleased with the result. We had secured 13th out of 46 crews and had beaten all the boats from our region. This means we will be racing in an Inter-regional event, representing Wales and the West of England, including rather tidy new team kit!

Why do I Row? By Tom Clarke, Year 13 (Dec 2012)

Cold mornings, blisters on your hands, at least five training sessions a week for me, hard work and even the potential to capsize on a chilly day; rowing is often seen in these terms, so why do it. Maybe we can ponder over the reasons forever, and believe me I have had my fair share of self-doubt when waves are pushing against my boat and my heart is pumping. When I feel like giving up at rowing, as I do from time to time, I think of what rowing means to me. I think about how to sum it up. 

Well how to sum up rowing? Hmm. Not an easy question, I mean after all there are a lot of aspects to rowing, whether it is the blade work, balance, hand heights, drive sequence, recovery phase, hands away, power, posture, I could go on. So what can I say that really sums up rowing?  To me, it consists of the combination of eating your way through every sweaty length after length, stroke after stroke, with the water as your trusty companion. It is the soul sapping, exhaustion of the rowing machines on the long dark evenings of winter.  It is the early mornings, and it is being knackered just at the thought of how knackered that you will be.  It is an effort, but it is great to know that you are destroying your opposition and getting fit doing it. Not only this, but it also consists of growing as a person throughout your transition through years of experience.

I know other sportsmen may believe that their sport is great, I mean that’s why you do it, right? Maybe you like the social side, maybe you like the physical side, and maybe your mates do it. Let me tell you something, rowing is good for fitness and it uses all of the major muscle groups such as your arms, legs, back, abdomen and buttock making rowing a superb aerobic and resistance training conditioner, with the exhilaration of pushing yourself that is perhaps hard to match in other sports.

Rowing is great if you are interested in solo sports and just relaxing and training by yourself. Equally, joining in with others can be a great way to build lifelong friendships as the feeling of “team” is exquisite in rowing. Rowing is literally the best way of releasing your stress.

But it isn’t all great, it can be the worse feeling. It’s the worst feeling when you let down your crew, being late for training or not pushing yourself to support them in training and racing.  It is the worst feeling knowing that there seems no way of beating someone in your squad and get into the top boat. It is the worst feeling smashing your legs through the floor as hard as an Olympian, crushing your stomach with your oars, ripping apart your deltoids, biceps, triceps, shoulders, back and butt and only losing by one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten seconds. It doesn’t matter. You’ve been spat on and then kicked onto the curb. Disappointment in rowing is the worst feeling because when you row it means the world to you.

Oh, but the other side is unbelievable.  It is the best feeling not being able to move a muscle because you have worked so hard for your team and yourself.  It is the best feeling listening to your boats song as it glides smoothly through the water.  Rowing is a great feeling, a wonderful, beguiling, incredible, irreplaceable feel?  For the most part, it is absolutely intangible, but one thing that is true is that I wouldn’t stop it.

When you row well it is like a feeling as capable as a tank in a war, as ferocious as a starving lion at the sight of meat. When you row the concentration needed melts your brain and when you row well you feel like you’re on top of the world.

Henley Royal Regatta by Josh Kings, Year 13 (Jul 2012)

Every year, rowing competitors from around the world are attracted to one of the most prestigious rowing events on the calendar, Henley Royal Regatta. Held on the river Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames, since the first regatta in 1839 crews have been drawn to the event to compete against world class opposition in the hope of winning one of the various honourable trophies awardable.

For the past three years, Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club had entered their top boat into the “Fawley Challenge Cup”, an event presented to athletes who are eighteen years of age or younger to race in coxless quadruple sculling boats.  However, to race at such a prestigious event, crews need to qualify just to be able to compete in the regatta’s side by side racing held over the first week of July (Wednesday to Sunday). Qualification racing, which is a time trial, is held on the previous Friday. The school boat club has put crews forward to try and qualify over recent years, even forming a composite crew with Monmouth School in one year, but unfortunately none of the crews have ever been successful… until the year of 2012.

After a disappointing result at Wallingford Regatta just two months before Henley qualification day, Jed Tattersdill, Richard Russell-Broome, Harry King, myself and our coach Mr Cowton sat down in the club house one Monday evening after the event to discuss our frustrating performance.  We used video of the race to reflect on the race in detail and we agreed that we were capable of much more. The conversation we shared that day motivated us to a level we never thought possible before. We really wanted to qualify for Henley.

The training we put into the weeks leading up to Henley was both physically and mentally draining, however we all knew that we had to work harder than ever to even have the slightest chance of qualifying. Before we knew it, the Friday for qualification had arrived.  It was a day that was a new experience for both Harry and myself, but had previously been disappointing for Jed and Richard who had failed to qualify the previous year. Before we were called to boat and paddle up to the start line, we all took a seat in the back of our rented minibus to simply view the video of our disappointing race from Wallingford Regatta filmed by Mr Cowton.  This was all we needed for motivation.

Out of the dozens of crews that trialled there were very few places to be taken for the main regatta. Crews from as far away as Canada, the United States and Australia had travelled to Henley to compete. We raced in difficult rough water with a head wind of 20 miles per hour, collapsing in our boat as we crossed the finish line after eight minutes of the hardest rowing I had ever done.  We all hoped that our time would be quick enough.  We took our boat off the water and waited for just an hour for the results, but it felt like forever!

The tannoy that echoed throughout the whole venue clicked into action and a very formal voice spoke “qualifiers for Fawley Challenge Cup in alphabetical order”.  This was it, we all froze as the voice started announcing the crews that had qualified, the voice got to M... “Marlow Rowing Club, Melbourne Grammar School Australia, Monmouth Comprehensive School” with that we all burst with excitement and relief! No words could truly describe the ecstatic mood we all shared. Our sense of achievement and pride was immense.

The first round of racing was on the following Wednesday and the crowds of spectators that turned up for the day’s racing was like nothing we’ve seen before. The huge marquees, the dress code for spectators and much more make for a unique racing environment.  As competitors, we had special passes to wear to gain access to the athlete’s facilities. We also had to take suits to wear after the race to gain access into the various enclosures to watch other racing (the dress code is rigorously enforced!).  The racing draw pitched us against Prince Alfred’s College Australia, a team we had never raced before so our racing tactic was simple, go off hard for the first 500 metres, then to try and hold them for the next 1600 meters to the finish line. After the race, we chatted with the boys from Australia and found they had taken exactly the same approach, knowing nothing about us either!  Unfortunately, we could not match their superior speed when we raced them side by side.

Although we lost our race (the Aussies turned out to be Australian champions, which comforted us a bit), the experience of competing with outstanding athletes in front of thousands of spectators will always resonate with me. The hours of total dedication and training that we as a crew and our coaches Mr & Mrs Cowton committed in preparation for the event was all worth it. The challenge is now we have to do it again this year... and be faster!

A record day for the “Comp” - DC (May 2012)

The school boat club was founded 20 years ago in 1992, with strong support from the then head teacher, David Every.  Many years later and after a poor month of weather, the annual Monmouth Regatta saw superb weather with sweltering temperatures on the Welsh Borders.  The club had one of their largest ever entries at this home event, with 20 crews entered for the day of racing from first year rowers to sixth form high performers and even one crew of past students.  The entries were enthusiastically supported throughout the day by parents, grandparents and siblings, with all crews being cheered across the finish line.


It was a wonderful day of racing, with a record 13 wins for the school.  This beat the previous record of 11 wins for the same day last year.  Despite event cancellations due to the weather this season, the club has already beaten their season’s record of 33 wins, with 38 wins recorded already.  Both on the day and across the season, events have been won almost every member of the club.

Last year’s total number of wins brought an unexpected bonus.  When records for the season were published, the Comp finished in 15th place of all rowing schools across England and Wales.  This ranked Monmouth Comprehensive strongly up amongst some of the most well-known schools in this very traditional of sports.

The club tries hard to include everyone with its limited resources and the need for high standards of safety; this can make it difficult to give everyone the chance to take up rowing, but we do our best.  The goal is to provide enjoyment for the rowers and challenge them to “be the best you can be“, whatever that may be.  When this came together with great success in front of our home support, it made for a very special day.

My First Regatta - Jess Williams, Y9 (May 2012)

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My first regatta was at Birmingham’s Edgbaston Reservoir. After an early start and a minibus journey, we had arrived. A total of 16 athletes from the school’s rowing squad took part in the event, forming seven crews, and entering 6 different events. As the conditions were initially poor due to the wind and rain, the organisers were was contemplating calling the event off. But after discussion with squad coaches and subsequent changes to the organisation of the event, racing got underway. One change was that the course was to be shortened to 450 metres from 750 metres, a change welcomed by the athletes!

After rigging the boats, and setting up, it was my turn to get on the water, I was to race a double, with Megan Jephcote. Each crew was to race at least two races. Our first was against Royal Grammar School, Worcester. When doing a few warm up laps, nerves were beginning to set in for the both of us, the conditions were not easy as the water was choppy, and it was windy so we could easily be thrown off course during our race. Nevertheless, after a hard push at the end of our race we had won!

We were both extremely happy, but knew that we had to focus. Our next race was to be against fellow athletes from the club, Georgia Howe and Meg Butler. After training with them, we knew they would be a strong competition. The race was extremely close, but in the last 20 meters or so, Meg and I were beginning to take the lead, only to win by half a length. A close race, but also another win for us. Once off the water our main priority was to get warm and dry. As we won both of our races we had made it through to the final to compete against St Edwards’s School, Oxford. While watching them on their warm up laps we both began to get nervous as they looked extremely good. Then we were lined up to race and they said go! We had an extremely good start which saw us gain a small lead. It was a tough race but when we had crossed the finishing line, we had just beaten them by over 2 lengths. As soon as we had finished we were both happy as all our hard training over the winter months had paid off. We won a gold medal and I was so happy and felt very proud as this was my first summer regatta that I had competed in. I will be training as hard as I can and trying my best so that I have a better chance of winning. Overall a very successful day for all of the crews!

My First Regatta – Oliver Hedges, Y9 (May 2012)

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As we got closer my nerves began to build. I started looking out of the window for signs that we were near our destination. I was very relieved to arrive. Leaving our bags where we sat, we left the coach and looked out over the reservoir that we would soon be rowing on. The water was so high that it lapped at the edges. The wind had whipped the surface of the deep black water into a mess of waves making it look forbidding.

We quickly took the boats off the trailer before attaching the riggers. Everybody checked, double checked and triple checked everything, trying to remove the possibility of anything going wrong. When this was done we went for a short warm up run along a path to kick the brain into action. I enjoyed this as we got to see all of the other people busily preparing for their own races.

We now went the short distance back to our own, splendid looking, boat and checked everything a final time. Pleased with the results we heaved the boat onto our shoulders and headed along the muddy path to the launching area. The sides of the boat dug into my shoulders making the journey long. Along the way an official checked over our boat, giving everything a good shake and making sure things wouldn't fall off in the water. With this done we started off towards the landing stage which, to our dismay was under 10 centimetres of water. We struggled quickly to flick our shoes off before we had to step into the water soaking my socks and my trousers up to my ankles in cold water. We quickly attached our oars and pushed off out into the huge expanse of water.

We did the usual warm up from our training sessions, bringing in the rowing sequence starting with just arms, then bringing in the body and then bringing in the slide, quarter, half and then full. We were doing well and I felt confident, although this didn't stop me from feeling nervous. We went around the warm up circuit twice with our friends on the side cheering us as we passed each time. When we finished we headed towards a towering wall that protected us from the wind whilst we were queuing. Now that we had stopped I began to cool down, the heat escaping from the thin clothes that I was wearing. I hoped that the races would start quickly so that we could get moving again. We began to look around us, sizing up the people in the other boats huddled against the wall for protection in the wind shadow.

Then finally we were called up to the start. I felt so many eyes on me as we rowed up to the start. Our opponents, Royal Shrewsbury School, must have been sizing us up, looking for our weakness. When we got to the start we got a look at them. They were massive; four big and strong looking boys, looking confidently at us. When we got level with the other boat an official shouted,


We went forwards on our slides, just as we had done in training. I was extremely nervous. My heart was pounding.


We turned our blades and placed them in the water. I stared at the back of George's neck, waiting for the final command. The butterflies in my stomach got worse.


I pushed down on my legs powering through the water. I tried to remember everything from training. I built up the sequence, taking short strokes at first, building up into more powerful ones. My legs began to tire. My muscles ached. I had a huge urge to look over, see where the other crew was. The water was rough, making it harder to concentrate and it threw out our timing. We fixed this easily though, getting back into our stride and powering on. Suddenly I heard a bell coming from land, this time I had to look but before I did our cox told us to wind down and I knew it was the end. But who had won? Our cox told us, but only after much confusion. We had won. We had beaten them. We had won our first race!

As we stopped, at the back of the queue I noticed I was soaked. The splashes from the blades had drenched me. The wind cut through my clothes chilling me instantly. To my dismay the crew that we were racing second had only just started their first. We saw them racing off. Suddenly the minutes passing felt like hours. My hands started to shake with the cold. It felt like ages until the other crew came.

We lined up again. This time the opposing crew looked smaller but I wasn't going to get over confident.


I did feel ready this time.


My nerves had gone. I knew what I had to do.


We pushed off for the second time that day, powering through the water. I felt like I knew the conditions better this time. I lifted my blades higher off the water, clearing the waves. I could see us pulling away from their boat. Then suddenly they stopped. Their timing had become so bad that they had to stop and sort it out. I could almost laugh but we didn't stop. We kept going and finished the race. Another win!

My body was now shaking from the cold. We landed and removed the blades. We heaved our boat onto tired shoulders and took it back to the trailer. We had no time to put shoes on and made the journey in bare feet. Mine were now so numb the hard ground felt like a cushion. We loaded the boat back onto the trailer and flopped on the coach, tired but exhilarated. Once warmed back up, our coach came to confirm that we had won our whole event!

JIRR - Ben Metcalfe, Y11 (May 2012)

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Oh my god! We have done it. We have actually done it. I can’t believe it, we‘re in! These were just some of the many thoughts blasting through our heads as our results were read out at the National Junior Sculling Head after our 5,400 meter race at Dorney Lake, near Eton.

We were told at the beginning of this race about the possibility of our crew racing for Wales & the West of England at the Junior Inter-Regional Regatta at the end of April, but that it would only happen if the four of us as a crew could beat every other quad in our age group in our region. This meant putting down a faster time than those crews.

What followed this result was a program of hard and vigorous training in preparation for the event. We knew it was not going to be easy, each one of the crew that were to race there had had to compete against all the other crews in their region that same as us so only the best crews from each region would be there. Our whole crew attended our annual training camp at Wycliffe Sculling Centre for more technical training such as backing onto the starts properly before the race began, as well as the hard 12 minute, 10 minute and 8 minute pieces that were to be completed back to back, and at full power. After a full 3 days of this you may be wondering, was it hard work? Answer: yes. Was it painful? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. We all came out the other side feeling like we were finally ready to take on the best crews in the country and show them just how fast 4 boys from Monmouth Comprehensive could move a boat. When the day arrived, the four of us were in the school bus bay at 5:45 before the sun was up, getting on the bus for the 3 hour journey that would take us to the National Watersports Centre.

The atmosphere on the bus was tense, especially as we neared our destination. When we finally arrived at 9 o’clock the weather was far less than was hoped for. There was a strong wind and intermittent rain. Although the wind was in our favour as far as the race was concerned it still provided problems when rowing up to the start with all the other crews that were due to race. As we got onto the start for our first of the 1,500 metre sprints down the 6 lane course, the 4 of us realised the reality of the situation and what we were really about to do. It hit home to us in the last few minutes before the starting shout that we were out there representing not just Wales and West England, but that we were representing our school in front of the hundreds of crews of all age groups and their coaches and supporters. Unfortunately as we joined onto the pontoon that we were to begin our race from, the weather worsened and the rain and wind began to get stronger, picking up white crested waves for us to have to row through. As we psyched ourselves up for the race to begin all 4 of us realised that we were going to have to go completely, 100% flat out to finish the course really strongly.

The shout went and the race began. Immediately all 6 crews fired off the start into the swirling wind and waves, these were the main opposition in this race. As the 200 metre marker went by the waves got higher and higher until they were coming over the side of the boat and soaked all of us. This continued for the whole race until the end where we climbed out of the boat and realised exactly how much water we had taken on board in the rough conditions. Due to the waves, our boat had filled up with water, although our boat has sealed air tanks to ensure we couldn’t sink. As we lifted the boat out of the lake we realised how much heavier it had become due to the water, instead of lifting it straight above our heads as we would normally, we struggled to lift it to our waist to tip out the water that had collected. As it happened, ours was the last race to go down the course as the rest were called off due to the terrible weather conditions that the course was suffering from. None the less, this was our experience of the Junior Inter-Regional Regatta, where we were proud to represent our school in the colours of the Wales & West of England team.

Training Camp- Sam Rugg and Matt McGrath, Y11 (May 2012)

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During the Easter holidays of 2012, we were given the opportunity to spend half a week of rowing to help improve our ability for the upcoming summer season. We went to Wycliffe Sculling Centre  where they row on a canal (instead of our flowing river) as this would prepare us for many of the upcoming seasons races on lakes, as well as making it easier to practice regatta starts and turning on the spot to get onto the start, which are both important aspects of the summer rowing season.

While we were there, we practiced these skills and many others, moving from skills at the start of the week, then onto pieces that would improve our ability to sprint in the shorter, faster, races of the regatta season, such as 500m pieces and 1 minute pieces. We also did a lot of side by side work which we did to help prepare us for the side by side racing intensity of the summer season. In our last outing of the camp we did a timed 1500m race to see how we had improved during the training camp.

The point of the training camp was to improve our ability and confidence for the upcoming season, however everyone also had specific races in mind while training that made them train as hard as they could, to ensure they would have the best race possible.  For me and my crew it was the Inter-Regional Regatta that inspired us to work to our full potential throughout this training camp. Training camp was a very hard and tiring three days and by the end I was completely exhausted, but I had a great time there as well as we have a very friendly club atmosphere, where everyone feels involved and you can have a good time, whilst improving our rowing.

London 2012 & GB Rowing – Alex Thomas, Y12 (May 2012)

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It is no secret that this year’s Olympics is happening on our very own doorstep, and it’s also no secret that rowing is going to be one of our country’s top sports, with expectations to haul in the medals during the finals as they had done in Beijing. What is less well known though is the journey of each athlete racing at this year’s Olympic rowing squad.

Every athlete has already had to prove themselves worthy of a seat in a boat at time trials and many international races, where anything but the best is likely to lose you a spot in a GB boat, a harsh reality for athletes who have typically been in full time training since the last Olympics in 2008. It’s not only the races where their efforts count, every training session every athlete has to perform at their best to show the coaches they really do deserve a spot on the team and challenge to get into not only the team but then into one of the fastest boats with the best chances of gold medals.

The athletes racing in this year’s heavy weight men’s squad have been coached by a full team of coaches, led once again by Jürgen Gröbler. He is renowned for his ruthless motivation to win. He is a tough coach and his crews have won medals at every Olympic Games since 1972, firstly in East Germany then moving to Great Britain to coach Steven Redgrave for three of his stunning five gold medals won in five consecutive games! He has gone onto to coach his lead crews to gold medals in 2004 and 2008. With a very strong women’s squad, including the lead boat with Katherine Grainger, three times Olympic silver medallist, there is a lot of expectation for the GB Rowing squad to succeed. In a final twist, Greg Searle, who won a dramatic gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona games with his elder brother is now aged 40 and looks certain to row in the eight some 20 years later. The GB rowers are certainly highly motivated to ensure rowing could be one of our most successful sports at London 2012.

National Sculling Head at the London 2012 Venue - Molly James, Y10 (May 2012)

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On the 19th March, my crew of Zoe McCarroll, Emily Richards, Briony Waycott and Abi Sturgess (cox) were on our way to race at the National Junior Sculling Head at Dorney Lake, where the Olympics for rowing is going to be held this year 2012. We were nervous but excited at the same time and we had to beat many crews from our region to get into Inter-regionals.

It was fairly windy and we needed a fast enough time to get in. We had a rolling start then once they said go we had to race 1000m up then we turned and raced back down 1000m, so we were racing against time. We had a fast time and we overtook several crews on the way up. We were really happy with our performance but also tired as we had worked really hard.  We were proud to have represented our school and very pleased with our performance.

Later on we found out that we had qualified to race for Wales and the West of England so we were really happy and excited! Racing at Dorney Lake has been a great experience and we are really pleased that we had the opportunity to go and represent our school!

My Year As Captain of MCSBC – Harry King, Y12 (May 2012)

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July 15th 2011 was one of the proudest days of my rowing career, and possibly my life. In the morning myself and my three crewmates (Josh Kings, Alex Thomas and Cole Telford) had the race of our lives resulting in us winning a bronze medal at the British National Championships, and then in the evening, after attempting to finish off a Harvester’s cheesecake (they’re huge!) I was named the new captain of the rowing club, a position I was incredibly proud of. That day really showed me how far hard work can get you in all walks of life, and how bountiful the rewards are. (Oh yes, and it was my mum’s birthday!)

The role as captain was one that I relished, I knew it would be very challenging, but every minute enjoyable and worthwhile. However my visions of leading the club into a golden age of glory, and being worshipped by my squad members as a deity, were short lived as my first job was to help collate the paperwork for the start of the coming season, accompanied by my ‘helpful’ friends, supplying me of course with suitable abuse throughout the day.

I first realised what a prestigious and important role I had been awarded at the start of term meeting, as 50 rowers from 14-18 each as keen as the next, stood before me expecting me to know what I was talking about. It was daunting but also a great reminder of the “power” now at my fingertips, but of course with great power comes great responsibility so sending them all on a 5 mile run seemed a bit unfair.

The following morning was my birthday and also the first morning session of the year (rowers pride ourselves on being useless at getting up early, yet doing so all to regularly at some ungodly hour!). However greeting me at training was not a giant cake, but a delightful 5km piece on the rowing machine as we began preparation for the season ahead.

Our season started brightly with six wins and good performances all round on home soil in ‘Monmouth Autumn Head’. We went from strength to strength showing numerous strong displays throughout the winter in testing conditions. Traditionally the winter is a time of preparation for a rower (not always a fun time!) putting in the hard work to set up the summer racing, usually in horribly cold weather. I remember one particularly cold morning run in which I stepped in a puddle at the start. By the time we got back to the boat house my shoe had frozen, and it took a delightfully warm shower to help get it off.

This winter also brought with it another challenge for me and 5 other seniors as we started our rowing coaching course. This has been a fascinating and very useful new aspect of rowing. As I write this I am in the process of coaching our junior club, and I can confidently say that the future of MCSBC is bright!

The New Year began with continued success, notably by the younger athletes participating and winning in their first ever events. By the end of March we were already closing in on the club record of wins (clearly down to the captain’s great leadership!) and many also got a chance to row on the 2012 Olympic course in Eton, paving the way for our Olympic heroes at the ‘National Sculling Head’ against the best in the country.

In amongst this great racing we had our annual fundraising event, essential for keeping the club going. This involved a far from leisurely bike ride to Symonds Yat, followed by a gruelling run up the Kymin. A week afterwards, we then all set of for Wycliffe (in Gloucester) for a training camp to put ourselves through some more mindless pain!

The regatta season kicked off with a trip to Birmingham, we had a fantastic day adding more wins to the total, despite some having a few steering difficulties (you know who you are) clearly following my example having lost a race there last year due to an encounter with a tree that jumped into the lake! All seems to be shaping up for a fantastic summer of racing which will climax at National Championships in July up in Nottingham where we hope to show all the private schools that “The Comp” can produce just as much class (an experience I particularly enjoy).

As an experience, being a part of such a successful vibrant club for the last five years has been overwhelming, and is something I cannot speak highly enough about. It has taught me a great deal and given me so many great memories, and this year has been even more so. Whether organising an event, racing, enjoying our infamous singing sessions or driving Mr Cowton crazy with my lack of organisation, it has been a truly fantastic year. I hope to have an even better one next year as I try to balance rowing with the increasingly stressful areas of schoolwork and University worries!

Anyway I have blabbered on enough already, all that’s left to say is thank you to all the members of the rowing club for such a great year, I look forward to seeing you all next year, and thank you to Mr and Mrs Cowton, without whose tireless work the rowing club could not continue.

Kymin Biathlon 2012 & The National Junior Sculling Head - Alex Thomas, Vice Captain (March 2012)

This year’s annual fundraising activity saw all rowers completed a run all the way up to the top of the Kymin along with a 10km bike ride to the picturesque, Symonds Yat. This year’s event raised a massive £4,000 with the possibility of more to come! This money is vital for the club’s continued success by paying the expensive race entry fees, the maintenance of equipment and saving up for new equipment. The money the club receives not only from events like this but also from various grants, has already paid for a new single scull to add to the fleet! The boat has been named after former captain Dave Harris.

Following the success of a record 24 wins for the season so far, 36 students travelled to the 2012 Olympic rowing venue near London to participate in this year’s national end of Winter event. This is the height of Head racing in our calendar and is the best measure of how winter training has gone before taking up the challenge of side by side regattas. This year’s junior sculling head had us set off from Monmouth at a demanding time of 5.30am although, after a sleep on the bus we arrived to sunny weather and calm water. The fantastic weather saw fantastic rowing with all crews representing the school with prime performances with two top 10 finishes and our crews beating some of the country’s biggest schools. With the winter season now over we look forward to this summer’s regattas where we hope for plenty more top end performances and lots more success!

Performing when it matters - Alex Eldridge-Tull (May 2011)

Over the 5 years I have rowed, I’ve experienced most enjoyable and rewarding moments from rowing, from my first win at Birmingham Regatta in Year 9, to trialling for Henley Royal Regatta in Year 11 in a joint crew with Monmouth School. It is races like these that make me continue rowing after some disappointing results such as just missing out on a medal at a small race, or a place in the final at National Championships Regatta.

My time trial result at last year’s Wales Trials was unsuccessful and I just missed out on an invitation to the final trial. The result drove me on to come back this year and hit the this year’s opportunity (my final chance as a junior) hard. At the beginning of the season, it was looking to be another disappointing result with some Year 11 athletes performing better than me. Throughout this, season, whenever there was a time trial amongst the boat club, I performed at bottom end of what is expected for one of the most experienced athletes. It was only about a month before trials, when training was primarily for the event, did I start to show the form necessary to make the cut to get invited to the final trial.

One of the key experiences that brought me to this point was the Level 2 qualification in coaching rowing. This has allowed me to be much more analytical with my rowing and progress throughout the year, and proved successful in the large improvement. Because of this, and the large improvement over the season just before Wales’s trials, the nerves hadn’t really hit me, until the row up to the start on the day. In the back of my mind, I was thinking “This is it, my last chance in represent Wales” and I feel the pressure of it, even during the race I was thinking “this is a terrible row” and that the only way to make the cut is if everyone else did really bad as well, but one shouldn’t doubt themselves, and if you work hard and make the most of your training, anything is possible.

The result from this year was far better than expected, ranking 8th fastest Junior Single Sculler in Wales, fasted from the boat club. I was tremendously encouraged the week before in an internal trial, but there was the concern that my strong result was a fluke, a possible “one-off”. To affirm this high level of performance on a day when it really mattered was a great relief and gives me confidence to succeed at the final trials. This would see me race in a crew at the National Championships Regatta in Nottingham, in a composite crew with other successful athletes, and then hopefully representing Wales at the Home International Regatta in Strathclyde at the end of July.

Racing at the Olympic Course - Bethan King (May 2011)

The National Sculling Head at the 2012 Olympic Course was the second rowing event I have been to. I was racing in a quadruple scull and in my boat there was Molly James at bow, Natasha Bradley at 2, me at 3, Zoe McCarroll at stroke and Sam Royston, our cox.

When we got to Dorney Lake our main priority was to help rig the boats that were to be used in the first set of races for older athletes. After a few hours of supporting people from our school race and cheering them on it was time for us to start warming up. At this point the nerves had started to kick in.

There was no opportunity to warm up further on the water so once we pushed off from the landing station we only had a few quick seconds before we started the race. We got ourselves straight down the course and then we were off. I knew that I had to keep focused right from the start, and maintain that focus throughout the entire race. As I got more tired this got very difficult!

When we finally got to the end of the first of two laps, were all exhausted but we knew that we were only half way there; we quickly turned the boat around and began making our way back down the course. I knew the race was almost over and hearing the cheers from the crowd I pushed even harder. As we crossed the finish line I didn’t really mind about the position we finished in as I knew that we had all rowed well. As I got out of the boat I went to hug the rest of my crew mates and congratulated them as we had just rowed on the Olympic Course!

Why Rowing? - DC (May 2011)

Cold mornings, blisters on your hands, at least three training sessions a week, hard work and even the potential to capsize on a chilly day. Rowing is often seen in these terms, so why do students row and keep rowing for many years (the local rowing club has an active, competing group of rowers aged in their 70s)?

Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club is a racing club that prepares athletes for competition and develops athlete performance from the first win at a local event to racing for Wales. Becky Large’s article on her first row in this magazine gives an insight into the nerves, adrenalin and exhilaration of race day. We race at 20 events throughout the school year, winning regularly.

Yet winning is not our prime motivation. Rowing is not a sport such as football or hockey where the opposition’s performance can determine our own. We cannot control what they do, there are no tackles or face to face situations. We seek to be the best that we can be, because we can only control our own performance. We can check our equipment before the race to prevent a malfunction, we can rest well before race day, eat wisely to fuel for performance. During the race itself we try to reproduce the very best work from our training sessions with that extra buzz of race day. If we lose, yet have produced our best race performance to date with the boat flowing and running underneath us propelled by powerful strokes, then we should be happy, albeit with a drive to return and do better next time. To win feels fantastic, and although rowing is physically very strenuous, I have many times heard athletes in post-race debrief say that it they felt no pain just exhilaration when all their hard work comes together with a win.

Wider values
Rowing is at heart a team sport. There is total reliance upon your crewmates. Substitutions are not possible part way through a race and to lessen your own efforts will only place greater demands upon your friends and crew around you. You have to try and provide the strength to sustain their efforts and they need to do the same for you. The “high” when this is achieved is huge and massively rewarding as you have met the challenge together and this will draw you closer together and make you stronger for the future.

Falling short
In all walks of life, we will fail from time to time. Handling failure, showing character and bouncing back are key elements of being successful in our world. Rowing crews have only certain number of seats in the boat and sometimes you will not be good enough. In our trials, this has been by less than a second over 7 minutes or more, a tiny margin but there are still no more seats. It is gutting to miss out, to see the crew row without you and succeed without you when you were so close. We have witnessed this many times in our club, yet we have also frequently seen the athletes show the resilience necessary to come back, supporting these efforts fully through motivation and coaching. The satisfaction of having come through hard and challenging times and gaining prized selection for a boat, going on to produce race performances to be proud of is very special and will always give greater confidence to meet setbacks in the future. A true life skill.

School work
So why do so many schools offer rowing? It is not cheap and needs careful safety management. The prestige of sporting success is certainly attractive for some schools, but all sports offer this potential, from squash to rugby to hockey, so what extra element can rowing provide?

To be the best you can be in rowing requires an intricate cocktail of physical fitness and mental focus to balance the technical needs of the sport in moving a boat as fine as just 25cm wide and 6 metres long to a speed of up to 5 metres per second. The focus and attention to detail required to develop and maximise performance on the water in considerable. These concentration skills are invaluable in the classroom for students to gain the very best outcomes from their schoolwork, whether in lessons or for homework.

In rowing, it is a simple yet tough to achieve equation of “hard work brings worthwhile rewards”, focusing upon each stroke in each outing and organising your time to gain sufficient opportunities on the water to develop your skills. There are no “natural” rowers, all the technique can be learnt for an essentially repetitive action, enabling anyone with a drive to succeed to perform at a high level. At school, these core skills of focus and organisation, re-used across the curriculum are invaluable and need to be learnt. Rowing provides an excellent development ground for this learning.

How do I start?
This article is not written as a “recruitment poster”, more to try and explain something of what the athletes gain from rowing, but I am often asked “How do I start rowing” and this is useful time to clarify the entry route. MCS offers rowing as a PE option at Years 8/9 and these sessions give a basic grounding in navigation and stroke technique in a controlled environment. For those who wish more and to gain the greater benefits of rowing outlined above, the Junior Club runs every Summer Term for Year 8 primarily (although others are welcome), progressing to race preparation as a member of the full squad with year round training. The club runs a total of 9 separate sessions per week, with athletes rowing up to 6 times a week depending upon experience and goals. Our website at will tell you more.

For all these reasons and more, Monmouth Comprehensive School has a thriving rowing club, from those starting in the sport at Year 8 to the 23 crews that are entered to race this weekend (as I write) at Monmouth Regatta.

I was able to row at school and benefited hugely in many ways. It is an enduring pleasure to be able to give the same opportunity to our students at MCS.

"My First Regatta" - Becky Large on her first ever race and a win! (May 2011)

My first race was to be at the Birmingham Regatta on the 7th May 2011. Needless to say, having missed a couple of months worth of training due to illness, I was really nervous, knowing that we were expected to do really well (as the club did so well last year!).

The day of the race arrived and after a hiccup with the bus, we were on our way! Driving through heavy rain, I was feeling nervous, scared and excited

Once on the water though, I started to concentrate and the adrenaline took over. I was lucky to have great crew mates in our quad. Molly James, Briony Waycott, Bethan King and our Cox, Matt Royston.

Our first race against Worcester RGS resulted in a win for us after a rocky start - what a feeling! We then raced against another MCSBC crew and won again (just)- we were on a roll now. Our third was against Worcester RC.

We were feeling the pressure but gave it 100%, dead focussed all the way, getting our third win. After all this, we were shattered, but I felt so proud of the crew and myself! I had no idea that we were going to get a Gold Medal, but as we had won 3 out of 3 races, it was great to get one. All those hours training had been worth it, (thanks Mr & Mrs Cowton) and the club won 8 out of 11 events.

A letter from a Year 9 rower, Charlie Burge to Rowing, the national magazine for all rowers.

Start of the 2010-11 season - Beth Lloyd, Vice Captain

As always, Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club, as always, began its new season on the first day of term. This prompt start, along with the usual regular training programme has rewarded us with a productive and successful start to the term.

After only 3 weeks preparation the club undertook the rarely enjoyed challenge of an event upon our own waters; Monmouth Autumn Head. The weather, for once, did not live up to the Welsh reputation and remained bright and wind free. Four of our crews which took part were rewarded with winning medals for Josh Kings, Jed Tattersdill, Harry King and Harry Righton enjoyed an impressive victory, who as J16s (yr 11), won the J17 (yr12) category decisively. Both Alex Thomas (yr11) and Isabel Marsh (yr10) won their single scull events, whilst Meaghan Sturgess (yr10) with her partner Mary Pickard (yr 10) also proved their prowess with a win in the double scull. Although the day did contain some frustrations for older members of the squad, overall the event proved to be a rewarding exercise which for many reignited their competitive ‘bug’.

Just a week later, the squad set off for their next event Worcester Small Boats Head; a course, as many athletes will tell you, famous for its overhanging trees and seemingly endless length. However 5 of our crews once again triumphed. Josh Kings and Jed Tattersdill was this time joined in their quad by Alex Thomas and George Jones, with the new combination proved to be another winning formula. Isabel Marsh and Mary Pickard swapped roles, with Isabel joining Meaghan in the double, and these three athletes once again proved their worth. With another win for the Yr11 quad at Pangbourne just after half term and many strong performances against strong schools and clubs, the club is well set for the term’s finale at Wycliffe in December.

During the remaining weeks before half term the squad continued to iron out the rusty elements which a long summer can cause and athletes across the squad were rewarded for their efforts via a series of time trials. The senior squad had a joint time trial with Monmouth School for Boys which produced, for many, encouraging results alongside a friendly rivalry.

Of course last term cannot be summarised without mention of the inspiring charity 500m rowing machine challenge between staff and students. It took place on the recent non-uniform day and in aid of Brake (the road safety charity), the school’s charity of the day, in the school hall at break time. Students crowded in making a great atmosphere. Five brave athletes and teachers rose to the challenge which arose originally from banter between form tutor Mr Price and a member of his form, Jed Tattersdill. Many of the races were extremely close but the students did manage to win all five. Many thanks to Mr Price, Mr D Williams, Mr Penny, Mr Evans and Miss Biddle who raced Jed Tattersdill, Dave Harris, Alex Thomas, Richard Russell-Broome and Georgia Hancock for willingly committing themselves to a brilliant cause, for which almost £1,000 was raised from non-uniform, cake sale and bucket passing at this rowing event.

Ben Metcalfe and Seamus Cooper after their best row yet at Pangbourne Sculls.

Ella Phillips, Evie Clarke, Beth Lloyd, Holly Smith, Issy Shan after a tough, but very rewarding day at Pangbourne.

Review of the 2009-10 season (May 2010) - Bobbi Klymchuk, Club Captain

Monday 7th September, the new school year got underway with a rowing club meeting as everyone began to plan their preparations for the year ahead. Feelings in the club where mixed as everyone became aware of the winter training that was around the corner, some looking forward to the circuits, running, weights and other land training. Others, not so much. This year to soften the blow for those not so enthusiastic about land training there was a pleasant game orientated twist to Friday evenings. Be it basketball, dodge-ball or hockey these games were not only a very effective way of increasing fitness when the river was impossible to row on, they also helped bring us together as a team.

The first race of the year was a local one, Monmouth Head, which meant a large number of boats could easily race, even with the rust gained by most athletes during the summer, as it is our home water (and therefore knowing where to steer wasn't an issue). A total of 21 boats were entered and, although a number couldn't race due to illness as is common at the beginning of the year, there were 4 wins overall.

The next two heads in the winter season were Worcester and Hampton (this replaced Pangbourne Junior sculls which was cancelled) , both relatively low in terms of numbers of athletes who went but both valuable racing experience and good training for all those involved. Another 4 wins were gained at Worcester head, which is 7 more wins total on the same point last season.

Saturday 5th December was a big day for the club as it was Wycliffe Small Boats Head. This is a big event for the club every year and was the first race for a number of the WJ14s, which made the event all the more exciting for them. 4 silver and 4 bronze medals where won adding more to the medal tally of the season so far.

After Wycliffe the land training really kicked in hard to increase everyone's fitness in preparation for the spring/summer season where the regattas start rolling in. There where a number of head races before this to help prevent rust from building up including Wycliffe Big head and Avon County head, where another group of J14s had their first races.

On the 12th March 6 crews raced at the National Sculling Head for selection for the Junior Inter Regional Regatta on the 25th April where the J15 boys crew with Alex Thomas, Josh Kings, Jed Tattersdill, Cole Telford cox Beth Lloyd raced the 2000m course at Nottingham to come in a well deserved 3rd place. Well done boys (and Beth!) and keep up all the hard work.

The Half Marathon to Henley, a major fundraising event for the club, was another success where over £4,000 pounds was raised by all members of the club being sponsored to run, walk or mixture of the two along a 13.1 mile course on the river Thames finishing at the site of the Henley Royal Regatta course. So a huge well done to everybody who took part and thank you to all the coaches, teachers and parents who organised and supported the event. The money raised will go to the MCSBC Friends to be used to help the athletes to succeed by funding equipment, race entry fees and transport costs.

Junior club induction 2010 has now begun, and the enthusiasm and persuasive abilities of the year 8 students wishing to row raised the limit from 30 to 35 students who have all now been on the river in the plastic training boats and some may soon see themselves with the daunting move into the finer boats. These students are being coached by one adult coach and two sixth formers, also with coaching qualifications to provide a good quality, informative experience for all. Those who wish to continue next year will be most welcome to continue and start the real training and competing.

More information on the club can be found on the website

Why Coach? (April 2010) - Lucy Clarke (6th form & Level 2 Rowing Coach)

Last year the opportunity arose for me to go on a Level 2 coaching course for rowing and sculling. This would mean that I would be qualified to coach to all abilities, as an independent coach from the age of 18. I had already been a member of Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club for 4 years, so had first-hand experience of the demands rowing as a sport can have. Being a member of a very competitive club, I have competed in many events from Monmouth Regatta to the National Championships of Great Britain.

Preparing for such events heavily involves the coach; they train you to your very best physical and technical standard, motivate you so you are mentally ready and reassure you on race day to help calm the nerves. Having been through the training and racing process myself, I felt that I could have a positive effect on those athletes that are less experienced by delivering structured and focused coaching sessions which draw upon my own experience.

Having previously enjoyed helping out with the junior beginners’ club, I thought that completing the coaching course would be an ideal opportunity for improving my rowing knowledge and to provide more coaching to the junior club which would be beneficial to their development as an athlete. It looks good on a personal statement for university applications! To gain the qualification it involved numerous different tasks and assessments including:

Show competence in setting up a boat for an individual rowers needs, using a range of specialist measuring tools.
Completing a risk assessment for several different rowing venues, detailing how to minimise risks and concluding whether risks were acceptable.
Passing exams covering first aid, child protection and rowing technique in general (these were all taught in an intensive week of classroom work).
Planning and delivering a series of 6 coaching sessions to meet the needs of a specific athlete, demonstrating clear evaluations of each session and progression through the sessions.
Completion of a log book detailing all these experiences and more.
A year on after gaining the qualification, I have been really surprised at how it has affected my own rowing technique as I now think a lot more about what I would say if I was coaching myself, so my development has very much improved according to my coach.

However, the benefit that I feel I’ve gained most through completing the course is watching those athletes that may have struggled to start off with, progress in fitness, technique and confidence through my coaching of them. Also having a larger number of qualified coaches in the rowing club (there are now 6 qualified student coaches with the completion of the latest course) means that more students from the school have the opportunity to participate in rowing from beginner level to National competition and racing for Wales. For those children that may find it harder academically, like I did, it gives them the chance to excel practically and get away from the classroom as well as getting the chance to make new friends, and travel the country competing. I am pleased that I completed the coaching course because I can now relate to younger members as a rower myself but also have a coach’s point of view at the same time.

Junior Inter-Regional Regatta (April 2010) - Alex Thomas (J15)

The regatta season for myself, Josh Kings, Jed Tattersdill, Cole Telford and our cox Beth Lloyd got off to a flying start after at the Junior Inter Regional Regatta on Sunday the 25th of April. After a two and a half hour bus journey we arrived at the Nottingham water sports centre and as we drove past the rowing lake and I saw people getting ready to race my nerves suddenly increased.

After getting off the bus and preparing ourselves and our boat for the first race of the day we got on the water. We would be racing in the semi final against 5 other regions, out of 12, for 1 of 6 places in the ‘A’ final and the chance to win a medal. Our semi final race went well enough for us to come 2nd place with the 3rd fastest time out of the 12 regions but we would need to step up in the final to keep that position.

We got off the water and rested for the final, watching some very quick races which inspired us to step up and put everything in to our final race. The time came where we were lining ourselves up next to the 5 other crews and the nerves turned to adrenaline. We straightened up and the marshal shouted ‘Attention, GO!’ We drove ourselves forward and quickly took 3 crews to be in 3rd position; we pressed on Thames Upper to try and take 2nd place and in the process left the 3 crews behind us a huge challenge to catch us. Over the last 500 meters we drove on but couldn’t catch 1st or 2nd and as we crossed the line we comfortably took 3rd place with a 14.6 second gap between us and 4th place. After such a fantastic row and knowing that we had won a medal our feelings of joy blanked out the pain and tiredness that ran through our bodies.

We turned and rowed up alongside a pontoon to be presented our medals by Ben Hunt-Davies, an Olympic gold medallist at rowing in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. We then got out and took our boat back to the trailer buzzing with adrenaline and great feeling of pride. We had a Brilliant day and ended a fantastic weekend after other members of MCSBC won 6 events at Birmingham regatta on the Saturday.

My first race experience (March 2010) - Ben Metcalfe (J14)

On Saturday the 6th of March I had my first experience of a rowing race. This race involved me being in single scull and racing down the 1500 meter course on the river Avon. We had to be at the school by 7am and we arrived at Avon at about 8:30. Next we unloaded the boats that were to race in the first division, including mine, and rigged them ready to race. Once my boat was ready I took my blades and followed a very helpful senior rower down to the water’s edge where he explained to me where I would have to start from and where the finish was.

Getting in the boat was probably one of the scariest parts of the race, because I was so nervous, but I did it and set off to the start line 1500 meters up river. After a long wait in line at the start the marshal called and off I went.

At the time it felt like the most ferocious, physical, heart racing thing that I had ever done, and it probably was. I blasted down the course as fast as I possibly could with a double in front of me and a single behind, but towards the last 500 meters the single began to catch up and over take. This caused me to lose focus on what I was doing, and I missed a stroke with one of my blades causing the boat to steer off course. This gave the other more experienced rower the chance he needed, and unfortunately for me he took it and overtook me. But I didn’t give up, I straightened up my boat and chased him all the way to the end but because of his extra experience of race conditions and my loss of concentration he beat me to the line. I came 3rd out of 3. I didn’t and I still don’t mind where I came, although it would have been nice to have done a bit better, I am still happy that I got down the course as fast as I could without falling in. My coach was also very happy with my performance said it was the best he had seen me row.

And that was my first race experience.

MCSBC early 2009 review (Mar 2009)

Worcester Head on the 21st of February was a very positive day for the club as we took home four wins from six events! From these results crews were then chosen to compete at the National Junior Sculling Head (9th March) held at Dorney Lake in Eton, the venue chosen for the rowing in the 2012 Olympics.

This again was a great day for the club with great efforts by all the crews to produce the best racing performances of the season so far. We had three top 10 finishes, exceeding our previous best by some margin. One of these crews was the Junior Boys under 14’s coxed octuple, where it was their first major national event. They came seventh out of forty-eight in their category beating some big names such as Kingston Grammar School, Henley Rowing Club and Windsor Boys School. So a huge well done to the boys and to keep up the good work!

Above is the J16’s quad at the National Sculling Head, finishing 7th and selected to row for Wales & West of England this Summer

Also recently a major fundraising event that the club held was a Half Marathon to Henley (Sat 14 March). This took place along the River Thames, finishing in Henley-on Thames that is home of the famous regatta. All athletes took part with the seniors running the distance and the juniors a mix of running and walking throughout! So a huge well done to everybody! Also thanks to parents/coaches/teachers who supported the event by the organisation of check points and transport. All money raised from this event will go to MCSBC Friends to ensure success over the coming year, with aims of supporting the rowing club with equipment, race and transport fees.

From the fundraising of MCSBC Friends last year, we were able to purchase a fast single sculling boat made by “Wintech”. The boat is to be used by athletes preparing to race in it at major events oncoming to this year. The single scull was named after Stephen Moore. Stephen is the Chairman of the Friends of MCSBC and a Governor of the school. He has been at the heart of the Friends since its inception three years ago and we wanted to recognise his contribution and thank him by naming the boat after him.

Junior Club 2009 is also now under way with taster sessions for the new rowers being organised for the Summer Term. This year, we are focusing on Year 8, with just 40 places available to ensure a good quality of experience for all – three qualified coaches will be at each session (one adult coach and two student coaches who passed their coaching qualifications before Christmas). Then they will continue into the main squad, improving their rowing and competing.

All information on the club can be found at

Hannah James Vice Captain of MCSBC

Response to Beacon Letter (February 2009)

The Friends of Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club is parents’ support organisation for MCSBC. The Friends organisation is run independently of the Boat Club with the charitable aim to support the young rowers of MCSBC (Registered charity number 1120581).

From the fundraising of MCSBC Friends we were able to purchase a fast single sculling boat made by “Wintech”. The boat is to be used by athletes preparing to race in it at major events oncoming to this year. The single scull was named after Stephen Moore. Stephen is the Chairman of the Friends of MCSBC and a Governor of the school. He has been at the heart of the Friends since its inception three years ago and we wanted to recognise his contribution and thank him by naming the boat after him.

The Friends provides significant financial and practical support to MCSBC throughout the year by organising activities and events. The next events are of a Quiz and Curry night held at Monmouth Rugby Club on Saturday 31st January 2009. The other is a “Half Marathon to Henley” on Saturday 14th March 2009, along the River Thames, finishing in Henley-on Thames that is home of the famous regatta. All athletes will be taking part with the seniors running the distance and the juniors a mix of running and walking throughout! All money raised from these two events will go to MCSBC Friends with aims of supporting the rowing club with equipment, race and transport fees. Information about sponsorship of this event and information on the club can be found at

Hannah James Vice Captain of MCSBC

Beacon Article (February 2009)

I am writing in reply to a letter in last week’s Monmouthshire Beacon (4-02-09) from E.James, which compared the appearance of the ‘class of 88’ and today’s pupils at Monmouth Comprehensive School.

I would like to point out that the ‘class of 1988’ was a formal official school photograph with obvious attention to smartness and uniforms. The recent photo this is compared to was taken during a busy school lunchtime at the naming of a new Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club (MCSBC) boat. Admittedly pupils are wearing coats, have school bags on their backs and are not formally lined up, and may not look their smartest. However the purpose of the occasion was to celebrate the great achievement of the Friends of MCSBC and club members, through hard work, support and fundraising to be able to purchase, and name, a new boat.

This ‘scruffy bunch’ has successfully represented their school at prestigious events, with dignity, pride and enthusiasm against many nationally well known and well funded private school boat clubs. We take pride in both our appearance and performance on these occasions. We are proud of our school and being able to represent it with high standards of behaviour and maturity at training sessions and events.

Please don’t judge these comprehensive school teenagers solely on appearance as many people seem to do, but appreciate instead how committed to our sport we are, and what we achieve.

MCSBC is the only comprehensive school based rowing club in the country and has a fantastic record of achievements in Heads/Regattas and National Events, with past and current members having achieved selection for Wales. MCSBC is about dedication, commitment and teamwork.

I am proud to be a member of the boat club and of a group of fun-loving, responsible and committed athletes and coaches to whom appearance is not always the top priority. I only hope that others don’t make similar assumptions on appearances and instead celebrate our achievements.

Hannah James Vice Captain of MCSBC

Newsletter (November 2008)

Racing for Wales At the end of the Summer, three senior athletes from the school Boat Club, trialled for the Wales team and won places. Han James and Jo Clarke won a bronze medal racing for Wales at the National Championships in the coxed four, whilst Louis Paterson won a superb gold medal. This was the first National Championships gold medal ever won by one of our athletes.

At the Home International Regatta on the following weekend, the athletes raced on Wales’s home course at Cardiff Bay with great style and Louis once again won a gold medal, this time racing in the “blue riband” eights event against the Home Nations of England, Ireland and Scotland. This was the first time in the 30 year history of the event that Wales had won the eights event

For our home event at Monmouth in September, the school entered 19 different boats from Year 10 to Year 13. Amongst many good performances for the early season, Georgia Hancock won her J16 class with ease.

Pangbourne Junior Sculls is a major early season event with 450 boats from many different schools (we were the only comprehensive school!). At this event several Year 10 crews went rather well, with Amelia Greenstreet, Katrina Stockton, Molly Brett, Kim Morgan and Sam Royston (cox, Year 11) coming 6th our of 16 entries. Georgia Hancock again won her event by 13 seconds in a time of 12:21, despite a collision on the course with a girl unwilling to let her by! She teamed up with Hana Jones to take a splendid 2nd place in the double sculls event.

Training is now well underway for the club’s largest ever event with 47 athletes due to race in 25 different crews at Wycliffe near Gloucester in early December. The picture shows the Year 10 athletes working on their fitness and technique on the “ergo” rowing machine in preparation for the event.

Full details of the Boat Club’s activities and the invaluable support provided by the Friends of Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club can be found at

School Magazine (April 2008)

MCSBC “Half Marathon to Henley”

The athletes at Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club are always looking for more ways of fundraising for the Friends of Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club Charity. The boat club had set two world records on the rowing machine having risen over £12,000. So when a Half Marathon was suggested, the thought was that it would be good to try something new and take many rowers out of their comfort zone of the rowing machine and make them run!

On the 1st of March after a week of cold wet weather the morning dawned sunny and surprisingly warm for the time of year and 45 members of Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club embarked on a half marathon. The regattas at Henley are major targets for our athletes and represent a peak of athletic achievement, so the town provided a suitable focal point for what was a tough, but achievable challenge for all our members. The route followed the River Thames to Henley.

The day itself had many perks with, every member completing the distance be it walking or running in small groups. I myself had never run anything of that kind of distance before, and was very scared at the prospect of a Half Marathon, My group and I battled on and also managed to get lost around Marlow running around the town centre for what felt like forever! We even managed a sprint finish! The day was enjoyed by all, with everyone feeling as if they had achieved.

The early paper total is close to £4,530 being with a possible £700 alone from the Gift Aid raised for the Friends of Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club. I am extremely proud of their athletes for all their hard work and efforts, and would like to thank all the parents and coaches that helped make this day a very enjoyable one for all.

Kirsty Usher MCSBC Captain

Newsletter (March 2008)

Wycliffe Big Head In early February, the Year 11 crew of Susannah Price, Meghan-Rose Rigby, Lucy Clarke and Kathryn Ing won their event by a huge margin of 47 seconds in a time of 18 mins 28 secs. This was a great reward for a lot of training done over the Winter and they beat a crew that has frequently beaten them in previous years.

Half Marathon to Henley This sponsored event was the rowing big annual fund raising event. Held on the 1st March, 49 students completed the event along the banks of the River Thames finishing at the home of rowing in Henley. Many athletes ran the distance, with the event being supported by many parents (several of whom also ran). The final total is estimated at a fantastic £4,800 raised including Gift Aid for the Friends of Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat, who support rowing activities at the school.

Avon County Head In mid March, a Year 10 crew of Oliver Usher, Sam Dawson, Tom Scrivens and George Horn coxed superbly by Sam Perkins won their event and gained selection for the school in the Wales & West of England team at the Inter-Regional Regatta in April. Florence Newsome, Year 8, won her first event in the single scull.

“Why Do I Row?”

When I am asked this question I always struggle to come up with a simple answer. Friends and family see the chapped, blistered hands, the muscular shoulders, the constant training, and think themselves the sensible ones and us slightly insane.

Yes, there are times when I agree with them as the muscular shoulders start stretching tops, and the tan-lines across the biceps and thighs from those sunny race days as the lycra race kit is engraved on you. Also the slightly haggard look that comes from early morning training on 6am alarm calls and the windswept weather-beaten look that you can never quite get rid of.

So why do we get involved in this sport? Common answers are, “I was tall so someone told me I should row” or “My brothers and sisters have done it so thought I would have a go”. Most mention their competitive streak, or refer to inspiration from a particular sportsperson. Mine was mainly that I wanted to try a new sport and to experience a different type of water sport.

For me, the pull of sport has always been getting out into the open air, being part of a team, the intensity of competition and the drive to do your best. Not for the slog of training, but for those moments of magic, when it all comes together and produces a performance better than you had thought possible. I suppose that’s why so many people follow their football or rugby team with such passion. Those extraordinary moments in sport, when you feel part of something special and something bigger than yourself such as when Wales beats England in any sport but especially in rugby during this current ‘Six Nations’.

So why rowing? Why this incredibly demanding, time-consuming, exhausting, unglamorous and most frustrating of sports? To be proud of being part of probably the hardest sport under the sun (and rain, and wind…), but more importantly to have a laugh with your crew mates and to take the mick out of each other whilst you’re doing it. To end with a confusing pleasure and pain after a 20km training session in single sculls is ‘fun’; and the side by side regattas of 2km that you push yourself to the point of vomiting in racing ‘hilarious’. But truly an amazing sport that keeps you healthy and boosts your self-esteem to become not only confident in yourself but also in sport as well as increasing your pain threshold. Rowers are a weird bunch, but I love being one.

Hannah James on the left and Laura Riddell on the right.

Hannah James, Girls Senior Squad

The “Anna Woodman”

As rowing at the school continues to grow, we have looked to expand our fleet of boats enabling as many students as possible to row at the highest standards. The most recent purchase is a high performance racing double scull. In its first race shortly before Christmas, the boat was sculled to a win by Jo Clarke and Meghan Rigby.

The boat has been named “Anna Woodman” after our recent captain. Anna made a major impact on the club during her time as a student, with two years as Club Captain. Amongst her major achievements was the organisation of our 24 hour world record, which still stands 3 years later. We were delighted to invite Anna to name the boat after herself in traditional style. Anna is now a qualified coach and accompanied us on our annual training camp to Belgium.

Newsletter (November 2007)

The school Boat Club had an excellent end to Summer 2007 with wins at Llandaff Regatta in Cardiff for three crews and several athletes gaining their first win!

Congratulations to Louis Paterson and Rhian Truman on becoming the latest members of the club to represent Wales. Louis is now preparing for Great Britain trials this winter.

The new season has started very well with a record racing membership of over 50 athletes. With wins in our first few events against strong opposition and plenty of very good performances, hopes are high for even more wins in the months ahead.

The Boat Club has recently applied for and received a grant from the Community Chest for £1,000. This invaluable funding has been matched by a further £1,000 from the Friends of Monmouth Comprehensive School Boat Club and has been used to purchase two very stable training boats. The “Friends” are our parental support group who have recently been registered as a charity. We are very grateful for their continued support.

Newsletter (Oct 2006)

The end of the Summer Term saw Merryn Roberts (club captain) gain her second cap rowing for Wales at the Home International Regatta. The club has now had continuous representation on the Wales team for the last four years.

With more athletes in the Boat Club than ever, this year promises to be to offer plenty of variety both in training and in competition. We welcomed a significant number of new members to the Senior Club. These athletes started rowing in our beginner sessions in the Summer Term. Some of these members have already raced for the school and we hope to see many more of them racing in the months ahead.

More experienced members of the club have got the season off to a successful start; Ryan Price (Year 13) and Andrew Ing (Year 12) won Senior 4 double sculls at Monmouth Autumn Head of the River Race. Susannah Price and Lucy Clarke (both Year 9) had excellent rows at the same event, with Susannah unfortunate not to win due to a quirk of the event organisation.

At Worcester Head of the River Race, just two weeks later the sixth form girls had a very successful time with Jo Clarke, Hannah Clarke, Merryn Roberts and Kirsty Usher all winning in double sculls, with excellent rows. The event also saw the Year 10 girls’ quadruple scull of Lucy Clarke, Meghan-Rose Rigby, Kathryn Ing, Susannah Price and cox Lucy Amos win their event against local rivals Haberdashers’ Girls School and Kings Worcester.

Over the Summer, the club refurbished several boats in its fleet at a cost of some £2,000. This was paid for totally by fund raising by members combined with invaluable support from the club’s parents’ support organisation, the Friends of MCSBC. We are very grateful for their continuing support.

The opportunity to start rowing at the school is open to all students from Year 8 upwards. Swimming tests are held at the end of the Easter Term, with rowing sessions being held weekly throughout the Summer Term for beginners.