New date for rowing’s British Championships

The senior element of rowing’s British Championships is to move from its traditional slot at the end of July to October in a plan approved by the British Rowing Council on Saturday.

The event has struggled to retain its prestige of late, with many squads chosing to end their seasons after the Henley regattas. British Rowing hopes to start in style, with 2016 Olympic hopefuls competing for their clubs at the new event just after the Olympics.

However, the move will have an effect on the entire season, which generally begins in mid-September after a break of a few weeks through August, then moves immediately into long-distance racing with the head season.

There has already been lots of discussion on this on Twitter but here’s an opportunity to have your say in more than 140 characters.

Do you think it’s a good idea and do you have a better one?

UPDATE: I’ll try to collate some of the Twitter feedback too, although much of it is in conversation thread so difficult to pick out.

UPDATE: Two senior officers of the British Rowing Championships wrote an article explaining the changes on 19 December, explaining some of the decision-making process, admitting some problems and outlining some of the challenges. Key points include a cap on the number of GB squad members in each club crew and the fact that the move to Dorney Lake is a one-off for 2012.

UPDATE Wednesday 22 February:After reading on the British Championships website that senior events would, in fact, take place in July, I spoke to Fiona Dennis,  chairman of the British Rowing competition committee, who confirmed the move but also said a “Diamond Jubilee Rowing Championships” will take place three months later, with the focus on senior events and some changes in format, as a trial for a likely shift to autumn 2013. More in the next Rowing Voice, which will hopefully be out within the week.

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11 Responses to New date for rowing’s British Championships

  1. Martha says:

    It’s laudable to attempt to raise the prestige of the National Championships, but irresponsible to do so at what is actually short notice: club rowers started training in September and will train hard through to June or July. If any of us want to go to Brit Champs this year, it means (effectively) no proper break until October, or decide which aspect of the 2012 head race / regatta season we’re happy to have a rest during.
    Have they clarified what this will mean for Home International Regatta?
    Have they thought what it means to extend the sprint (2k) season from July to October, when the head race season has started?
    For those of us not at the national squad standard, when do they propose we hold our “seasons”?

  2. Iain Cheyne says:

    Check out thinkup for collating twitter responses.

  3. Overall as an idea, it has its merits – holding Nat Champs in October is not a fundamentally bad idea. However there are a number of significant issues with both the timing and implementation.
    I applaud the intent to revamp Nat Champs, and to look for a way that national squad can race. It should be an aspiration for top level club rowers to test themselves against the very best in the country, and to race against them. However, to make this change part way into the season, thereby extending it by three months without any warning and not allowing for future planning, is ridiculous. Serious club rowers either need to extend their season by three months (a depressing thought at this time of year) and risk exhaustion and/or overtraining, or to take a break and not be in peak form. Hardly ideal preparation for the pinnacle of the rowing calendar.
    Secondly, for non-international rowers (and indeed internationals, though this fits the international calendar better) to be at their peak to race the championships, it should be the culmination of a season of preparation and racing – the best way to prepare for a big 2k regatta is to do a series of 2k races against good opposition in the weeks and months leading up to it. With the current season structure, the major regattas are held between April and July, leaving 2-3 months with limited racing options giving no chance to prepare, and making it difficult to maintain top form. Yes rowers could take a break, but are they realistically going to be at their peak, which to race the internationals they will have to be, if they do take time off?
    Thirdly, how does this fit with both the start of the head racing season and the first set of LD trials? Preparing for 2k side by side is very different to preparing for 5k and longer over the head season – will these races be delayed? Will a good performance at Nat Champs exempt rowers from the 1st LD trials? These are not insurmountable issues, but my point overall is that to allow top club rowers to prepare and race at their best at the Champs in October, you cannot simply change the date of the champs – the whole season structure needs to be re-thought out. This is possible, and maybe even a good idea, but it needs more than 11 months notice to achieve.
    This feels like a change rushed through, to improve the status and marketability – I fear that what they gain in internationals competing (which incidentally seems far from guaranteed) they risk losing that and more from senior club rowers who will either under-perform or decide not to go. And this doesn’t even enter the debate of how bad the timing is for University clubs, who form a big contingent at the championships. This needs a complete rethink.

  4. madprof99 says:

    Are club rowers supposed to end their season at Nat Champs now, or begin it?

  5. Martin, I think the number 1 thing that the committee has overlooked is that it is not a ‘national’ championships because the whole rowing community is not involved. Despite the valid criticisms of having to race the national squad; I think that introducing status racing at the regatta will ensure that whole clubs come to the event not just the elite squads.
    Imagine your novice season ending at the national championships where you can race all the other novice crews? You would be the novice national champion. And the same up the statuses…. even if they only introduced it for Novice, IM2 and elite it would give more people a chance to race a nationally recognised event and would bring the whole community together (to see the GB team in action) as well.
    Thanks for summarising the twitter arguments… @rowperfect

  6. Pingback: British Rowing national championships date change

  7. The proposal to move the BRC meets with my full approval but I do not agree with moving the event to October.

    I have been active in Rowing for 50 years now and have been disappointed throughout that time that the dominance of Henley as the zenith of club rowing has not diminished – quite the reverse. At the same time the vested interests of major individual events have continued to be a major source of inertia, and often opposition, to any changes. Add to this the apparent reluctance of professional coaches to race their athletes at other than national standard events and we have an unsatisfactory situation but one where any consensus for change is almost impossible. I am therefore saddened that my response to your proposed change is not positive. To ameliorate this I have made some alternative proposals for change which I believe are both practical and affordable. If it is too late to make the changes I am suggesting for 2012 then maybe they could be experimented with in 2013. You would then have tried both your suggested changes and have some real evidence on which to base your future plans.

    Why then I am not in favour of an October national Championships?

    Venue & Date

    In summary I think planning to use Dorney in October is perverse.

    Are there commercial imperatives that I don’t see? Cashing in on the Olympic legacy perhaps?
    Dorney [and NWSC for that matter] in October is likely to be cold and wet. Have we any information that might lead us to believe the prevailing weather would be likely to give consecutive days of good and fair racing? I would expect that the layout at Dorney will ensure there is little atmosphere in the finish area and lots of miserable competitors sheltering in their card down the course.
    There is little affordable accommodation available in the area which will be a significant discouragement for all involved who will need to stay overnight
    Colleges & Universities will have only just returned from the summer break and will not have any crews ready
    Officials and volunteers will be busy with their autumn Head Races
    Many volunteers will be involved in the Olympic events and will be reluctant to devote another entire weekend to the Nat Champs
    The proposed date clashes with the Pairs Head which is a National event. There is no alternative date available on the Tideway. Autumn 2012 has particularly difficult tides which has made fixing the major Head Races very difficult.
    As there will still be an event on the traditional dates in July you are, in effect, asking a large number of volunteers in increase their time and money commitment to the sport in a year when their good will and availability is already stretched a very long way.

    The National Champions should be the fastest crews in the country

    Athletes involved in GB squads at every level will either not have returned from their summer break or will have been back but a couple of weeks.
    GB Rowing has a prominent position on the World Stage and I do not see any way that these crews can be part of the National Championship [certainly at Senior and U 23 level] unless the Championships are held several weeks in advance of the first World Cup Regatta each year. This is currently unrealistic.
    It is neither reasonable nor practical to expect clubs, athletes and coaches at all levels to turn their calendar upside down for a ‘National Championships’ in October. The winning crews may bear the name ‘National Champions’ but everyone connected with the sport will know that they will be even less the best in the land than is currently the case!
    Clubs will have just reformed their squads and will have no crews race ready
    School and Junior squads will have just formed in their new age groups
    Athletes are much fitter these days but not accustomed to racing 2000m in October. As a coach I would be very concerned to have to introduce speed work and Anaerobic work immediately the autumn training starts. As this is traditionally, and in some cases unavoidable, the time of year when folk start rowing in different clubs, locations or squads it is the worst possible time to try and quickly produce fast racing crews. I would be very wary of producing crews for an October championships. I would have no time to get their technique uniform nor to address properly the myriad other aspects of success needed on the National stage within a very few weeks. The alternative of keeping already formed squads and the consequent 2012 crews together into the autumn is just not possible. If that had been or intention we should have already advised the people involved. To win at the National Championship requires Rowing to be the dominant force in an individuals life for about 45 weeks – a period that started in September 2011. Of course, as a coach, I can adjust the timetable to run for the 55 or so weeks an October Championships will demand; but I have little confidence that the athletes’, or their employers or loved ones, will volunteer for the changes. I am particularly not attracted to resetting the schedules to cover the period between the beginning of July and early September.
    Whatever the standard of the winners at the National Championships today when compared to the best moving to October will only ensure a lowering of the standard.

    Alternative proposals

    There should be one ‘National Championships’ for each category of competitor.

    For Juniors we face reality and rename the National Schools Regatta the ‘National Junior Championships’. If the current event cannot accommodate all the age and boat classes then the younger ages could have a separate event in May.
    For BUSC competitors there is already a suitable event available!
    For Senior competitors we establish a ‘club’ championships which is open only to club crews. There is a weekend available after the Metropolitan each year. This would be an ideal set up for Henley. I would propose three categories; Open, Intermediate and Novice. Intermediate crews would be subject to a maximum number of points and Novice event would be for first year rowers only.
    The Masters Championship could remain as at present.
    I would suggest that entry to Henley might be restricted to competitors who have competed at the relevant National Championships

    These proposals would provide for the existence of real ‘National Champions’ within each group. Perhaps they could race each other in a National Sprint Championships to be held in late July? It would eliminate some of the inequalities and inequities inherent in the existing timetable. Certainly it would require a few regattas to shuffle their places in the existing calendar but many of our leading events have moved dates and/or venues in the past.

    If my proposals were implemented then I would suggest that future changes might lead regattas to decide to be the natural ‘warm up’, or even qualifying, events for the respective National Championships.

  8. Pingback: How will Olympic sport fare in 2013? | Martin Gough

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