Playing with the Big Boys at Bedford Amateur Regatta

This regatta claims to be the biggest river regatta in the world and the largest event for 8s and 4s in the country. It was certainly very busy with races every 2 minutes from 8.30 in the morning to 7.30 at night between competitors from as far afield as York, Liverpool and Bristol. Even Sir Steven Redgrave was there (with his daughter) coaching a crew from Liverpool Victoria – a Channel 5 project to see if they can bring a group of disaffected urban youth up to Henley Royal Regatta standard..

Sudbury had entered an 8 of Russell Smith, Andrew Blit, Paul Sant, Johny Myers, Rob Snelling, Charles Howard and David Bull coxed by Mike Arnott (a triumph of experience over size) – a crew similar to those triumphant at Leicester the previous week. Competition at Bedford was bound to be tougher but the draw pitted the crew against local rivals Cambridge 99 Rowing Club in the first round.

Racing between the 2 outfits had been intense over the winter with Cambridge anxious to redress the balance, presently 2-1 in favour of the Sudbury boys. Their cox attempted to keep her crew relaxed by telling very bad jokes as the boats were waiting to get on the start line – unfortunately it was a tactic that misfired as the Cambridge crew crabbed disastrously, twice, in the first 15 strokes of the race to hand a decisive advantage to the Sudbury crew who waltzed away to win by 1 length without having to row at their best.

In the 2nd round SRC faced Radley School – a crew who had been training together for 3 or more years. After a lightning start from the schoolboys Sudbury held on to their opponents to half way, when the superior basic speed of the youngsters told. It was a determined row by Sudbury and there is no disgrace in losing to a crew from one of the leading rowing schools – the same thing happened to Sir Steve’s crew