British Masters Championships 2016
The resurgence of the TRC masters squad was underlined by the strength and depth of our turnout at this year’s Masters Championships in Nottingham. With 16 athletes entered across 20 events, from novice singles and doubles to open quads, fours and eights, the squad demonstrated how diversity unified by a strong team spirit can lead to some great results along the way – especially given the fact that so few of our entries were established crews.
Sculling dominated events on Saturday and showed the versatility within the squad. Our A novice 4x (Sandro Sutter, Alex Blake, Charles Ippolito, Carlos Cordal) took no pity on their rivals, crushing the opposition with strength, poise and mighty puddles to take gold and beat second-place Monmouth RC by over 20 seconds, while our B novice 2x (Cordal, Hamish Common) also took gold.
In the E4x event, Stephen Dooley, Paul Mew, Mark Panter and Raschke (of AK) cruised into the final where they encountered some stiff opposition and ultimately fell just short in what was their second outing as a crew. The C4x of Neil Grennan-Heaven, Ippolito, Jon Scott and Dooley also showed good speed in the qualifying heat, as did the B4x of Cordal, Sutter, Scott and Grennan-Heaven. Both crews, however, were beaten by faster and, one suspects, more established crews, in the final. The same goes for our F4x entry, which performed well, but failed to take the top spot.
What shone on Saturday, however, was the squad’s raw potential. In fact, two of our masters squad almost vied for the Victor Ludorum on their own, each one of them eventually taking four gold medals apiece. Alex Blake showed the wisdom of joining the TRC Vets by getting medals in a quad, a 4+, a 4- and an 8 while, returning to the sport after a mere two decades out, Hamish Common provided one of the highlights of the day, coming second in the A novice 1x event and getting golds in a 2x, two fours and an 8.
On Sunday, despite a team meal out including the odd drink, the masters squad built on its success. Our A IM3 4+ (comprising Neil Grennan-Heaven, Hamish Common, Fred Jacobs, Alex Blake and coxed by Laura Staunton) proved victorious, winning by a whopping 11 seconds, while its coxless counterpart (with the same oarsmen) got a silver. And if our D8+ narrowly failed to qualify for the final and later rued its lack of warm-up on the water, our IM3 8+ made amends later in the day. The event had a staggered start due to A, B and C crews competing in the same race and (somewhat ironically) our IM3 8+ got off cleanly, was soon rowing through the C crew that had left the start line five seconds before, and used its power and growing rhythm to easily hold off the chasing A crew and take the gold medal by a hefty 12 seconds.
Unfortunately the E8+ could not match the feat in the last race of the day against some very strong opposition. Nevertheless the race blooded a couple of the Vets squad and sent out the message: momentum in TRC’s masters squad is growing and, with it, focus, commitment and numbers. We came seventh among clubs overall this year, helped in no small part by the skilful coxing of Laura Staunton and the organisational input of Carlos Cordal, Stephen Dooley, Neil Grennan-Heaven, Chris Huckle and Mark Panter. Next year the aim is fourth. Will we do it? Well, signs from the Masters Champs 2016 suggest that if we want to, then we probably can.