Lightweight Rowers Flex Their International Muscle

TIM SCHOLTES reports on the lightweights’ summer performances as trialling begins.

america Blues cubc harvard lightweights Rowing yale

This summer the Lightweight crew that left a miserable Oxford in their wake in the Varsity Race in March were keen to build upon their Henley success and were presented with several opportunities to do so at home and on the international stage.

Disappointingly in their first outing of the summer, the eight failed to reproduce their peak form on the familiar Henley Reach, losing out to a heavyweight schoolboy Eton crew who made their extra 3 ½ stone per man count into the headwind.

Much greater success was to be found abroad for the lightweight squad- Blues John Hale and Charlie Pitt-Ford were selected to represent Great Britain in the Lightweight IV at the World University Championships in Hungary, where they won their heat in an impressive time of 6:10.39 smashing France, Canada and the Czech Republic to go straight to the final.

The GB Lightweight IV with CULRC rowers John Hale at Bow and Charlie Pitt-Ford at 3.

The crew however could not build on their success in the heats, as the wind swirled around to give a strong cross-headwind. “In theory, we were probably one of the physiologically better crews” said bowman John Hale, “but we’d mostly trained with tailwinds”. With Italy out in front, the sneaky French, whom the four had previously beaten, made advantage of a more sheltered lane in the first 500m to pull away, leaving the Brits to fight it out with Hungary down the entire course, narrowly losing out, allowing Hungary to snatch the bronze.

Hale lamented that “whilst it was a shame to have missed out on the medals, we raced as well as we could have expected”, he is now weighing up his GB chances for next year.

Fresh from this strong performance Charlie Pitt-Ford rejoined his CULRC teammates Matt Lawes, Alistair Chappelle and Chris Kerr for the European University Sports Association (EUSA) Lightweight IV competition in Amsterdam. The four lined up against student crews from Poland, Holland, Germany and British rivals Nottingham, whom they swept aside to win the silver medal, finishing one length behind the Polish team, in a creditable time of 6.22 (which was inside the old event record).

EUSA crew: Chris Kerr, Charlie Pitt-Ford, Alistair Chappelle and Matt Lawes*

CULRC next marched on to Beijing to race against the most prestigious universities the Chinese Water Sports Administration could muster. Whilst the heavyweight competition boasted such names as Princeton, UL and Otago among others, the lightweight line-up consisted of the three best universities in the world (Cambridge, Harvard and Yale) as well as some team called Oxford.

Racing was held on both the Olympic course in Beijing and in Xinjing city. The first lightweight race saw Cambridge narrowly beaten by Oxford, with Harvard and Yale out in front, the light blues faring unfavourably in the oppressive heat and humidity of Beijing in August. In Xinjing, however, the Light Blues regrouped to show Oxford how good they really are beating them by a massive 8 seconds.

CULRC are now aiming to make it three wins in a row against Oxford in the next Varsity Boat Race in March 2011.