Inverness Rowing Club wins Gold at World Masters Regatta in Zagreb

posted by Hazel Smith - 23 Sep 2007

Early September saw three members of Inverness Rowing Club heading to Zagreb to join up with fellow oars people from across Scotland and the rest of the UK for the annual FISA Masters regatta which was held on Lake Jarun in the Croatian capital.

Hazel Smith, Susanne Standish-White and Hazel Geddes, representing Inverness, joined forces with Ailie Ord from Strathclyde Park Rowing Club to participate in one of the biggest sporting events staged. Always a big event - and increasing year on year, this year was no exception. Almost 5000 competitors took part in over 400 races over 4 days. With races arranged into age categories, ages ranged from 27 to over 85 years!

The facilities at Lake Jarun were excellent and the situation of the purpose built lake afforded superb shelter from the elements - very necessary as the ensuing days were going to prove. In high quality boats recently returned from the World Championships in Munich the Inverness representatives took part in a variety of events over the 4 days of the regatta. Thursday saw Hazel Smith and Ailie Ord together with colleagues from the Thames area taking part in the opening event of the regatta, the Womens D eights - and winning the first medal of the event beating truly international opposition from the USA, Australia and Germany in a very respectable time of 3.45.02. In deteriorating weather - more likely to be associated with the West of Scotland in Autumn than central Europe in September, Hazel Smith and Ailie and Susanne and Hazel Geddes took part in Womens C doubles. Hazel and Ailie had the hardest of draws coming up against their nemesis opponents from Leicester and Cambridge. In spite of the now monsoon conditions they battled bravely to cross the line in second place just behind the winners and well ahead of the rest of the field. In their heat Susanne and Hazel Geddes - a more recent partnership tackled the elements and the international opposition with gusto and style, belying the very recent formation of the crew.

Friday dawned wet again - and still more races on the cards. The first race for the highland contingent and friends was the Womens C quadruple sculls. Once again drawing the most competitive race, the pluck and courage of the crew played out with a stirling effort and a fast time for the conditions of 4.04.36. In the afternoon, with the inclusion of one rower imported from the Thames area a "Scottish" Womens C Eights took to the water. Entirely untried or tested it was a leap of faith which paid off with a solid row - and a competitive time but no medals! The damp dismal day was rounded off by Hazel Geddes and Mairi Torrie (St Andrew Boat Club) in the Womens B double sculls. Tired legs and deteriorating weather conspired to give them an uncomfortable row - their third race that day - never has the finish line been so attractive!

And still it rained. Saturday dawned wet again - but at least with the promise of some dry weather later in the day. Unfortunately not in time for the Womens B quadruple scull of Hazel Smith, Ailie Ord, Joy Skipper from Mortlake and Susanna Wreth from Cantabrigian. Another untried combination in difficult conditions producing a satisfying performance - and a respectable time. The next event with a Highland interest was the Womens C coxed fours with the two Hazels, Susanne and Ailie Ord, coxed by Kevin Towey from Dublin. The four had limited opportunity to practice owing to the geography and had few expectations for the race. In spite of the gathering nerves, the crew had a blistering start and within a few strokes realised that they were up on the field. By 250m they had a clear lead. The challenge now - to keep it. Kevin managed through a balance of encouragement and steadying the enthusiasm of the crew - which could so easily have allowed even a small mistake to disrupt the rhythm set by the stroke - to keep the crew ahead and even gain some distance and by the time for the planned push at the half way stage there was 1/3 of a length between the Highland contingent and the opposition. With the last 250 metres of the race looming, all the will and concentration was to be marshalled to keep the lead with legs arms and lungs screaming to stop. Picking up the pace for the last minute saw clear water between the Inverness crew and a certain win - as long as no mistakes marred the way. The combination of delight, satisfaction and relief as the finish line sped below the boat could be measured in the cries of delight from the crew. A satisfying result and a very fast time indeed. But it was not over yet. The coxless fours was still to come. The four marshalled the tired limbs and lungs and headed for the start again - in improving weather. In spite of 110% effort from the crew, quite remarkable in view of the energy expended only and hour before, the best which they could manage was second place - to a well drilled international crew.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny for the mixed racing - which saw Hazel Smith, Ailie Ord, Susanne and Hilary Cook from the Thames joining forces with their hosts and part of the event organising team for the Mixed D Eights. Susanne was the only change to the line up which won in Princeton in 2006. With that in mind the pressure was well and truly on. With the minimum of preparation - which reminded the women just what a start in an Eight can be like - fast and furious - it was off onto the start line. Another flying start got the boat into a good position in the field and steady determination saw the boat gradually wear down the opposition. There were only two boats challenging for the lead with 250 metres to go - but again the fitness and determination drove the crew on to be a length up going over the finish. The perfect finish to a near perfect regatta - if you ignore the weather! There was still one remaining Highland interest - Hazel Geddes and Ron Wallace from Aberdeen Boat Club had combined to compete in the mixed C double sculls. The effort of three days of racing took the toll on the legs as they raced down the course, but Hazel G still managed to record her fastest time of the regatta in a small boat, another personal triumph. That is the joy of Masters rowing.

There was a huge range of ability at the event from the exceptional athletes, ex-Olympians, to those new to the sport and just embarking on their Masters journey, but there was something for everyone. Friends, fellowship and excellent competition - what more could you ask for.

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