With the first day of racing came all the nerves of rowing on a brand new course with unknown current, tide and wind fluctuations against unknown crews from around the world. Many of us had made the foolish assumption that the Irish clubs, being very new to the coastal rowing family, would probably not pose much of a threat. Monday was the first indication of just how wrong we were!
North Berwick were entered in all three of the day’s categories – Mixed B, Women’s 60+ and the Men’s 40+. Of those only the Men’s 40+ didn’t have their final until the following day.
First up was the Mixed Open B crew of Claire Wallace, Tracy Ramage, Clive Rooney and Ian Baird. They went in the second of three heats and after a nervy start pulled their way to 3rd place ensuring qualification for the final.
Our 60+ crew of Jeannie Newcombe, Jane McMinn, Meg Ennis and Patsy James (borrowed from Portobello) showed us how it should be done, romping home to win their heat 22 seconds ahead of local club Dundrum and earning a place in the final.
Our 40+ Men’s crew of Robbie Wightman, David Davidson, Rob Harley and John Irvine cantered through the opposition to win their heat and, since their final was the following day, were able to sit down and start worrying about Tuesday.
In the 2 finals of the day our Mixed Open B team settled into their rhythm, taking nearly 1 minute off their heat time and chasing Cockenzie and St Ayles right to the line to claim our first Bronze medal of the championship. Our indomitable 60+ Ladies repeated the result in their final chasing Broughty and a resurgent Dundrum in a very tight battle to the finish (just 6 seconds between 1st and 3rd places) to take the Bronze.
Overall a great start to the week and much to think about for the next day, in particular where to get something other than cheeseburgers for lunch!
Day 2 was a busy day of rowing and brought in an excellent haul of NB medals, with our first Gold at the worlds. The conditions in the morning were exceptional. The descent from the Skiffie parking field down the muddy lane revealed two things – just how impressive the new NB gazebo is, with the logo visible from all angles - and glassy smooth water, the like of which NB rowers rarely see. The gazebo also proved a lifesaver later on as the water was kept flat by regular downpours before the wind picked up over the day.
The Women’s 40+, the Men’s 60 + and the Under 19s all had heats and finals on the same day – a gruelling challenge. All the NB crews got through to their finals. The Women’s 40+ crew (Lizzie, Louise, Laura and Jacque, coxed by Claire W-S) pipped Anstruther to the Bronze in a lung-busting race to the very finish. The Men’s 60+ (Johnny, Sandy, Hugh and Ross, coxed by Claire W-S) qualified 4th in their heat and gave their all in a competitive final. Our awesome juniors started to shine through as our Men’s under 17 (Gregor, Connor and Cameron, coxed by Dave) were joined by Frank from Crail and, despite never having rowed together as a crew, brought home the Bronze. Our Men’s 40+ (Robbie, John I, Dave and Rob, coxed by Jacque) in an excellent row, got us the Bronze in what was a very competitive category. Undoubtedly the highlight of the day though, was our Mixed under 19 final. Isla, Heather, Gregor and Cameron, coxed by Dave, brought back the Gold in a decisive win over tough competition. The whole camp cheered them in as they arrived back wreathed in smiles. We had also lent Kirsty out to Anstruther for the same race, and she was rewarded for her efforts with a bronze, a bunch of new friends and true indoctrination into the Skiffie community. Special mention for our amazing coxes – it’s no small feat leaping from coxing to racing and back again while driving us all on.
A weary squad, scrubbed and freshened up, soon perked up for some evening shenanigans at Slievemoyle Cottages. A huge barbeque was presided over by Rob, while big John was his trusty BBQ apprentice. No effort was spared to make us welcome with our NI hosts providing a gazebo to protect the BBQ from the rain and even a band to sing for us. A few of our own even provided a song or two. Work hard, play hard ?.
On Wednesday, Claire WS and Lizzie picked up the baton of responsibility and did a great job looking after us all on and off the water. The usual, cheery band was there on the pontoon to send off and welcome back each of the crews.
First to go was the Women’s Open B team. Lizzie coxed and Claire WS, Clare M, Tracy and Rachael pulled the boat home to take a very convincing 2nd place, thus assuring their position in the final. Following on, the Men’s Open B team, Simon, Richard, Euan and Cameron R, again coxed by Lizzie, rowed into the final, taking 5th position in a ferociously contested heat. Our redoubtable 60+ mixed team, Sandy, Johnny, Jeannie and Meg, with Claire WS at the helm, put in a great performance to win their heat and cruise into the final.
Racing didn’t resume in the afternoon until 3.30 because of the tide, and during this time we were so lucky to have Julianna and Maggie who arrived at the gazebo with the mobile massage table! Several of us were able to take advantage of Julianna’s immense talent to ease aching muscles and relieve tension. Many thanks!
In the finals, the Women battled their way into 6th place and the Men similarly rowed valiantly into 7th position. Our fantastic 60+ mixed crew dismissed most of their opposition and secured a bronze medal for NBRC.
Our day on the water was brought to a close by the medal presentation and crews dispersed to reflect on their performances, tend to their blisters, enjoy the company of friends and prepare for the next day’s racing.
Thursday at Strangford Lough was dreich but with almost perfectly flat water. The first race was the Mixed Open A heats with Finlay, Elisa, Simon and myself with Phil as our cox. Simon and I had rowed the previous day so knew a little of what to expect from the course. As anticipated the competition was fierce but we finished 5th in our heat to go forward to the final the next day...job done!
Next up were the Men's 50+ heats with Clive, Steve, Phil and Graeme. Another competitive race which saw them finishing outside of qualification for the final.
The mixed under 17 final was the next race with Heather, Saskia D-H, Gregor and Connor stepping into Skiff John B. As we'd come to expect from our juniors, another strong performance earned them a silver medal.
The final race on a shorter day of racing was the Women's 50+ heats. Sheena, Norma, Jo and Issy rowed well and secured their place in the final the following day.
For myself, Friday morning wasn't all the long as Saskia (D-H) and I enjoyed a relaxed long lie in our lovely holiday cottage in Stangford village. The first race of the day was underway just as we (Saskia D-H, mum and I) arrived in the sunshine at Castle Ward's tearoom. As I was enjoying a scone and a glass of lemonade, Isla, Emily, Lizzie and Jacque dragged Dave the cox up and down the course to finish third in their heat and secure a place in the final on Saturday (well done girls).
We got a tour of the house from a friendly guide and learned all about how Victorians made ice cream and that they drank nine bottles of wine a day (each) to keep hydrated because supposedly alcohol was much better for you than water (...at the time). During our tour of the house and some wandering around the stunning grounds another two North Berwick crews were giving it their all out on the course. At 1200 the women's 50+ crew narrowly missed out on a medal position, coming fourth in their final - contributing valuable points to our position in the competition for most successful club. Also working much harder than we were, the mixed 40+ rowed a spectacular race, winning their heat with a time of 12 minutes 50 seconds. We arrived at Delamont just in time to be impressed by the open men's A crew, following the lead of the mixed 40+ before them, and storming their heat. Setting themselves in good stead for medal positions in the Saturday final.
The final race of the day was the women's U17s final. After a restful day myself and Saskia (D-H) were ready and eager to step into the boat and row our hearts out. We set out onto the course along with Kirsty and Saskia L, and with Dave kindly coxing us once again. After a nailbightingly close finish between ourselves and Portsoy, a photographer confirmed our position "Smile winners!". Taking the medals for NB junior crews up to four and the club total to eight.
Thank you so much to all the club members who welcomed us back to shore with cheering and hugging, even though we were sweaty and in a bit of a daze. However, a special thank you ought to go to Dave and Laura who organised and encouraged junior rowing in the months leading up to the Worlds (and to every club member who filled a seat on a Thursday night when we were short!) I'm sure I speak for all the junior members who raced at Stangford Lough when I say we couldn't have done it without you and that we would like to thank everyone for such an amazing week. Thank you.
Conditions for the concluding day’s rowing were almost perfect. The sun shone brightly and the crosswind that favoured the nearside crews on Friday had dropped to a light breeze. North Berwick were to contest five of the six finals and the vocal support for all clubs along the loch side appeared to be raised a notch as it was known that up to four clubs could still win the overall championship with good results on the day.
We had no crew entered for Men u19 however NB colours were proudly worn in the Coigach boat that finished a credible 8th. Next up was the girl’s U19 race and our juniors claimed another gold medal with a fine win over local club Dundrum.
The Mix 40+ was an eagerly anticipated race and North Berwick battled with Eastern along the whole course. Our neighbours from Portobello just pipping us on the line with less than a second separating the crews. Many thought that it could not be closer but the next race was even more thrilling. Again North Berwick faced Eastern in the top Men’s Open event and again the battle lasted the whole 2000m with a similar outcome. Another silver medal for NB and a gap of 0.2 seconds to Eastern who took the gold medal in a photo finish with the final stroke of the race.
Our Ladies Open crew raced well to finish 5th in their final that was won by St Ayles and our Mixed 50+ crew 9th in their final following their heat earlier in the day.
The stars of the day were again our juniors who should all be congratulated for their hard work along with their coaches and coxes.
When all the points were added up we celebrated our 3rd place – a fantastic club effort. Overall winners were Dundrum (195) and 2nd Eastern (194). Our 193 points was a tremendous achievement and 3rd place from an entry of 41 clubs is something that everyone at North Berwick Rowing Club can be extremely proud of.