Kirsty Mason and Stephen Pickin of Marlow vs. Neil Lawson and Finlay Lawson of City of Oxford
The adaptive regatta season kicked off with the Marlow Spring Regatta (MSR) and another extensive slate of racing – 20 adaptive rowers, 12 support rowers, 10 events.
The time handicapping continues to get refined. A few key acid tests at MSR indicate that it is on the right track…
- Predictability – Prior to the time handicap system, everyone pretty much knew how the racing was going to finish at the start line. That’s because everyone knew the other competitors and their capabilities which varied quite significantly due to the considerable disparities between their impairments event within the same AR/PR classifications. Now when athletes are at the start, pretty much no one has a clue who is going to win.
- Satisfaction – While a few time handicaps might not have been spot on, none of the competitions (that I spoke with) felt aggrieved. Everyone recognized that it is impossible to get perfect and they appreciate the effort being made to make the racing more satisfying.
- Competition – One of the core objectives of the system is to make for closer, more intense competition ideally with more than half of the races finishing within a boat length. Once again, more than half the adaptive races at MSR did have close finishes with a couple of canvas length differences.
- Pride – The opposite of close competition is the paddle of shame when a competitor is lagging by “clear blue water” (as the euphemism goes). Again, due to the significant differences of impairments, such deltas in the past not only made racing uncompetitive frustrating and embarrassing for many. Even the winners reported being embarrassed winning by so much. All the finishes at MSR were within a couple of lengths.
- More Racing – One of the objectives of them time handicapping system is to enable a more extensive range of racing by mixing competitors of different classifications together. Prior to the system, people simply didn’t get a chance to race because there was no competition in their category. For example, Sally Hopewell of Marlow was the only PR1 woman on the water at MSR, but she was still able to compete.
- Legitimacy – There was a sense at the end of the day that deserving people won. One could make arguments that with a tweak here or there an outcome could have been different, but by and large, the winners were people who rowed great races on the day especially relative to their past experience.
Still, every time we run and event, we learn more nuances about the system. For example, this event we realised that fast conditions hurt chasers. The event had ideal conditions on the day with a bit of a stream, flat water and a tail wind. As a result, the quicker races meant that the chasers effectively had less time to make up the handicap delta. Still a few chasers prevailed and most came close.
This popular adaptive/pararowing event also attracted a number of special visitors who came down not only to watch the racing, but to meet the other adaptive rowers and learn more about what they are doing.
A single-arm pararower came all the way down from Liverpool to observe the single-arm rowing which was started at MSR and seems to have taken off this past year. Steve Bloyce of Maidenhead and Neil Lawson of City of Oxford returned to reprise their ongoing rivalry in this format that they pioneered (with Neil snagging bragging rights this time). They were joined in their event by Kirsty Mason of Marlow whose race was her fifth time on the water (fast learner and fast rower). Also, newcomer Dan Godefroy of Stratford-Upon-Avon raced single arm pair (sweep) in the Supported Adaptive 2x later. This group has become so popular that the single-arm rowers have their own WhatsApp group for comparing notes, sharing tips and coordinating training and competing.
Another visitor was Paralympic Champion (in fact, the first ever pararower to receive a Paralympic medal winning gold at Beijing 2008) Helene Raynsford with two of her British Rowing colleagues (Director of Innovation Helen Rowbotham and Invictus Team Manager Clare Holman). who came to observe the event as well as to talk to the many adaptive athletes participating. Helene is spearheading an initiative to support and expand adaptive rowing. She commented after the regatta,
- “Thank you to everyone who came and spoke to us and gave views on the future of adaptive rowing. It was great to share the emerging priorities for the future of adaptive rowing and the potential actions within those areas as well as hearing your thoughts on them. One of the take away messages from the day is to ensure British Rowing co-produce the future direction of adaptive rowing with athletes and utilise their solution focused minds. As the consultation continues we look forward to further engagement with you and other members of the adaptive rowing community over the next couple of months.”
Special congratulations to the medal winners:
- Open Adaptive 1x A – Dan Stevenson, Maidenhead
- Supported Adaptive Single-Arm 2x – Neil Lawson and Finlay Lawson, City of Oxford
- Womens Adaptive 1x A – Georgia Walker, Marlow
- Womens Adaptive 1x B – Gerry Brierley, Guildford
- Womens Adaptive 1x C – Nikki Stanton-Ketley, Marlow
- Supported Adaptive 2x A – Dan Stevenson and Nick Steele, Maidenhead
- Supported Adaptive 2x B – Sebastian Johnson and Niall Parsons, Marlow
- Womens Supported Adaptive 2x A – Ella Holloway and Lucy Iball, Marlow / Grosvenor
- Mixed Supported Adaptive 2x A – Susannah Barnett and Pippa Harrison, Worcester / Marlow