1987 World Rowing Championships

The 1987 World Rowing Championships took place in on Lake Bagsværd in Copenhagen from 23-30 August. 62 openweight and 32 lightweight crews from 24 countries took part. This was the lowest number of openweight crews in a pre-Olympic year by quite a large margin; in the years preceding the previous three Olympics, the entries had been 69, 78 and 71. 

There were probably multiple reasons for this drop but what there is no evidence of is a reduction in entry numbers by the Eastern bloc countries even though their regimes were beginning to struggle economically. The main contenders – Russia, East Germany, Romania and Bulgaria – all sent full six-boat openweight teams in 1987, with some entries from Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland too.

Coaching and squad formation

The lightweight crew boats had the same coaches as the previous year; Jim Clark continued to work with the coxless four, and Bill Mason coached the double. The new lightweight single sculler, Caroline Lucas, was based in Italy where she had her own coach.

All six of the lightweight women who had represented GB in the two silver medal winning boats in 1986 – the coxless four and the double – began training again in the autumn, although Alexa Forbes and Judith Burne withdrew later in the year. The 1986 lightweight single sculler Beryl Crockford had retired after a 12 year international career (mostly at openweight, of course) and two World medals.

The openweight women’s coaching team changed yet again. Mike Genchi, who had run the eight and the four the previous year, assisted by Katie Ball, had realised that coaching in Hammersmith and Thorpe Park (south-west of London) was simply not practical given that he lived and worked in east London and also had a young family, and had resigned with regret as he was well aware that the lack of coaching continuity was an issue for the development of the GB openweight women’s squad. Later in 1987 he took up an invitation from Leander to do a small amount of coaching there, and as crews he worked with were selected for the GB men’s team, some have concluded that he ‘left the women for the men’, but this was not actually the case.

Ron Needs was appointed as Chief Coach in late November 1986; this was his second involvement with GB women’s rowing, having previously coached the double in 1981 and 1982. Before and after that he’d worked with the GB lightweight men despite also having a very high-up job at Beechams. Once crews were fixed, the openweight pair, which didn’t have a dedicated coach allocated to them, made their own arrangements and eventually persuaded Derek Thurgood of Upper Thames to take them on.

Writing in the February issue of Rowing magazine, Kate Holroyd noted that as well as the main squad training with Ron out of the Amateur Rowing Association (ARA) boathouse at Hammersmith, there were satellite groups at Lea RC, Kingston RC, and Oxford and Cambridge universities. She also reported that although he recognised the importance of bringing in new blood, limited resources would be focused on the existing elite group in order to raise their standard.

At the core of this existing group were the four oarswomen – Tish Reid, Kate Grose, Ali Bonner and Jo Gough – who had continued from the previous year. Initially, all eight openweight rowers from 1986 had carried on, but Kate Holroyd was soon to drop out as her first job in banking proved incompatible with international-level training, junior doctor Ann Callaway also stopped to focus on her career, and Pauline Bird withdraw in the early season which led to Flo Johnston being excluded from selection too (more on why later).

Winter racing

In the autumn of 1986 Carrie Wood won Elite Single Sculls at Wallingford (where Kate Grose won the Novice pennant) and Marlow Long Distance Sculls. She, Carrie and Gill Bond won Elite Doubles at Tiffin Long Distance Sculls, and Gill won Weybridge Ladies ARC Sculling Head (effectively the women’s division of Weybridge Silver Sculls), with Kate Holroyd second and Sue Smith third.

The fastest women’s crew at the Head of the River Fours in November was a Tideway Scullers quad, containing internationals Carrie Wood, Sue Smith and Gill Hodges as well as Julia Spence. In the coxed fours division, however, Rowing magazine noted that Lea RC beat a “squaddie crew” by seven seconds.” Who was rowing in the latter isn’t clear but the Lea crew contained internationals Anna Page and Ruth Howe.

Women’s Eights Head of the River (14 March 1987)

Only one GB crew seems to have been entered, which won by 24 seconds over Cambridge University.

Women's eight in pink t-shirts

The ARA National Squad eight. From left: Pauline Bird, Kate Grose, Tish Reid, Deborah Flewin, Jo Gough, Jackie Prout, Ali Bonner, Fiona Johnston, Ali Norrish (cox). (Photo © Ted Colman.)

The pink t-shirts they’re wearing, which Jackie Prout got printed, said “Be proud or your puddle” on the back – one of Ron Needs’ favourite sayings.

Scullers Head (5 April 1987)

Wind whipping up rough water meant that conditions were much better for later starters. The women’s division was won by Gill Bond who finished 36th after going off at the back of the field. This was the highest place that a woman had ever come by avery long way. Pauline Bird was 123rd and Carrie Wood 129th after starting much higher up the order.

Trials

1st assessment (7-8 February 1987)

This open assessment for the openweight group was planned to take place at Thorpe Park but due to it being froze, was held at Kingston instead. The stated objectives were, “To assess in small boats all athletes who wish to be considered… particularly in respect of endurance performance.”

Small boats trials were something that hadn’t really been done for the previous two years. Tish Reid, who had been in the team during that time remembers that although it was a steep learning curve for her (and others), she quickly realised the point of them liked the fact that rowing in pairs made it, “Patently obvious which people were and weren’t boat movers.”

At least 33 existing internationals and newcomers took part along with two coxed fours from each of Oxford and Cambridge universities. The course involved two long downstream pieces of around 7k, the times of which were added together.

Most of the top oarswomen single sculled on the first day. Tish Reid and Rachel Hirst who tied for first place, with Zaza Horne two seconds behind. These three were 40 seconds clear of the next scullers and faster than all of the pairs. On day two Rachel Hirst, who was training on her own in Nottingham, won the singles again but this time by nearly a minute from Flo Johnston. The main action this time took place in the pairs where Kate Grose and Tish Reid won by nearly a minute with Aggie Barnett and Kim Thomas second.

2nd assessment (21 March 1987)

The next openweight trials involved two sets of heats and finals over 1,500m. Attendance was by invitation only.

In the first of these, Kate Grose and Tish Reid won the pairs again with Pauline Bird (who hadn’t been at the first trials) and Debbie Flewin second, and Ali Bonner and Jackie Prout third.

After swapping some people round for the second set of pieces, Kate and Tish came out on top for the third time, with Ali Bonner and Kim Thomas second, and Pauline Bird and Debbie Flewin more or less tying with Jo Gough and Flo Johnston for third.

Further assessments

A third set of trials for the openweights – this time in fours and pairs – and for the lightweights, were held at Thorpe Park on 29 March. With the clocks having changed after this, there was also seat racing in the evenings as well as at the weekend at the docks in the first week of April.

Easter training camp in Sabaudia (12-26 April 1987)

Both GB women and men went to Sabaudia in Italy for a training camp at Easter. Unfortunately, the squad trailer had an accident en route when it detached from the tow-vehicle, and several boats got damaged on the trailer’s subsequent independent travels. Jackie Prout remembers hearing that it came to rest against a high, wire fence, and the effect on boats of being pushed bows-first into this was similar to potatoes being pushed into a chip-making utensil.

Fortunately, no one was hurt and the impact on the camp was fairly minimal on the camp, with some boats being repaired and replacements for others being lent by the Italian squad who were also there.

Early season racing

Piediluco (25-26 April 1987)

Director of International Rowing Penny Chuter‘s Policy Statement for the season indicated that some of the openweight crews would go on from the Sabaudia training camp to race take part in the Memoriale Paolo d’Aloja, also known as Piediluco International Regatta. Whether they did or not is unclear but lightweight double of Carrie Wood and Gill Bond did, as did the hitherto unknown lightweight single Caroline Lucas. Although British, Caroline lived in Milan, but had got into the GB team’s radar when she’d attended a training camp in Piedilico run by the well-known international coach Thor Nielsen. Caroline thinks that Thor must have sent the results of an erg test she did at the camp to Penny Chuter, whom he’d known for many years, because she then got an ‘out of the blue’ phone call from Penny who told her that the event would be a trial for the British team.

“I remember that race very clearly,” Caroline says, “Because it was the first time I just clicked. Abut half way through, when you’re feeling knackered, I’d usually think, ‘I can’t do it any more,’ but this time I thought, ‘Yes I can!’ I just got over that hump and I was right up there; it was just really magical. And so I was selected to race as GB at Mannheim.” She adds that getting over the psychological batter was probably helped by a change to her rig. “I had always rowed with really hard gearing but at Piediluco my coach finally conceded that I could lighten my gearing and I flew – it made such a massive difference.”

Carrie Wood remembers, “Both Gill and me in our double and Caroline did better than gold medal time there,” although she adds, “But there’s a current in the lake, and I think a tailwind picked up as well.”

Ghent (9-10 May 1987)

In the openweight doubles, lightweights Carrie Wood and Gill Bond finished a fairly close third on the Saturday, behind France and Dutch international crews, but went one better the next day taking the silver medal behind a different French crew, but finishing comfortably ahead of the Dutch double which had pipped them the previous day. Both of them also raced singles but did not reach the finals.

The lightweight coxless four won.

Mannheim (16-17 May 1987)

Mannheim saw the results of the spring selection trials tried out for the first time with an eight, coxed four, and pair racing as well as single sculler Rachel Hirst and lightweight single scullers Caroline Lucas and Claire Parker.

Caroline recalls being thoroughly irritated for reasons she now forgets, but that this worked to her advantage. “I just remember starting and feeling so strong, belting down that course and it not hurting at all. And I was up there with Maria Sava from Romania who was the reigning world champion. I was completely surprised!” She can’t remember her exact result but the flowers by her feet in this photo suggest that she medalled.

Jackie Prout remember that the eight showed its potential by finishing overlapped with the Russians. The crew, which can be seen in this photo, was (from stroke) Ruth Howe, Kate Grose, Tish Reid, Debbie Flewin, Jo Gough, Jackie Prout, Ali Bonner and Anna Page, coxed by Ali Norrish.

The coxed four was Aggie Barnett, Kim Thomas, Sue Smith and Zaza Horne, coxed by Carol Grant. Annabel Eyres, Charlotte Williams and Rachel Graham raced in different pairs.

After racing, Jackie and Ruth Howe, whose birthdays were around that time, bought a round of beers for the eight which led to a requirement for a comfort break during the fairly lengthy coach journey to the airport. “I think we were a bit tight on time so all of us getting off the bus didn’t go down well!,” she recalls.

Nottinghamshire International Regatta (31 May 1987)

NIR had struggled to attract overseas crews for many years, and 1987 was no exception. Worse, the whole of Saturday’s racing was cancelled because it was too windy. However, according to Rowing magazine, as the conditions died down, private trials races were hastily arranged (for the GB men as well as the women) for that evening and very early on the Sunday morning.

Whether there really were women’s openweight trials isn’t terribly clear, but the Sunday results show three openweight ARA pairs, a coxed four in the B-class event which seems likely to have been an Under-23 crews.

The lightweight double of Carrie Wood and Gill Bond won comfortably again domestic opposition. The lightweight coxless four didn’t race; around this time it was reformed with Melanie Holmes and Sally-Ann Panton (who had both been in the lightweight four in 1985 when it came fourth) replacing Alexa Forbes and Judith Burne.

Interlude: more trials

Straight after NIR, Penny Chuter issued a Policy Statement which said that within the next week the squad would be cut down from 16 to 14 rowers and that there would be a 2k trial on 24 June in Nottingham for any pairs from these 14 who wanted to secure the pairs slot. For the avoidance of doubt, she continued, “The winning pair (whether it be by a large or very small margin) will have the opportunity to race at Amsterdam on both days and Lucerne on the Saturday and possibly the Sunday.” Significantly, she also said, “The losing pairs agree that they will willingly go into the main group from which the eight and the four will be selected and will not then withdraw from the team.”

This was all about who was in which boat, of course, which is only the first part of selection, the second being whether the boat should actually be sent to the World Championships at all. To make this latter decision, Penny said, “The performance of the winning pair at Amsterdam and Lucerne will be compared with the performance of the four and the eight (particularly at Lucerne, which is the final selection regatta). If the pair is not considered sufficiently outstanding in comparison with the other two crews, that pair will also be put into the main group and the objective will then be to strengthen the eight to make it the first boat.”

THE PAIR’S TRIAL

Immediately before the critical pairs race took place, though, Flo Johnston found herself excluded through no fault of her own. She’d gone to race at them with Pauline Bird, with whom she’d reached the final of the pairs at the World Championships the previous summer. Pauline, however, had torn a cartilage in her knee during the winter (which, she says, explains why she is not as fully compressed as the rest of the crew in the photo of the GB Women’ Eights Head crew), and had had this operated after the Head. “I was being pressurised to race too soon after the surgery, and I felt part of the reason for this was that it had already been decided that I wasn’t to be in the pair that year [it had already been announced that “future potential” was considered important, and Pauline herself considered that she was in ‘extra time’ as she’d retired from international rowing after the 1980 Olympic Games and had only come back in 1986 accidentally – Ed.], and so I was being set up to lose,” she says. “I finally just walked out before the trial and never went back.”

What Pauline hadn’t expected was the effect of her decision on Flo. “I’ve always felt bad about walking out on her, but it was me they wanted to get rid of not her,” she says. However, Flo was then told that she was now unable to take part in the trials as she didn’t have a pairs partner. To add insult to injury, she was then told to go and be stakeboat person for the pairs race she had been expecting to take part in. After this, “Ron Needs and Penny Chuter absolutely refused to seat race me for the eight,” she recalls. “My club captain at Kingston RC appealed, but they just wouldn’t.” She finished up rowing in the Under-23 coxed four that year.

Of those who were still literally in the running, Tish Reid and Kate Grose’s pre-season trials results meant that they were the favourites, although Kim Thomas and Ali Bonner were also going well. When it came to the one-off race, Tish and Kate duly established what Tish remembers was a lead of three or four lengths. “Then at 400m to go [in the 2,000m race], I caught the biggest crab in the world, and Kim and Ali rowed past us,” she says. The duo just paddled over the line. Kate adds that Rosie Mayglothling, the National Coach for Women’s Rowing who had been coaching them, was, “Absolutely furious with us because she considered we still had time to have at least got going again. In our naivety we initially thought they’d probably give us another chance because we had been winning by quite a lot, but that didn’t happen and we went into the eight.”

Whether their response to the incident had any impact on the decision to stick with the result is unknown, but Tish admits that doing so meant the eight already had an issue before it even started. “I don’t mind putting my hand up and admitting that I didn’t want to be in it,” she says now. “I felt, ‘Here I am yet again in a big boat and it’s not as strong as it could be because it doesn’t even have the second fastest pair [Kim and Ali] in it. Added to that, the four pairs that were in it were separated by something like 45 seconds, and that’s too much.”

More about the eight

The eight never became a cohesive crew, despite being quite experienced with only three new senior caps in it of whom one, Kim Thomas, was a three-times GB junior. “It was quite a bad-tempered eight. There was lots and lots of bickering, and we had massive rows in the middle of the boat when we were training at Thorpe Park,” Tish recalls. The situation wasn’t helped, Jackie Prout adds, by one of the crew splitting up with her boyfriend, who then started seeing another member of the crew. And this was all, of course, alongside the usual challenge for big boats that the kind of individuals who have the strength of character to want to train hard and win tend not to be naturally peacemakers and team-builders. “Ron had his heart set on an eight at Copenhagen,” Tish says, though, and as it was pre-Olympic year, it certainly made sense to have as large a group as possible adding to their international experience, even if taking just half of them and forming a fast coxed four might have been more effective in the current season.

Possibly the only highlight of the eight’s training at Thorpe Park, where the only facilities were bushes, was that Ron Needs happened to live quite close by. “We always used to go back to Ron’s house for breakfast between outings and his poor wife was incredibly kind about providing copious quantities of tea and toast for all these women that arrived on her doorstep.”

Ron’s hospitality may actually have been an indicator that he might not really have been the right kind of personality to deal with such a ‘stroppy’ crew. Reflecting on him as a coach, Jackie says, “He was very mellow and affable, and he never got angry.” Maybe it would have been more effective if he had.

Amsterdam (26-28 June 1987)

The international Bosbaan regatta probably didn’t give Penny and Ron the information they needed as there were also only very small entries in the eights; the ARA crew was second each day, finishing four and then nine seconds behind East Germany. The U23 coxed four, containing Aggie Barnett, Flo Johnston, Judith Slater and Zaza Horne, coxed by Carol Grant, came third on the Saturday, but didn’t make the final on the Sunday. The pair came third each day, in three- and four-boat straight finals. on the Saturday they were 17 seconds down on second place.

The eight that was entered was Ruth Howe, Kate Grose, Tish Reid, Debbie Flewin, Jo Gough, Jackie Prout, Sue Smith, Anna Page, and cox Ali Norrish.

Meanwhile, the new-look lightweight coxless four had to go through a heat before finishing third on the first day behind a Dutch crew and Commercial RC from Ireland. On the second day they were second, two seconds behind Commercial. A second ARA crew also raced.

Carrie Wood and Gill Bond got similar results in the the lightweight double, coming second and then third in five-boat straight finals.

U23 single sculler Rachel Hirst finished fifth on the first day and fourth on the second.

Lucerne (11-12 July 1987)

Lucerne didn’t fully provide the information hoped for to inform selection either because Kim Thomas and Ali Boner were unable to race in the pair because Kim had hurt her back in a collision whilst training on the busy Henley stretch before Henley Royal Regatta, where they’d gone to get some input from Steve Gunn who was there coaching his Hampton schoolboys.

The eight was fourth out of four on the Saturday, five seconds behind third-placed West Germany, with Russia and East Germany taking the top spots. On the Sunday the British crew were fifth out of five (the Americans having joined the field), this time three seconds off West Germany, and 11 seconds off gold.

A partially changed version of U23 coxed four, now containing Annabel Eyres, also raced, finishing 24 seconds behind the winners. Rowing magazine described them as “off the pace” and with only a “marginal” chance of selection for the World Championships which, indeed, they did not achieve.

In the lightweight events, two British coxless fours raced on both days, with GBR1 getting the silver on each occasion behind West Germany, and GBR2 finishing about 20 seconds behind the top crew.

Lightweight single sculler Caroline Lucas pushed the winner, Ann Martin of the USA, hard on the Saturday when she finished second, before coming fifth on the Sunday. After she’d crossed the finish line in her Saturday final, she caught sight of her parents who had come to watch and, more importantly, were about to meet her coach, whom she had also recently started dating, for the first time. ” I rowed straight back to the raft so I could introduce them to him and I wasn’t thinking about going to the podium at all,” she remembers. “I only realised my mistake when I got to the bank and he said, ‘What happened, what’s wrong, why haven’t you gone to get your medal?'”

This performance got her selected as the only GB single sculler in the senior team of either gender or weight that year. Rowing magazine later commented that, “She could be a worthy successor to Beryl Crockford but it is too soon this year to expect too much of her.”

The lightweight double was fifth on both days and Rowing magazine commented that they, “Hadn’t really sparkled all season.” Carrie Wood agrees with this analysis, and remembers that there were multiple reasons why. First of all, she says, their coach Bill Mason, had had them do a lot of speed work all year in an attempt to speed up their first 500m. The previous season they’d always been well down and come from behind – as they did in their World Championships final when they dead heated for the silver medal after being last at half way and only drawing level on the final stroke. She had also struggled with the new boat that the ARA had bought them. “In 1986, Alan Whitwell and Carl Smith had won the men’s lightweight doubles at the Worlds in in a boat built by Ray Sims,” she explains, “And Billy thought, ‘Perfect, I’ll get the girls one of those.’ We got it for the training camp to Sabaudia and I just didn’t get on with it. I couldn’t set a rhythm in it. He said, ‘Try it for a couple of weeks and if you don’t like it, we’ll hand it back because Ray’s agreed that.’ But in the end we went all the way through the season up to and including Lucerne with it. I hated it so much that I insisted we did two sessions a week in the summer in our singles because it was the only way I could persuade myself that it wasn’t me, it was the boat, and that meant we were missing out on doubles sessions.”

After Lucerne they reverted to the heavyweight Stampfli that they’d used the year before.

National Championships (18-19 July 1987)

This went to form with the GB eight, pair, and lightweight four winning their events. The GB junior eight came second in the senior event, and the single sculls and coxed fours were won by the GB U23s.

Pre-Championships training camps

The lightweight coxless four and single sculler Caroline Lucas had a three-week altitude camp in a established venue in St Moritz. The Italian team were also there with Thor Nielsen who was a good friend of the four’s coach Jim Clark. As a British resident of Italy, Caroline found the whole thing rather difficult. “I didn’t have my coach with me, and I didn’t really feel part of the GB team, though the four did come and cheer me up from time to time, but I wasn’t part of the Italian team either though I was sharing a room with the Italian single sculler. She’s a very nice girl, but at the time she was a rival and she was quite distant and there was a bit of tension with one of the coaches’ wives being really horrible to me.” There, were, however, some lighter moments. “It was my birthday while we were there and they bought me a blow up birthday cake because I couldn’t eat a real one! And they had a tiramisu-making competition because there were two rival recipes – it’s typical that lightweights had food-based fun! [And one can only imagine coaches enjoyed the judging – Ed.]

The openweights went back to Amsterdam for their training camp. This did not go particularly well, with one crew member picking up an injury and not being able to row for several days. Jackie Prout recalls doing one outing with one of the openweight men, Sal Hassan, subbing into the middle of the boat. “This was a week and a half before going to the Worlds which obviously wasn’t ideal,” she says ruefully. To give the crew a more suitable sub, Flo Johnston was then asked to come out to the camp, rather ironically, given she had not been allowed to trial for the crew. To rub salt in the wound of injustice, she remembers being told by other members of the crew that it went much better with her in it.

The 1987 team

The GB women’ crews finally selected to compete at the World Championships were:

Eight

B: Anna Page (Lea RC)
2: Ruth Howe (Lea RC)
3: Jackie Prout (Sons of the Thames RC)
4: Jo Gough (Walbrook RC)
5: Debbie Flewin (Tideway Scullers School)
6: Tish Reid (Rob Roy BC)
7: Kate Grose (Tideway Scullers School)
S: Sue Smith (Tideway Scullers School)
Cx: Ali Norrish (Weybridge Ladies ARC)
Coach: Ron Needs

Pair

B: Ali Bonner (Kingston RC)
S: Kim Thomas (Weybridge Ladies ARC)
Coach: Derek Thurgood

Lightweight coxless four

B: Melanie Holmes (Thames Tradesmen’s RC)
2: Gill Hodges (Tideway Scullers School)
3: Lin Clark (Thames Tradesmen’s RC)
S: Sally-Ann Panton (Thames Tradesmen’s RC)
Coach: Jim Clark

Lightweight double scull

B: Gill Bond (Civil Service Ladies RC)
S: Carol-Ann Wood (Tideway Scullers School)
Coach: Bill Mason

Lightweight single scull

Caroline Lucas (Circolo Canottieri Aniene, Italy)
Coach: Riccardo Dezi

At the Championships

The conditions at Lake Bagsværd – a venue as notorious as Holme Pierrepont – were both extremely rough and also completely unfair to the extent that FISA President Thomi Keller had admitted that the Sunday finals should have been postponed or cancelled, according to Rowing magazine, and only weren’t because of commercial pressures from Danish television. Although a spare day had been built into the programme, it was scheduled BEFORE the two days of finals, and those were the ones when the weather deteriorated. The same had happened when the Women’s European Championships were held there in 1971.

This video of the Women’s single sculls final shows both how bad it was, with the far side clearly being more sheltered.

Lightweight double scull (4th out of 8)

The GB crew had a tough draw in their first race from which only one crew would progress directly to the final. After finishing last in this, they then secured a place in the final by coming third out of six in their repechage from which four boats qualified. With the Americans leading, the British had a consistent row with the French, West Germans and Dutch dropping back and surging forwards around them.

Having therefore qualified in fifth place, and with the lane draw using the ‘echelon’ system designed for cross-wind conditions, where the fastest qualifier gets the most sheltered lane and the slowest the most exposed, Carrie Wood expected that they would be in lane two. Lane one was the roughest, and lane six the best. “For some reason we were put in lane one, rather than lane two, and the Danes, the local crew, got lane two even though they were the slowest qualifiers,” she says. The water was appalling, and she remembers that they even had a cross-over blades between themselves at one because of hitting waves. They finished fourth in the end, after overtaking the Dutch and Danish crews in the second part of the course where it was much flatter.

Despite their frustrating year, the crew had gone into the Championships with an expectation that they could medal, and she recalls Penny Chuter telling her afterwards that if they’d had a better lane – perhaps even just lane two, they probably would have done, and as Carri points out, “We actually went better in the final than we did in the heat or the rep because we came fourth when we were only the fifth qualifiers, and we were in the duffest lane of all. ”

Lightweight coxless four (6th out of 8)

The GB crew finished third in their heat of four, but with only one qualifying directly for the final, progressed to the repechage where they secured the second of the four remaining qualifying places.

In the final, Rowing magazine reported, “The British four were apparently not really ready on the start and moved off rather erratically, never settled and trailed in a disappointing sixth.” China finish third to win their first World Championships medal.

Looking back on what turned out to be her last World Championships performance after an international rowing career spanning 14 years, Lin Clark says, “We had a lot of power in that boat, a lot of potential, and we had a lot of fun but we never realised our potential.”

Women's coxless four

The GB women’s lightweight coxless four paddling at the World Championships. (Photo © John Shore.)

Lightweight single scull (6th out of 14)

Drawn against the 1986 silver medallist Rita De Fauw from Belgium and the American Anne Martin who had beaten her in Lucerne, Caroline, “Demonstrated her talent from the very first race,” where she took an early lead. With three to qualify for the semi-finals, she later slipped back to third, “Cruising in,” according to Rowing magazine.

In the semi, Anne Martin, the Romanian sculler and Caroline broke away from the other half of the field early on in the race, qualifying her for the final: an impressive achievement in her first international year.

In the final, as the sixth qualifier, she was drawn in the worst lane. “Just as I was getting onto the start, I suddenly spotted one of the partners at the law firm where I worked who just happened to be in Copenhagen, and was waving and calling at me which completely broke my concentration. But I shook that off and we got going. It was so bad I literally thought somebody had tied a bucket to my boat because it just wasn’t moving, and I was looking to see if there was something tied to my boat or if I’d got a buoy caught round it or something. It took about 10 minutes to get to the end of the course [her time was 9.43, although this was faster than the improbable openweight men’s coxed pair from Kuwait was in its first race – Ed].”

She finished sixth. Writing in the first ever issue of the ARA’s Regatta magazine, Chris Dodd reported, “She was the slowest qualifier [for the final] and finished sixth, but hers is a cheery result for one young, stylish and talented, and I don’t think she’ll be last again.”

“The conditions made the final just farcical,” Caroline remembers. “And that spoiled everything because it had all been really fun because going round all the international regattas that year.”

Lightweight woman single sculler

Caroline Lucas. (Photo © John Shore.)

Coxless pair (7th out of 11)

500m into their heat, the pair, “Found themselves a little out of their depth,” as Rowing magazine put it, and were already back in fifth place out of six, which they maintained to the line.

In the repechage they, “Showed more sparkle and confidence,” according to Rowing, and finished fourth out of five. With only three through, this put them in the petite final which they won by nearly seven seconds, though from a sheltered lane. Looking ahead to the 1988 Olympic Games, the magazine added that the result, “Should give them confidence in staying together next season,” which, unusually for a GB openweight crew, they did.

GB women's pair

Kim Thomas and Ali Bonner training in Copenhagen. (Photo © John Shore.)

Eight (9th out of 9)

The eight came fourth out of four in their heat, from which only one went straight to the final, in a time over 20 seconds behind the winners.

They also finished last in in their four-boat repechage from which two went through to the main final. They were nine seconds off qualifying. Some members crew were struggling with illness that had affected quite a few of the British team, so much so that Annabel Eyres, who had rowed in the coxed four at the Match des Seniors in July, was flown out to stand by as a sub for the final, although in the end wasn’t used.

In “unrowable” conditions on the way to the start of the petite final, Kate Grose remembers, “One of the umpires came alongside, and told us go into the bank and empty the boat out because we were sinking. There was water up to the buoyancy bags. And then we were given a false start!” The GB crew crossed the line last again, though respectably close to GB’s perennial rivals in this boat class, Poland, “Following a difficult week,” as Rowing described it, which included some crew members suffering from gastroenteritis.

Women's eight

The GB women’s eight in training at Copenhagen. (Photo © John Shore.)

Tish Reid says, “I think the vast majority of that underperforming was because we were bickering,” a view with which Jackie Prout agrees, adding, “It was a shame because it could have been a pretty good eight. And it should have done a lot better than it did, especially after we’d finished in Mannheim overlapping the Russians who got the bronze in Copenhagen.” It was also a shame that the only photo of the crew at the Worlds that the ARA chose to include in its first edition of Regatta magazine was one of the backs of their t-shirts which said, “British women pull better.” On the other hand, they had got them made [though on this occasion Jackie denies all involvement – Ed.].

Match des Seniors (Under 23s)

This event took place from 25-26 July in Aiguebelette and was dominated by Italy and West Germany. The women’s events were once again not well supported.

The British women’s crews were:

Coxed four (2nd out of 2)

B: Charlotte Williams (Cambridge University WBC)
2: Annabel Eyres (Oxford University WBC)
3: Flo Johnston (Marlow RC)
S: Aggie Barnett (University of London WBC)
Cox: Nicola Coulson (Oxford University WBC)
Coach: Eddie Wells

The four finished several lengths behind a German crew, which Annabel understandably describes as “very demoralising”. She recalls that they believed that if they did well enough they might be selected to race at the Worlds, but their performance clearly wasn’t got to be deemed adequate for that.

Pair (2nd out of 2)

B: Rebecca Bangay (Royal Holloway and Bedford New College)
S: Sarah Merryman (Strode’s College)
Coach: Ian Shore

Single Scull (7th)

Rachel Hirst (Notts County RA)
Coach: M Cooper

Rachel had also been the U23 sculler in 1986.

Lightweight double scull (4th)

B: Trisha Corless (Staines BC)
S: Kristel Osborne (Marlow RC)

Flo and Aggie from the four were already full internationals, and would go on to row for the GB senior team again, as would their crewmate Annabel Eyres and also Rachel Hirst and Trisha Corless.

World Rowing Junior Championships

The 1987 World Rowing Junior Championships took place in Cologne in wet and miserable but fair conditions on a flooded course. The GB women’s team comprised three crews.

Eight (5th out of 5)

B: Lucy Hart (Northwich RC)
2: Louisa Jenkins (King James College, Henley)
3: Michelle Pettit (King James College, Henley)
4: Rachel Thomas (Weybridge Ladies ARC)*
5: Sarah Templer-Clarke (Lady Eleanor Holles School BC)
6: Lara Fisher-Jones (Royal Chester RC)
7: Anneke de Souza (Northwich RC)
S: Sarah Davies (Royal Chester RC)
Cox: Joanna Russ (Lady Eleanor Holles School BC)
Coach: Pete Sheppard (Kingston Grammar School BC)
Assistant Coach: Andy Turner (Royal Chester RC)

Double scull (7th out of 11)

B: Suzanne Kirk (Bedford High School RC)
S: Adrienne Grimsditch (Northwich RC)*
Coaches: Bruce Grainger (Wallingford School) and A Hooker (Marlow RC)

Coxless Pair (8th out of 8)

B: Anneliese Rennie (Clyde RC)
S: Catriona McCallum (Clyde RC)
Coach: R Gillies (Clyde RC)

* denotes a previous cap in the GB junior team.

For the first time since it was instigated in 1985, Britain also entered both men and women crews in the the Coupe de la Jeunesse, the European, team-based, junior event to which most participating countries send competitors at the next level down from their Junior Worlds crews.

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