The 1994 World Rowing Championships took place on the natural lake at Eagle Creek in Indianapolis, USA from 11-18 September. 62 openweight and 29 lightweight boats raced from 26 countries, down on all counts on the previous year. This was possibly at least partially because of the higher costs for the majority of rowing nations, which are in Europe, of sending crews to America.
Another major event in 1994 was the Commonwealth Rowing Championships which were not formally part of the Commonwealth Games programme but were officially sanctioned to run in conjunction with them in London, Ontario in Canada from 29-30 August. The GB women’s rowing strategy was that the teams for the Worlds and Commonwealths would be separate, although an individual crew might go to both if it would help their preparation for the Worlds. Otherwise, the Commonwealth squad would be a ‘B’ team.
FISA, the governing body of world rowing, changed the start for 1994 from “Are you ready? Go!” to “Set, go!,” with an appreciable, variable-length gap between the two words to prevent anticipation. Alongside this, the start procedure could no longer be stopped once it had begun even if crews put their hands up to indicate they were no longer straight or ready. While this wiped out the co-called ‘game of raised hands’, the Championships saw a record number of false starts, and the Canadian Olympic medallist Silken Lauman was disqualified in the final after jumping the ‘go’ twice, as was the Ukrainian men’s eight which had one actual false start and another official one for a traffic infringement. The ‘traffic light’ starts which were introduced the following year largely solved all of the issues.
Coaching and squad formation
A frequent comment about GB women’s rowing from when it was first included in the World Championships in 1974 was that there was rarely any consistency in the team’s coaching or management. Hitherto the longest that any Chef Coach served was three years: Penny Chuter was moved onto other duties after running the squad from 1974-1976, and Bob Michaels did 1990-1992.
After Ron Needs had continued to ‘hold the fort’ during the autumn of 1993, having stepped in, as he so often did, for the 1993 season, David Lister was appointed Chief Coach at the beginning of 1994. He had coached the women’s lightweight four in 1991. He was quoted in Rowing magazine as saying that he saw his appointment as a long-term one through to the 1996 Olympic Games, which sounded very promising, but he stood down from the role in June, unable to combine the role – which was paid but only part-time – with changed commitments at his family’s business. The GB men’s full time Chief Coach Jurgen Grobler then took on the role of Women’s Chief Coach for the remainder of the 1994 season, setting the training programme and taking responsibility for selection.
The women’s openweight squad strategy for 1994 which Ron issued in November 1993 stated, “It is intended to continue to focus [from 1993] on improving the performance of the best athletes and this must still have the highest priority. However, it is clear that we must now do more to assist the development of athletes who have not yet reached the squad standard but who might form part of the team in Atlanta [at the Olympics in 1996].”
Miriam Batten, who had been in the bronze medal winning pair in 1991, and had come fifth at the 1992 Olympic Games with Jo Turvey, remembers, “David really wanted to disband our pair and just bring the whole standard [of the squad] up. We’d been training so hard – I’d almost given up work and Jo was a student so we were training twice a day because we knew we needed to do at least this level of training if we wanted to be competitive at World level, and both Jo and I felt quite strongly that we didn’t want to stop doing our pair to row with people who weren’t doing that amount of training. To give David Lister his due, he did then ask us what we wanted to do and really tried to work with us and set out what he needed us to do, but as a coach he just couldn’t put the time in because of his job and our coach from the year before, Pete Proudley, who lived in Southampton, had been ill and didn’t want to keep doing the long drive up every day, so Jurgen suggested that Terry Dillon (senior) coach us coach as he was coaching with him at Leander. We trained a lot with Steve Redgrave and Matt Pinsent [who had won their first Olympic gold together in 1992] which was good as it pushed us and showed us the level of training we needed to do.”
After the Olympic Games in 1992, FISA (the governing body of World rowing) had announced that women’s pairs would be dropped from the programme for the 1996 Olympic Games, but after the 1993 World Championships, the pair was reinstated at the expense of the coxless four, meaning that competition in pairs would be likely to be higher in the 1994 season, and also that crew sculling was perceived as increasingly important by the British team management.
Single sculler Guin Batten had just started work as a physiologist at the British Olympic Association Medical Centre and as a result of seeing the GB men’s team data realised that the training programmes the GB women’s squad had been given in 1993 were just not enough. “So I got Tim Foster to scan the training programmes from Leander for me and Miriam and we started doing those instead. Sometimes doing them a week late because it would take Tim a while to get them faxed to my office,” she recalls.
Guin started the year with Rosie Mayglothling coaching her in Nottingham, where Rosie had been appointed to a new role at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham that enabled her to seek her “holy grail of a centre of excellence away from the south”, as Regatta put it. Rosie had a baby in July, though, so in the approach to the World Championships, she asked Miles Forbes-Thomas, who was also coaching Lightweight World Champion Peter Haining, to coach Guin too. “Miles’ training programme was pretty aligned with Jurgen’s, so that worked well because I was familiar with it, and because I was such an inexperienced sculler at that time, Miles’s massive attention to detail was just what I really needed, and I enjoyed training alongside Peter Haining too,” Guin explains.
Tony Reynolds remained as Chief Coach for Lightweight Women.
In the washup meting at the end of the 1993 season it was suggested that the openweight and lightweight squads be run together, but in the end this didn’t happen, at least partly because of the capacity of training facilities.
Looking to the future
The “best athletes” to whom Ron referred were good but they were few in number, and then there was quite a large gap to those at the next level down, even though women’s rowing at club level “continue to grow at a staggering rate” as an article in Rowing in April 1994 put it. In addition, the whole of the 1993 openweight team (all six of them) had all also been in the team in 1992, so there was a need to start bringing on the next generation.
To bridge the performance gap and develop new talent, Ron, Rosie Mayglothling and Tony Reynolds ran a series of monthly development weekends in Nottingham over the winter. 60 women initially applied to join the programme which involved on-water coaching but also testing on ergos and weights and running with the aim of identifying those with potential rather than those who were already achieving high levels. The point was not to take athletes away from their clubs but rather to help those with international aspirations learn about the training and knowledge required to reach that level, those involved were given training programmes to follow back at their clubs. As Cath Bishop, one of the successful ‘products’ of the initiative, says, “They did everything that World Class Start performance programme does now.”
According to the February 1994 issue of Rowing magazine, “A ‘development’ eight has been seen on the Tideway. New chief coach David Lister is keen to start feeding the squad with new talent if it is up to scratch.” Cath Bishop remembers, “He told us to our faces that we were never going to be anything. but Ron just said, ‘Keep going, it’s fine.’ The development weekends he and Rosie ran at Nottingham kept a whole generation going that would have been lost otherwise and were basically most of the people who were in the Commonwealth Games eight. There were people there that went on to win major medals and there were also quite a lot of lightweights.”
As well as trying to accelerate those already in the sport, there was also an advertising campaign, as had been done on several occasions before, to try and draw in ‘big women’ (at least 5’11” tall) from other sports.
There was no central financial support for those attending the Commonwealth regatta, and very little for the World Championships team. Miriam Batten’s employer Debenhams continued to be generous, and the newly set up Thames Charitable Trust provided essential financial support for Guin Batten.
Guin also won some funding at early season races. Rosie Mayglothling explains, “At that point FISA had a scheme where there was prize money at various events, so if you came first you got so much, second you got so much, and so on. And because she was doing quite well it meant there was enough money for her and me to go to other events, rather than having to say, ‘Well, we can’t go because we’ve got no money.” However their campaign remained on a shoestring. “I used to driving to Nottingham from London on a Friday after work to be coached by her at the weekend, and when I got there I’d go to the cinema to kill time and then sneak into the campsite late so I didn’t have to pay for it,” Guin remembers.
A local newspaper article about Trisha Corless noted that the cost of the pre-World Championships training camps and attending the Worlds themselves would cost her £1,800.
The World Champion lightweight four remember getting a ‘generous’ grant from the Sports Aid Foundation.
Nottinghamshire County Council contributed £200 per Nottingham-based athlete who competed at the Commonwealth Regatta. The women who benefitted were Rowan Carroll, Kareen Marwick, Lucy Hart, Mary Stevens and Tonia Williams.
Winter assessment and racing
Head of the River Fours (6 November 1993)
The fastest women’s crew was an international, mostly lightweight quad. The 1993 World Champion lightweight four won open coxless fours.
Perpetual British Indoor Championships (27 November 1993)
Ali Hall won the openweight category after what Regatta magazine described as “a gargantuan struggle” with Jo Turvey “until Turvey cracked up” allowing Sarah Springman, the British triathlon champion who had been brought into rowing by the advertising campaign, to finish second. Annamarie Dryden (who reverted to the surname Stapleton later that season) took the lightweight event.
The first trials didn’t take place until the new year, though this was not for want of trying. An assessment scheduled for mid-December in Henley had to be cancelled because of fast stream, and a hastily-organised replacement in Nottingham the following weekend was doomed by a gale.
This took place in Peterborough where the triallists sculled or rowed two 6k pieces on the river in strong cross headwinds. Established internationals Helen Mangan who was lightweight, and Ali Hall finished first and second in both singles divisions. Jo Turvey and Libby Henshilwood, who had been in the pair that had won the first GB women’s World Junior Championships medal in 1993 and was now a member of Thames RC, were the fastest pair
Hong Kong training camp (January 1994)
The World Champion lightweight coxless four were invited to train at the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s Jubilee Sports Centre in January and February, a fantastic opportunity to get away from the British winter and its unpredictable river conditions. Jane couldn’t go because she was a student, but Annamarie, Wilma and Tonia gratefully accepted the offer. Annamarie gave up her job at this point to focus on her training. Wilma was given extended unpaid leave by her employer.
Annamarie described in Regatta magazine how the Sports Centre was modelled on the well-known Australian Institute and and was “extremely well equipped” with a gym, ergo room, boathouse. There was also a dog called Rigger. The Centre was by a British ex-pat who was married to the top Hong Kong lightweight woman sculler, who benefited from having world class athletes to train with. Although there was a “strenuous regime”, they enjoyed “endless kilometers on flat water” and each of them was allocated a suitable sculling boat on arrival which, as she pointed out, it was impossible to imagine that anywhere in the UK could do for visiting athletes at the time, and she, “Relished learning to scull on flat water having only been out on the Tideway, albeit water badly polluted by chemicals.”
By the end of the camp, Annamarie wrote, she was definitely going faster in a single and had improved her 5k and 2.5k ergo scores as well as her chopstick skills. She added, though, that only time would tell what impact all of this would have on the speed of their coxless four over 2k, though, the thing that really mattered.
However, there was a downside to being full-time athletes, even temporary ones. “We’d never been able to do so much training and so we were kids in a sweetie shop and actually we needed to have the jars closed.” Tonia reflects. “We didn’t need to be pushed to do more training, we needed to be told to back off. So we’d go and do long, long miles on the water and and then we’d go in and do heavy weights, and I’m sure that’s why I picked up my first ever back niggle.” [More on this shortly – Ed.]
World Indoor Rowing Championships (20 February 1994)
In the middle of the Hong Kong camp, Annamarie Stapleton did a crazy round the world flight to compete at the Crash-B World Indoor Rowing Championships in Boston. “It was really last minute decision,” she remembers. “I hadn’t been going to do it but I got a call from Concept 2 saying, ‘Please will you come, you’re the world champion, you hold the world record?’ It took me 36 hours to get there because when I got to the US there was massive snow storms and so we landed in LA and then we flew to Chicago and only then on to Boston and by the time I got off the plane I was 5kg heavier than I should have been. It was minus 20 degrees so sweating down and getting down to weight overnight was just a nightmare so it was awful.” She not only won the lightweight event but lowered her own World Record which she’s set in 1992.
Open assessment (27 February 1994)
This took place in Runcorn, a location so grim and inappropriate that those who attended still talk about it to this day. As well as being a very long way away from where most triallists were based (the Thames), the river there is bendy, and the facilities in desperate need of investment. The decision to run the trials there was cited as an example of the Amateur Rowing Association management not putting its athletes first, although part of the rationale for using the venue was to make the trials closer to get to, for once, for the small but significant group in the north west organised by Rosie Mayglothling.
Cath Bishop says, “I just remember having a map on my feet and bouncing off corners, and thinking, ‘I’m trying to get into the British team, how is this showing what I’m capable of?'”
Most people raced in singles with a few pairs and doubles.
Note: Names shown in italics denote those who have previously represented GB at senior level and those in bold are women who went on to be selected in 1994.
Pairs (Run 1: Saturday morning)
- Miriam Batten/Jo Turvey (20.27)
- Libby Henshilwood/Dot Blackie (21.05)
- Debbie Hopkins/Kathryn O’Malley (21.21)
Singles (Run 1: Saturday morning)
- Ali Hall (21.14)
- Helen Mangan (Lightweight) (21.41)
- Phoebe White (Lightweight) (21.53)
- Guin Batten (21.54)
- Kate Pollitt (22.01)
Pairs (Run 2: Saturday afternoon)
- Miriam Batten/Dot Blackie (21.00)
- Libby Henshilwood/Jo Turvey (21.22)
- Debbie Hopkins/Kathryn O’Malley (22.04)
Doubles (Run 2: Saturday afternoon)
- Kate Pollitt/Kate Templeton (21.13)
- Sarah Birch/Jane Hall (Lightweight) (21.55)
Singles (Run 2: Saturday afternoon)
- Ali Hall (22.05)
- Phoebe White (Lightweight) (22.39)
- Helen Mangan (Lightweight) (22.47)
- Guin Batten (22.49)
- Nicky Dale (Lightweight) (23.03)
Pairs (Run 3: Sunday)
- Libby Henshilwood/Jo Turvey (27.22)
- Kathryn O’Malley/Debbie Hopkins (27.36)
- Caroline Dring/Claire Hodgson (27.45)
Miriam Batten and Dot Blackie did not race.
Doubles (Run 3: Sunday)
- Polly Gough/Harkins (27.59)
Kate Pollitt, Kate Templeton and Jane Hall did not race.
Singles (Run 3: Sunday)
- Helen Mangan (Lightweight) (28.18)
- Ali Hall (28.28)
- Phoebe White (Lightweight) (28.33)
- Nicky Dale (Lightweight) (29.28)
- Naomi Ashcroft (Lightweight) (29.40)
Guin Batten did not race.
Women’s Head (12 March 1994)
The Women’s Head had record 205 entries and was won in record time by Thames RC who had been the fastest crew the previous year but had been disqualified because Katie Brownlow’s Amateur Rowing Association membership had expired. Miriam Batten stroked and the crew also contained five other internationals: lightweights Annamarie Stapleton, Alison Brownless and Claire Davies, along with openweights Dot Blackie and Canadian Olympic gold medallist Kirsten Barnes. The other two members of the crew were Guin Batten and Kate Pollitt, both future internationals. Thames won by an impressive margin of over 30 seconds from Tideway Scullers (declared the official winners in 1993) which containing internationals Jo Turvey, Rachel Stanhope, Fiona Freckleton and Libby Henshilwood. Kingston RC, coxed by the author, were third. Thames were coached by Bill Mason whom, they said. “Was fantastic at welding the crew together. With five heavyweights and three lightweights on board we were a melting pot of different styles and techniques.”
Lightweight closed trials (26-27 March 1994)
After the previous set of trials in, Helen Mangan and Phoebe White were pre-selected to go to GB final trials in Hazewinkel in April, but a further group of 11 scullers were invited to a closed trial at the Docks to identify six who would also go to the Hazewinkel trials. This involved a 1,750m time trial followed by 1,500m side-by-side races.
The six successful scullers were Nicky Dale, Robyn Morris, Trisha Corless, C Smith, Mandy Calvert, Naomi Ashcroft.
Scullers Head (9 April 1994)
Ali Hall won the women’s pennant, with Kate Pollitt second and the lightweights Helen Mangan (just ten seconds behind) and Sue Appelboom third and fourth.
Hazewinkel trials (15-19 April 1994)
Rowing magazine reported, “The only [openweight] international women on show were the pairing of Miriam Batten and Jo Turvey as Chief Coach David Lister tries to find his fastest combination by mid-season. They raced with the men’s B sculling group and showed up fairly well.” Other squad documentation shows that Ali Hall, Libby Henshilwood and Dot Blackie were also selected to attend the trial, but Ali didn’t and Libby and Dot couldn’t as Libby had sustained an injury which meant they’d been out of their boat for three weeks.
Helen Mangan won the lightweight women’s sculls followed by Phoebe White, Trisha Corless, Robyn Morris, Nicky Dale, Naomi Ashcroft and Mandy Calvert. Lightweight Chief Coach Tony Reynolds announced that the first four would race at Duisburg in single sculls, although it’s not clear if Phoebe and Robyn actually did.
After the trials, Women’s Chief Coach David Lister issued a statement which explained that Ali, who had been the fastest openweight single in the long distance trials would be allowed to race the single at Piediluco and Duisburg, after which the situation would be reviewed. It also noted that Miriam, Jo, Libby and Dot were considerably faster than others in the ‘development’ group at long distance trials, and set out how they would race at Nottingham City Regatta and then Duisburg as Miriam/Jo and Libby/Dot on one day at each and then swap partners for the other day, after which they’d train as a four and race at Paris. Percentage gold medal speeds would be calculated for all the boats to inform a decision on what should be raced at Lucerne. As it turned out, they didn’t race at Notts City at all, and the Miriam/Jo combination raced both days at Duisburg.
Lightweight four: special trial (22-24 April 1994)
Claire Davies had been in the lightweight four in 1992 and 1992, but after missing training over the winter of 1992/1993 with a back injury and then contracting overtraining syndrome, she didn’t make the crew in 1993.
Records show an unusual trial between her and Tonia Williams in late April 1994 that took place in Nottingham. This involved “paddling trials” rating 22.5-27 and “higher rate work” at 28.5-37. The results sheet stated that extrapolations on each rower’s best piece “indicate a 16 second difference in favour of Tonia over 2,000m”. Claire’s involvement in the GB senior squad ended at that point and she formed a four which represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games instead.
Piediluco (28 April-1 May 1994)
The openweight squad went early to Piediluco for a training camp before the regatta where, unfortunately, there was no significant opposition. Miriam Batten and Jo Turvey won the pairs, Ali Hall won the singles and Dot Blackie, Libby Henshilwood, Jo Turvey and Miriam Batten won the fours on both days.
The entire GB team (men and women) were arrested in Rome because their coach driver had lost his camera and felt that one of them must have stolen it. The situation was eventually resolved by a consular official whom David Tanner managed to fetch.
Ghent (7-8 May 1994)
Guin Batten came third in the single sculls on the Saturday, with Kate Pollitt fourth. The two then won the double sculls with lightweights Naomi Ashcroft and Mandy Calvert third. Guin finished second in the singles the next day.
A southern-based women’s development four from Marlow/Women’s Rowing Centre/Thames Tradesmen’s RC won on the first day. The Scotland coxless four of Kareen Marwick, Nicola Robinson, Alona Bruce and Gillian Lindsay won on the Sunday “in impressive style” according to Rowing.
Also on the second day, Naomi Ashcroft and Mandy Calvert won lightweight doubles by 0.5 seconds, and were second in openweight doubles behind the Belgian squad crew but 13 seconds ahead of Ruth Rudkin and Helen Bruce who were third.
A few days after Ghent, the British Rowing Team management told Guin to race her single at Duisburg and Paris after which they would review the situation,
Nottingham City (7-8 May 1994)
The lightweight scullers raced both days. On the Saturday Helen Mangan beat 1991 GB lightweight sculler Sue Appelboom (who had decided to seek selection for the Commonwealth Games in 1994 rather than the GB team) in open, but Sue beat Trisha Corless in lightweight. On the Sunday, when there was no lightweight event, Phoebe White beat Sue in open.
Interlude: Annamarie’s shoulder
Despite providing a training opportunity the rest of the GB women’s squad could only dream of, the Hong Kong training camp at the beginning of the year nearly stopped Annamarie from rowing at all for the rest of the year because it aggravated a shoulder injury she’d sustained about six weeks before final trials the previous year when she’d been knocked over by a lorry going through a red light. “I was bruised all the way down my right hand side where the lorry hit me and so they x-rayed that and confirmed that there wasn’t any serious damage, and I got back in the boat somehow and it was all OK. But after the Women’s Head, I started to get a numb arm, so Ann Redgrave (Team Doctor) arranged for me to see a shoulder specialist who diagnosed that I’d broken my collar bone on he left hand side but hadn’t realised. During the rest of the 1993 summer when I was rowing on bowside it was protected, but when I was doing all that sculling, which was new to me anyway, and I was reaching out with my left arm that it really started to cause problems, added to which I was doing a whole pile of different weights and things.”
“All the muscle had gone [tight] because it was trying to protect itself,” she explains. “The options were to have surgery or to have physio and we all sat down, Bill, Ann and I and decided actually we’d try not to do the surgery route which would have definitely taken me out for the 1994 season, and it was better to try and do physio and rehab. So because I wasn’t working I was able to a much more time-consuming training programme to stay fit enough without rowing. I was doing weights exercises for my good arm, rehab for the bad one, exercises for my legs, exercises for my core, doing a bit of everything.”
“The plan was always to get me back into the boat but Robyn Morris raced with them at all the early season regattas and I had to prove that I deserve to get my seat back from her, but we only did that at the training camp in Canada before the Commonwealth Regatta.”
Duisburg (21-22 May 1994)
On the Saturday, Jo Turvey and Miriam Batten came second to the 1993 World Champion French pair, but this time were only three and a bit seconds behind them rather than nearly seven seconds as they had been at the Worlds. The GB crew won comfortably against other world medallist opposition on the Sunday when the French crew were in a four. This was promising.
The lightweight coxless four raced openweight with Dot Blackie subbing for the injured Annamarie Stapleton. “Until that point we’d been absolutely flying,” stroke Tonia Williams says. “We were rowing better than we had been when we won the World Championships the previous year, and then suddenly Annamarie’s out of the boat so it went from being an extremely promising year when we could build on the previous year to being a really hard year. We had all sorts of people subbing, and rowing with Dot at Duisburg was a hiding to nothing; the way we rowed was different to the way she and it was last minute too.” Dot is even more sanguine, saying, “It was a nightmare and I just made them go slower,” and remembers even struggling to row in their “tiny boat” .
Ali Hall, Guin Batten and Kareen Marwick all raced in the single sculls event that was part of the World Cup. This was Guin’s first appearance in GB squad colours, an opportunity earned by her good performance at Ghent, according to Rowing. She finished seventh and Ali was 14th. Geoffrey Page wrote that she “excelled” in winning the B final. Guin had switched to single sculling exactly a year earlier when Ron Needs, GB Women’s Chief Coach in 1993, told her that she’d never make it into the sweep team because she was too small. Guin remembers, “Jurgen started to take notice of me at Duisburg, and he started getting Ute Lau – the German coach of Kathrin Boron and everyone – to advise him about my technique.”
In the lightweight single sculls, Helen Mangan was second on the Saturday when Trisha Corless was fifth. Helen came third on the Sunday.
Geoffrey Page summed up the results in Rowing, saying, “The women’s squads seem in some disarray especially as David Lister has had to resign as Chief Coach due to business pressures. Turvey and Batten… are clearly still close to a medal… but nothing much else has yet emerged from the openweight women. The lightweight women are severely handicapped by the injury to Annamarie Stapleton which threatens to keep her out of action this season… there seems to be no obvious replacement of her calibre.”
Docklands regatta (4-5 June 1994)
Sue Appelboom won both lightweight and open single sculls comfortably. The lightweight four raced alongside the openweight race without being an official entry in it to test out Robyn Morris as a sub.
Paris (18-19 June 1994)
By Paris it had been decided that Helen Mangan and Phoebe White would be the lightweight double, and Trisha Corless, who had doubled with Helen for the previous two years would be in the single. “I’m a crew person rather than a single sculler,” Trisha says, “So I would have preferred to be in the double, but I just wanted to be in the team so I singled.” She adds that she wouldn’t have been selected if Sue Appelboom hadn’t chosen to go to the Commonwealth Games instead as Sue was faster than her.
Helen and Phoebe won on both days at Paris, setting a new world best time in a brisk tailwind.
The lightweight four raced in openweight again, still with Robyn Morris subbing for Annamarie. They came second on both days behind Romania.
The pair, with Jo now stroking, came second to the French on both days but further behind them than they had been in Duisburg. Miriam wrote later, “We swapped the pair around to see if it would go faster but in fact it went a little slower.” They returned to their original seats in time for Lucerne. Kate Grose and Tish Reid finished fourth on the Saturday and third on the Sunday when they were eight seconds slower than the quad pair. Tish had been injured for two years and was coming back from a very low base.
Ali Hall and Guin Batten raced in the second round of the World Cup single sculls; Ali finished just over three seconds ahead.
Henley Women’s (18-19 June 1994)
The GB squad, such as it was, didn’t compete at Henley Women’s because it clashed with the international regatta in Paris. Various Commonwealth Games crews did, however, and cleaned up in strong crosswind conditions which led to “several finals being decided purely by crews’ steering abilities,” according to Rowing magazine.
The open quads was won by the Commonwealth Games crew of Naomi Ashcroft, Mandy Calvert, Ali Sanders and Janet Vickers. These four north west-based women had started the season as lightweight doubles seeking GB selection, but having not managed to beat the squad crew or the Commonwealth lightweight double of Lucy Hart and Mary Stevens, had switched to the quad at openweight as there was no lightweight event at either Henley Women’s or the Commonwealth Games.
Open coxless fours was won by the Claire Davies’ London-based Welsh Commonwealth quad, and the open double sculls by the Commonwealth double of Ruth Rudkin and Helen Bruce.
Naomi Ashcroft and Mandy Calvert doubled up from the open quad to win lightweight doubles, and Sue Appleboom notched up her fifth consecutive win in lightweight singles. Regatta magazine commented that she, “Should have brought her binoculars to see her opponents”.
Henley Royal Regatta (29 June-3 July 1994)
Guin Batten was only British entry to make it through the first round by beating someone as opposed to a rowing over. She lost in the second round Trine Hansen who became World Champion that year. Ali Hall withdrew with a bad back.
Lucerne (15-17 July 1994)
The openweight pair were beaten by the French again after winning both their heat and their semi-final. Rowing magazine reported that, “Jo Turvey and Miriam Batten produced their best performance of the season to hold the French World Champions to a length (2.14 seconds), the closest they have been to them this year.” Hugh Matheson said that they showed “style and spirit”. Tish Reid and Kate Grose also entered, but finished last in their semi-final. The prediction that the event’s renewed Olympic status had driven the standard back up seemed correct as 17 crews raced compared with 10 the previous year.
The Scottish Commonwealth coxless four came fifth. Jo and Miriam also raced with Libby Henshilwood and Dot Blackie in the event in that crew’s last appearance of the year.
Guin Batten finished ninth in the single sculls, which gave her an overall placing of seventh equal (with Silken Lauman) in the World Cup.
The lightweight coxless four, with Robyn Morris still in the boat, won the silver medal but finished over five seconds down on the American winners. Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta that they, “Took a pounding from a superb American crew but still row like champions.”
The lightweight doubles and singles had very large entries. Phoebe White and Helen Mangan came fifth out of 20 in the lightweight doubles. International Rowing Manager Brian Armstrong described them as being below par but having the potential to do well at the Worlds. Mary Stevens and Lucy Hart of Notts County RA, and the Scottish crew of Maureen McGarvy and Claire McIntosh also raced but did not make the semi-finals.
Trisha Corless came ninth out of 22 in the lightweight singles; a strong last 500m brought her up from fifth to third in the B final.
Commonwealth Rowing Championships
Lightweight single scull (2nd out of 5)
Sue Appelboom (Mortlake Anglian and Alpha BC)
Although Sue’s silver medal was an excellent result, she nearly threw it all away by mis-pacing the race. “I went off way too hard and at 500m I was probably two lengths ahead of Michelle Darvill who was the Canadian who’d won the World Championships the year before, and I was thinking, ‘Oh dear, I shouldn’t be that far ahead of the World Champion!’,” she says. “I got to half way and it almost became like survival after that, just trying to hang on and hang on. I’d blown up and she rowed me down totally. I had to struggle to hold off Claire McDougall-Smith [representing Scotland] who was in third position and was gaining on me with every stroke. I remember feeling quite dizzy and sick on the finish from having to do those desperate last few strokes to stay with her. But it was a good regatta and I loved the whole experience.”
Coxless pair (2nd out of 4)
Kate remembers, “We didn’t race as well as we could have done. We felt that we could have been a bit closer if we’d had a bit more self-belief although I don’t think we could have won. But even though we were a bit disappointed it was quite a nice end to our international rowing careers, because Barcelona in 1992 had been awful and the Commonwealths in 1994 left us with a much better feel good factor about the whole thing.” Tish agrees. “I remember we had a paddle round the day after the regatta finished and we both said it was absolutely one of the most enjoyable competitions that we’ve ever had, international type of environment because everything else was always so frenetic and so anxious and stressful, whereas the Commonwealth rowing was satisfying.”
Double scull (3rd out of 6)
B: Helen Bruce (Tideway Scullers’ School)
S: Ruth Rudkin (Henley RC)
Lightweight double scull (3rd out of 6)
B: Lucy Hart (Nottinghamshire County RA)
S: Mary Stevens (Nottinghamshire County RA)
The crew received sponsorship from Speedo.
Lightweight coxless four (3rd out of 6)
The four did a training camp at Brock University before the Commonwealth Regatta at which Annamarie, now fully recovered from her shoulder injury, won her seat back from Robyn Morris in a trial. However, their straight final would be her only race with the crew that season before the World Championships.
“The conditions were awful,” Annamarie recalls. “The course is on a T-shaped lake. We were racing along the top of the T and the wind came directly up the leg of the T and hit the course. I remember turning round when we were on the start – I always look back to see the finish line – and the buoy lines were in a curve because they were being blown by the wind and I remember thinking I was so glad I wasn’t steering because what do you do, do you steer a straight line or steer between the buoys?”
The crew, who were the reigning World Champions, finished behind the Canadians and Australians. Regatta magazine described the crew’s bronze medal as “somewhat of a disappointment,” which was a considerable understatement. “It was not a happy experience,” Wilma says. “Jane was in a right strop and I remember elbowing her on the medal podium and muttering, ‘SMILE !'” “We rowed like a bag of spanners,” is Tonia’s assessment. “There was so much nervous apprehension in the boat, being under pressure, and when we got off that water, everyone was so angry about it but it jolted us into training hard so we could rowing properly at the Worlds.”
Eight (3rd out of 4)
B: Alison Mowbray (Cambridge University Women’s BC)
2: Alex Beever (Capital RC)
3: Sue Walker (Thames Tradesmen’s RC)
4: Rowan Carroll (Nottinghamshire County RA)
5: Helen Raine (Bristol University BC)
6: Cath Bishop (Marlow RC)
7: Claire Glackin (Marlow RC)
S: Libby Henshilwood (Thames RC)
Cox: Suzie Ellis (Thames RC)
Cath Bishop remembers, “Ron Needs basically made the Commonwealth regatta happen for us, including financial elements of it, although we all had to fund raise a certain amount. It was a brilliant experience for us, exactly what we needed at that stage in our development. Although we got the bronze medal, we were massively beaten by Australia and Canada because their crews were their senior eights, but that showed us what the World level was and where we were relative to that. It was also brilliant learning about preparing for an international regatta and just being at one. It was all a huge step up.”
Quadruple scull (4th out of 4)
B: Naomi Ashcroft (Runcorn RC)
2: Mandy Calvert (Agecroft RC)
3: Janet Vickers (City of Sheffield RC)
S: Ali Sanders (Sheffield University RC)
These four north west-based women had started the season as lightweight doubles seeking GB selection, but having not managed to beat Helen Mangan and Trisha Corless, had switched to the openweight quad as there was no lightweight event at the Commonwealth Games.
They had gained selection by winning the Commonwealth Games trials that were part of London Docklands regatta, and at Henley Women’s, although they lost to another largely north-west composite at the National Championships when Janet caught a crab right at the end of the race.
When in came to their one race at the Commonwealth Regatta, Janet, who was steering, remembers, “In the cross-wind, Canada steered into us off the start, and it was game over. I got my hand up to the umpire, but she didn’t take any action.”
They raced in an ex-GB boat that Janet and two other City of Sheffield members had bought for the club, which was named after their coach, Rosie Mayglothling, and is still in use there today.
Single scull (6th out of 6)
Tish Reid (Lea RC)
Tish remembers, “The sculls were was about three races after the I’d done the pair which had been a hard race, and my legs were like complete jelly.”
Other home nations teams
GB internationals Kareen Marwick and Gillian Lindsay raced in the Scottish coxless four which won the bronze medal, as did Fiona Freckleton, representing Scotland in the single sculls. All three of them were in the Scotland eight too.
1991 and 1992 GB lightweight silver medallist Claire Davies stroked the Wales lightweight coxless four.
1994 GB women’s rowing team
B: Jo Turvey (Tideway Scullers’ School)
S: Miriam Batten (Thames RC)
Coach: Terry Dillon (Leander)
Lightweight coxless four
Lightweight double scull
B: Helen Mangan (Runcorn RC)
S: Phoebe White (Rob Roy BC)
Coach: Ray Sims (Nottinghamshire County RA)
Lightweight single scull
Trisha Corless (Staines BC)
Coach: Sean Bowden (Nottinghamshire County RA)
Although not listed in the Almanack, Robyn Morris was a travelling spare.
The only member of the team with no previous GB caps at any level was Guin Batten. Miriam had been in the team since 1990, Jo since 1992. The lightweight coxless four was the same crew as in 1993 which was Jane’s first senior year; Tonia had also been in the boat in 1992, and Wilma and Annamarie had been in both 1991 and 1992. Helen had been in the lightweight double in 1990, 1992 and 1993, the latter two occasions with Trisha. Phoebe had been in the under-23 lightweight double in 1993.
The pair and Guin went to Silvretta with the men for an altitude camp and then for warm weather acclimatisation to Talahassee in Florida where the British Olympic Association had established a training base at the University of Florida.
Guin described the weather and wind in Silveretta as, “Variable, and not just from day to day but from one end of the lake to the other,” and the wind at Lake Seminole in Florida as, “Ideal preparation for the wind in Indie.”
The lightweight double’s and single’s training camp was in Varese in Italy.
The lightweight four stayed in North America for further training after the Commonwealth Regatta, and were joined by a men’s double from Imperial College who acted as pacemakers as they had at the four’s altitude camp he previous year.
At the Championships
Lightweight coxless four (2nd out of 6)
Faced with the tricky situation of a straight final in brisk tailwind conditions, the four had quite a slow start, reaching the 500m point in fifth place. They worked up to fourth by half way, held that until 1,500m gone and then produced an exhilarating last 500m – the fastest of all the crews in the race by over a second, and which Hugh Matheson described in the Independent as “a stirring sprint” – to finish second, just 0.88 seconds off the Americans who won gold in a new world best time which still stands in 2019, and a mere 0.99 seconds ahead of the third-placed Chinese.
Tonia says, “The fact that we came so close to almost defending that title was massive and in a way, that was probably my most memorable row, to start the race the way we started and just kitchen sink it from a long way out and pull back. I remember talking to the Americans on the podium and they just said, ‘We saw you coming, we had nothing left to give so we hoped like crazy that you wouldn’t be able do it.'”
“Despite only coming third at the Commonwealths, I still went into it thinking that we could win it,” Annamarie remembers. “But we had the most awful start. It was so heavy and it just didn’t feel like it should have. We were so far down at 500m, but then we slowly, slowly, slowly came back and suddenly it all started going well and we caught up with the rest of the field and whilst we were only a millisecond off being third, we were also actually rowing through and we weren’t that far off first. I remember Matthew Pinsent saying as we came off the medal podium that he’d never seen a more exciting race, and that he really thought we were going to get them, so it was a great race in the end. It was a real shame that we didn’t get it but in a way it was a relief that we got silver rather than ending up with either nothing or bronze. On a personal level, for me, given what I’d been through and the fact that I hadn’t been the boat most of the year, just to be on the podium was amazing.”
Wilma agrees entirely. “It was agonising because we were coming back but we ran out of course. I certainly felt that I was relieved to get it although after the event I thought that with a bit more commitment we could have got the gold. But having said that my overwhelming memory was relief that we actually got the silver.”
Annamarie and Wilma became the first British women to have won four World Championship medals, which they also achieved with a 100% ‘hit rate’.
Coxless pair (5th out of 10)
The pair had had a solid season and while there was no real likelihood that they could beat the French to whom they’d come second at Duisburg, Paris and Lucerne, they had every reason to optimistic about finishing in the medals.
However, when the entries were published it turned out that the reigning Olympic single sculls champion, Elisabeta Lipa of Romania, who had apparently been focusing earlier in the season on racing in the Women’s Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta, was now in the Romanian pair, making that crew considerably faster than it had been in Lucerne. Lipa’s pedigree seeded the Romanians into the other heat from the French whom the British pair then met in the heat rather than being kept apart from them in the draw.
In the heat the GB crew finished 5.22 seconds behind the French, further than they had been at their last meeting in Lucerne. “We’d obviously lost a bit,” Miriam says, ruefully.
However, that’s what repechages are for and they won theirs by over three seconds to reach the main final.
In the final they reached the 500m marker in fifth place ahead of Germany but the German then rowed through them to put to put the British crew last at half way. Jo and Miriam then produced the third fastest third 500m of all the boats to push back into fourth position by 1,500m ahead of Germany and the USA, but perhaps this effort had prove too much because the Germans then rowed them down again by the line and they finished fifth. “I really don’t know what happened,” Miriam says. “It just didn’t seem to have any fight. We weren’t able to attack it.” Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta that they “somehow never got motoring.”
Single scull (9th out of 13)
Guin was fourth out of four in her first round which was won by Kathrin Boron, the reigning German Olympic Double Sculls Champion.
In her four-boat repechage she held second place until 1,500m before slipping to third behind the Chinese sculler. However, this was still enough to qualify, albeit with the slowest repechage time, for the semi-final where she came fifth, putting her in the small final. She was washed down for a lot of the race by the TV launch in the lane adjacent to hers. “It was so bad at 1,000m that I shouted at the Umpire to do something,” she noted shortly afterwards.
By the time of her B final on the final day of racing, the wind was making a mess of the course. “Racing was delayed for half an hour and all the small finals were grouped together,” she wrote. “The course was rough but not unrowable. The water was flat in the first 1,000m so this is where the race would be won. It would be lost in the rough water of the second 1,000m. At 750m gone the going was good. I was half a length down in third place. And then the umpire went completely bananas; he started to ring his bell. No one stopped. He then started to wave his red flag frantically. ‘Has he gone mad?,’ I thought. ‘No one stops even a small final mid-race at the World Championships. Everyone looked across at each other ring the first person to stop and then we all finally slowed. Racing had been cancelled. None of us could quite believe it; one minute we were four minutes from the climax of 12 months of training, and the next minute it’s all called off. One cruel joke.”
The race was re-started the next day. There were a lot of changes of position behind Maria Brandin of Sweden who led throughout. Guin was third at 500m gone, fourth at half way, having been passed by the Chinese and American scullers, a position she held at 1,500m, before overtaking the American again to finish third. Her official placing was eighth overall because Silken Laumann was disqualified from the A final for making two false starts.
Lightweight double scull (10th out of 12)
Helen and Phoebe came fourth in their heat of six, from which only one qualified directly to the final. In their repechage, from which two more would qualify, they held fourth place throughout. In an unidentified newspaper clipping, Telegraph, Geoffrey Page commented that, “This was disappointing after their early-season promise.”
They were also fourth at all of the markers in the B final, giving them an overall placing of tenth.
Lightweight single scull (11th out of 11)
Trisha finished third in her heat of five from which one went straight to the final. Geoffrey Page described her as “showing better form”. In the repechage she was last out of five after 500m, but rowed down the American sculler to hold fourth for the rest of the race, but only the first two qualified for the main final.
She was fifth throughout the five-boat B final, although the race was close, as shown below, and her final 500m was the fastest of all the boats.
Looking back on it now Trisha reflects, “I enjoyed doing the single because I was enjoying getting better as a single sculler, but I probably just wasn’t fast enough. So it was good experience but quite disappointing too.”
Having come fifth at the 1992 Olympic Games after only five weeks together, then fourth in 1993 and now fifth again, time was up for the pair on the road to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. “It was just a really sad way to end that pair because actually it was what the women’s sweep team was. There was nothing else really going on,” Miriam remembers.
But perhaps the biggest issue for the GB women’s openweights was the lack of numbers. Miriam adds, “My mum had produced two thirds of the team, and that was dreadful, don’t you think?” It was time for Ron Needs’ Commonwealth eight to be brought into the main squad fold.
As for the lightweight four, Tonia says, “By then I guess I had the sense that already people were scanning the horizon for what 1995 held, so although that result was great, and ours was wonderful considering the season we’d been through, we definitely all know that that was the end of it.”
World Junior Rowing Championships
These took place in Munich from 2-6 August where it was extremely hot. The GB women’s team won two medals for the first time (the first medal ever having been won the previous year). The descriptions of racing below all come from the Almanack report written by Assistant Team Manager John Layng.
Eight (4th out of 9)
B: Sarah Welch (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)*
2: Clare O’Sullivan (Kingston Grammar School BC)*
3: Sarah Brooker (St Leonard’s School BC)
4: Claire Fox (Kingston RC)*
5: Josephine Andrews (Women’s Rowing Centre)
6: Liz Walsh (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)
7: Tessa Morris (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)**
S: Laura Baker (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)*
Cox: Abbie Chapman (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)
Coach: Toddy Russ (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)
With six of the crew doubling up, the eight raced hard to 500m before padding over and going to the repechage from which only one crew would need to be eliminated, and where they “Continued to impress with a clear victory… to reach the final.” Despite “repeated efforts” to move through the field after a “cautious” start int the final, they finished fourth.
Quadruple scull (8th out of 16)
B: Jayne Dulling (Durham ARC)
2: Hannah Vines (Henley RC)
3: Helen Brown (Warrington RC)
S: Nicola Ledger (Kingston RC)
Coach: John Lund (Durham ARC)
The quad rowed, “A superb race from third at 1,000m to become the first [GB] girls quad to win a heat and a well-earned place in the semi-final where they missed qualifying for the A final by a length.
Coxless four (2nd out of 8)
B: Liz Walsh (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)
2: Josephine Andrews (Women’s Rowing Centre)
3: Tessa Morris (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)**
S: Claire Fox (Kingston RC)*
Coach: Louise Kingsley (Kingston Grammar School BC)
“The girls’ coxless four heats were very tactical rows with the British girls racing hard to 500m and leading, and then paddling over, finishing fourth. This undoubtedly boosted their confidence as well as saving themselves for their row in the eights later in the day. They then qualified for the A final via the repechage. In the final the crew, “Left the start very steadily, sitting fifth at 500m and easing through to fourth at 1,000m. Then they started to close up and in the last 500m rated 39 to pass Canada and Germany to finish a superb second for a richly deserved silver medal. All credit must go to this crew and their coach Louise Kingsley, who was responsible for the girls’ bronze medal the previous year [in a pair, also containing Tessa Morris], for such an impressive display and the distinction of becoming the highest placed women’s junior sweep crew ever.”
Tessa subsequently won the Young Athlete of the Year category at the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year awards.
Coxless pair (3rd out of 11)
B: Laura Baker (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)*
S: Sarah Brooker (St Leonard’s School BC)
Coach: Ian South (Kingston RC)
In their first round heat, “The British girls rowed confidently in second place… until half way, before easing through to finish first and earn a place directly into the final.” In the final they, “Started fifth, increasing to fourth at 500m, and by 1,000m they were almost challenging the Chinese for second place. The Chinese held off the Britons, who in turn had to raise their rate to 40 to foil a last ditch attempt by the Danes to get into the medals. It was a superb race which earned a richly deserved bronze medal.”
Single scull (11th out of 23)
Sarah Watts (Nottinghamshire County RA)
Coach: John Spencer (Eton Excelsior RC)
In her heat, “Sarah finished third, nearly 30 seconds behind the winner.” She then secured her place in the the semi-finals by winning the repechage. In the semis she pulled up from last at half way to finish fifth, and thus went into the B final where she “gave a good account of herself”.
* Denotes a previous participation in the World Junior Championships.
These under-23 championships took place in Paris from 23-24 July.
Coxless pair (2nd out of 6)
B: Claire Hodgson (Staines BC)
S: Caroline Dring (Staines BC)*
Coach: David Martin
Double scull (12th out of 12)
B: Libby Henshilwood (Thames RC)
S: Helen Raine (Bristol University BC)
Coach: Ron Needs
Lightweight double scull (9th out of 9)
B: Sarah Birch (Kingston RC)*
S: Sarah Hay (Kingston RC)
Coach: Aggie Barnett
Lightweight single scull (6th out of 9)
Robyn Morris (Kingston RC)*
Coach: Aggie Barnett
* Denotes a previous participation in the Nations Cup.
The photo at the top of this page shows the lightweight four with coach Bill Mason after winning the silver medal at the World Championships and is from Annamarie Phelps’ personal collection.
© Helena Smalman-Smith, 2019.