1998 World Rowing Championships

The 1998 World Rowing Championships took place on Lake Fühlingen in Cologne in Germany from 6-13 September. 70 openweight and 47 lightweight women’s crews from 39 countries took part which was the second largest entry ever.

In August 1997 FISA removed the ‘amateur’ requirement from its rules, freeing athletes to receive prize money, participation money, sponsorship funds and other payments.

Coaching and squad formation

In the autumn of 1997, one year into the four-year cycle that would lead to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the GB women’s rowing team was in a good place in lots of ways. There was coaching continuity with Chief Coach Mike Spracklen having being engaged for the whole Olympiad. At the 1997 World Championships the openweight team had won a historic three medals, including their first gold, which Miriam Batten explains, “Built our confidence as a team, and built Mike’s credibility, so going into the Cologne year there were lots of people training, all as a centralised group.”

In the grand scheme of things, this was what was needed, although it brought ‘nice to have’ new problems for the team setup at Longridge near Marlow. When Mike Spracklen was appointed Chief Coach and launched the new GB women’s base there in January 1997, he operated an open house whereby any GB aspirants could turn up and join in his sessions at any time. By early 1998, he had to draw a line as there was a limit to the number he could cope with, but he rightly described this as, “A very healthy scene” in Regatta magazine.

The group trained full time, with a day off on Sundays and half days on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Spracklen explained, “They are training at a higher level. They are very industrious and businesslike. Last year there was constant whinging for the first three or four months. Now they have confidence in themselves and they know what they are doing. I always reckon that whinging is only insecurity. Complaining is negative and can only be detrimental.” He continued that he was under no illusions about the challenge that lay ahead, despite the four fabulous medals at the 1997 World Championships. “The… result was great, but the standard has definitely gone up. I’ve heard that the Americans and Canadians have now got their act together and they won’t be the only ones. We are expecting a tough season.” Miriam Batten, who was at the top of the squad, acknowledges that even so, “There were almost too many people training and it was definitely the case that if you were lower down the pecking order you didn’t get much attention coaching-wise.”

Dot Blackie, whose realistic hopes of getting a medal in 1997 were dashed when her pairs partner Cath Bishop was struck down with an illness after their opening heat at the World Championships, was also positive about the overall atmosphere. “Obviously, personally I was a snivelling wreck because it had looked like finally we might be getting somewhere,” she explains, “But the fact that Miriam and Gillian did so well and we knew where we were relative to them because we had trained together so much meant that we knew we were up at the right standard. That said, in a way that it made it worse that we hadn’t been able to race, and the fact that all of the others whom we’d spent all year beating in our pair were then in the eight and the four which won medals, that was tough to take. However, all that completely informed the way we trained through the winter of 1997/98. We were ruthless in our training, and Mike’s training was very combative – I loved it. Every single outing we were on a mission. It wasn’t anything that we stated out loud but that attitude was there in ever call coming up the Cookham reach, round the bend, doing leapfrog against other crews or whatever. Constantly having someone to measure yourself against worked for me rather. It was better than just rowing along thinking, ‘Is this good enough?'”

Dot also remembers feeling that the women’s squad was finally being treated as equal with the men’s. “We trained SO hard – and they knew what we were doing so that got rid of that last vestige of the old culture of, ‘The women aren’t really athletes, they’re just playing at it’ stuff.”

Guin Batten, who had ‘done her own thing’ in 1997 when she’s remained on the Tideway with coach Miles Forbes-Thomas, decided to join the Longridge programme in 1998, although she was determined to remain in the single scull. This was partly because her athlete-coach relationship with Miles had broken down by the 1997 World Championships but mostly, she says, because, “I wanted to train with people. I’d been doing the sort of ‘Go away and be special’ thing and it wasn’t working. So I said to Miles, ‘You can come with me if you want but I’m going to train with Spracklen,’ but he wasn’t interested in that, so I worked with Louise Kingsley, who was the Development Coach.”

“Longridge was amazing. It was a really great place to be,” she continues. “And there was a bit more excitement, doing much more higher intensity work which built on all the years of huge volumes of low intensity that I’d done. My body suited Spracklen’s training programme; Jurgen’s low level intensity training plan that I’d been doing before is better for big people [Guin is 5’7″ or 172cm].” This view is based on her professional knowledge as well as her personal experience; as she’d been an exercise physiologist at the British Olympic Medical Centre before giving up work to train full time. 

One member of the 1997 team who didn’t join the fold at Longridge was emerging talent Katherine Grainger. She and her pairs partner Francesca Zino had got into the 1997 ‘development’ eight after winning the under-23 Nations Cup but, as she explains in her autobiography Dreams Do Come True, she was embarking on a masters degree at Glasgow University so she took the opportunity to learn to scull over the winter and trained on her own in Edinburgh with her university coach Hamish Burrell.

Funding and targets

Mike Spracklen’s strategy document, issued in October 1997, set out that, “British rowing is being supported by a major Lottery grant which includes subsistence and training grants for athletes at three levels – Elite, International and National. For this finding to continue, we must achieve the targets we have set!”

The target for whole GB women’s rowing team (open and lightweight) was getting six boats to finals and three to four medals. For the under-23s, it was three boats in finals and one medal. These were actually slightly below the levels achieved in 1997 (when there had been seven finalists and four medals at the World Championships and one medal from four finalists at the under-23 Nations Cup), but as Spracklen had pointed out, the standard was going up all the time so even staying in the same place results-wise required an increase in performance.

Winter training, assessment and racing

Thames World Sculling Challenge (4 October 1997)

Guin Batten defended her title, finishing more than 30 seconds ahead of Ali Sanders of City of Sheffield RC with Rowan Carroll of Notts County RA third.

Pairs Head (11 October 1997)

1997 lightweight international Tegwen Rooks and four-times under-23 international Caroline Dring were the fastest women’s crew and finished an impressive 20 seconds ahead of the next double containing Francesca Toye and Nicky Dale. The main squad didn’t take part.

Tiffin Head (22 October 1997)

Tiffin Head was an open event but was also used for several years around this time as an initial trial for squad aspirants (as opposed to returning internationals, although some chose to take part) who raced the 5,000m course in single sculls.

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 for the senior team in 1998.

  1. Claire McDougall-Smith: 21.23
  2. Sarah Winckless: 21.32
  3. Jane Hall (lightweight): 21.33
  4. Katherine Grainger: 21.34
  5. Ali Sanders: 21.39
  6. Mary Stevens (lightweight): 21.40
  7. Jo Nitsch (lightweight): 21.53
  8. Sarah Springman: 21.54
  9. Malindi Myers (lightweight): 21.56
  10. Charlotte Hill: 22.02
  11. Nicky Dale (lightweight): 22.04
  12. Caroline Dring: 22.04
  13. Kate Mackenzie: 22.10
  14. Rowan Carroll: 22.11
  15. Sarah Watts (lightweight): 22.11

Perpetual British Indoor Rowing Championships (30 November 1997)

In the absence of the 1997 GB team, Kate Templeton won the openweight event in 6.51 with her Thames RC clubmates Kate Giles second in 6.53. Debbie Flood of Tideway Scullers won the junior event in an impressive 6.57. She went on to win the J18 category at the CRASH-B World Indoor Rowing Championships in Boston in February 1998 with a time of 6.55.

Helen Casey of Oxford University was the fastest lightweight in 7.21, 12 seconds ahead of Mary Stevens of Kingston RC.

Combining these time with other squad ergos that winter, the top scores were:

Openweight

  1. Cath Bishop: 6.41.7
  2. Katherine Grainger: 6.50.0
  3. Miriam Batten: 6.50.6
  4. Kate Templeton: 6.51.4
  5. Guin Batten: 6.51.6
  6. Sarah Winckless: 6.53.0
  7. Kate Giles: 6.53.5
  8. Kate Mackenzie: 6.56.6

Lightweight

  1. Nicky Dale: 7.10.5
  2. Jane Hall: 7.11.5
  3. Robyn Morris: 7.16.0
  4. Carolyn Jones: 7.18.0
  5. Helen Casey: 7.21.2
  6. Sarah Birch: 7.25.0

Head of the River Fours (8 November 1997)

Not surprisingly, the three women’s categories – quads, coxless fours and coxed fours – were all won by crews stacked with returning internationals. Fastest overall were Guin and Miriam Batten, Gillian Lindsay, and Elise Laverick whose Thames RC/Marlow RC quad had to do a considerable amount of overtaking. Guin had dyed her hair crimson – exactly the same shade as the red in Thames RC’s colours. “I’d gone blue for the fun of it but when the blue faded it was grey, which wasn’t in fashion then like it is today…so red was the next best option as it grew back!”

A crew containing Lisa Eyre and Sue Walker won the coxless fours by a minute, while Libby Henshilwood and Alex Beever’s crew won the coxed fours, although by the much smaller margin of eight seconds from Kingston RC.

Banyoles training camp 1 (25 November-7 December 1997)

18 of the top open and lightweights – mostly those who had been on the team last year and so could get away because they were funded and therefore didn’t have full-time jobs – went on the first of the year’s training camps.

On 30 November they did four timed rows at near race rate. The aggregate times for this gruelling test were:

  1. Guin Batten: 33.09
  2. Miriam Batten: 33.16
  3. Jane Hall (lightweight): 33.33
  4. Gillian Lindsay: 33.34
  5. Sarah Winckless: 33.44
  6. Jo Nitsch (lightweight): 33.49
  7. Dot Blackie: 33.51
  8. Ali Sanders: 34.04
  9. Cath Bishop: 34.10
  10. Charlotte Hill: 34.16
  11. Sue Walker: 34.20
  12. Tracy Langlands (lightweight): 34.20
  13. Libby Henshilwood: 34.26
  14. Lisa Eyre: 34.31
  15. Kate Mackenzie: 34.46
  16. Sarah Birch (lightweight): 34.50
  17. Rachel Woolf: 35.03
  18. Francesca Zino: 35.09

Open assessment 1 (20 December 1997)

This took place at Henley and involved two 3,000m downstream pieces.

Run 1

Results are for single sculls unless stated otherwise.

  1. Miriam Batten: 11.30
  2. Guin Batten: 11.37
  3. Madeleine Anscomb/Josephine Andrews (2x): 11.41
  4. Sarah Winckless: 11.41
  5. Jane Hall (lightweight): 11.43
  6. Katherine Grainger: 11.50
  7. Cath Bishop: 11.52
  8. Tracy Langlands (lightweight): 11.54
  9. Sarah Springman: 11.56
  10. Sarah Welch/Claire Vincent (2-): 11.57
  11. Libby Henshilwood: 11.58
  12. C Smith (lightweight): 11.58
  13. Ali Sanders: 11.59
  14. Lisa Eyre: 12.00
  15. Sue Walker: 12.01
  16. Malindi Myers (lightweight): 12.03
  17. Charlotte Hill: 11.04
  18. Rowan Carroll: 12.07
  19. Nicky Dale (lightweight): 12.10
  20. Williams/Kahn (2-): 12.10
  21. Naomi Ashcroft (lightweight): 12.12
  22. Sarah Watts (lightweight): 12.12
  23. Francesca Zino: 12.13
  24. Robyn Morris (lightweight): 12.13
  25. Kate Mackenzie: 12.19
woman in Empacher single scull

Miriam Batten racing at the trials in Henley. (Photo: Miriam Luke’s personal collection.).

Reflecting on the fact that Miriam beat her here, Guin says, “We were always quite similar speed wise in our singles in training and when we did trials, but Miriam was not so good when it came to racing in a single but I would always move up a lot in a race. There would usually be about seven seconds difference in my times from a training race to a race over 2k, mainly because when I’m tired, I’m really tired and I can’t produce the power, but when I rest up for a big race, that power then comes in.”

Run 2

Doubles

  1. Guin Batten/Miriam Batten: 10.36
  2. Tracy Langlands/Jane Hall (lightweight): 10.42
  3. Vic Fangen/Malindi Myers (lightweight): 10.58
  4. Charlotte Hill/Kate Mackenzie: 10.58
  5. Pryce/Gough: 11.01
  6. Nicky Dale/Carolyn Jones (lightweight): 11.05
  7. Ali Sanders/Alex Beever: 11.05
  8. Kate Giles/Alison Mowbray: 11.13
  9. Naomi Ashcroft/Juliet Machan (lightweight): 11.14

Pairs

  1. Sue Walker/Lisa Eyre: 11.08
  2. Libby Henshilwood/Rachel Woolf: 11.12
  3. Sarah Winckless/Francesca Zino: 11.13

Banyoles training camp 2 (29 January-10 February 1998)

There were multiple 2,000m pieces on the last full day in singles, doubles and pairs, but the results haven’t come to light.

Open assessment 2 (15 February 1998)

This also took place at Henley and involved two 3,000m downstream pieces.

Run 1

Pairs

  1. Dot Blackie/Cath Bishop: 10.58
  2. Sue Walker/Lisa Eyre: 11.09
  3. Sarah Winckless/Alex Beever: 11.11
  4. Francesca Zino/Kate Mackenzie: 11.12
  5. Libby Henshilwood/Rachel Woolf: 11.20

Single sculls

  1. Guin Batten: 11.17
  2. Gillian Lindsay: 11.25
  3. Katherine Grainger: 11.36
  4. Tracy Langlands: 11.39
  5. Sarah Springman: 11.41
  6. Ali Sanders: 11.43
  7. Jo Nitsch (lightweight): 11.44
  8. Elise Laverick: 11.45
  9. Rowan Carroll: 11.48
  10. Robyn Morris (lightweight): 11.50
  11. Bev Gough: 11.55
  12. Malindi Myers (lightweight): 11.56
  13. Naomi Ashcroft (lightweight): 11.57
  14. Alison Mowbray: 11.57
  15. Tegwen Rooks (lightweight): 11.58

Run 2

Double sculls

  1. Batten (doesn’t say which one: probably Miriam)/Elise Laverick: 10.27
  2. Tracy Langlands/Sarah Birch (lightweights): 10.35
  3. Rowan Carroll/Bev Gough: 10.46
  4. Malindi Myers/Tegwen Rooks (lightweights): 10.46
  5. Robyn Morris/Vic Fangen (lightweights): 10.49
  6. Liz Wild/Debbie Gibb: 10.59
  7. Kate Giles/Alison Mowbray: 11.02
  8. Sarah Watts (lightweight)/Rachel Woolf: 11.05
  9. Naomi Ashcroft/Juliet Machan (lightweights): 11.09

Pairs

  1. Dot Blackie/Cath Bishop: 10.50
  2. Sue Walker/Lisa Eyre: 10.59
  3. Sarah Winckless/Alex Beever: 11.03
  4. Francesca Zino/Kate Mackenzie: 11.07
women's double in black kit with wite shirts

Tracy Langlands and Sarah Birch at the February trials. (Photo: Sarah Ockendon’s personal collection.)

FISA Team Cup and camp (23 February-6 March 1998)

The FISA Team Cup, which took place in Seville, wasn’t a full international standard event, but it provided a little bit of interest for the squad in the middle of this camp.

Women’s Eights Head of the River Race (7 March 1998)

This race promised to be a cracker, fuelled by the tribal rivalry between Thames RC (the holders) and Marlow RC, which had now joined the Putney club as the other main allegiance of GB’s women internationals. Mike Spracklen coached the Marlow crew which was stroked by Cath Bishop. Thames, however, and had to bring in subs just two days before the race after four of the international members of the crew became injured. One of these was former international Annamarie Phelps, who had had her first baby only six weeks earlier, and Guin and Miriam Batten also rowed, despite it having been their mother’s funeral the day before.

In the end, Marlow – who started second – overtook Thames and won by 15 seconds, but Thames were applauded for getting as close as they did given the circumstances.

Scullers’ Head (4 April 1998)

Guin Batten was the fastest woman, finishing 38th overall, 35 seconds ahead of retired lightweight international Sue Appelboom who was second. Nicky Dale, another lightweight, was third, 25 seconds further down.

Final trials (3-8 April 1998)

These took place in Nottingham where they were preceded by a five-day preparation camp.

The pairs’ trial followed a full FISA regatta format with heats, repechages and finals, while the singles did a time trial followed by semis and finals. None of the women involved who have contributed to this account have kept a copy of the results, which is why they’re not included here.

The headline result, however, was that Katherine Grainger beat Guin Batten in the final of the single sculls. Katherine wrote in her autobiography, “There was only one result I was interested in and I got it. I won the British national trials for the first time and only a few months after learning to scull… Even knowing I hadn’t managed to take the scalps of all the big names didn’t diminish my pride. Gillian and Miriam were both withdrawn from the trials with medical exemptions [possibly after the opening time trials as Miriam has written, “Did badly, came fourth,” on her training schedule, which was her result in the time trial]. Guin raced despite experiencing the trauma of losing her mother, so in all reality was probably not at her best. But I had still taken on everyone who was there and I had won.”

Guin was also in the non-ideal situation of sculling in a borrowed boat as she’d written hers off on the journey to Nottingham following the Scullers’ Head; she had it on the roof of her car, whereas most of the other sculls went on the squad trailer. Looking back on it now, she says, “I was in really good form actually, I just hit the bad water and I was crap. I probably didn’t have enough height.” At the time, she was devastated. She wrote a few days later about “the isolation of defeat” as a single sculler, saying, “The pain, the hurt is within. How to cope is so personal; those around you see to be afraid to speak to you as if suddenly defeat is infectious.”

The rule of GB trials is that whoever wins the singles can choose whether they stay in the single or go into a crew boat. Mike Spracklen, who had rightly identified Katherine as a rising star, was keen that she join his sweep group but only if she would commit to aiming for the eight for the Sydney Olympics. She didn’t want to give up on sculling so quickly, so eventually declined that offer and chose to remain in Scotland single sculling, and it was decided that both she and Guin would race at the first two World Cups, and a decision made after that on who would be the GB sculler for 1998.

Crew formation camp (11-19 April 1998)

The squad headed straight off to a training camp in Hazewinkel to work on gelling combinations of people who had been rivals just days before.

With mobile phones still very rare at the time, people often sent faxes to keep in touch with friends and family [a practice appreciated by later social historians – Ed.]. Guin faxed Nicky Dale, who had trialled but was not on the camp, writing, “You have missed the wettest, most windy, most cold, most damp, most miserable crew formation camp ever. The lightweights have been horrible to each other, injuries and illnesses have prevented seat racing to the coaches’ frustration. Also the problems of weight have been quite an issue; the athletes are weighing in twice a day. So you are best at home in England with your thoughts on domestic racing, on having a life and having fun.”

Guin used Kate Mackenzie’s boat at the camp, but also faxed Ray Sims to order a new one, and showed that she had moved on from her final trials defeat, writing, “This is the year for me in the single. The Belarussian [Karsten, who won the World Championships in 1997] is out [having a baby] as is the Bulgarian [Neykova, though this turned out to be incorrect – Ed.] who came fourth.”

Summer racing

Opening Day regatta in Seattle (2 May 1998)

This event on Lake Washington marks the start of the boating season there and high profile overseas crews are often given expenses-paid invitations to participate. Mike Spracklen, who was a US Rowing Team coach for the previous Olympiad, as well connected there and arranged for a GB women’s eight to take part as he wanted them to get more race experience. They finished over eight seconds ahead of the University of Washington, ending the Huskies’ seven year winning streak, with the University of Virginia in third place.

The crew was:

B: Libby Henshilwod
2: Francesca Zino
3: Kate Mackenzie
4: Alex Beever
5: Sarah Winckless
6: Lisa Eyre
7: Sue Walker
S: Cath Bishop
Cox: Suzie Ellis

Dot Blackie wasn’t involved because she was injured.

Two Notts County RA men’s crews also took part in the regatta.

Duisburg (16-17 May 1998)

Duisburg followed the traditional ‘two separate regattas, one on each day’ format. With the focus for most nations on the three World Cup Regattas (of which this was not one), the number and quality of the opposition was patchy.

The pair won two golds, only lead in last 500m on each occasion. Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta, “Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop showed nail-biting finishing form in winning the pairs on both days, each time pipping the Russians, the World Bronze medallists. On the first day Blackie and Bishop were fifth after 1,500 metres before cutting through the field.” This race profile would turn out to be a feature of their season.

Tracy Langlands and Jane Hall won the lightweight doubles ahead of the Germans on the Saturday but finished behind them on the Sunday. Whether this was related to a headwind springing up on the second day is unclear.

The eight of Libby Henshilwood, Rachel Woolf, Kate Mackenzie, Francesca Zino, Sue Walker, Alex Beever, Sarah Winckless, Lisa Eyre, and cox Nicola Odie won gold on the Saturday and silver on the Sunday when they were beaten by a German crew which hadn’t competed on the first day. The group also doubled up in fours, half racing on one day and half on the other. Saturday’s four finished fourth while Sunday combination of Sue Walker, Alex Beever, Sarah Winckless and Lisa Eyre (the 1997 World Champions with Sarah instead of Libby Henshilwood) was second.

Katherine Grainger was second in the single sculls on the Saturday and fourth on the Sunday. Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta magazine that, “Her defeat of Guin Batten in recent trials is clearly no fluke.” Guin wasn’t there, and neither were Miriam and Gillian.

A development lightweight quad of Nicky Best, Elaine Law, Jo Lightowler and Rachel Frost won a bronze medal on the Sunday.

Nicole Scott and Sarah Welch were second in the under-23 pairs on the Saturday; Debbie Gibb and Charlaine Kepinska took bronze and then silver in the under-23 double sculls.

World Cup I: Munich (29-31 May 1998)

The World Cup regattas were single competitions which meant that doubling up between some events was practical. The opposition was better but still somewhat variable.

Cath and Dot won the coxless pairs by 2.57 seconds (rowing through from third to first in the later part of both their heat and their final) with Libby and Rachel sixth but 22.31 seconds behind their team mates. Peter Spurrier took some excellent photos of the pair on the start, racing and afterwards in their World Cup leaders’ (one size didn’t fit all) yellow vests in Munich.

Glass vase: Krombacher Rowing World Cup

World ‘Cups’ were actually glass: Cath Bishop’s trophy from Munich. (Photo © Helena Smalman-Smith.)

Hugh Matheson wrote in The Guardian, “Cath Bishop and Dot Blackie picked up where they left off in Duisburg, beating new American and Danish pairs. An hour and a half later they were pulled into the eight to provide a power boost that was missing three weeks ago.” Rachel and Libby lost their seats in the eight as a result, and Suzie Ellis took back over in the cox’s seat. The crew finished fourth out of four, 1.96 seconds off bronze and 5.99 seconds behind the winners.

Sue Walker, Alex Beever, Sarah Wickless and Lisa Eyre picked up a silver medal in the coxless fours, although there were only two other crews in the race, both from Belarus. They were only 0.38 seconds down on the first of these at the line, but over 10 seconds ahead of the other. A photo of them on the start can be seen here.

Tracey Langlands and Jane Hall, the new lightweight double, also came second, 3.14 sec behind the winners.

Guin Batten got the bronze medal, finishing 6.7 seconds behind the winner, Irina Fedotova of Russia, and 4.84 seconds behind Trine Hansen of Denmark who was second. Here are some photos of her racing and with her medal. Perhaps more importantly, from her point of view, Guin beat Katherine Grainger by 10.86 seconds in the semi-final. Katherine went on to win the B final. Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta magazine that this “spectacular” result, “Largely sorted out Guin’s claim to remain GB’s single sculler, despite her final trials defeat.” It was also the first time that she had beaten the Swedish sculler Maria Brandin.

The new lightweight quad of Sarah Birch, Jo Nitsch, Tegwen Rooks and Robyn Morris also came third, but out of just four crews, finishing 3.7 seconds behind the winners. A photo of them racing can be seen here.

The openweight quad of Ali Sanders, Alison Mowbray, Elise Laverick and Rowan Carroll, formed only after final trials, was fifth, 8.49 seconds off the medals and 18.07 seconds behind the winners. A second GB quad came eighth, which may have been the lightweights.

Miriam and Gillian didn’t take part in the double sculls as Gillian was still injured.

Overall, the GB women’s team outperformed the men’s team at a major regatta for the first time and Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, the stars of GB rowing, lost a Championship race for the first time since 1990.

World Cup II: Hazewinkel (19-21 June 1998)

Cath and Dot notched up their third win of the season in the pairs, rowing through Australia in the second half of the race. A photo of them in their World Leaders’ yellow vests can be seen here.

They doubled up in the eight again, which kept its lineup, this time coming third out of four (five had started but New Zealand had an equipment failure before the 500m timing point), and finishing 6.07 seconds behind the winners, which was roughly the same differentials as in Munich. Australia, who were second, were also doubling up.

The other six members of the eight, plus Libby and Rachel, doubled up in fours where, GBR2 (Libby Henshilwood, Rachel Woolf, Kate Mackenzie and Francesca Zino) caused an upset by beating GBR1 (Sue Walker, Alex Beever, Sarah Wickless and Lisa Eyre) by 2.13 seconds. GBR2 took gold and GBR1 bronze. Sarah Winckless, who was in her rookie year in the squad and was the only change in what was otherwise the World Champion crew, felt that this result was all her fault, though she remembers that they also struggled to get their boat set up comfortably. An online report by the Women’s Sports Foundation said, “Despite the result, Spracklen has assured the athletes that there would be no personnel change within the eight,” which Libby and Rachel were not currently in [hold that thought – Ed.].

In their first regatta of the season after weeks of illness and injury, Miriam Batten and Gillian Lindsay took the silver medal behind Dutch in the double sculls. The Women’s Sports Foundation report said, “Both were not happy with the performance, which indicates that there is still more speed to come.” Their intermediate times show a similar profile to the gold medallists, but with the British losing about a second per 500m.

Tracy and Jane were third in the lightweight double, and Jane then substituted for Robyn Morris, who was ill, in the stroke seat of the lightweight quad, winning their four-boat final by 2.04 seconds with the third and fourth crews well behind. Tegwen Rooks had taken over the steering at bow from Sarah Birch.

Guin won the B final of the single sculls after taking the lead in the last 500m from Gina Douglas of Australia. Katherine was third, crossing the line 5.24 seconds after Guin who was subsequently re-confirmed as the GB single sculler for the rest of the season.

The Women’s Sports Foundation wrote that the openweight quad, “Who were racing for selection for the World Championships… produced a terrifying second half of their race to come from nowhere to finish well in the pack.” The split times show them having the fastest third 500m of any crew, after the slowest second 500m, and they finished just 0.2 seconds behind Ukraine who were fourth, but 3.54 seconds off the bronze medallists and 8.45 off gold.

Henley Women’s Regatta (20-21 June 1998)

Despite the GB squad not taking part, the eleventh Henley Women’s Regatta had a record entry of 245 crews including 34 from overseas.

Sue Appelboom won her ninth lightweight single sculls title, and Debbie Flood, who was still a junior and was only a recent convert to sculling having formerly competed in judo, won the open single sculls.

Henley Royal Regatta (1-5 July 1998)

Henley Royal Regatta involved two firsts for women in 1998, the election of Di Ellis as the first female Steward, and the first races for women’s eights.

The Stewards also followed FISA’s lead and formally removed the ‘amateur’ requirement from the regatta’s eligibility rules.

In the Princess Royal challenge Cup for women’s single sculls, four of the British entries –Guin Batten, and the three lightweights Sarah Watts, Malindi Myers and Kirsten McLelland-Brooks – got through their first rounds, all recording easily verdicts. Sarah then beat Kirsten by just a length to reach the semi-finals (where she lost), but Guin, who was ‘selected’, failed to get through after losing by three quarters of a length on the less-favoured Buckinghamshire station to the talented newcomer Gina Douglas of Australia, who wasn’t selected. Maria Brandin won the event for the fifth time.

Four national crews were invited to take part in the new eights event: Australia, USA, Canada and Great Britain. The GB crew was the same one that had raced at the first two World Cups, but with Libby Henshilwood instead of Sue Walker (apparently because of injury):

B: Libby Henshilwod
2: Lisa Eyre
3: Kate Mackenzie
4: Alex Beever
5: Sarah Winckless
6: Francesca Zino
7: Dot Blackie
S: Cath Bishop
Cox: Suzie Ellis

GB snatched a one foot verdict over Canada in their first race after being behind for the first half of the course, but then lost to the USA in the final by a third of a length

Dan Topolski wrote in The Observer, “The British stern pair of Cath Bishop and Dot Blackie, who normally double up in a coxless pair with a famous change of gear, went into their normal push for home somewhere before half way… and they drove it all the way to the line to squeeze home one foot to the good.”

World Cup III: Lucerne (10-12 July 1998)

As usual, Lucerne was the last opportunity for crews to race internationally before the World Championships and so it attracted a better entry than the first two World Cups.

The pair finished fourth behind Canada, Australia and Denmark, although they won their World Cup overall because of their earlier results. Geoffrey Page opined in the Daily Telegraph, “A first appearance in the women’s coxless pairs by the world champions… [from] Canada proved too much for Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop who lost their unbeaten record. The pair looked lifeless and were unable to live with the pace set by the Canadians.” A piece in The Guardian said that, “They came into the final round [of the World Cup] at Lucerne ‘knackered’.”

Despite Spracklen’s reported assurances after Hazewinkel that the line up in the eight wasn’t going to change, the pair didn’t race in the eight here. Dot thinks that some of the crew hadn’t been happy with them being in it, partly because they were doubling up, although the official reason was that the timetable didn’t allow it at Lucerne, and Sarah Winckless’s understanding was that the pair were never going to double up at the World Championships, so had only been in it until this point to bring it on. With both Sue Walker and Gillian Lindsay were out with back injuries (again), Miriam raced in it so that a sub didn’t have to be brought in from outside the main squad group. They finished fifth, 3.67 seconds off bronze and eight seconds off gold.

women's eight in Empacher

From bow: Libby Henshilwood, Rachel Woolf, Kate Mackenzie, Alex Beever, Sarah Winckless, Francesca Zino, Miriam Batten, Lisa Eyre and cox Suzie Ellis. (Photo © Dorothy Roberts.)

The ‘second crew’ of Libby Henshilwood, Rachel Woolf, Kate Mackenzie and Francesca Zino came third in the four-boat final of the fours, leading to half way but then being overtaken by Australia and Germany to finished 6.18 seconds off gold. The other GB four scratched because Sue couldn’t row.

Guin won B final of the single sculls comfortably.

The lightweight pair of Caroline Hobson and Juliet Machan won their four-boat final by 5.65 seconds from the USA. Tracy and Jane were “disappointingly fourth” in the lightweight doubles, as Chris Dodd described it in Regatta, 3.34 sec off bronze and 9.78 seconds off the winners. The lightweight quad were fifth in a six-boat final which otherwise contained completely different crews from those who had entered in Hazewinkel. They held fourth place for the middle 1,000m but then dropped back to fifth after being overtaken by a fast-finishing Dutch crew and crossed the line 2.35 off bronze but 12.04 sec off the German gold medallists who were well out in front.

The openweight quad, came sixth, 10 seconds behind the fifth-placed crew.

women's quad adjusting

From stroke Rowan Carroll, Elise Laverick, Alison Mowbray, Ali Sanders. (Photo © Dorothy Roberts.)

National Championships (17-19 July 1998)

These took place as they did periodically at Strathclyde Country Park. Katherine Grainger won the single sculls by an enormous margin of about 70 metres.

Additional pairs trials (4 August 1998)

Cath Bishop’s official selection notification latter from International Rowing Manager David Tanner, dated 15 July, said, “You have been selected for the Coxless Pair, and with the possibility to double up in the Eight.” The same was true for Dot Blackie as the team list issued to the squad listed all ten openweight women for the “eight and coxless four”.

With Spracklen being keen on there being an eight, but with question marks over whether everyone would be injury-free as well as the relative differences in speed between the first and second fours not being as expected, it seems that bets were being hedged.

In the end, Dot and Cath didn’t double up in the eight at the World Championships, but even once that had been established, there was the issue of whether or not there should be a four and, if so, who would be in it. Presumably to inform this, additional trials were held at Longridge involving pieces at 7.30am and 7.45pm for three pairs:

  • Sue Walker/Alex Beever
  • Kate Mackenzie/Francesca Zino
  • Rachel Woolf/Libby Henshilwood

The results of these have not been uncovered but a four of Kate Mackenzie, Francesca Zino, Sarah Winckless and Lisa Eyre (half and half of the two fours that had been racing) was also included in the GB team press pack. It did not, however, compete at the World Championships.

Final crews

Eight

B: Libby Henshilwood (Thames BC)
2: Rachel Woolf (Twickenham RC)
3: Kate Mackenzie (Thames RC)
4: Alex Beever (Marlow RC)
5: Sarah Winckless (Walbrook RC)
6: Francesca Zino (Queen’s Tower BC)
7: Sue Walker (Marlow RC)
S: Lisa Eyre (Marlow RC)
Cox: Suzie Ellis (Thames RC)
Coach: Mike Spracklen

Quad scull

B: Ali Sanders (City of Sheffield RC)
2: Alison Mowbray (Thames RC)
3: Elise Laverick (Thames RC)
S: Rowan Carroll (Nottinghamshire County RA)
Coach: Ron Needs

Double scull

B: Gillian Lindsay (Marlow RC)
S: Miriam Batten (Thames RC)
Coach: Mike Spracklen

Coxless pair

B: Dot Blackie (Thames RC)
S: Cath Bishop (Marlow RC)
Coach: Mike Spracklen

Single scull

Guin Batten (Thames RC)
Coach: Louise Kingsley

Lightweight quadruple scull

B: Sarah Birch (Kingston RC)
2: Jo Nitsch (Kingston RC)
3: Tegwen Rooks (Kingston RC)
S: Robyn Morris (Kingston RC)
Coach: Louise Kingsley

Lightweight double scull

B: Jane Hall (Kingston RC)
S: Tracy Langlands (Thames RC)
Coach: Alan Bennett

Lightweight coxless pair

B: Juliet Machan (Upper Thames RC)
S: Caroline Hobson (Upper Thames RC) – injured/Jo Nitsch (Kingston RC) – raced
Coach: James Maclean

Final training camps

These took place in Aiguebelette (8-19 August or 28 Jul-12 Aug but that was Nov 97 calendar) for the women and lightweight men and in Varese (22 August-3 September) for the whole GB rowing team.

women in red boat on lake with beautiful mountains in background

The lightweight quad loving it in Aiguebelette. From left: Tegwen Rooks, Sarah Birch, Jo Nitsch, Robyn Morris. (Photo: Sarah Ockendon’s personal collection.)

6 women by a lake

The lightweight quad (Tegwen, Robyn, Sarah and Jo) and Guin Batten (sitting) with their coach Louise Kingsley in Varese. (Photo: Sarah Ockendon’s personal collection.)

At the World Championships

The wonderful conditions on the training camps turned out to be no preparation whatsoever for the conditions in Cologne which were decidedly northern European; cold, wet, and with a strong, sometimes cross tailwind, particularly on the days of the finals.

Double scull (1st out of 14)

Gillian and Miriam got off to an excellent start by leading from the start to the finish of their heat which they won by 2.99 seconds with clear water between them and second-placed Romania.

They also won their semi-final despite an uncertain start which saw them in fourth place after 500m, after which they moved into the lead and stayed there, winning by 3.31 seconds clear of a three-boat battle behind them for the two remaining placed in the A final. However, the seeding system meant that they hadn’t met the Dutch World Cup winners in either race but, writing in The Sunday Times, Nick Pitt quoted Miriam as saying, “There is more left in the tank,” after the semi-final.

Miriam remembers, “On the day of our final there was a really, really strong tailwind. We knew we were in with a good chance but we could see that it was really rough in the last 500m so I said to Gillian, ‘This is a first half race, this is a tailwind race, we’re going to have to go ugly and go early,’ so we basically went out so hard and we got to half way and we had a lead of about four lengths. The commentators were saying that we were going to blow up and that we’d overcooked it, but I knew that once you get into rough water it’s very hard to row through people. So we got to the last 500m and we just held on to it. Everyone started to come back at us but they never went through us. So it was absolutely brilliant. We were just so delighted. We’d raced really hard.”

The report in The Almanack says, “The British crew lay down the gauntlet to the Dutch crew which had beaten them in Hazewinkel by leading for the start. They established a strong lead by half way and withstood challenges from Holland [sic] and Romania in the closing stages to win. This was an exceptional achievement and Britain’s first ever women’s gold medal in an Olympic boat class.” It was also Britain’s first openweight crew sculling medal.

Mike Rosewell wrote in The Times that, “Miriam Batten and Gillian Lindsay… were well inside world record pace at 1,000m,” and also that, “Mike Spracklen, their coach, had convinced them the night before the race that no one had done more training in spite of Lindsay’s mid-season back injury. ‘That gave us the confidence to blast off and hang on,’ Lindsay said.

The split times for the final show that they had a 1.98 second lead at 500m and had nearly doubled that to 3.79 seconds at half way. But the Dutch produced the fastest third 500m to reduce this to 2.17 seconds at 1,500m, and at the end the margin was 0.9 seconds. “For the last 250m I couldn’t see anything,” Rosewell quoted Miriam as saying. “I ran out two strokes before the finish line but it was enough.'”

women's double sculls race - GB yellow empacher in lead

Gillian and Miriam approach the finish line securely in the lead. (Photo: Miriam Luke’s personal collection.)

Dan Topolski wrote in The Observer, “The double had the scull of their lives taking the gold from the fancied Dutch duo with a sustained show of power… ‘We knew we had to go out fast in the tailwind,’ said 34-year old Batten. ‘And so we practised it over and over. It was a dream start and we really attacked at just 250m out. That must have shaken the Dutch because they are famously fast out of the blocks.’ Lindsay’s long confident stroke, so impressive when the crew won silver last year, was the key to their victory.”

 

Two women hugging and looking happy with medals

World Champions! Gillian (left) and Miriam. (Photo © John Shore.)

Nick Pitt also described how, “After crossing the line, Batten and Lindsay were hardly capable of another stroke, hardly capable of saluting the crowd. But so overcome was Batten’s younger sister Guin, who had earlier competed in the single sculls final, that she took to the water, swimming out in a useful-looking crawl and attempting first to kiss her sister and then, so it seemed, to clamber on board. Worried that the boat might be upturned, Miriam suggested, in the nicest possible way, that she swim off.”

Miriam’s win made her the first British woman to win three openweight medals, having also won silver with Gillian in the double the previous year and bronze in the pair with Fiona Freckleton in 1991. Miriam and Gillian won the Team of the Year prize at the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year awards.

Lightweight coxless pair (1st out of 4)

Tragedy struck for Caroline Hobson, stroke of the pair, when her back seized up while they were training. She was sent home, just days before their straight final which was scheduled for the same day as the lightweight quad’s final. With only four crews entered in the pair, the British team officials requested that its race be brought forward to Saturday so that Jo Nitsch could race in in both events, and the other nations involved agreed to this.

Jo and Juliet had one practice outing together on the morning of the pair’s race, and drew on their previous experience of rowing together (including winning a silver medal in the lightweight coxless four in 1995). Dan Topolski wrote in The Observer that they “combined perfectly” and the Almanack said that they “rowed with great confidence”.

Their race was close for the first 500m where the British pair were second, just 0.38 seconds behind USA with Argentina in third and Germany fourth. But the Germans then dropped right back, and Jo and Juliet took the lead by half way which they held to the line, finishing 3.09 seconds ahead with clear water ahead of Argentina who had rowed through Germany in the third quarter of the race.

Hugh Matheson quoted Juliet in The Independent as saying, “I was disappointed there were only four entries in the event because there are few opportunities at this level for lightweight women and if not enough turn up it may get axed,” a debate which is raging stronger than ever today and a point that Dan Topolski and Chris Baillieu make in commentary to the video below about it being an ideal for developing rowing nations.

Two women with arms aloft

World Champions! Juliet (left) and Jo on the podium. (Photo &cpy; John Shore.)

Coxless pair (2nd out of 9)

The pair came second in their heat, from which only one crew would qualify straight to the final. They finished 0.73 behind Canada (the reigning World Champions) after clearly racing it all the way to the line to try and book the direct passage to the final. As they had in every other race this season, they’d come from behind, having been third at 500m and fourth at half way before producing the fastest second half of all the crews. While the British pair once again produced an impressive gear-change, the Canadians were efficient with totally consistent splits.

In the repechage of four crews from which two would qualify, the Ukraine didn’t start. As Geoffrey Page described it in The Daily Telegraph, “Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop… reached their final, though surprisingly they finished second to the Russians whom they had beaten in Saturday’s heat.” They crossed the line 1.58 seconds behind Russia but 9.57 seconds clear of third-placed Australians who had beaten them in Lucerne.

However, their second place in the repechage meant that they were in one of the outside lanes for the final, Cath remembers, “Mike was very cross with us for messing up the rep and ending up in an outside lane and he kind of felt we’d written off our chances especially with the cross-tailwind. And while we were waiting to go out, Peter Haining came by and said that anyone in an outside lane had no chance, but we were always quite good in a tailwind, I quite like them.”

And so it was. As Dan Topolski described it in The Observer, “The pair… produced a finely-judged second half sprint from fourth place to steal silver from the United States by 0.6 seconds behind the dominant Canadians [who won by 2.93 seconds]. It was a long overdue reward for Blackie… who had worked hard after past disappointments… since she first raced for Britain six years ago.” What was now a trademark finish had served them well.

Dot pays credit to the team psychologist Chris Shambrook for getting them into the right mindset before each race, while Cath recalls how Phil Tinsley, who was one of the team trailer drivers, cycled alongside them as far as he could. “I think Mike had stopped following us but Phil was shouting at us all the way. You could only cycle to the 1,000m point but he he’d seen what we’d gone through the year before (when Cath had gone home ill from the World Championships after the first race), and I have this real memory of him stopped on his bike there absolutely screaming, ‘Go, go, go!’ And we did! That silver medal was very precious because of how hard we’d had to work for it.”

Two smiling women, one with arms in the air

What a difference a year makes: Dot (left) and Cath await the medal presentation. (Photo © John Shore.)

Mike Rosewell wrote in The Times, “Their race plan of ‘stay in the pack and work in the second half’ saw them fourth at 1,000 metres and third at 1,500m… Blackie, known in the team as Mrs Seventh Place*, said, ‘The plan worked, apart from coming second rather than first. I enjoyed my first final. I want more.'” He also quoted her in Regatta as saying, “I always believed that if I could get into the final I would win a medal.”

*Dot had some seventh in 1997, 1996, 1995 and 1992, and eighth in 1993.

Single scull (6th out of 19)

Guin’s first race was a heat of six from which only one sculler would progress directly to the semi-finals. Geoffrey Page wrote in The Daily Telegraph, “Guin Batten made a fast start and was leading for 300m but was then passed by the experienced German gold medallist [in the quad at the 1996 Olympics] Katrin Rutschow. However, Batten was sculling exceptionally well and stayed in contact. More encouraging was that her particular stumbling block on so many occasions, the Henley winner and former World Champion, Maria Brandin of Sweden, finished 10 seconds back in third.” To be fair, given the size of that gap and the fact that only one would go through suggests that the Swede wasn’t at full speed once she’d realised she wasn’t going to win, as the remaining five would get a second chance in the repechage

Guin won her repechage of five from which three went through by a comfortable 7.52 seconds. Her semi, however, was a very different challenge as her opposition included Trine Hansen of Denmark, Gina Douglas of Australia and Roumaina Neykova of Bulgaria. and obviously only three of them would get through to the A final. But Guin excelled. Geoffrey Page wrote, “Guin Batten was impressive when wining her semi-final from the former world champion Trine Hansen of Denmark, after taking the lead at 1,000m. More importantly she finished ahead of three other scullers to whom she has lost in the past, including Georgina Douglas of Australia who beat her at Henley but failed to qualify yesterday.” Neykova was third.

Seemingly on track for a medal, the rough water in the final was her undoing. She was fourth at 500m gone, and then overtook Hansen to move up to third by half way. But Hansen got past her again in the third 500m, where Guin was the slowest of all the scullers in the race, and although she rallied slightly in the last quarter, she finished 0.56 seconds down on the Dane and 6.86 seconds off Brandin who took the bronze medal. Fedotova of Russia won, with Rutschow of Germany second. “I should have won the bronze but because I didn’t cope well with the bad water I ended up sixth,” she explains, adding, “I think I definitely performed as best as I could, but I hated rough water.”

Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta of her results, “It begs the question, though: can the younger Batten get any further? Perhaps her season’s shadow, Kath Grainger, will see that she does.”

Lightweight quad (6th out of 9)

The lightweight quad’s regatta started with a heat of five from which only one would go straight to the final. The British crew were just in fifth at 500m, but then overtook Japan, after which they held fourth place to the line where 9.8 seconds separated the five crews which were spread out fairly evenly.

In the repechage, where the progression was a much more achievable two from three crews, they were last at 500, but then passed Spain after half way to secure their place in the A final by finishing second.

The final saw four crews out front with a particularly close battle for the minor medals. The British crew were respectable but not of the same pace, finishing sixth, some 5.4 seconds behind the fifth-placed crew and 8.26 seconds off the bronze medal.

Quad on course with crowd in grandstand in foreground

The lightweight quad warming down after racing in Cologne. (Photo: Sarah Ockendon’s personal collection.)

Eight (8th out of 10)

The eight were fourth out of five in first round heat where the field was quite spread out and only one crew qualified directly for the final. In the repechage, where two of the four crews would get through they were never in contention and finished 5.39 seconds off qualifying.

After a fast start in the B final they led until the last quarter of the race when New Zealand squeezed past them to cross the line 0.74 seconds in front.

Lightweight double (10th out of 15)

Being an Olympic boat class, the lightweight doubles attracted a large entry. Three crews would progress to the semi-finals from Jane and Tracy’s first round heat of five and they secured third place. Although they were 7.97 seconds behind the winners, they were more than 10 ahead of the two crews relegated to the repechage.

However, in their semi, Poland, whom they’d beaten in the heat and had got into the semi via the rep, apparently upped their game and stayed ahead of the British crew the whole way. After going through the 1,000m marker in last place, Jane and Tracy could only work their way up to fourth by the finish where they were still 5.41 seconds off qualifying.

They finished fourth in the B final, 7.85 seconds behind the winners. The Almanack, noted that they “failed to find their form after an excellent World Cup series.” International Rowing Manager David Tanner explained later in Regatta magazine though that, “This was a ‘blip’.  They were struggling in the training camp in Varese. They have shown good form and will carry on. I have complete confidence in them.”

Quad (10th out of 12)

The quad’s first race was a heat of six from which one would go straight to the A final. The British crew came fifth, over 10 seconds ahead of the Czech crew who may not have been at maximum effort.

Their repechage of five from which two more would progress to the main final, fairly quickly turned into two separate races with three crews reasonably close together at the front, while Britain and the Czech republic had their own battle quite a long way further back, but the Czechs stayed ahead and crossed the line 1.69 seconds ahead of the GB crew.

In the B final the quad was last till half way, before overtaking both the Czech Republic and Austria to finish fourth.

The quad was the bottom of the squad boats and contained the least experienced athletes. Rowan, Alison and Ali were all first-time internationals (although all three had been in the Commonwealth Regatta team in 1994 and Alison had been the under-23 sculler in 1993) and although Elise (who had also been the under-23 sculler in 1996 and 1997) had been in the bronze medal-winning eight in 1997, she’d been drafted in a few weeks before the Worlds when Kate Mackenzie became ill, so hadn’t done any international crew-racing throughout the summer season.

After the crew was formed following final trial in April they struggled to balance the boat enough to work effectively until the final training camp before the Championships, Alison Mowbray wrote in her autobiography Gold Medal Flapjack Silver Medal Life. They were also unable to join in with the combative pieces with the other squad crews because although Rowan, Ali and Elise were training full-time, Alison was finishing off her PGCE and had to be in school doing teaching practice in the mornings when these took place and so the quad did its water work in the afternoons.

Nevertheless, Alison at least enjoyed the experience, and summarises the personal contributions that each of the others made to gelling the crew, writing, “Elise kept us all young, Ali kept us calm, and Rowan used her manicure skills to paint Union Jacks on our big toe and thumb nails and all her own nails including her right ones with her left hand (she has a freakish talent, that girl).”

Roundup

Winning two golds for the first time at a Championships was another major milestone for the GB women’s team but, overall, they hadn’t quite met their target of three to four medals and getting six boats to finals; although they won three medals, only five of the eight boats reached their finals.

In the strategy document he’d issued at the beginning of the year, Mike Spracklen had written, “We must be confident but also realistic that each year will be higher in standard. For the lightweights, the introduction of an Olympic boat has significantly raised the quality, and, in spite of our tradition in the sweep events, we find ourselves very far behind the medal standard in sculling.” He was certainly right about that. In the 12 years that there had been lightweight fours in the women’s World Championships programme (from 1985 to 1996), GB crews had medalled eight times (as they had on both of the years when there had been coxless pairs), but had only won four medals in the two available sculling events (doubles and singles) over the same period.

However, for two of the top openweight boats – the double and the pair – the results were completely on track for the longer-term goal of medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and all four athletes in the crews were keen to stay in them.

Guin’s sixth place in the single was far less on the right trajectory, even though she might well done better had the conditions been different, but then again, you can never guarantee you won’t get those. The performance of the eight, which Spracklen was so keen to do well, was a disappointment, especially after the previous year, and the quad showed that with the exception of Gillian and Miriam, Britain still hadn’t cracked crew sculling. To get different results in 1999, there was a strong argument that at least some of them needed to do something different.

World Rowing Junior Championships

These took place at Linz-Ottensheim in Austria from 5-8 August.

Coxless four (5th out of 8)

B: Anna Fangen (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)
2: Helen Austin (St Peter’s School BC)
3: Ruth Stannard (Kingston Grammar School BC)
S: Jenny Hutton (Lady Eleanor Holles BC)
Coach: Domenyk Honey

Double scull (3rd out of 16)

B: Frances Houghton (King’s School, Canterbury BC)**
S: Debbie Flood (Tideway Scullers’ School)
Coach: Mark Banks

A report in The Almanack reported, “The double recovered from an indifferent heat to scull very strongly in the semi-final and final, where they finished close to the… silver medallists.”

This was the first GB junior women’s sculling medal. Debbie and Frances had been first and second in the single sculls at the National Schools Regatta, finishing just three seconds apart in a race where Debbie set a new event record.

Coxless pair (6th out of 9)

B: Kathryn Stewart (Headington School BC)*
S: Rebecca Romero (Kingston RC)
Coach: Ian South

The pair had a difficult week as Rebecca had back problems. To take the pressure off her, they switched seats so that Kathryn stroked. After qualifying for the final, they reverted to having Rebecca at stroke because, as Geoffrey Page wrote in Regatta magazine, “Mark Banks being convinced they were faster in this order.” But once the race started, he continued, “It was clear that Kathryn was tending to pull the boat round and the pair were warned before 500m for their steering. Despite this they were leading at 500m, and were second to Germany at 1,000m where they were clear of the Danes. However, when the Danes began to close, the British pair’s steering again let them down. They were warned again by the umpire at 1,750m and managed to correct briefly but then went well over into the Danes’ lane again and clearly affected the Danes. Britain crossed the line in second place just ahead of the Danes but were then disqualified.”

The Almanack reported, “The disqualification of the pair was a bitter disappointment at the end of a week in which the crew had suffered injury which had threatened to put them out of the regatta completely. The Danish crew who finished third protested for interference and were awarded the silver medal. Under ARA rules our crew could have been awarded at least a bronze medal but FISA rules do not allow for this.”

* Denotes a previous participation at the World Rowing Junior Championships.

Nations Cup

These under-23 championships took place at Ioannia in Greece from 24-26 July. The team benefitted from a Lottery-funded training camp in Hazewinkel prior to the regatta.

All members of the women’s team had previously represented GB at the World Rowing Junior Championships.

Coxless four (3rd out of 6)

B: Nicole Scott (Clyde RC)
2: Isabel Walker (University of London Women’s BC)
3: Josephine Andrews (Nottinghamshire County RA)
S: Claire Fox (Kingston RC)*
Coach: Adrian Roberts

Double scull (4th out of 10)

B: Charlaine Kepinska (Headington School BC)
S: Lucy Heise (Durham University BC)
Coach: Rob Dauncey

Coxless pair (9th out of 11)

B: Sarah Welch (University of London Women’s BC)*
S: Katrina Hastings (University of London Women’s BC)
Coach: Graeme Smith

Single scull (9th out of 12)

Joanna Burns (Reading University BC)
Coach: John Spencer

Lightweight single scull (8th out of 13)

Sarah Watts (University of London Women’s BC)*
Coach: Graeme Smith

* Denotes a previous participation at the Nations Cup.

Again, the under-23 team missed part of their performance target which had been getting one medal (which they achieved) and three boats in finals (which they didn’t).

← BACK TO 1997 | ON TO 1999 → (coming soon)

The photo at the top of this page shows Gillian Lindsay and Miriam Batten approaching the finishing line to become the first British openweight sculling World Champions and is from Miriam Luke’s personal collection.

© Helena Smalman-Smith, 2020.