1999 World Rowing Championships

The 1999 World Rowing Championships took place on Martindale Pond at St Catharines in Canada from 22-29 August. 75 openweight and 47 lightweight women’s crews raced. As this was also the first opportunity to qualify for the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, the six Olympic boat classes all had healthy numbers of entries, but the four non-Olympic events attracted far less interest with three only having straight finals.

Another major event in 1999 was the Commonwealth Rowing Regatta which was held at Fanshawe Lake in London, Ontario in Canada earlier in August.

Coaching, targets and squad formation

Mike Spracklen continued as Chief Coach (Women) for the 1999 season – his third in the role. At the World Championships he coached the two top crews which were the double and the pair. Louise Kingsley remained as High Performance Coach and although her official remit was ‘New Talent Women’ she coached the quad, which was the third crew, at the World Championships. Ron Needs, who had helped to coach the women’s squad as a volunteer on numerous occasions going back to 1981, was called in once again because the sheer number of women in the squad had become too large for Spracklen to manage directly. He took on the eight, while it lasted, and then looked after the lightweight double at the World Chapionships.

The performance target for 1999 remained as it had been the previous year: three medals and six boats in finals at the World Championships and one medal from three finalists at the under-23 Nations Cup. However, Spracklen warned in his strategy document that crews would actually only be selected for the Worlds if they have proved they have the ability to make the ‘A’ final, which was stricter than in 1998.

In November 1998, Regatta magazine published a ‘half-term report’ on the road to Sydney 2000 in which International Manager David Tanner considered the various women’s crews. While he expected the established small boats combinations of Gillian Lindsay and Miriam Batten in the double (who were now the reigning world champions), Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop in the pair (silver medallists in 1998), and Tracy Langlands and Jane Hall in the lightweight double to remain, he admitted that other crews (the quad and the eight) needed changes. About the newly-formed quad which had come tenth at the 1998 World Championships and contained three women on their debuts at this level, he said, “Very difficult to see where this boat has to go.” As for the eight, which finished had eighth, he continued, “The eight clearly needs strengthening.”

In addition, he noted that Guin Batten had consistently shown that she was of the standard to get into the A final of the single sculls, but hadn’t been able to take the step up into the medals. Guin was, of course, well aware of this herself. A newspaper article by Pete Nichols quoted her as saying, “I felt that if I did really, really well at the Olympics I’d get a bronze, and if I did okay, I’d get a fifth.” So, after four years as the GB single sculler, she decided that her best option was to change strategy and move into crew sculling. “I sat down with Spracklen and he said, ‘What we’ll do is take some of the people who have been rowing in the eight and the four and we’ll bring them across and teach them how to scull.'”

Although Spracklen had rightly identified the quad as a potential medal boat, he seemed to have a fondness for eights too. His strategy document issued in November 1998 stated that either the quad or the eight would be the third boat, and even though the quad was prioritised over the eight in the end, as late as final trials in April, he was quoted in an article in the Sunday Times by Nick Pitt as saying, “We have enough talent in the squad to build an eight that could win the gold medal in Sydney but to justify our funding we have to win medals in several events,” suggesting that he would have preferred to do that rather than the small boats.

coach in launch and women's double scull b/w photo
Mike Spracklen coaching Miriam (left) and Gillian at Longridge. (Photo: Miriam Luke’s personal collection.)

Funding

The 1999 season was the second full year supported financially by the National Lottery. The funding for the whole GB rowing team (women and men) was £2,024,371 with an additional £750,000 for Athlete Lottery grants on top of that. At the start of the season Spracklen re-emphasised that the continuation of this funding depended on the team meeting the targets that had been set; in 1998 they had achieved their target medal tallies (three at the World Championships and one at the Nations Cup) but had not quite reached the target of six crews into finals at the Worlds and three at the Nations Cup (instead, five made finals at the Worlds and one at the Nations Cup).

Winter training, racing and assessment

Head of the Ohio River (3 October 1998)

A GB women’s eight was invited to race their US and Canadian counterparts over a head course followed by a 1,000m sprint. This expenses-paid trip was doubtless as a result of Mike Spracklens’ connections in those contries where he had worked as a national squad coach. The British crew finished second to Canada on both occasions but otherwise thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Pairs Head (17 October 1998)

Guin Batten and Debbie Flood (who had been in the bronze medal-winning GB junior double scull in 1998 and had also won the open sculls at Henley Women’s Regatta) were the fastest women’s crew in a double. The lightweight double of Tracy Langlands and Jane Hall were second, nine seconds back.

Gold Coast recce (3-10 December 1999)

A small number of the established and top-ranked members of the women’s squad were sent by the British Olympic Association on a training camp to the Gold Coast in Australia to test out the acclimatisation camp facilities it had set up for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. They also visited – but couldn’t yet row on – the Olympic course at Penrith Lakes. Cath Bishop wrote later in Regatta magazine, “We looked at the start, we looked at the finish, we looked down each lane, and who knows what went on inside each of our heads.”

7 women sitting on upturned coaching launch by boat racks
From left: Miriam (just back from her honeymoon), Cath, Gillian, Dot, Jane, Tracy and Guin on the Gold Coast. (Photo: Dorothy Roberts’ personal collection.)

They had a great time; Cath added in her piece in Regatta, “Never before has winter training looked like this: blue skies, sandy beaches, dazzling sunshine, and long, warm evenings. The usual staple winter diet of water work, weights and ergos has been supplemented by Ultimate Frisbee, beach circuits, beach runs and the occasional attempt at surfing.”

Head of the River Fours (14 November 1998)

The Women’s Quad and Coxless Four pennants went to crews of established GB oarswomen. Miriam Batten, Elise Laverick, Guin Batten and Gillian Lindsay were the fastest women’s crew, finishing an impressive 61st overall. Equally impressive was Miriam managing not to catch a crab when one of her blades was knocked out of her hand in the bumpy water.

women's quad - bow not holding her bowside blade
Incredible sculling AND photography skills. (Photo: Miriam Luke’s personal collection.)

Sue Walker, Alex Beever, Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop won the coxless fours event.

British Indoor Rowing Championships (22 November 1998)

Cath Bishop smashed her own British record by five seconds to come out the clear winner in a time of 6 minutes 36 seconds for 2,000m, which was less than two seconds off the World record. Having become known for producing epic row-throughs in the second half of races when in the stroke seat of her pair, she was quoted in Regatta as saying. “I struggled a bit at the end because I pushed out early on. I often receive criticism for not doing that in a boat.”

Debbie Flood won the under-23 event in 6.50. Frances Houghton, who was a student but still just young enough to be classified as a junior, took the junior category that in 6.46. Helen Casey was the fastest lightweight, clocking 7.13.

First open assessment (20 December 1998)

This took place in Henley and followed a pre-assessment at the beginning of November for athletes who had not been selected for the 1998 World Championships.

Squad training camp (17-30 January 1999)

This ‘work camp’ in Banyoles for the whole squad was mostly in single sculls but was also used to assess pairs combinations.

Guin Batten remembers how effective the competitive rivalry was. “We had five waves of singles, it was AMAZING! And it worked really well because everyone was fighting; you’d be moved up to the next wave if you were quick and then the back person would move down and it was just a sea of women sculling. It was great to be part of – so intense, and it marked the creation of what became the sculling team.”

Miriam Batten missed most of camp with a back injury.

Second open assessment (14 February 1999)

This took place in Henley with good stream and meteorological conditions for once, although the tailwind freshened for the second run.

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 1999.

Results: Run 1

Pairs

  1. Helen Raine/Rowan Carroll: 10.30.4
  2. Dot Blackie/Cath Bishop: 10.33.7
  3. Sue Walker/Alex Beever: 10.44.3
  4. Claire Fox/Caroline Dring: 10.50.6
  5. Kate Templeton/Caroline Kirman: 10.52.7
  6. Kate MacKenzie/Rachel Woolf: 10.56.6
  7. Helen Austin/Vic Fangen: 10.59.0

Single sculls

  1. Sarah Winckless: 10.50.4
  2. Guin Batten: 10.53.8
  3. Katherine Grainger: 11.00.4
  4. Tracy Langlands (lightweight): 11.00.7
  5. Alison Mowbray: 11.02.2
  6. Miriam Batten: 11.03.3
  7. Debbie Flood: 11.05.9
  8. Lisa Eyre: 11.08.8
  9. Frances Houghton: 11.12.6
  10. Ali Sanders: 11.12.6
  11. Jo Nitsch (lightweight): 11.16.6
  12. Charlotte Hill: 11.17.8
  13. Rebecca Romero: 11.19.8
  14. Kirsten McLelland Brookes (lightweight): 11.20.8

Run 2

Pairs

  1. Helen Raine/Francesca Zino: 10.35.9
  2. Sue Walker/Alex Beever: 10.46.9
  3. Claire Fox/Caroline Dring: 10.53.8
  4. Kate Templeton/Caroline Kirman: 10.59.8
  5. Helen Austin/Vic Fangen: 11.06.0
  6. Ali Sanders/Josephine Andrews:11.06.4

Double sculls

  1. Sarah Winckless/Guin Batten: 10.05.9
  2. Katherine Grainger/Miriam Batten: 10.16.1
  3. Alison Mowbray/Lisa Eyre: 10.20.3
  4. Frances Houghton/Debbie Flood: 10.22.1
  5. Jo Nitsch/Tracy Langlands (lightweights): 10.23.1
  6. Carolyn Jones/Helen Casey (lightweights): 10.47.9
  7. Kirsten McLelland Brookes/Kate Holton (lightweights): 10.48.4
  8. Rebecca Ingledew/Juliet Machan (lightweights): 10.50.0

These results show two very notable upsets. The first of these was Helen Raine and Rowan Carroll beating Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop (the GB pair in 1997 and 1998) by three seconds on the first run. This was on top of them also getting the better of the established pair at the Banyoles camp a few weeks earlier, according to a report in Regatta, although this also pointed out that Cath Bishop was doing extra training at the time to prepare for the World Indoor Rowing Championships. The second upset was that Sarah Winckless beat Guin Batten, also by three seconds.

Another aspect of these results is the size of the gap between Sarah and Guin and the next best scullers, further emphasised in the second run where their double finished over 10 seconds ahead of Katherine and Miriam, and 14 seconds in front of Alison Mowbray and Lisa Eyre. This was quite a spread of individual speeds from which to create a quad capable of challenging for world medals. If they were to achieve this, it would need the highest levels of crew cohesion to compensate.

Jane Hall is a notable absentee from the lightweight results and was out with post-viral fatigue syndrome.

World Indoor Rowing Championships (21 February 1999)

Also known as the CRASH-Bs, the World Indoor Rowing Championships are held in Boston, USA every year. Cath Bishop, the British indoor champion, was flown over there by the organisers to ensure that the best in the world was there. She not only won by 3.9 seconds but also beat her recently-set British record, clocking 6.37.4 in the final. Frances Houghton won the junior 18 category in 6.46.60

Katherine Grainger took over the title of British record holder a few weeks later when she pulled 6.34.5.

FISA Team Cup (27-28 February 1999)

This sprint event in Seville involved races over 500m and 1,000m.

Cath Bishop and Dot Blackie won at both distances in the pair and a lightweight double of Jo Nitsch and Tracy Langlands medalled in the 1,000m event, as did Tracy in the lightweight single over the same distance.

Guin Batten and Sarah Winckless raced an openweight double, and Guin also single sculled.

Two women with medalss, bouquets and silvery cup
Cath and Dot: Winners at the FISA Team Cup in Seville. (Photo: Cath Bishop’s personal collection.)

Women’s Eights Head (13 March 1999)

Marlow RC, stroked by Cath Bishop backed up by six other internationals including Lisa Eyre, Gillian Lindsay and Sue Walker, won by eight seconds from Thames RC which contained squad members Dot Blackie, Libby Henshilwood and Rachel Woolf.

SportZone (21 March 1999)

A five-woman GB rowing team showed quite how much fitter and stronger rowing requires you to be compared with other sports when they came out runaway winners of a new indoor fitness event on their ‘day off’. Organised and televised by Sky Sports, the GB women’s quad representatives were Cath Bishop, Dot Blackie, Guin Batten, Tracy Langlands and Jo Nitsch who beat teams from GB judo, hockey, gymnastics, squash and karate, England badminton and boxing, and Leeds Rhinos rugby.

5 women in GBR all in ones being interviewed
Rowing wins. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

Thames World Sculling Challenge (2 April 1999)

This event had its roots in the professional sculling races that were hugely popular in the nineteenth century, and was revived in 1993 by the GB lightweight sculler Peter Haining. Guin Batten had won the first women’s race in the autumn 1997, and retained her title the following year. The race then moved to the spring for 1999 and took place the day before the Boat Race which meant that the TV cameras which were already in place for that could film it and recorded highlights were shown on BBC Grandstand during its Boat Race coverage.

The women’s event attracted international entries for the first time in the form of Ekaterina Khodotovich, the Belarussian Olympic Champion who had also been World Champion in 1997 before taking 1998 off to have a baby, Pieta van Dishoek from the Netherlands who had finished second to GB in the double sculls at the 1998 World Championships, and the lightweight double sculls World Champion Sarah Garner from the USA. These three took on the Batten sisters who benefitted from the distinct advantage of having a detailed knowledge of the unique and tricky-to-steer Tideway course.

Racing in conditions so rough that the defending champion in the men’s event capsized, the race turned into a battle of the Battens with Miriam winning by two seconds despite clipping Barnes Bridge in the final stages.

The final results were:

  1. Miriam Batten: 22.43
  2. Guin Batten: 22.45
  3. Pieta van Dishoek (Netherlands): 23.18
  4. Ekaterina Khodotovich (Belarus): 23.38
  5. Sarah Garner (USA, lightweight): 23.45

Final trials (10-15 April 1999)

These took place in Nottingham where they were preceded by a training camp.

32 openweight sweep rowers, 15 openweight scullers including Ali Gill who was apparently attempting a probably ill-advised come-back, and 20 lightweights took part. Sarah Winckless wasn’t there as she’d fractured a rib.

The format involved a time trial on the first day with semi-finals and finals on the second. The results of the finals, which were rowed in bitterly cold conditions, were:

Single sculls: Final A

  1. Guin Batten: 7.44.47
  2. Gillian Lindsay: 7.47.64
  3. Alison Mowbray: 7.48.59
  4. Katherine Grainger: 7.50.03
  5. Debbie Flood: 7.59.51
  6. Miriam Batten: Stopped (level with Guin at 1,000m)

Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta magazine, “The women’s singles was dramatic… The Batten sisters were level at 500m… and still level at 1,000m… Gillian Lindsay was fractionally third and may have got her bowball in front for a few metres. Then Miriam… stopped. ‘I didn’t want to win. I wanted Guin to win,’ she said.”

Geoffrey Page wrote in the electronic Telegraph that it was a “surprise” that Katherine Grainger, who had won the trials the previous year when she beat Guin Batten who was rowing in a borrowed boat, was fourth and was behind Alison Mowbray.

Alison has described in her autobiography Gold Medal Flapjack Silver Medal Life, how she spent the last week before the trials training with her coach Miles Forbes-Thomas away from the main group, following his training programme rather than Mike Spracklen’s. This may or may not have impacted the result.

Single sculls: Final B

  1. Elise Laverick: 7.53.5
  2. Lisa Eyre: 7.55.71
  3. Rebecca Romero: 7.57.88
  4. Frances Houghton: 7.57.98
  5. Ali Sanders: 8.10.11
  6. Alison Watt: 8.14.83

Pairs: Final A

  1. Dot Blackie/Cath Bishop: 7.32.31
  2. Kate Mackenzie/Francesca Zio: 7.39.27
  3. Kate Templeton/Caroline Kirman: 7.43.15
  4. Caroline Hodgson/Bev Gough: 7.43.68
  5. Libby Henshilwood/Rachel Woolf: 7.39.27
  6. Claire Fox/Caroline Dring: 7.44.59

Lightweight singles: Final A

  1. Jo Nitsch: 8.06.54
  2. Carolyn Jones: 8.06.91
  3. Sarah Birch: 8.09.50
  4. Kirsten McLelland Brooks: 8.10.91
  5. Malindi Myers: 8.19.20
  6. Helen Casey: 8.21.09

Tracy Langlands had withdrawn with injury after winning the time trial.

Crew formation

The first day that the squad regrouped at their Longridge training base near Marlow after the final trials, Guin, Alison, Katherine and Sarah Winckless, the first three being the first, third and fourth scullers from final trials (in which Sara didn’t compete because of injury): Gillian and Miriam, who were second and sixth, remained in the double. After poor outings that day, Alison who was new to the GB squad the previous year, was replaced by Lisa Eyre. Understandably, Alison was upset by this, particularly because, as she recounts in her autobiography, it was Guin rather than Mike Spracklen who instigated this change. Lisa certainly brought considerable experience to the crew, as she’d stroked the four in 1995, rowed in the Olympic eight in 1996, stroked the World Champion four and bronze medal eight in 1997, and stroked the eight again in 1998. Spracklen then gave Alison the options of singling or going into the eight and she chose to become the new GB single sculler.

The quad had a massive challenge ahead of it because Britain as a whole, and its women in particular, didn’t really ‘do’ crew sculling. In the 25 years since women’s events had first been included in the World Championships in 1974, there had only ever been five GB quads, and none had raced into a final.

As the season progressed, the crew struggled. Guin remembers, “I knew the standard we needed to get to but the other athletes didn’t, so I was enormously stressed about that. And I think the others just couldn’t understand what was going on and I don’t think I understood either so I wasn’t in a great place in 1999 and the boat wasn’t a great boat to be in. When we were all happy and relaxed it was really good fun but most of the time it wasn’t so I wasn’t sleeping, and operating on no sleep didn’t help. I probably wasn’t the leader I needed to be in the boat.” She continues, “We were technically pretty rubbish. We couldn’t do square blade paddling. We had a huge amount of power and just couldn’t convert it which was enormously frustrating.”

Katherine Grainger, who only moved down from Scotland to join the Longridge setup after Final Trials, was also completely new to quadding as she’d spent most of the previous 18 months in a single scull and had rowed in sweep boats before that. Her experience of creating crews at this level was also very limited at this stage. They all know that their goal was to qualify the boat for the Olympics at the 1999 World Championships, she explains in her autobiography, Dreams Do Come True, writing, “With the athletes we had this should have been simple, but as I learned the hard way, a crew is far more than the sum of its individuals. The tensions, insecurities and problems in communication meant that time and time again we created obstacles for ourselves and came very close to self-destruction. Here were four intelligent, driven, self-aware people and yet conversations could be edgy, personal, defensive…. Guin had very high standards for herself and the boat and, whereas in the single she and her coach would sort it out between them, here she had three people behind her who seemed to be part of the problem rather than the solution.”

Meanwhile, the remaining athletes formed an eight which was passed to Ron Needs to coach. Cath Bishop remembers, “The eight was sort of discarded, so things were quite challenging in lots of the boats.” Guin adds, “The size of the squad had become too much for Mike to organise and all the baggage of trying to organise an eight had started to suck him away from the other boats, so he needed someone else to look after them, but I think we lost something when we all stopped training together like we had been in Banyoles.”

Training camp in Aiguebelette (2-14 May 1999)

What it says on the tin.

Summer racing

World Cup I: Hazewinkel (29-30 May 1999)

The heats at this first international regatta of the season were replaced by a time trial as a rehearsal for the Olympic Regatta where this would be one of the contingency plans in the case of unfair lanes caused by cross-winds. This had been judged a significant risk as the Penrith Lakes area where it would be held is windiest at the time of year when the Olympics will take place. The time trial system was described in Regatta as “tedious beyond belief” for spectators, but both athletes and officials agreed that testing it was a worthwhile and necessary exercise.

Cath Bishop and Dot Blackie in the coxless pairs by over five seconds but the field didn’t include some of the top crews and the event only attracted enough entries for a straight final.

Gillian Lindsay and Miriam Batten, the reigning World Champions, were fourth in the double sculls, 2.48 seconds off bronze. Frances Houghton and Debbie Flood, the 1998 GB junior double, were eighth. Miriam remembers, “It was absolutely disappointing. I think we’d missed a lot of training – Gillian had been quite ill and then I’d been quite ill after doing the World Sculling Challenge.”

The new quad qualified for the final where it finished fourth. They’d been last at half way after catching a crab early on which left it in last position, but produced a blistering last 500m which showed that they did have a fair turn of speed in them.

Elise Laverick, Ali Sanders, Kate Templeton, Caroline Kirman, Kate MacKenzie, Rowan Carroll, Sue Walker, Alex Beever, and cox Suzie Ellis were fifth out of six in the eight, 5.37 seconds off bronze. Alison Mowbray impressed by qualifying for the A final of the single sculls where she finished sixth in a classy field.

Kirsten McLelland Brookes came fourth out of 12 in the lightweight single sculls, 2.16 seconds off the bronze medal, and in the lightweight doubles Jane Hall and Tracy Langlands were fifth, 3.74 seconds off bronze. Sarah Birch and Jo Nitsch finished 11th in the same event, apparently lacking other women of a similar standard with whom they could have formed a quad.

No German crews took part at this regatta, which was originally going to be in Cologne. Following a spat earlier in the year between FISA and a number of German rowers who didn’t like the fact that the World Cup was sponsored by a brewery and threatened to boycott it if it took place in their country, Krombacher beer had pulled out as a sponsor of the World Cup as a whole as a result of the adverse publicity.

Alcohol sponsorship was allowed at the time by FISA and most European rowing federations, including Germany but not France, which had led to limited French participation in all of the World Cup regattas.

World Cup II: Vienna (19-20 June 1999)

After winning at the first World Cup, the pair came third out of 10 this time, finishing 5.35 seconds off the Canadians who won from an entry which had a lot more of the top crews in it.

The quad came third out of six, over seven seconds behind the winners, and the eight was fifth out of five in almost the same lineup that had raced at the first World Cup regatta but with Helen Raine having replaced Kate Templeton.

Alison Mowbray came sixth in the A final of the single sculls again, which had a slightly different but still high-quality entry that was once again still dominated by the World Champion Irina Fedotova from Russia

There was something of an upset in the double sculls where Frances Houghton and Debbie Flood came sixth (and Germans took both the gold and silver medals), some 14 seconds off bronze, but Miriam and Gillian didn’t qualify for the A final and had to settle for winning the B final. Miriam remembers struggling in the strong headwind at the regatta.

Jane Hall and Tracy Langlands were the only GB lightweights to race and won the B final of the lightweight double to finish seventh.

Henley Women’s Regatta (19-20 June 1999)

Sue Appelboom won the lightweight single sculls for the tenth year running and promptly announced her retirement.

Rebecca Romero, who was very new to the sport of rowing, won the Open Single Sculls, and various of what would become the Commonwealth Regatta crews mopped several other events.

Woman in red and white striped Kingston RC kit just leading and looking round
Rebecca Romero beating Alison Watt of Clydesdale RC by two feet in the final of Open Sculls. (Photo © John Shore.)

Henley Royal Regatta (30 June-4 July 1999)

The Princess Royal Challenge Cup for women’s single sculls had far fewer entries than in previous years, possibly because most international scullers were tapering for Lucerne the following weekend, which was a more relevant piece of preparation for the World Championships and qualification for the 2000 Olympic Games.

Kirsten McLelland Brookes and Frances Houghton were the only British scullers to make it through to the semi-finals. Alison Mowbray won her first round before being knocked out, while Rebecca Romero, Debbie Flood and Alison Watt all lost their first races.

The big drama of the regatta, however, was in the invitation women’s eights where a second GB crew, made up on the pair, double and quad, took on the actual British eight. Mike Rosewell wrote in in The Times, “Mike Spracklen… when questioned about the wisdom of having two British eights at Henley, said, ‘It’s a chance to show the public the standard of our women,'” and Guin Batten adds that the Stewards almost certainly encourage the extra entry so that the fastest British crew was competing. But other members of the squad remember it rather differently with one describing Spracklen as “really stirring” and remembers him telling the small boats group that the eight was “rubbish” and encouraging them to go out and prove it.

Spracklen’s eight was coxed by the lightweight sculler Sarah Birch, who had been a GB junior cox in 1985 before turning to rowing herself. The fact that she was training at Longridge anyway made it easy to fit in some outings. “There was some discussion about doing the crew in the changing room one day and I jokingly said, ‘Well, I could cox that,’  and I didn’t think anyone paid me any attention at the time but the next day I was told that was what I was doing! I was aware that it was hugely controversial but it would have happened anyway with or without me.” Another member of the crew reflects in a similar vein, “I hated myself for being a part of that and for not having the strength to say, ‘No, I’m not doing that.'”

The two British crews won their first rounds against US and Polish squad crews. In the final, Spracklen’s crew, which contained the eight top athletes, not surprisingly beat the other eight – by four and a half lengths. As Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta, this, “Did the eight no good at all as they prepared for the World Cup final a week later,” and several years afterwards, Guin Batten wrote in Regatta magazine, “The emotion in the boat had run high, fuelled by the need to win the race once we had nailed our challenge to the mast, and by one of Spracklen’s epic pre-race talks. But the devastating effect of that race on the national eight was to play out over the next few months… To this day the two crews struggle to talk openly about what went on that afternoon in Henley.”

Women's eights racing at Henley with a lot of clear water between them
A demoralising defeat for the GB eight. (Photo: Sarah Ockendon’s personal collection.)
nine smiling women in dresses with medals and seated male coach and wife in hat
Mike Spracklen and his wife with the winning crew. (Photo: Sarah Ockendon’s personal collection.)

World Cup III: Lucerne (9-11 July 1999)

The final international regatta of the season before the World Championships was raced in strong tailwind conditions.

Cath Bishop and Dot Blackie finished fourth, 2.11 seconds off the bronze medal in the pair, behind Canada (who set a new course record), Germany and Russia. This was just enough (by one point) for them to retain their World Cup title as a result of having entered and raced more consistently than other countries. Cath wrote later in Regatta, “We won the repechage on Saturday more through hard work than beauty or grace, but I guess that’s when you’re glad you worked your butt off all winter. The final on Sunday was a thrilling race in which I am glad to say we were definitely a part, even though we just missed again (for the third year in a row!) a visit to the Lucerne podium.” She added that the World Cup trophy itself is, “As we know from last year, a perfect fit for a one litre bottle of Merrydown cider!”

The double of Gillian Lindsay and Miriam Batten was also fourth, finishing 3.65 seconds behind the medals.

In her autobiography, Katherine Grainger described how the quad rowed badly in their first race, “We raced [the heat] with blades with blades all over the place, no settled rhythm, the boat chaotically rocking around, and in the midst of this Lisa caught a crab. We (eventually) crossed the line behind everyone else and Lisa unleashed her frustration at Guin, saying that Guin looking round had caused the crab… we warmed down in furious and uncomfortable silence.” She continues that Guin then caught a crab right at the end of their repechage after looking round to see where the finish line was. Despite this they managed to qualify for the A final where they were last at 500m before overtaking Denmark to finish fifth, 3.45 seconds behind the bronze medallists.

Alison Mowbray finished a creditable ninth in a very, very classy field in the single sculls.

The demoralised eight, its lineup unchanged from World Cup II and Henley, finished seventh out of eight. Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta that following their defeat at Henley, “Sure enough, they became B final material and failed to be selected for the World Championships,” as they hadn’t beaten any full international crews this year. A piece published by the Women’s Sports Network observed that this, “Puts a cloud over the boat for its Olympic dream,” as there was only one more place available in the event at the following year’s qualification regatta.

In the non-Olympic coxless fours event, Claire Fox, Charlotte Hill, Kate Templeton, and Caroline Dring, finished fourth in straight final, 7.78 seconds off the medals. They subsequently became the England crew for the Commonwealth Regatta, but only discovering from a journalist in a cafe in Marlow that four from the eight were going to be sent to the Worlds rather than them.

Jane Hall and Tracy Langlands came tenth in the lightweight double, and Kirsten McLelland Brooks, fresh from her impressive performance at Henley, was fifth in the lightweight single sculls, 6.69 seconds off bronze, with Sarah Birch tenth in the same event.

Malindi Myers and Jo Nitsch won by the lightweight pairs by 13.33 seconds from Katrine McPherson and Katrina Lithgoe, the Scottish pair who were preparing for the Commonwealth Regatta and who finished over eight seconds ahead of the only other entry.

Final team selection

Quad scull

B: Lisa Eyre (Marlow RC)
2: Katherine Grainger (St Andrew BC)
3: Sarah Winckless (Walbrook and Royal CC)
S: Guin Batten (Thames RC)
Coach: Louise Kingsley

Coxless four

B: Alex Beever (Marlow RC)
2: Helen Raine (Marlow RC)
3: Kate MacKenzie (Thames RC)
S: Francesca Zino (Queen’s Tower BC)
Coach: Roger Silk

This four wasn’t named in the official team announcement on 14 July, but Alex, Helen and Kate were chosen from the abandoned eight after some form of further seat racing and made up this crew with Francesca Zino, who had been in the eight for the previous two years but had not raced in it in 1999.

Double scull

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

Coxless pair

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

Single scull

Alison Mowbray (Thames RC)
Coach: Miles Forbes-Thomas

Frances Houghton and Debbie Flood were named as reserves.

Lightweight double scull

B: Tracy Langlands (Thames RC)
S: Jane Hall (Kingston RC)
Coach: Ron Needs

Lightweight pair

B: Malindi Myers (University of London Women’s BC)
S: Jo Nitsch (Kingston RC) – injured/Jane Hall (Kingston RC) – raced
Coach: Miles Forbes-Thomas

Lightweight single scull

Kirsten McLelland Brookes (Kingston RC)
Coach: Damian Hammond

The whole of the openweight team had represented GB at this level before, as had all but Kirsten from the lightweights. While experience is good, this apparently boded less well for developing the next generation, but in 1999 the Commonwealth Regatta provided that opportunity instead.

Pre-Championships training camps

The final crews did their final preparations on training camps in Aiguebelette from 22 Jult to 2 August, and then on the Welland Canal in Canada from 5 to 17 August.

Dot Blackie remembers that it was a far from happy camp. “We were actually going quite well but the double were struggling for whatever reason. The way it was set up, we were always against them and the lightweight double; we would regularly be sent out to duff up the lightweight double which must have just been soul destroying for them. It was a really awful thing to do, but we had to do what Mike told us to. There was one day when we were doing race pace pieces against Gillian and Miriam and we actually beat them [which should not have happened as a double is a faster boat type than a pair as it has twice the number of blades – Ed.]. So there was trouble in paradise, especially as they were the reigning World Champions, but we just had to carry on doing our thing and gritting our teeth.”

Katherine Grainger recounts in her autobiography how on one occasion, her quad was out on the water and heard a strange noise. As they rowed back towards the boating area she realised that, “Dot had finally snapped. For the time we had been in Canada the pair and the double had been sharing a car to get to and from training. After what had felt to Dot like many changes to fit in with what the double wanted, there had been one change too many. Dot decided to let her feelings be known. So she unleashed her fury at Gillian and the noise that we had heard from the other end of the course was Dot explaining in full voice just how unfair the current set-up was, how their training was equally important, and this close to racing no one should be messing each other about.”

In contrast, Alison Mowbray and the lightweight pair, who were both coached by Miles Forbes-Thomas and were a similar speed, formed what she describes as “our own little squad within a squad,” and enjoyed themselves considerably.

At the World Championships

Lightweight coxless pair (2nd out of 5)

The lightweight pair’s event was one of the poorly-supported non-Olympic classes which had a straight final, which meant that they had to get it all right first time. Unfortunately, Jo Nitsch sustained a rib injury the day before the race which meant that she couldn’t row – a particular irony as she had subbed into the lightweight pair for its straight final the previous year when someone else had been injured at the last minute. This time Jane Hall subbed into the pair whose race was the day after her lightweight double sculls final.

As you can see from the video below, and as described in The Almanack, “The race was thrilling with no more than a few feet separating ourselves and the USA all the way.” However, they caught some weed on their fin near the end, just as they were starting to pull out a bit more of a lead. “The weed affected their steering and the USA slipped through to win by half a second. The crew protested and was supported by the umpire who took a clump of weed from their fin and declared a rerow. However the USA appealed and the umpire’s decision was overturned by the FISA executive. It is hard to see how [this]… could be justified. The evidence of the weed was incontrovertible and the TV pictures showed the crew having to steer quite clearly.” It seems that the presence of the weed wasn’t in dispute but that question was more what to do about it.

The rules today state, “The Umpire shall ensure the proper conduct of the race and the safety of the rowers. In particular, he shall endeavour to ensure that no crew gains any advantage or suffers any disadvantage from its opponents or from outside interference. Where the Umpire considers that a crew has been significantly impeded he shall endeavour to ensure that its chance is restored to it.” On first glance, the final decision therefore appeared to go against this as the British crew did suffer from outside interference but it’s unclear whether this covers weed (as opposed to the actions of people). It was, however, terribly disappointing for Malindi and Jane who can be seen waiting for the verdict here.

Coxless four (4th out of 5)

The four, who hadn’t raced externally in their eventual crew all season as they’d been in the eight, finished fourth in their straight final, 3.02 seconds off the bronze medal.

Coxless pair (5th out of 14)

Boats qualifying for the Olympic Games: 8

Cath and Dot’s first race was a four-boat heat from which three would progress directly to the semi-final. They raced it all the way with the Russians, finishing second by 0.01 seconds, but well clear of the third and fourth-placed crews.

Their semi involved the order switching round more than is usual. Ukraine shot off the start to establish a small lead by 500m, followed by Germany and with the British crew in third. But Cath and Dot then had the slowed second 500m of all the crews in the race, and went through half way in fifth place.

Dot says, “I don’t know, but I’ve always suspected that we had weed like the lightweight pair did. We were going SO slowly and then suddenly we weren’t and we flew the last bit.” This theory is borne out by their times which were 10 seconds faster for the third 500m than the second. But whatever had happened to them, they pulled off an incredible second half of the race to qualify for the A final, passing Ukraine, who were dropping back, and then South Africa. “We did an amazing charge,” Cath remembers, and Dot adds, “I must have gone through our last 500m calls about three times in that race. But the hilarious thing about it was, even at the time, is that when we came back to the landing stage once we’d cooled down after the race, Mike was nowhere to be seen, and when we eventually found him it turned out that he’d stopped watching us at half way because he’d thought we wouldn’t make it and apparently he’d walked off. So he was in a huff and then he had to un-huff himself!”

When it came to the final, Chris Dodd wrote in Regatta, “The old flame was missing,” or as Dot puts it, “I don’t know if we’d completely roasted ourselves in the semi, but it’s entirely possible.” They finished fifth, 3.53 seconds behind the fourth-placed Russians they’d more or less tied with in the heat, 4.68 seconds off the medals, and a chasm of disappointment from the silver medal they’d won the previous year although on the plus side, they had at least qualified the pair for the Sydney Olympics. 

Although they had been going well on their pre-Championships training camp, they were also struggling in some ways as their relationship with Mike Spracklen was breaking down. Both are full of praise for team psychologist, Chris Shambrook, who helped them to get into the right frame of mind before racing.

Here are some photos of them getting on the start and racing.

Quad scull (7th out of 13)

Boats qualifying for the Olympic Games: 7

The quad’s regatta started with a four-boat heat from which three would qualify directly for the semi-final. Germany, who would go on to win the event, quickly established a commanding lead, leaving Great Britain, Australia and Poland to fight it out for the other two semi-final places. The British kept their bows just ahead the whole way and crossed the line 1.9 seconds ahead of Australia with Poland last, barely more than half a second behind that.

With the fifth fastest heat time, so the quad was certainly in the running to achieve a top-three place in their semi and qualify for the A final. Things started to go wrong the night before the race, however, when Guin didn’t show up for their pre-race meeting with coach Louise. Katherine explained in her autobiography, “As it turned out, Guin had tried to meet with Louise earlier and when that hadn’t happened she had decided there was no point in having the crew meeting. We raced the next day without cohesion and without the team ethic that underpins a great crew. Instead of the innate trust that should have been there, there was doubt.”

Chris Dodd reported in Regatta that they, “Should have let rip in their semi but somehow didn’t.” They were fifth at all of the markers throughout the race and finished 3.48 seconds off qualifying.

They could still qualify the boat for the Olympics by winning the B final, though, but their semi-final time was only the second-fastest of the crews they would now be racing (behind Belarus, whom they hadn’t beaten all season, and had finished ahead of them in the semi), so they needed to up their performance.

Their B final was the first race of the day, and when they got to the course to warm up, it was still dark and they weren’t allowed out so had to warm up on ergos, lit by their minibus’s headlights. Katherine again, “It felt like everyone shared our mood of just not wanting to be there.” Even once they finally got afloat, her confidence was low, as she explains, “We sat on the start and I just hoped we would be able to produce something more than the underwhelming feel of the repechage.” But from there, they were a crew transformed. “Within two strokes I knew we would. The boat felt like a different being. Guin was leading it with the bit between her teeth…we were going to be able to do justice to our abilities at last. We blazed our way to the finish and in front of a crowd of at maybe seven people we crossed the line first and secured the important Sydney berth. We celebrated as if we had crossed the Olympic line in front of thousands.” Guin remembers, “My strokecoach [rate meter] didn’t work so I went just off thinking, ‘Let’s just do it,’ after everything that had gone wrong that year. We had nothing to lose so we didn’t care. And the athletes we were going to be started to show. It was immensely powerful to be in the race and when we won, my God, it was great!”

GBR W4x official accreditation photo
Lisa, Sarah, Katherine and Guin’s official crew identification photo. Bonded? Not really. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

A photo by Peter Spurrier of the quad racing in their semi-final with the Belarussians on the far side of them can be seen here.

Double scull (8th out of 15)

Boats qualifying for the Olympic Games: 8

Gillian and Miriam’s regatta started badly. They were fourth out of five in their heat, 4.42 seconds off qualifying directly for their semi final, and so unlike the pair or the quad, had to race a repechage. They won this by 2.77 seconds from Romania, but then finished fifth in their semi-final, having held that position throughout the race which was won by the Netherlands, stroked by Pieta van Dishoek whom Miriam had so comprehensively beaten in the very different Thames World Sculling Challenge earlier in the year.

The reigning world Champions could no longer medal but like the quad, they still had the opportunity to qualify the boat for the Olympics if they could come in the top two in the B final, and they pulled this one out of the bag. Second at half way behind the Swiss crew which had beaten them in the semi, they pulled ahead in the third quarter of the race to win by 1.28 seconds.

Chrid Dodd wrote in Regatta, “The British team’s major disaster was last year’s champion double scullers who… were unable to translate their training feats into races.”

Peter Spurrier’s photos of them racing can be seen here and here.

Lightweight single scull (10th out of 16)

Kirsten faced a tough progression system at this her first World Championships because of the large number of entries in the event. She finished third in her five-boat heat from which only one would qualify directly for the semi-final, over 15 seconds behind the sculler who won, suggesting that she was saving her energy for the all-important repechage where she needed to come third. If this was her strategy it worked, as that’s exactly what she did.

She then came fifth in her semi, 14.58 seconds off qualifying for the A final, and then finished fourth in the B final.

A photo of her racing can be seen here.

Single scull (11th out of 20)

Boats qualifying for the Olympic Games: 9

The largest women’s openweight event began with four heats of five from which oly one sculler would progress directly to the semi-final. Alison finished a respectable third in hers which was won by the current and eventual silver medallist, Katrin Rutschow from Germany.

This put her into a four-boat repechage from which two scullers would qualify for the A/B semi-final. To be one of them, Alison knew she’d have to beat the Latvian sculler whom she’d finished behind at Lucerne, as well as the Thai sculler, so she decided to change her race plan, which usually left her down after the start and adopt a ‘do or die’ strategy in which she’d sprint to 500m as if that was the entire race. Her plan worked and she hung on for the remaining three quarters of the course and qualified for the A/B semis by finishing 1.4 seconds ahead of the Latvian. “Miles and I were both totally elated,” she wrote in her autobiography. “It was only a rep and I’d only come second, but I felt like I’d conquered the world.”

She came fifth in her semi-final, which put her into the B final where the first three scullers would qualify for the Olympics. She finished fifth in this too, after what she describes as a “tooth and nail” fight that saw her, the Polish and Romanian scullers battling all the way to the line for the crucial third place. They finished with just 0.96 seconds separating them, but the Pole got the slot, followed by the Romanian and then Alison just behind.

She recounts in her autobiography, “I paddled in shamefaced and gutted and didn’t know what to say to Miles as he met me on the landing stage – it was his Olympic place too. but he just said, ‘Could you have done anything more?’, [I said,] ‘No.’ [And he replied,] ‘Well then, there’s nothing to be upset about.'”

Peter Spurrier’s photos of her racing can be seen here and here.

Lightweight double scull (18th out of 22)

Boats qualifying for the Olympic Games: 9

Jane and Tracy had a torrid time, finishing last in their six-boat heat, and then coming third in their repechage which put them into the C/D semi-final. They qualified for the C final but finished sixth in that.

A photo of them racing can be seen here.

Roundup

Mike Spracklen had set a target at the beginning of the year of three medals from six finalists at these World Championships. In the event they they won just one medal from three finalists and one of those was by default because of low entries in the four’s event. Only one openweight crew had actually qualified for its final. In the strategy document for the following season, Spracklen wrote, “The performance of our team in 1999 was disappointing. particularly after a successful season in 1998. The standard of the Olympic boats has undoubtedly risen, and it is a concern that we were unable to keep pace with the improvements made in other countries.”

However, the team had raced in five of the six Olympic events and qualified boats for three of them. This was better than at the same point in the previous Olympiad when only Guin Batten had qualified in the single sculls for the 1996 Games. Nevertheless, it was a far cry from the successes of the first two years of the new, Lottery-funded Spracklen regime. Was it just that other nations had now got their acts together, or was something going wrong?

Guin and Miriam believe that the training programme had changed for the 1999 season. Miriam remembers that after the 1998 World Championships, “There was a very upset part of the team who had seen Gillian and win but also felt that we’d done less training than them because I’d trained away from the squad during the early part of the year as I was spending time with my mother who had been terminally ill, and then Gillian had been out for quite a long time with a bad back. I think they believed that they’d overtrained and the fact that we hadn’t done all of Mike’s training had contributed to our good result, so there was a big push-back on Mike to reduce the training load. So Mike eased back on the training, and adjusted it so there was more time on weights and running and things and less on the water or the erg.” Guin Batten adds, “Spracklen talks to his athletes and asks them how they feel, and when they say, ‘It’s great,’ he’ll feed you more training, but he got the opposite message. Miriam and I did quite a bit of research afterwards on the training we’d done in 1999 and the mileage in boats and on the rowing machine was tiny in comparison with what we’d done in 1998.”

Other athletes in the squad at the time who have been interviewed don’t recall this change and think that the workload went up, if anything, in 1999, and felt that Spracklen’s ethos didn’t encourage athlete feedback and he certainly didn’t act on any he got. Dot Blackie reflects, “I suspect it was more that we were used to it. There’s adaptation you get if you have a different training stimulus, and I’d been through that in 1997 and 1998 time, and we’d seen big changes because he’d completely changed the way we were training, but by 1999 year we were just used to it.” But she admits that her and Cath’s very success may not have helped as, “Possibly we didn’t have enough challenge because we were told fairly early that season that there wasn’t a faster pair so we could just crack on.”

As an exercise physiologist who had previously worked for the British Olympic Association, Guin is better qualified than others to assess training. However, she and Miriam seem to have got on better with him so their conversations with him may have been different.

Miriam is, however, quick to take responsibility for other aspects of her poor performance. “We rowed badly at the Worlds,” she reflects. “I felt that we weren’t together; I’d encouraged myself to row longer but it wasn’t a strong position and I needed to sit up more. When I look at the videos of us rowing that year now I think, ‘Why am I rowing like that?’ I also don’t think I focused properly on 1999; I found it really hard because my Mum had died, I’d got married after the World Championships that same year and we were trying to buy a house, so there was a lot of other stuff going on.”

Physiological testing: Why?

An aspect of rowing training that has continued to be brought up from time to time is the fact that the training plan is the same for the whole squad. Obviously it has to be the same for all members of a crew on the water, but land training could be tailored to individuals and it generally isn’t. Dot Blackie explains, “We’d regularly go to the British Olympic Medical Centre for physiological testing but I sometimes wondered why because you’d be told which bits of your physiology needed work and which bits you were ahead but it made no difference to the training we did. So in some ways it was a bit unnerving because you’d get this report telling you that you needed to do more low lactate stuff or you needed to work more on your lactate but it wasn’t acted on which I found difficult because you could quite easily know that the training you’re doing is not actually the bit that you need to help.”

Aside from physiology, some athletes felt that Mike Spracklen’s psychological approach as a coach wasn’t optimal, certainly for them. Katherine Grainger noted in her autobiography, “So much of our time in training is spent on the things we do wrong that it’s easy to get very disheartened. Most days can feel like constant criticism. This is inevitable as we need to improve continuously to be competitive but there must also be an awareness of the toll it can take mentally. Negativity added to exhaustion and stress can spiral downwards into dangerous territory. That’s why athletes, even intelligent, mature, wise athletes, still find they crave the occasional positive bit of encouragement from a coach. Some coaches give that positive reinforcement a lot more easily than others. Mike generally withheld it.”

Cath Bishop adds, “Living under the Mike Spracklen regime was difficult and there’s probably a limited time for which people can withstand it. Yes, it toughens you up, but I don’t think we really needed purely to be focusing on that. Technique started to suffer because of the focus on intensity. There was no room for discussion although that isn’t uncommon with rowing coaches, but it had troubled me from quite early on. His was a very negative psychology. So it was all about… prodding you and poking you, I think with the intention that you respond and become tougher, but it was always doubting you and if you ever lost, you were told you were mentally weak whereas I wanted to look at what happened and discuss about what I was actually thinking about at that part of the race. I never felt that I was in a psychological environment where it was helping me to perform. But we’re all different personalities.”

Quite a lot of the athletes were struggling with injuries too, which may or may not have have been related to the long-term effects of Mike Spracklen’s training programme.

However, both Miriam and Guin have spoken about the value they derived from constantly doing long distance, lower-rate competitive pieces which, they say, “toughens you up”.

Given that if you keep doing the same thing you tend to keep getting the same results, changes would be made to the training plan, to crews, and to coaching for the final year of the Olympiad to 2000.

Commonwealth Rowing Regatta (5-6 August 1999)

This standalone regatta quite separate from 1998 Commonwealth Games which had been in Malaysia, and was totally dominated by Australia. The England team was mostly a development squad although it also included a few former and ‘on the edge’ current squad athletes (Aggie Barnett who had been in the GB team in 1985 and 1992), Kate Templeton (1995) and Sarah Birch (1997-1998).

The weather was extremely hot and there was a strong cross-wind during racing (as there had been at the 1994 Regatta at the same venue), which led to curved lanes that were a particular challenge for coxless boats (i.e. almost all of them).

multi-lane rowing course
Curves on the ‘straight lane’ course. (Photo: Naomi Ashcroft’s personal collection.)

Eight (4th out of 4)

B: Aggie Barnett (Molesey BC)
2: Rachel Armstrong (Star Club)
3: Caroline Hodgson (Marlow RC)
4: Bev Gough (Holme Pierrepont RC)
5: Julie Pryce (Nottinghamshire County RA)
6: Rachel Andrews (Tideway Scullers’ School)
7: Sue Mitchell (Marlow RC)
S: Alex Tremellen (Molesey BC)
Cox: Tamsin Cottle (Nottinghamshire County RA)
Coach: Adrian Roberts

Quad scull (2nd out of 3)

B: Frances Houghton (University of London Women’s BC)
2: Debbie Flood (Tideway Scullers’ School)
3: Rebecca Romero (Kingston RC)
S: Sarah Birch (Kingston RC)
Coach: Ian Roots

The quad was made up from the double, and the openweight and lightweight single scullers.

Coxless four (4th out of 4)

B: Claire Fox (Molesey BC)
2: Charlotte Hill (Marlow RC)
3: Kate Templeton (Thames RC)
S: Caroline Dring (Kingston RC)
Coach: Ian South

Double scull (2nd out of 4)

B: Frances Houghton (University of London Women’s BC)
S: Debbie Flood (Tideway Scullers’ School)
Coach: Ian Roots

Single scull (5th out of 6)

Rebecca Romero (Kingston RC)
Coach: Ian South

Lightweight quad scull (2nd out of 4)

B: Rebecca Ingledew (Upper Thames RC)
2: Victoria Wood (Upper Thames RC)
3: Helen Casey (Wallingford RC)
S: Naomi Ashcroft (Upper Thames RC)
Coach: Rosie Mayglothling

Naomi had also been in the openweight quad at the 1994 Commonwealth Regatta. The lightweights were all delighted to find out, shortly before the regatta, that they were only required to meet individual maximum weights and not the lower crew average as well.

5 women wearing white polo shirts with England red roses on
The lightweight quad with their coach: Naomi. Vic, Rosie, Becks and Helen. (Photo: Naomi Ashcroft’s personal collection).

Lightweight pair (2nd out of 2)

B: Ann Booker (Avon County RC)
S: Joanna Waite (Holme Pierrepont RC)
Coach: Clive Hopper

The event was won by the Scottish pair of Katrine McPherson and Katrina Lythgoe who had raced in Lucerne.

Lightweight single scull (5th out of 6)

Sarah Birch (Kingston RC)
Coach: Ian South

World Rowing Junior Championships

These took place in Plovdiv, Bulgaria from 4-8 August 1999. The weather was so hot that new world best times (overall, not just junior) were set as warmer water adds to boat speed, and there was also a following breeze. FISA subsequently ruled that world best times can only be set by senior crews.

Coxless four (3rd out of 11)

B: Alice Bray (Lady Eleanor Holles School BC)
2: Ruth Stannard (Kingston Grammar School BC)*
3: Beth Rodford (Gloucester RC)
S: Katie Greves (Headington School BC)
Coach: Domenyk Honey

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

Nations Cup

These under-23 Championships took place in Hamburg from 23-25 July 1999.

Double scull (1st out of 8)

B: Frances Houghton (University of London Women’s BC)
S: Debbie Flood (Tideway Scullers’ School)
Coach: Ian Roots

Frances and Debbie had been the GB junior double the previous year when they’d won the bronze medal.

Maggie Phillips wrote in Regatta that they, “Proved the point that keeping successful junior crews together bears fruit, when they led from the start of their final, albeit pushed in the last 500m.” International Rowing Manager David Tanner noted in The Almanack that, “In their first year out of juniors, this was a major achievement and a tribute to their coaches.”

Single scull (4th out of 10)

Rebecca Romero (Kingston RC)
Coach: Ian South

Coxless four (4th out of 7)

B: Victoria Fangen (Kingston RC)*
2: Helen Fenhoulet (Thames Tradesmen’s RC)
3: Nicole Scott (Strathclyde University BC)
S: Debbie Gibb (Oxford Brookes University BC)
Coach: Rob Dauncey

Lightweight single scull (10th out of 16)

Kate Holton (Kingston RC)*
Coach: Ian South

* Indicates a previous participation at the Nations Cup.

These results achieved Women’s Chief Coach Mike Spracklen’s target of one medal from three finalists.

← BACK TO 1998 | ON TO 2000 (coming soon) →

The photo at the top of this page, which is from Guin Batten’s personal collection, shows the lightweight double of Tracy Langlands (left) and Jane Hall training in Australia at the start of the 1999 season.

© Helena Smalman-Smith, 2020.