Tim Koch writes from London:
The 174th single sculling race for the pair of silver sculls presented in 1830 by Henry C. Wingfield ‘to be held by the best’ as long as they agreed to race on his birthday ‘for ever’ took place on the Putney to Mortlake course on 6 November. Henry’s birthday was actually on 10 August but, thanks to the organising committee of former winners, at least the ‘for ever’ part looks like it will be adhered to. It was also the occasion of the 8th Women’s Wingfields, a revival of the Women’s Amateur Rowing Championship first raced in 1927 and revived under the Wingfield’s banner in 2007 with the support of the Wingfield Family Society. Hear The Boat Sing first covered the race in 2010 and that report gives full coverage of the history of this unique event. The links to the last three races are here for 2013, 2012 and 2011.
The Wingfields is extremely lucky in that Paul Thompson, Chief Coach for the Women’s and Lightweights Squads, continues to support event by releasing his top athletes to compete in the race.
In the Women’s Race, last year’s winner, Imogen Walsh (London) returned to defend her title. The remarkable Walsh is only 162 cm / 5 ft 4 ins tall and weighs just 57 k / 125 lbs but in the 2013 race she defeated heavyweight scullers who have meals bigger than she is. Also in that year, she was the fastest female lightweight single sculler at the GB Trails. This season she raced in the lightweight double with Kat Copeland and they won at the World Cups in Aiguebelette and Lucerne. The three challengers to her title were:
Emily Craig (University of London) was third in the lightweight quad at the 2013 Under-23 World Championships and this year won in the lightweight single at this year’s World University Rowing Championships and was a finalist in the same event at the U23 Worlds. Of racing the Wingfields, she says that she ‘would love to be able to make the most of this incredibly exciting (and slightly terrifying) opportunity’.
Vicky Thornley is a veteran of four World Championships and of the 2012 Olympics. She spent most of the 2014 season in a double with Frances Houghton where they made the finals of both the European Championships and of the Second World Cup. Towards the end of the season she raced her single at the Third World Cup and in the World Championships.
Mel Wilson (Imperial College) raced in the World Championships of 2009, 2011 and 2013 and was in the quad scull for the Olympics. In this October’s British Championships she won in the double scull together with Emma Twigg. She has been juggling her medical studies with international competition and took last season out from the squad to concentrate on her degree. She is using the Wingfields to motivate her training as she prepares for upcoming national squad trials.
As I have often said, when following a race to report on it, you can either be a photographer or a writer but it is very difficult to be both. If you view a race through a camera lens, you are only certain what happened after viewing the pictures. Thus, I trust that the following photographs (plus a little text) will adequately illustrate how the races unfolded. For those unfamiliar with the course, a map is here.
In the men’s race, Alan Campbell, the title holder (or ‘Champion’ in Wingfields speak) had resigned his title. His Wingfield’s medal has five bars marking his wins in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 and it was entirely in the traditions of the race for such a successful competitor to step down. Unfortunately, the training commitments of the British heavyweight men’s squad did not allow any of them to enter but there were four new contenders for the impressive title of the 89th ‘British Amateur Sculling Champion and Champion of the Thames’:
Matt Bedford (University of London) In 2013, Matt stroked the UL Eight to 5th in the Head of the River and won silver in the lightweight pair at the Under-23 World Rowing Championship and at the Eton World Cup. He said of his Wingfield’s entry: ‘doing a side by side race on the Tideway is special and I wanted to experience that’.
Wilf Kimberley (Imperial College) learned his sculling at Westminster School but claims that he was not ‘especially competitive’ until he was coached by Bill Mason and subsequently won a Henley Medal. Wilf has raced in the last four U23 World’s, winning silver in the lightweight pair in 2013 and 2014. On entering the race he said: ‘It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I am very honoured to be competing in it’.
Tim Richards (Imperial Collage) won Henley’s Prince Albert in 2013 and got silver in the lightweight coxless fours in the U23 World’s in 2013 and 2014. He recently won gold in the lightweight quad at the British Championships. He was inspired to race by former coach and Wingfield’s Champion, Peter Haining. ‘I still can’t believe that I’ve been given the opportunity to race in such a prestigious and uniquely British race, I’m absolutely buzzing’.
Mike Ewing (Quintin Boat Club) holds that long distance racing is his favourite. He was in the winning Wyfolds crew at Henley in 2010, came second in the Scullers Head in 2012 and this year was in the fastest pair in the Pairs Head. ‘It is an honour to race in the Wingfield Sculls, a race that has been won by so many legends in the sport and is steeped in history’.
In an interview that I had some time ago with Guy Pooley, Champion in 1991 and 1992, he said this of the Wingfields: It’s a fantastic race because it’s a great test of physical ability…. of fitness and strength, and also of technique. The Tideway can throw all sorts of things at you in terms of conditions, wind, stream and so on, so it’s is a real test of watermanship… It’s not a short sprint, you’ve got to get it right and keep getting it right… As an oarsman it’s fantastic to have your name on the Wingfield Sculls Trophy. You look back over the years of racing and you can see that you have joined a rather impressive list of scullers… I quite like the fact that it’s not a world renowned race…. it’s a peculiarly English thing really… It’s great race to take part in and a great race to win of course.
Photographs © Tim Koch