24 July 2018
Göran R Buckhorn writes:
Bristol was the location for an action-packed sprint regatta on Sunday. Sixteen eights – eight men and eight women crews – were fighting out head-to-head races at the inaugural Power8 Sprints over a 350-metre course in the sundrenched habour of Bristol.
The crews came from Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford. Thousands of spectators watched the races from the banks. The short distance made it easy for the spectators to watch the action from start to finish. The regatta was broadcast live on BT Sport and BBC Sport online.
At the end, it was the men from Manchester and the women from Oxford who were crowned victors.
Lance Tredell, a member of Manchester’s winning crew, said, according to British Rowing’s website, ‘To see the guys give everything out there today was really special and they should be incredibly proud of their achievements. To be crowned the first ever men’s Power8 Sprints Champions is a real honour and their names have now been written into the history books.’
Andy Parkinson, CEO of British Rowing, remarked: ‘Today was a brilliant example of the great rowing talent which exists across the country. Every race across the men’s and women’s competitions went to the wire and that is what we love about sprint rowing; it grips you from start to finish.’ He added: ‘We’re really looking forward to holding Power8 Sprints in Bristol again and it is our ambition that Power8 Sprints evolves into a three-event series in the future, so that we can reach even more people with this wonderful rowing experience’.
Here is the men’s final between Bristol vs Manchester:
Here is the women’s final between Bristol vs Oxford:
All the heats can be watched here.
For a few years in the beginning of the 1990s, the Swedish Rowing Association invited club eights to compete in a series of sprint races around Sweden. Six eights from the largest Swedish rowing clubs competed during the summer at different locations. As the race course was 500 metres, some of these regattas were held in harbours or on canals and rivers in city centres, which meant that huge crowds of spectators gathered to watch the heats. The winning crew was determined through a special points system (the crews got points depending how they placed at each competition) and announced at the last sprint regatta of the season. This became a hugely successful event.
Everything points toward a success in Britain, too.
As I understand , British Rowing are promoting this sprint event as a way of introducing rowing to a wider public by making a rowing race more of a spectator sport than it is at present. It is an idea tried in Britain in the Eighties with the Whitbread Sprints and , as you have mentioned, in Sweden in the Nineties. I don’t know about Sweden but the ‘Whitbreads’ died a death here after a couple of seasons. As any Rowing Man or Woman knows the sport , in essence, is one of endurance . Racing up and down the slide at 50 plus for a minute smacks of Fair Ground Boxing Booths and Five a Side football. It is a gimmick , as anyone who is attracted to the sport by it will soon find out, and plays little part in the sport we love.
Sincerely, Bitter and Twisted, Bognor Regis !
In Sweden, these sprint races started in 1993 and by 1996, 1997, they were dead, too. Rowing, being a minor sport in Sweden then (it still is!), even the big clubs had a problem getting enough rowers to man the seats throughout the summer months. The crews went from being club boats to boats raced by province/district crews. Seeing how six-boat races went down to five and four eights at some competitions, the organisers lost faith, as well. One has to remember that the ordinary 2,000-metres regattas were still being held and those organisers complained that the best crews didn’t show up at their regattas because those crews were away at another city or town racing on a 500-metre course. What the Swedish Rowing Association hoped was that the sport of rowing would get publicity and a boost, which would lead to more members at the clubs, more members that would race in 2,000-metre and sprint races, or get out on pleasure and long-distance outings, or, simply messing about in boats. These were all good thoughts, but sadly, at the end, it more or less came to nothing.
Water tourneys, with jousting boats, attracted crowds almost two centuries ago, and it hasn’t been so many years since Pinsent and Redgrave thought about starting a similar spectacle at Dorney for the same reasons. While the core truths of competitive rowing (heart and soul dedication, courage, will, and devotion to team) are better demonstrated in the context of an endurance contest, in an age in which eyeball-metrics are so critical to sponsorship and support, a quick, entertaining contest such as this, in which exuberant strength is so much on show, might well be justified. And perhaps there is also a place for the re-introduction of wooden oars – nothing quite so exciting as seeing an oar crack and break under the pressure of an intense start.