A preview of the 2019 Gig Rowing Season…

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We asked former World Champion Gig Rower Adam Anderson to give us a real flavour of what you’re all going through at the moment with your training, how crew selection is shaping up and who the contenders are for #IoSWorldChampionships2019. Let us know what you think…

An Overview

With less than 100 days until the flag drops, the countdown to the World Gig Championships 2019 is well and truly on. At this point in the build-up, crews will be finalising their selections, increasing their on-water training and preparing for the upcoming warm-up races.

There is a lot of training between now and the first weekend in May and you can be confident that there are hundreds of rowers out on the water, lifting weights in the gym and exhausting themselves on the rowing machines, trying to get themselves in the best possible shape to achieve their targets at the Scillies.

This year’s World Championships at the Isles of Scilly promise to be more highly contested than ever. With no dominant force in either the men’s or ladies field over the past 12 months, it would appear that it is all to play for.

The Challengers

In the men’s field, Looe are widely considered to be the favourites having won last year’s final in their new boat, Currahs Pride, securing their first-ever World Championship. However, they can’t expect to have the races all go their own way with a resurgent Caradon crew, fresh from their victory at Newquay, ready to reclaim the title that has been absent from their trophy cabinet since 2007.

Add to that mix Falmouth; a crew still smarting from their result last year, with a new boat in Arwennack and a crew full of multiple World Champions ready to take back the trophy they feel is rightfully theirs.

The ladies competition is equally highly contested with at least 3 crews feeling that the title is theirs to win. Caradon, the reigning champions, have looked dominant over the past 3 seasons. But, their infallibility was destroyed at last year’s County Championships when they were well beaten by a number of crews.

Taking the win at Newquay was Mounts Bay, a surprise winner, but a crew that consistently challenges for podium positions at all major championships. They will be determined to back up their County Championships result with a win at Scillies.

The third major player is Falmouth. A crew stacked with over 30 World titles between them and coming off the back of silver medals in both of last year’s major championships, they will feel that they are ready to climb back to the top step of the podium.

Last years Winners Looe and Caradon

It is hard to look past these two crews if you were to place a bet on this year’s championships. Yes, they had very disappointing results at Newquay for very different reasons, but their pedigree at Scillies and through the season suggests they are still very much at the top of their game. Leanne Woodward, stroke rower for Caradon, is confident that they are able to retain their title. And their result at the County Championships has given them additional motivation for their winter training.

One of the strengths of Caradon is always their squad depth and it sounds like they are continuing to build on this, “Selection is always difficult, but I’m excited by the strength and depth in our club this year, with some good youngsters coming through.” Leanne goes on to identify Mounts Bay, Falmouth and Fowey as their major rivals, whilst remaining open to the possibility of a strong crew from Scillies or an unknown dark horse.

Matthew Newman, middle rower for Looe is confident that they will not let Newquay negatively affect their preparation for Scillies. ‘Following the disaster at Newquay we all had a bit of time off. Didn’t really need to motivate the boys very much, to be honest. We believe we would have won without the mishap. We definitely feel we can win Scillies again. As for a long reign at the top, I don’t know if that will happen. We’ve spent the last 6-7 years training hard. It just happened that we ran up against a strong Falmouth crew at the same period of time.’

He feels that training is going well and that a strengthened squad has made their crew selection more competitive. Over the winter, Matt competed in the British indoor rowing championships, finishing 15th in the open category with a time of 6:13.2. If this is anything to go, we can count on Looe being one of the fittest crews on the water.

The former Champions Falmouth

Both Falmouth’s men’s and ladies crews will contain at least 4 former world champions, all with the desire to regain the title.

Karen, the most successful female rower in gig rowing history with 12 world titles, was in a confident mood saying; ‘Falmouth ladies squad’s training is going to plan and we’re looking forward to Scillies and the season ahead’.

Not usually a woman of few words, Karen is obviously keeping her cards close to her chest, but there is a growing sense of confidence from the Falmouth ladies and I know their training has been very intense this winter so they should be in top shape.

The Falmouth men were disappointed with their 3rd place finish last year, but Jamie Maxted, men’s captain, believes they are better prepared this time around.

“Coming 3rd last year in both championships was a bitter pill to swallow after several years of success. We had lamented the loss of some of our best rowers for a bit too long perhaps, and not knuckled down soon enough. However, the Scillies final last year showed we were still in touch with the other top crews, and this year everyone has realised that we have the potential to get back up there if we put the training in and prepare ourselves better. Winter training has been going well, we’ve put in more work than we did last winter and are fitter and stronger than we were at this point last year.”

This would suggest that the brief period of transition could now be over and the new-look men’s crew from Falmouth is ready to return to the top.

The County Champions Caradon and Mounts Bay

The County Championships last year brought surprises in both categories, with neither World Champion crew able to emerge victorious. In the men’s field, it was Caradon that profited from a mistake by Looe to romp home to victory. Do they have the quality to win a major championship, or were they simply in the right place at the right time?

With more experienced members in the crew who know what it takes to win multiple championships like James Howell, surrounded by younger and more explosive rowers, it looks like Caradon may finally be putting a crew together that can regain the title that has been absent from their trophy cabinet for over 10 years.

In the ladies field, all eyes were focused on a potential battle between Caradon, Falmouth and Fowey, but it was Mounts Bay who won the sprint to the first buoy and held on for glory. It remains to be seen if this was a one-off or a true reflection of the this crew’s potential.

Crew member Charlotte Roberts had this to say ‘Winning the County Championships was incredible; we timed everything perfectly, from the training over the summer to executing the perfect race on the day. That was a moment in time and now we move forward to the World Pilot Gig Championships in May.

‘We will have a different line up of rowers in the crew, as three rowers who raced in the victorious crew in September will not be competing in May. Due to our strength in depth and commitment to recognising and nurturing the talent we are confident we will have a crew which will be in the running for a podium place. The key for us is self-belief and respecting your opposition.’

When asked about who Charlotte felt would be their biggest rivals, she agreed that it looks like being a 3 horse race between themselves, Falmouth and Caradon, ‘You can never really tell, with Scillies being at the start of our racing season, no one has shown their hand over the Nut Rock distance, but Caradon has consistently been our closest rivals for over 15 years, always turning out a quality crew. We have the utmost respect for them for their recent success and know that along with Falmouth, they will be tough to beat.

The Outsiders

I would be remiss if I failed to mention some other crews who will head to the World Championships aiming for overall glory. In the ladies section Fowey have consistently performed well in recent years and the Isles of Scilly always have the potential to put out a very strong crew.

In the men’s race, Coverack will look to build on their 2nd place finish at Newquay and have been putting in some additional strength training this winter at Jolly Sailor Crossfit.  Roseland men will be looking to put their DQ at Newquay behind them and head to Scillies with a strong crew, consisting of three former World Champions.

Summary

The next stage in crews preparation will be the warm-up races that have already started to take place. The most popular race being the 3 Rivers, hosted by Caradon. It is the only chance to test your mettle against your rivals before you arrive on St Marys.

It is always difficult to know how relevant this race is, as the distance, volume of boats and course type is so very different from the final on Scilly. That said, it never fails to attract a huge number of crews (sold out this year), all trying to get one over on their competitors in the hope of dealing a blow to their morale before the big day.

As I mentioned at the top of the article, I can see this year being very tightly contested in both categories, but I do predict that there will be at least one crew who will come away victorious following disappointment last year. Further than that, my lips are sealed!

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