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Youngsters Abi-Lou Page, Archie Bell and Zach Grant at West Norfolk Rowing Club given chance at Cambridge Autumn Regatta

By Pete Woodhouse

In one week, the rowers at West Norfolk Rowing Club (WNRC) went from one racing extreme to another.

The previous week the club competed in their successful Great Ouse Marathon, a timed endurance event over 21.5km, but took on the opposite challenge of short sprints at Cambridge Autumn Regatta.

This was two-lane side-by-side racing in a new event over 550m against some of the most competitive rowers in the region. The weather was kind, but autumnal.

WNRC Women's Masters D coxless quad (W.MasD.4x) crew of (left to right) Michelle Fincham, Liz Palmer, Helen Pryer and Carol Rose (16377951)
WNRC Women's Masters D coxless quad (W.MasD.4x) crew of (left to right) Michelle Fincham, Liz Palmer, Helen Pryer and Carol Rose (16377951)

The River Cam course had a subtle but significant bend and tight lanes.

With most of WNRC having rowed the marathon the week before, this was never likely to be a day of medals, but a chance for three junior members to rig their own boats and take responsibility for all their race preparation.

There were many junior races from age classes J13 to J18. Abi-Lou Page raced in the W. J16.1x event. At the younger end of this category she was giving away a lot of experience to her Sudbury opponent who is also a record holder at her own club.

Despite this, Abi-Lou came in only two lengths behind.

WNRC Abi-Lou Page. (16377917)
WNRC Abi-Lou Page. (16377917)

Archie Bell raced in a single in the very demanding J18.1x against the eventual category winner from Sudbury. Archie has been focusing mainly on his 2x training for the marathon and was pleased to run a clean race.

Archie competed later with Zach Grant. This was always going to be a big ask for the pairing, with Zach being two age categories below their J18 race class. They rowed well against a vastly more experienced local City of Cambridge crew.

WNRC Zach Grant & Archie Bell. (16377930)
WNRC Zach Grant & Archie Bell. (16377930)

WRNC had two men’s coxless quads competing in the MasDE.4x competition. The MasE crew of Alistair Mackie, Doug McNeil, Steve Venables and Simon Grapes finished less than two lengths behind their Peterborough rivals.

Later the MasD crew of Theo Bailey, Mark Dawson, Phil Holden and Robert John took on very-experienced St Ives opponents. Not as fast off the line, the WNRC crew were holding position well until a technical boat issue lost them the chance of fighting back.

In the ladies’ W.MasD.4x coxless quad competition, Helen Pryer, Liz Palmer, Michelle Fincham and Carol Rose came up against a successful Leicester-Peterborough crew. The WNRC crew enjoyed the event.

In the singles competitions, Simon Prior was in the MasD.1x category and Bailey in MasE.1x. Prior was against an ex-Oxbridge rower, now member of the Black Sheep RC, but finished a respectable one and a half lengths behind.

The closest finish was for brothers-in-law Prior and John who were narrowly defeated in the MasD.2x semi-final by half a length by the younger Derby RC. WNRC left their sprint finish too late.

Dawson and Holden also raced together in a MasD.2x double.

Members will look to winter training and the head of the river races.

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