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Scottish Rowing Review 2013

Posted: February 20, 2014

It hasn’t exactly been a fantastic start to the rowing season so far as the rain and wind continues to impact training and racing across Scotland and all over the UK. To cheer us up and inspire more fantastic Scottish achievements in the year ahead we’d like to share this review of Scottish Rowing 2013, a shortened version of which will appear in the GB Almanac. Many thanks to all those who contributed.

An Olympic year was always going to be difficult to follow but rowing in Scotland has gone from strength to strength in 2013.

The World Cup Series was the main international competition in 2013 and although Katherine Grainger and Heather Stanning were not competing, Scottish athletes made up their fair share of the GB Team. In the first race of the series in Sydney Scottish Athletes Victoria Meyer-Laker (W2x), Imogen Walsh (LW 2x), Polly Swann (W2-), Sam Scrimgeour (LM2-) and Alan Sinclair (M4-) contributed a Gold medal and two Bronze medals to the GB team total. In the second event at Eton Dorney the Scots did even better with three Gold medals and a Silver and in the final regatta at Lucerne two Gold winning crews contained Scottish rowers.

The World Championships this year were held in Chungju with five Scots competing as part of the GB Team. Polly Swann capped a fine season by winning the Gold medal with Helen Glover in the women’s pair, completing an undefeated season in that boat class. Sam Scrimgeour, racing with Mark Aldred, won a solid Bronze medal in the lightweight men’s pair. Victoria Meyer-Laker and Imogen Walsh both just missed out on the medals coming fourth in the women’s double and women’s lightweight double respectively and Alan Sinclair had to settle with 5th place in the men’s four.


Andy Holmes, Iona Riley, Callum McBrierty, Lewis McCue and Cameron Buchan all travelled to Linz-Ottensheim for the World Under 23 Championships: Iona coming home with a Silver medal from the women’s eight.

Georgina Grandfield and Jo Smith (Edinburgh UBC) and Iona Riley, Christie Duff and Lewis McCue (Robert Gordon UBC) represented GB Universities at the European Universities Rowing Championships in Poznan, Poland. The Edinburgh women’s pair and Lewis in the single both won Bronze medals.

Calum Michael from Dumfries Schools Rowing Association was selected to row for GB in the Coupe de la Jeunesse in Lucerne, Switzerland and competed in the men’s coxed four and the eight. He won 2 Gold medals and 2 Silvers in a winning GB Squad.

At Henley Royal Regatta Alan Sinclair of Inverness was in the Leander crew that won the Stewards Challenge Cup, Polly Swann and Victoria Meyer-Laker were half of the winning Leander quad in Princess Grace Challenge Cup and Castle Semple RC’s Andy Holmes helped to win the Visitors Challenge Cup in a new record time for Harvard. Iona Riley rowing for Robert Gordon University also won the Elite eights and the Elite coxless fours in a composite crew at Henley Women’s Regatta.

At the Head of the Charles in Boston USA, Castle Semple Rowing Club fielded a Mens Senior Masters coxed fours (50+). Martin Holmes, Pete Murray, William Brown (Stirling RC) and Quintin McKellar (Broxbourne RC) guided by local cox Alex Sopko came 3rd in a highly competitive field. Martin Holmes and son Andrew (Harvard) then raced in the Directors Challenge Parent/Child Doubles and won convincingly. Andrew and his Harvard teammates competed in the Championship eight’s and came third, the highest placed collegiate crew in the race, losing only to the US national team and an International level Dutch boat.


A 32 strong contingent of Scottish based rowers travelled to the Masters in Varese where they spent full days and 2 half days competing in glorious conditions in a fantastic setting. The Scots made the most of their trip competing in numerous events and heading home with a number of medals. Ailie Ord of Strathclyde Park RC topped the list with 7, Eva Rankin of Loch Lomond RC won 3, Liz Davidson, Strathclyde Park RC won 1 and Gordon Kerr of Nithsdale won 2. There were also a number of non Scottish based athletes that joined the squad and contributed greatly to the medal tally. Sally Pollok Morris (Reading & Loch Lomond) won 8 medals and Gill Prescott from Durham joined Ailie in 4 of her winning boats.


At the British Rowing Junior Championships, Seven Scottish Clubs sent crews to compete and all came home with medals. Aberdeen Schools Rowing Association being the stand out squad winning 2 Golds, 2 Silvers and 1 Bronze medal and collecting the Victor Ludorum trophy as a result. In all the seven clubs won 5 Gold, 4 Silver and 3 Bronze medals between them.

Clean sweep in J16 Quads

The Domestic rowing scene has benefitted from the Olympic effect with record entries in many of the domestic regattas held in 2013. The Scottish Championships was held at Strathclyde Park in June over a shortened 1500m course, the course was shortened because of preparatory work for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The regatta experienced very different weather conditions over the two days but the racing was highly competitive. Entries were up in every area of competition, novice entries in particular were very high this year and the University programs seem to be reaping the rewards of recent investment.

Aberdeen BC win Open Veteran Coxed Fours

Scottish Rowing now invests in three Under 23 Performance Programmes in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Colin Williamson from Perth has been appointed as the Head of Rowing at the University of Edinburgh and Andy Barton has started in his role as Director of Rowing at the University of Glasgow. They join Michael Hughes who is the Head of Performance Rowing at Aberdeen and Robert Gordon Universities. This initiative which is supported by sportscotland is showing early promise with more depth of competition.

Para-rowing is also benefiting from activities and training opportunities offered by the Scottish Rowing Centre (SRC). John Blair the SRC manager is running regular para-rowing sessions. One of John’s athletes Scott Meenagh came away from the British Championships with a Silver medal in TA1x.

Scott Meenagh in TA1x at British Senior Champs

This year with the support of sportscotland the Scottish Rowing staff has been able to expand to meet the growing needs of our sport. Staffing levels have gone from 2 to 5 within 9 months and a particular focus has been put on supporting the development of clubs and coaches. Amanda Cobb has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer and Mark Senter has been appointed to Coaching and Development Manager. Andrew Swift joined the team as Regional Development Manager for the West of Scotland. The new online membership system is beginning to show its value with the number of members never having been higher Jo Pinder has joined the administrative team to provide support to members and to help improve communication between Scottish Rowing and its members. We are also pleased to welcome John Gill to the Scottish Rowing Board.

A Scottish Rowing Coaches Conference was held at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Sport and Exercise in October and we were very pleased to be able to welcome speakers from the GB Rowing Team. Darren Whiter, Steve Gunn and Pete Sheppard shared their knowledge and experience with coaches from all over Scotland. World Rowing Champion Polly Swann delighted delegates with an insightful talk about her personal journey from junior to World Champion.

The annual awards ceremony also took place in October in the spectacular setting of the University of Edinburgh's Playfair Library. After dinner speeches were led by Scottish Rowing President Mike Morrice and World Rowing Champion Polly Swann treated guests with a heart-warming reply to Martin Claxton's toast to Scottish Rowing. The awards were entertainingly presented by an impressive line-up of guests, including Olympic Champion Katherine Grainger, World Champion Polly Swann and GB Men's Lightweight Coach Darren Whiter.

Polly Swann was the deserving winner of International Rower of the Year, receiving her award from Scottish Rowing President, Mike Morrice. Senior Rower of the year was won by Gary Wilson of Aberdeen Boat Club and Junior Rower of the Year was Calum Michael of Dumfries School Rowing Association. As well as receiving his award from Katherine Grainger, Calum also received an additional surprise when Polly Swann presented him with a Team GB shirt signed by the GB Rowing team. The Crew of the Year trophy was presented to Euan Malone and Giacomo Galano of Clydesdale ARC by Darren Whiter. Coach of the Year was won by Stephen Kerr of Dumfries School Rowing Association. The Award for Masters Rower of the Year was won by Ailie Ord of Strathclyde Park Rowing Club and the final award of the night was the Volunteer of the Year Award, won by Willie Turner of Clydesdale ARC.

Scottish Rowing Award Winners

Volunteers have played a huge part in the success in Scottish Rowing this year as always. The increasing numbers of coaches, umpires, parent helpers, boat menders, diy’ers and others who contribute to the many clubs within Scotland mean that we, as one of the smaller UK rowing communities, punch well above our weight. We cannot continue to support the many people who want to participate in this incredible sport without them and are grateful to them for their generosity and the sacrifices they make. Rowing in Scotland has never been more accessible, better supported or more able to contribute towards the health and wellbeing of our nation and we look forward to 2014 with anticipation of another great year.