Home / Club News / December update from Club President Martin Banham-Hall.
December 24, 2020

December update from Club President Martin Banham-Hall.



Well, what a year it’s been! Can there be anyone left who has not had their life turned inside out by the shifting sands of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures taken to try to control it? Our spirits were no sooner lifted by the prospect of vaccines than we were once again plunged into gloom as the Government confessed that a new and more virulent strain is “out of control.” The PM’s insistence that it would be “inhumane” to cancel the promised Christmas relaxation of restrictions was reversed scarcely 72 hours after it was made.

This is not the first time I’ve started one of these updates only to be forced to scrap it and start again as the regulations changed. I always said it would end in tiers…! Of course, with every change in Government regulations British Rowing’s guidance for the rowing community is adjusted in their wake. BR’s Covid guidance now stands at Version 8.3, plus an interim adjustment in the light of the propulsion of much of the population (including us) into the new Tier 4. Keeping track of the rules and guidance has been a challenge, let alone implementing them.

We can at least be thankful that the rules allow for outdoor organised sport, albeit in a limited way. BR has in turn approved Covid-secure rowing in single sculls and single-household crews. Effectively this returns us to the position in May when lockdown #1 was first relaxed. Captain Mike has posted on the Club’s FaceBook page for active rowers. You’ll see that as before, a boat and a timed launch slot must be booked through him for every outing. (Recreational rowers should use their online form for outings during the group’s usual sessions, but otherwise book through Mike). The Club’s requirements for washing hands, boats, blades etc and for wearing masks, at least in the upstairs area, continue to apply in line with our risk assessment.

Indoor activity (gym, ergs…) is not allowed.

Competition is also not allowed, so the brief flutter of hope that we could run something close to the traditional Boxing Day Eights event has proved all too short-lived. It can’t take place. The Committee has nonetheless kept the potential for eventual competition under review. We can’t be confident that the roll-out of vaccines will be implemented quickly enough for our usual Fours and Eights Head to be run in February. So, if the rules allow when the time comes we will look at running an internal, BRC-only event around that time. An approach from Star Club during the recent window when private inter-club matches were allowed was welcomed by Captain Mike. However as they then ran their own internal event, we deduced that they didn’t want to pursue it.

Before the most recent strictures were introduced, the rules allowed British Rowing’s national indoor racing event to go ahead on the weekend of 5/6 December with “virtual” side-by-side racing over video link. BRC was very creditably represented. I’m delighted to report that our stellar Junior Captain Ellie Cooke came 13th in the 2,000 metre event and 5th over 500 m, while Reese Kilby was the UK’s 14th fastest sixth former over 2K. Stroke survivor Lizzie Simpson came 4th in her 2K event – but WON the 500 m one! Shane Roberts came 11th in his 500 m event. Congratulations to all four of them!

The limitations imposed on rowing do not seem to have stemmed the curiosity of many who signed up for our Learn to Row course before lockdown #2 forced us to postpone. The courses have been over-subscribed, and it was pleasing to see that nearly all those on our waiting list were still keen to come along when we were briefly able to re-start them.

Naturally we’re very sorry that the latest clamp-down prevents us running their courses in the usual fat quads and doubles.

The current rules necessarily mean that the bar remains closed for the time being. Our current hope is that we will be able to re-open it in early April. Obviously this depends on the rules being relaxed in time for that to happen, and our hopes for earlier dates have already been dashed more than once. Meanwhile bookings will be accepted for private function hire to take place from Friday 2 April 2021 onwards subject to that condition. If you have an upcoming event (birthday, wake, anniversary, bar mitzvah…..) and would like to use our newly-refurbished bar for it, please contact bar@bedfordrowing.co.uk. The room hire is free to members.

I’ve mentioned previously that a sub-group of the Committee is in the course of developing a five-year strategy for the Club, encompassing both rowing and social elements. This began by canvassing members’ opinions through an online survey. We have been hugely impressed by the number and quality of the responses. It’s clear that we have a supportive and (over-used word alert) passionate membership, who care deeply for our Club and are determined to see it thrive. The responses, and other inputs into the process, are now being worked up into a draft strategy document for the Committee to review and on which members will again be consulted.

Among the concerns and ideas raised in a number of survey responses was the need to establish coaching on a reliable basis for all squads and crews who need it. A related theme concerned graduates from Learn to Row and Explore Plus. We should ensure they can row with us in groups suitable to their stage of development, with clear routes into the racing squads for those who want that. Hopefully this will improve the numbers we integrate into full rowing membership. With this in mind we are beginning the recruitment of additional coaches from among the membership, and putting in place appropriate structures and tuition for them. If you might be interested in coaching, or at least learning how to coach rowers, please contact sara.reay@bedfordrowing.co.uk.

Towards the end of November a very successful evening was arranged by our Deputy President, Hugh Maltby with the former GB Olympic rower Nick Strange. His presentation and Q&A were greatly enjoyed and appreciated by all who attended. We’d like to arrange more such events over the course of time – do please contact any member of the Committee if you have ideas for future events.

Michele Fisher has arranged a Zoom get-together for 3:30 pm on Christmas Day – so there’s time to watch/hear the Queen’s broadcast first. Primarily intended for those spending Christmas alone, all are nonetheless welcome. There’s no agenda, but the more the merrier for this interlude of conversation and good cheer. Here are the joining details:- https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89749262064?pwd=NUJLOGpDYWZwY1NlYXBQVXpqQzlHZz09

Meeting ID: 897 4926 2064

Passcode: 560438

As you can imagine, all the chopping and changing has played havoc with the management of the Club’s finances. However, Treasurer Shane Roberts has worked hard since taking over in September to ensure that our expenditure is fully understood and under control.

Shane reports that we are in a reasonably good position. This has been due in no small part to the grants we’ve received from the Government via Bedford Borough Council and from Sport England. We are also grateful to the local private charity the Gale Trust which donated £5,000 for junior coaching, and the Crowdfunder appeal to members and supporters raised over £3,000. These funds have given us a platform to sustain our financial stability for some time yet, without depleting reserves to troubling levels. However, they won’t last forever. The sooner we can restore our usual sources of income from the bar and rowing event fees, and grow our subscription-paying membership, the better.

Finally, I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very merry (if somewhat constrained) Christmas and a happy New Year – I look forward to seeing everyone in 2021.