Madras International Regatta, Madras Boat Club 1867 – 2017

In July, Janet Vickers from the Academy of Sport and Physical Activity visited Chennai, India to take part in the Madras Boat Club’ 150th year celebration regatta. 

In May an email arrived from the Madras Boat Club in Chennai, India inviting Sheffield Hallam University Rowing Club, along with clubs from the University of Sheffield and the City of Sheffield to join their 150th celebrations, a three day international sprint rowing event on the Adayar River, close to the Bay of Bengal.

There are two active members of the Madras Boat Club at SHU; PhD student Fazila Husain and alumni Rohit Ravindra (BSc Hons. Sport Management).

As coach of the SHU rowing club I knew I would have to make this once in a life time opportunity happen. Without much discussion a team of six rowers from Sheffield Hallam University and City of Sheffield Rowing Club took a leap of faith; we entered the regatta and booked flights to India. I told my family I was nipping out for a curry! 

We were greeted at the airport and ushered to the Madras Boat Club, where indeed the curry was extraordinarily tasty.

We had a box of SHU Varsity T shirts and gifts for our hosts, and we readied the Sheffield rowing flag ready for opening ceremony where it alongside those of the teams from India, Sri Lanka and Austria.

The initial event at Madras Boat Club was my first ever press conference, the club is a highly prestigious sporting club of India with 83 employees, a thriving membership, rowing and sculling excellence, tradition and ceremony. We appeared on three National TV news bulletins and crew pictures were in both The Hindu and The Times of India.

July is a hot time in India, especially the South. Fortunately for us we arrived in Chennai during a ‘cool spell ‘ and for the first couple of days training on the river we managed to enjoy the social, cultural programme and train on the water in temperatures of around 35°C. During the three day regatta the sun came out and temperatures warmed to a sultry 40°C.

Fiercely competitive races between the Indian boat clubs, Indian Army crews, Sri Lanka, Vienna, Sheffield and Hollingworth Lake, Rochdale went on through the morning and afternoons in the searing sunshine. A herd of water buffalo having a cooling swim across the finishing line interrupted the final.

After final races, photo shoots were followed by inspiring speeches. The grandson of Ghandi presented winners with tankards. The Sheffield crew won prizes in women’s single sculls, double sculls and fours. What a fantastic experience.  A rowing regatta, a flavour of India and visits to the historical and cultural sites in the region of Tamil Nadhu. Our hosts at Madras Boat Club were the friendliest and most welcoming group of people we were privileged to meet.

After Madras I entered World Masters Rowing Championships, Lake Bled, Slovenia 6-10th September 2017. I’ve done this before but not for a while, it’s a good test! With 4,700 athletes it was the biggest regatta in the world, the down side was we all had to share a dozen portaloos at the rowing course

All the octogenarian  athletes were given a medal for coming!  Oldest athlete should have been GBs Charles Eugster 94, sadly he didn’t make it.

With crew mates from Sheffield and Upper Thames RC Henley we won the 55 age group in an eight. There were many Olympians and World champions present and lucky for me we had several of these in our crew pulling us to victory.

Later in the week I won in the coxless pairs (average age 60)with Vicky McDougall City of Sheffield giving me a few years!  attached are two pictures of that


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