30 Jun 2010
Andy Ripley, a Corinthian sportsman in the truest sense of the word died of prostate cancer recently.
He was part of our crew that broke the London to Paris record in 1999. I still recall stroking the crew into Paris with a very large “Rippers” (his nickname) behind me in the bow. I remember calling for a final 20 into the finish of our stint. You could feel Andy “lifting the boat on his own” such was the effort he was putting in!
He was Chairman of Tideway Scullers Rowing Club, an England rugby player, a seaman and winner of World Sporting Superstars, a true superhero who I am proud to have been friends with.
By Royal Approval
18 Jun 2010
It’s been an exciting week on the water. We were third in the Masters Rowing Championships at Nottingham getting home by 600th of a second!
Last year we came second and went on to win at Henley Masters. This year though we’ll be resting on our laurels as a crew member will be in Denmark during Henley.
Yesterday was more relaxed with a visit to Ascot. As usual I was wearing full Highland dress which, as any Scotsman worth his salt knows, does not include headgear. I’ve been a member of the Royal Enclosures at Ascot for 21 years and have been wearing national dress for 15 years. It all started when I glimpsed an Indian gentleman wearing his national dress. It was then I hit on the idea of wearing my own national costume. I checked with the palace and indeed I was told Highland dress was acceptable and no hat was required.
While I was standing beneath the Royal Box next year in said Highland dress I was politely accosted by a “green velvet jacketed” gentleman, those who ensure there is no trouble, and was asked if I should not be wearing a hat, or a Tam O’Shanter? I assured him this was not the case and almost immediately a young lady appeared to reassure him. The green jacketed steward glanced up at the Royal Box and tugged his forelock. So you could say I am there, hatless, by Royal Approval.
Ice Floes and Oars
14 Jun 2010
At the tail end of the Royal Geographical Society AGM in Kensington I bumped into Shane Winsor the woman in charge of the field work section.
Shane was able to introduce me to Peter Webb who, 10 years ago, rowed around Spitsbergen, the largest Norwegian island of the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.
I had already read his book, ‘Ice Bears and Kotick’, so was delighted to meet him.
For anyone interested in reading about Peter’s adventure, maybe as an inspiration to join our own Row to the Pole, it is described as ‘the story of an impossible boat journey that two men made for the fun of it.
'They rowed through pack ice and polar bears, survived whales, starvation and capsize and in doing so they completed the first circumnavigation of the Arctic island Spitsbergen in an open row boat.
'Along the way they learned about themselves, about life and experienced a wilderness that will most likely disappear before the century is out. This is a story for small-boat sailors, for lovers of ice and snow, and for anybody who wanted to run away to sea.’
By coincidence he completed his epic row with Phil Ashby who participated in our very first polar race – in 2003 – small world!
A quart into a pint pot
07 Jun 2010
I don’t often get a free weekend with my busy schedule and when I do the old saying ‘trying to get a quart into a pint pot’ comes to mind.
Saturday began at 7am on the rowing ergo, keeping my training going. By 9am I was helping clear out the garden shed at the club – rat droppings and all!
The afternoon was more pleasurable with a trip to the Derby and Tattenham Corner. I’m not a betting man, I only bet once a year at Ascot, but I love the atmosphere of the races. So I was delighted to stand among the thronging crowds in shorts and t shirt and watch Sir Michael Stoute’s horse ‘Workforce’ come home in a record time.
The evening in contrast saw me donning my tuxedo for a friend’s 50th birthday party on Henley-on-Thames until 1am.
I was up at 6am on Sunday morning and heading for Dorney Lake with trailer to pick up a new German rowing eight my club had just bought from Cambridge. Once home a quick trip to the local car boot fair turned up a bargain. A copy of Sir Matthew Pinsent’s book ‘A lifetime in a Race’ was only 5 pence – I thought it might come in handy. Always a Scot!
Then it was on to the local Highland Games at Richmond, organised by the London Scottish Rugby Club. I was particularly enthralled to see Gregor Edmondson, Scottish World Champion, tossing the sheaf. Now that is a real skill.
A quick bout of rowing in my crew at 4pm and then finally home exhausted!