MONMOUTH SCHOOL’S rowers stormed to gold at Britain’s National Schools’ Regatta in Nottingham, ending a 30-year wait for a second Championship title.
The coxed four crew, stroked by GB junior cap Will and backed up by Dan, Alex, Rob and cox Gabriel, put the disappointment of a fifth-placed finish in their eight 24 hours earlier behind them, hitting the front and racing clear in the last 400m of their 2km six-boat final.
It is only the second time the Wye-based school has lifted a Championship title, following victory in the same event way back in 1984.
They weren’t the only school crew celebrating at the National Water Sports Centre as their U16 clubmates raced to coxed four silver.
Things looked hopeful for the U18 four when they set the fastest time in the opening time-trial by 1.77 seconds, followed by victory in the semi-final by three seconds from Royal Shrewsbury, just fractions of a second slower than Shiplake and Evesham in the other qualifier.
Shrewsbury shot off into a length lead by 500m in the final, with Monmouth just in second ahead of Shiplake and Eton College.
Driven on by England, they slowly hauled the pacesetters back, opening up on the field behind them, and the gap to the leaders was just feet with 500m to race.
Monmouth were unstoppable now, and burst through with 40 strokes to race, surging clear to win by a length in 7mins 3.38secs, with Shiplake in silver and Evesham pipping Shrewsbury for bronze by a tenth of a second.
“It was an absolutely fantastic performance, they executed the race plan perfectly,” said delighted crew coach Robin Fletcher. “I wanted them to be patient in the first half, get a really strong rhythm, then really attack in the second half, and they were just brilliant. I’m delighted for them.”
The day before, the school eight had suffered the agony of missing out on a podium spot in the 1st 8s event in a blanket finish after going through half-way in second and 1500m in third.
And Fletcher added: “We had a bit of illness in the boat, but went all out to try and win it and just got out-sprinted at the end. But to bounce back 24 hours later in the four and race like that was an amazing effort.
“I thought we were onto something after the time-trials, and to finally land another Championship event after 30 years is superb.”
Master in Charge of Rowing, John Griffiths, added: “It’s a historic result and one of which we should all be immensely proud.”
Coached by Rob Howe, the U16 four of Rory, Rory, Harry, Harris and cox Dominic placed second in their semi behind Aberdeen, and then just 15 minutes before the Championship medal race-off, followed the Scots home in the final, breaking well clear of the field to cross the line for silver six seconds up on Westminster.
The J15 four of George, Jasper, Matthew, James and cox James also made the final to finish sixth.
The boys’ U18 coxless four made the semis, finishing fifth, while the U14 quad scullers just missed out on a semi-final slot in the time-trial, alongside the the 1st fours crew.
Plans are now afoot to unite this year’s winning Championship four with the 1984 winners at Henley Royal Regatta in five weeks time – Steve Pearson, Adrian Graham, Richard Woods, John Matthews and cox Jason Theodore.