150 years on the banks of the river Neva.
The celebration of the English Rowing Club’s 150th Anniversary took place in St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg, 10-13 June
On 28th May (10th June according to the new calendar) in St. Petersburg a group of British Nationals who lived in the capital of the Russian Empire, founded the English Rowing Club. The club’s 150 year history was interrupted only during the later times from about 1994 up to 2010, when the club was revived as a symbolic gift by the 150th anniversary of the sport of rowing in Russia. Today, the English Rowing Club is the oldest surviving rowing club in Russia. The Emperor’s River Yacht Club, founded 4 years earlier than English RC ceased to exist a long time ago.
The Club’s Board undertook a thorough preparation of the anniversary. Thanks to the self-denying work in St. Petersburg’s archives and libraries of the new club archivist, Victor Victorovich Karpov, invaluable historical materials were found, which allowed getting a much more profound understanding of the traditions, rules, and the whole appearance of the club and first years of its existence; and to restore the historical flag and statute of the club. Results of this work are visible in a wonderful photo exhibition about the history of the club, in a book with a historical sketch and a set of archival documents, colourful and interesting booklet-almanac about the club in Russian and English. All these materials were presented to the public during the anniversary celebration.
On 10th June, at 8 in the evening, in the club’s saloon, the festive club members meeting took place, where Alexander Konovalov, the Chairman of the clubs committee, made a statement and a festive speech, addressing his friends in the club. After that the new English RC statute (which includes some historical articles of the original statute as well as new, up to date regulations) was approved. The essential traditions of the first statute was creating the club’s friendly atmosphere and good conditions for practicing sport, providing equality of members and their common responsibility for the club’s future – are kept in full.
After that one more symbolic event took place – all the club’s members, bearing the club ties and blazers boated the club’s “Viking” and visited the historical place where the English RC was founded – on the Petrovskiy Island, now the territory of the “Spectrans” plant. Thrice repeated over the glassy water “hip-hip, hooray”, commemorated the former generations of Saint Petersburg’s oarsmen, who once upon a time laid in this place the foundation for the future development of our sport. The program of the day was concluded by friendly tea time in the club.
If the celebration on the 10th of June, in the day the club was founded, had a close friendly nature, then on the 11th of June the anniversary became a property of the city’s public. In the presence of the veterans’ community, city rowing officials, honorary foreign guests, including Sir Steven Redgrave and London’s Olympic champion Nathan Cohen, the presentation of the photo exhibition and the club history book and the traditional press-conference prior to the “Golden Blades” regatta were taking place. The presentations were conducted by an outstanding rowing enthusiast and propagandist D.V.Guberniev. Official celebration was concluded by hoisting the traditional English RC flag on it’s rightful pole. After that the guests, who included the United Kingdom consul general in St. Petersburg, informally celebrated the historical event on the Unknown Island. On this special occasion the temporary pontoon from the club to the island was mounted.
On the 12th June on the Kronverk River the races of the traditional “Golden Blades” sprint regatta took place. Organizers corrected last year’s mistakes and changed the lanes and start pontoon positions; this allowed equalizing the chances of crews competing. This year again saw high standard competition– four crews from the Junior and U23 National Russian squads, as well as more international crews: the eights from the famous Berlin club “Viking”; crews from Israel, and the Olympic champion N. Cohen competed in a single. Traditionally, foreign guest performances were not successful – both eights were eliminated in the quarterfinals, N.Cohen in the semi-final had a difficult win, but in a final had no chance. In the open class, the English RC eight managed to gain revenge of implacable friends from “Znamya” RC, but that happened only in the B Final and brought 3rd place to the club. The victory in this event was celebrated by the young athletes from the Junior National team, who not too far ago won silver medals at the European championships. Also, traditionally in the University event the win was celebrated by the crew from St. Petersburg State University.
The regatta’s highlight however was very much related to the anniversary celebration. It was a friendly race of two old rivals – 8+ from English RC vs. “Znamya” RC (St. Petersburg rowing society, “German” RC). A hundred years ago these clubs had irreconcilable rivalries on the Neva waters with alternating success. To commemorate this page of rowing history and marking the jubilees of both clubs (“Znamya” RC celebrated its 125th Anniversary a week ago) the unique race was included into the regatta’s program. English RC was represented by the international crew D. Markelov, R. Vorotnikov, E. Andreev, A. Konovalov (Russia), S.Redgrave (Great Britain), N. Cohen, G. Sinclare (New Zealand), S. Wane (USA). Half of their competitor’s crew were Russians and half Germans from the “Viking” club. This was precisely the historical reconstruction of the real situation from 100 years ago, when the clubs colours were defended accordingly by English/Russian and German/Russian rowers.
The German club won. The crew demonstrated better bladework, which is so important for sprints. The “English” crew appeared to be not quite up-and-go, as to Sir Steve’s neat remark it was “too international”. However the losers were not too much distressed by this result – it was a joyful friendly afternoon, where all have been recalling glorious mutual history and hoped for a glorious mutual future.
The celebration was concluded on the 13th June by the most interesting theoretical and practical conference devoted to the perspectives of the further development of rowing in Russia, which was held in the club premises. Organized by the Amateur Rowing Association, it gathered around 100 participants from various regions of Russia from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok – presidents of the regional federations, officials of sport committees, universities’ deans, coaches and specialists. Two books of Sir Steve Redgrave were presented on this conference – the second Russian edition of his autobiography “Golden Age” and the unique textbook “Encyclopaedia of Rowing” (it will be distributed free of charge by ARA in the country’s regions) and also the book “Row in Russia”, prepared for the conference by ARA.
Among speakers there were as the specialists from Russia as well as foreign guests – S. Redgrave, M. Spraklen, N. Cohen, S. Wane (Harvard University), O. Baker (Oxford University), G. Sinclare (Otago University). Interesting and professional discussion of the perspectives of Russian rowing development lasted till late. No one urged conference participants – according to the first statute, the club was open until 3 o’clock in the morning.
In new format
The fifth championships of the revived English Rowing Club took place on the 20th July in Sestroretsk.
During the anniversary celebration, when the founded archive papers about the English Rowing club’s history were publicized, the Club’s Board decided to run the club championships in new terms and with a new formulation. In archives it was found that the annual club’s race took place, according to the statute, on the third Sunday of July, along the 1.5 km (5250ft) course. Repeatingthese rules in full was not possible this year due to bad weather and the race course was reduced approximately down to 600m. Nine rowers raced for the Champion title, and at the first time the semi-finals were included into the Championships program. The main final saw the defending club’s champion A.Konovalov, going through his second sportive youth veteran A.Fedorov and keeping wonderful fitness A.Kabaylov. The race promised to be interesting, but the weather prevented it – big waves disturbed rowers right up to the late evening, when organizers could not delay the race anymore. As a result Alexander Kabaylov became the new club’s champion, by overtaking Alexey Fedorov at the finish line. The Club’s Board plans next year to finalize the improvement and stabilize the format of the club championships. It’s worth to remember that in the “former” history of ERC, the championship (annual race) was held in four boat classes: single, coxed double, coxed pair and coxed four. The “Silver sculls” prize was competed for in singles. The Club’s Board will need to integrate in optimal way the historical traditions to the modern club’s realia. That is possible that increasing the variety of boat classes will meet the interests of these realia.
Skills do not disappear
An English Rowing Club member managed to get two silver medals at the National Championships in Moscow.
24-28 June, Moscow
International standard rower Denis Markelov, last autumn recommenced his active sport career in order to try to be selected for the National team and be able to study the experience of the famous Mike Spraklen, and proved his high reputation of a multi-skilled master with wonderful schooling and training. As a composite crew member he finished the second twice in the coxless four and the eight, both times he lost to the top crews of the National team, competing with them was really not easy. Regretfully in spring D.Markelov stopped just a step behind the draw line of being selected to the National team. No doubts that his experience and skills would strengthen any crew he would row in, either eight or four.
The University of Otago men’s eight visited St. Petersburg and got convincing revenge for the last year loss in the Match.
St. Petersburg – Sestroretsk, 17-21 September
Contrary to the University of Sydney, who did not demonstrate an active wish to continue the tradition of rowing matches with Russian rowers, New Zealand students precisely followed last year’s agreement to pay a return visit to St. Petersburg with a dashing crew combination, lead by their university coach G. Sinclare, came on to the Neva. Accommodated in the club’s premises, guests combined pleasure in the training sessions on the Neva with sightseeing. The Match’s presentation was held on the 17th September in St. Petersburg University, where the guests danced famous Maori dance “haka” to traditionally scare their competitors. This time “haka” brought a success to New Zealanders. But in the beginning the guests lost to St. Petersburg students in the show relay 8x250m on the rowing ergometers, and on the 20th September – in a sprint race at Sestroretsk on the Razliv lake.
This time the winners were determined by a changed system, offered by the guests. It was simpler – the final victory should be passed to the team with the fastest summary time in all three races, and virtually the main prize was competed in the last and most difficult 6km race.
For a number of reasons, some of the strongest Russian students were absent and the St. Petersburg eight’s combination was not as powerful as last year. After a very hard season, the National team members D.Kuznetsov and D.Golovin were on holiday, R.Vorotnikov and V.Yanovskiy practically stopped active rowing. N.Kulenishev and I.Charkin were not in their best form after injuries and illnesses. The team was not preparing for the Match purposefully; the crew combination was formed only two weeks before the races, after the competitions of the official Russian rowing calendar were over. Finally the Univesity’s colours were defended by Isakov, Chelohian, Salmanovich, Charkin, Belyaev, Baklagin, Kulenishev, Koreshkov.
The advantage given to the New Zealand guests became obvious in the evening of the 21st September, on the ideal glassy waters of the Razliv Lake, on the 2k course they were more than a boat length in front of their rivals. That was clear then that to save St. Petersburg Univesity on the last stage of the competition there was to be an unexpected situation – the competitor’s steering mistake or something like what happened in one of the last Boat races between Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The 6k race – the culmination of the Match should be held in a unique format: never before, at least in the last decades, were there races through the whole city. The crews were to start on the Fontanka River near the Admiralty dockyards and after 5700m to finish at the Summer Garden. All water traffic was stopped for the time of the race.
The New Zealanders took confident start and did not make mistakes, even in spite of the fact that near the Anichkov bridge they met an insane man in a leisure motor boat, who instead of giving them a way literally rammed the University of Otago eight and forced it to move to the competitor’s lane. That did not influence the race itself as by this time the advantage of the guests over St. Petersburg’s University crew was more than 6 boat lengths, and eventually became 45 seconds on the finish line.
Otago’s victory in the Match was unconditional – even according to the old point system there was no need to count the points. In this situation the host side could only use the traditional expressions like “friendship won” and “no one lost that day”. Honestly there was hard to expect any other result – the rowing sport system built in New Zealand looks too advantageous and impeccable, in comparison with the shy attempts of revival of the international positions of Russian rowing. The small country won 6 (!) gold medals (and half a meter separated Olympic champion Mah? Drysdale from the 7th gold) at the last World Championships and demonstrated absolutely unique efficiency in searching and uncovering the talents, and within it the guests from this distant corner of our planet always show modesty, politeness and impeccable manners. Perhaps a really positive outcome of this meet is the possibility to study this wonderful experience and to prove and practice the possibility to run races on the tremendous course – along the whole stretch of the Fontanka river.
The St. Petersburg University team, formed and trained with the assistance of the English Rowing Club, marked its fourth anniversary. There were gains and losses for this period. The University’s eight keeps in existence and sets new aims for the next season.
Remembering a friend:
The international scientific conference, in the memory of Nikolay Sergeevich Kopanev, took place in St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg, 6th October
Apart from the main topic – history of philosophy and political studies – it included the round table discussion, devoted to the retrospective review of Russian rowing. Sincere enthusiast of rowing Nikolay Sergeevich paid a lot of efforts and energy to this subject. In the year of the 150th anniversary of Russian rowing, with his active assistance the first rowing manual in Russian, written by Englishman Willkinson was reissued, the exhibition about the history of the sport of rowing organized in the Russian National Library. Nikolay Sergeevich was the archivist of the revived English Rowing Club and made a lot to restore the history of the club. Unfortunately the jubilee’s celebration this year, finalized by the conference presentation of the club historian V.V.Karpov, happened without him. The club starts a new 50 years of it’s life, keeping memory of all its members and friends, who made a worthy input into the history of the English RC. N.S.Kopanev’s is one of them..