In the true spirit of UL, there is never a definite beginning or end for the men and women at the purple palace. Between Henley and our official start on 3rd October, athletes have been hitting the ground running with preseason training. Last weekend at Wallingford reflected their hard work, reaping early rewards for what hopes to be an exciting season.
Last Saturday saw Phil’s first pennant haul of the season as chief coach at Wallingford Long Distance Sculls. Giving substance to UL’s surge on the university rowing scene, new and returning athletes rose to the challenge of the 4500m upstream course to take seven pennants and two fastest crew times of the day, outshining local rivals Molesey BC and Imperial College London BC.
There were five wins in the Single: Two from Suzi Perry and new recruit Ailish Sheehan in Women’s IM3 and Women’s Novice Singles, with three coming in from Matt Bedford, Ed Surman and Richard Clarke (Senior, IM1 and IM2 respectively) on the men’s side. Matt and Rich teamed up in the Elite 2x winning the pennant and clocking the fastest doubles time of the day. The women also brought home a crew win in the Women’s Quad of Emma Reiser, Amber Simon, Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne and Suzi Perry with the fastest women’s time of the day.
While the athletes painted the Wallingford stretch purple, the new coaching team of Phil Gray, Hugo Gulliver and Henry Fieldman were analysing and ‘purpling’ the yard of Oxford Brookes BC. However, in the first division, Brian Young, departing chief coach returned to join the new team in cheering on
This is what UL is all about. Like so many of our previous coaches, UL never leaves them, they never fully break from the club and are always keen to add to the legacies they leave behind.
On the athlete’s side, there was also no break from the day. Wallingford was just the warm up for Brian’s farewell do – a real Irish Knees up! Athletes swapped their fuel of choice from isotonic energy gels to Doombar and Peroni for what was to be a tougher session than the racing!
With traditional Irish Music and a dismal English rugby performance in the background, Athletes, Allumni and Coaches linked arms for a night of Ceilidh dancing, celebrating Brian’s achievements in engineering a remarkable transformation at ULBC. This farewell was a grand celebration of Brian’s continual passion for the club and formidable feats. For many of the members, the farewell party really hit home all the things that have transformed since his arrival. Starting with a club beset by severe difficulties, Brian oversaw and delivered the full merge of ULBC and ULWBC, multiple top ten finishes at HORR, a PA4+ win at HRR, continual domination at HWR, copious GB vests at U23 and senior championships, and three world champions in 2015.
I may have a biased view point here, but the two biggest statements that Brian left behind last year were the women’s senior eight at Henley Women’s Regatta and the two Temple eights at Henley Royal. The women’s tight clash with Oxford Brookes and the two UL Temple eights progressing as far as Brookes in the Regatta demonstrated that Brian, UL’s Greatest Irishman, has made UL into the most ambitious and ruthless underdog in British University Rowing. He has left the club hungry and incredibly excited.
We have the potential to do glorious things in the future and we undoubtedly owe our current position to you Brian, thank you very much.
ULBC’s Mens Captain for the 2015/16 Season