It is with deep regret that we have to inform you that ULBC legend Mat Cooper passed away suddenly on Sunday 11th October 2015, at his home in Sydney, Australia. His death, of a heart attack, at age 67 was totally unexpected and came as a great shock to Marion, his wife and their three boys; and to his family in the UK.
Mat Cooper arrived at the University of London in 1966, reading Physics at Imperial College. However by then, he already had a formidable rowing pedigree, rowing at Henley for the first time in the Visitors Challenge Cup for his school IV in 1964. In 1965 whilst still at school, Mat doubled up at Henley in the Thames Cup and the Wyfolds for his club Derby Rowing Club; equaling the Thames Cup record in the opening round; and going on to win the Wyfold Challenge Cup, steering from the bow seat; and setting records all the way.
Mat soon turned found his way to ULBC and in 1967, after a very successful domestic season, he was in the ULBC VIII that lost narrowly to Tideway Scullers in the semi final of the Grand Challenge Cup. However, he got his revenge a year later, winning the Grand with ULBC in 1968. Later the same year, the ULBC VIII with Mat in the bow seat, was selected to represent Great Britain in the Mexico Olympics.
Mat was a very laid back person and nothing fazed him. One enduring memory was on the way to Berlin Regatta early in the 1969 season. Travelling by road and towing our own boat through the East German corridor into West Berlin, with the whole VIII crammed in a British Leyland minibus, the tow bar snapped part way along the corridor and the trailer overtook us, swerved in front of the van and finished up lodged in trees on the side of the autobahn. Luckily, the boat and blades suffered no damage. An East German Border Guard soon arrived complete with machine gun. We left Mat to it with his charm and his ‘O’ level German and were soon on our way again after an East German mechanic welded everything back together, only to meet Ratzeburger Ruder Club, the 1968 Olympic Champions on the start in the first race.
Later the same season, Mathew gained selection for the European Championships in Klagenfurt, Austria in the coxed pair.
Another abiding memory of Mathew was his total exhaustion, spread-eagled on the ULU gym floor after a Charles White circuit. He gave it everything he had every time.
Having left university, two years later, in 1971, he won the Henley Grand for a second time with Tideway Scullers, and in 1972, showed his rowing versatility by competing in the Munich Olympics, this time in the coxless pair.
In his latter years, Mat turned his hand to coaching with some success, and was out on the Parramatta with his King’s School, Sydney crews, the day before his death.
In July this year, Mat and his wife Marion were over here at Henley, to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of winning the Wyfolds with Derby Rowing Club, by rowing over the Henley course with his original crew. A 21,000 mile round trip just to get a row in and meet old friends! That was Mathew, it says it all! It is a good way to remember him.
It was a privilege to have known Mathew and our thoughts are with Marion and her family at this time.
Written by Andy Bayles