John Fazakerley, a stalwart of the Midlands rowing scene, former captain of Birmingham Rowing Club, reveals his rocky road to “glory” in the Henley Royal Regatta.
Part One of a Five Part Series
It was fate that put me and rowing together. From an early age I was intrigued by the Boat Race and remembered seeing a very grainy black and white TV transmission from Henley years before.
Even the comic I read, was it The Victor, had a serial about a lad from Cornwall who aspired to greatness with Oxford.
And that was as far as it went for years.
Rowing wasn’t exactly a major sport in the Black Country; it was all football and cricket. As a tall, very skinny kid, I was not one of life’s first picks at Grammar School – where rugby was added to the mix – for any sport. In fact I was invariably the last. In seven years at senior school I never once represented it at anything.
I was once picked to throw the discus in a B match (the boy doing the measuring charitably let the thing roll a few yards), but was dropped the next day when Itchy (don’t scratch boy) Green, the sports master, found a lad in the year below who could sling it farther.
No understanding arm around the shoulder and word of explanation – just my name scratched out on the team sheet on the notice board, for all to see. Did I take some stick!
There was eventually redemption however. I fortunately had a friend with a brain, and he’d passed for Cambridge, whilst I was to join the ranks of the local accountants.
He thought he’d have a go at rowing with the local club in Birmingham, so I decided I’d go along.
After 10 minutes in the tub the coach asked if I’d done it before, this felt good.
At last I’d found something that came naturally and felt right. I got stuck in, and the 6ft 2in, 10 stone, weakling soon filled out to something more respectable. I was put in a crew, harangued into fitness by the captain, an aggressive terrier of a bloke, and won Novices.
The penny dropped, if you worked hard enough, success could come.
The Henley Regatta will once again be the highlight of the British summer social calendar.
For more information see our Henley Royal Regatta Hospitality Packages page.