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Henley Royal Regatta 2016: Life of a Rower – Part 5

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.  This is the final instalment in our series.

Henley Regatta Rowing – The Life of a Competitive Rower

Even in his late twenties, Colin owned a caravan. We camped at Swiss Farm, and every morning three of us would crawl from our wind battered, rain sodden tents to seek the warmth of the van.

Colin would serve us tea and cheese on toast, all at very reasonable rates. He had us believe he was a big cheese with Tarmac, but I think his secret life was running a truckers tea stop just off the M54.

We’d head for the river and plough up and down the Reach in ever worsening conditions. We’d take on anyone, and it usually ended in defeat. The draw had been published; we had City Orient, and spirits soared when we saw that they were all about 11 stone.

Come on! Were we really going to lose to a crew of emaciated Eastenders? No chance!

Race day came.

We were the penultimate race before lunch. It was bloody cold and the rain was coming in sideways. We nervously edged into the start gate. A quick look up the course didn’t help; it seemed plenty wide enough when you’re on the bank, but just a bit tight when you’re sitting in it.

Mr Magoo was frantically cleaning his glasses, but he’d cope.

Down went the flag and we were off.

Draw, draw, draw, bloody hell this feels alright, we’ve already grabbed two seats! Then the inevitable thwack! Mental note to Roddy, cork buoys are there as a steering aid, they’re not a slalom course!

And Orient were away.

We bashed on up the course, there were some slightly embarrassed cheers of encouragement from the Barn, a couple of club members who had loyally come to support us. The result hardly needs recording.

Orient politely waited as long as they could at the finish line to offer three cheers, but eventually paddled off to seek the relative warmth of a Henley shower. For those who haven’t experienced them, they’re sourced from an artesian well under the Chilterns ice cap.

And that was it, all that time, sweat and effort to be first round cannon fodder.

No polite victory, no applause, and certainly no nubilty.

We were just four more logs casually tossed onto Henley’s ever burning funeral pyre of broken dreams, Birmingham ash mixed with Stourport dust.

Was it all an unrealistic ambition, why had we bothered, given the result it seemed silly.

To quote Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood: “Take me back, Carry me back, Back to Gasoline Alley, Where I started from.”

Was there anything to be recovered from the wreckage?

Three of us tentatively asked about Stewards Enclosure membership, Paul was already a member. We were ushered in to the Presence, a real Steward no less! Forms were signed with due decorum, and two hours later we had the precious badges.

A ten year waiting list? I don’t think so! 1978 was a great year!

Henley Royal Regatta 2016: Life of a Rower – Part 4

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 Four of a Five Part Series.

The 1978 regatta season opened, and we didn’t have much success; to be honest, absolutely none at all.

Nothing daunted, the Henley entry went in.

A few days later I phoned up to check the state of play. The phone was answered in those lovely crisp clipped tones of Home Counties West. She just had to be a Celia, possibly a Johnson, hopefully an Imrie.

“Yes Mr Fazakerley, there are 39 entries, there will be a qualifying time trial to reduce the field to 32.”

This wasn’t really what I wanted to hear.

It was time to turn on my rough Brummie charm. It is said locally that the only true Brummie is one who is born within the sound of another Brummie whining about something.

I was from West Bromwich, but could give it a good go. “Alroight then Bab, yo wo be needing us then, woi won at Oironbridge last year.”

The stunned silence from the other end of the phone said it all. I’d clearly made a big impression. She had her revenge.

The day in question saw us in the nervous melee of qualifiers waiting below the start. The Stewards had kindly left a gap big enough to get a bus through, sideways, for access to the course. All that was left in the river was one innocent wooden pile, minding its own business close to Temple Island.

We lined the gap up, or so we thought, and charged for the start line.

With an ominous crunch we slewed sideways, blade wrapped round the pile, at dead stop.

To say Roddy hadn’t quite got the line right would be an understatement. We unscrambled ourselves and shot off up the course, all plans thrown to the wind, it was desperation. Roddy at least kept it straight, Paul stroked the boat admirably from two. Colin did what Colin did best, looking straight down the lens of any passing photographer, and I just hung in there.

We crossed the line, and paddled in in silence. We disembarked in silence, and showered in silence. With nothing better to do, we walked over the bridge, and found the only segregated pub in Henley, ex Grammar School boys at one end of the bar, an ex Public School boy at the other … and he bought all four rounds.

We wandered back without hope, to be greeted by Stourport, also required to qualify, grinning like Cheshire cats.

They saw us, and gave us the thumbs up, more thumbs than you might expect from a coxless four, but that’s the Wyre Forest for you.

Could it be? We checked the results board. YES, WE’D BLOODY DONE IT!

Straight back to the pub, Roddy was now the hero of the hour.

For more information see our Henley Royal Regatta Hospitality Packages page.

Henley Royal Regatta 2016: Birmingham Rowers

Birmingham Rowing Club’s involvement with the Henley Royal Regatta is distinguished if irregular.

It won’t be represented when the regatta starts this week but is hoping to tap into the publicity the event will give to rowing to help promote plans for a £2 million re-development of its facilities.

The club did not enter a four at Henley and sadly Steve Byford failed to qualify for the Diamond Sculls. A great pity – an injury did not help – as his story is quite remarkable.

He started as a complete novice last season and, by the end of the season, had worked his way through all the intermediary levels to be ‘elite’. The hope is that he can continue to progress.

The club though has plenty of ambition and, with Birmingham Canoe Club, has a redevelopment plan for its headquarters at Edgbaston Reservoir to create a state of the art water sports centre with facilities for other sports and community activities. Planning permission was granted last December.

Birmingham Rowing Club president Peter Veitch said: “The new centre will include boathouses, changing rooms, a gym and café, all built to a high quality to replace the existing facilities.

The Club has been based at the Reservoir since its foundation in 1873 and operates from 1960s vintage industrial buildings and some freight containers which provide poor quality accommodation for the children and adults who row and canoe there.

The centre will provide a base for Birmingham Rowing Club, B-Row, the University of Birmingham Boat Club and Birmingham Canoe Club. It is a very exciting development.

“Currently, we are investigating the possibility of obtaining charitable status, which would greatly help our cause. However, new boat launching facilities form part of the project and we hope to make a start on those by the end of this year.”

Down the years the club has seen a series of Henley Regatta highlights

1904 saw SE Alldridge, bow, JW Frame, SH Johnson and FC Glover, stroke, win the Wyfold Cup in the final against London in controversial circumstances.

The Birmingham boat was going much the faster when a series of bumps occurred, London being right out of its water. The Birmingham craft passed the post locked with London. Then a shout came through the official megaphone on the umpire boat ‘Birmingham, the race is yours. I disqualify London for fouling’.

A fantastic outcome. It was to be a long time before another BRC crew was to even compete at Henley – in the 1970s with Chris Llewellyn, Paul Warnett, Colin Loveday and John Fazakerley.

Birmingham rowers make big splash at Henley Regatta

However there were exceptional individuals who kept the club’s flag flying.

Ken Tinegate arrived back from World War II, where he had served in the Royal Artillery, to find he was the only active member and no boathouse – it had been commandeered by the

Admiralty for the use by the Sea Scouts.

But such trifling matters were not to put him off. In both 1949 and 1950, along with Boris Brown, of Loughborough Boat Club, he reached the final in the double sculls at Henley, only to be beaten on each occasion by a very strong pair from Denmark.

And the pair represented their country at the same event in the 1950 Empire Games in New Zealand, winning a bronze medal.

It is recorded: “Had they not suffered the misfortune of having their boat smashed by a piece of driftwood on their last practice – a mishap which compelled them to compete in a strange boat – they might well have won.”

However, ten years later George Justicz, one of Birmingham Rowing Club’s best ever performers and a former captain, went one better.

Justicz had already had success at Henley in 1956 stroking a Royal Engineers crew to victory in the Wyfold Cup. Then in 1960 and 1961 he won the double sculls together with Nick Birkmyre, of Ariel.

Many further Regatta appearances have followed down the years though with no such comparable success. But that has never hampered the club and today it has a thriving and rapidly developing senior men’s and women’s squads plus a junior squad who compete all over the region all year round.

“No need to worry about not having people to row with – we take anyone of any ability,” said Mr Veitch.

Many of the club’s members will be in attendance at Henley this week.

Birmingham may be a long way from the sea but there is still plenty of enthusiasm for rowing.

The Henley Regatta will once again be the highlight of the British summer social calendar; with the iconic five days of action starting today.

If you want to join us at the fantastic event, view our Henley Royal Regatta Hospitality Packages!

Henley Royal Regatta 2016: Life of a Rower – Part 3

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 Three of a Five Part Series

I suppose the result of all this training was inevitable. I drifted into work one morning to be greeted by the receptionist.

“Graham wants to see you.”

Graham was the staff partner; our paths rarely crossed.

He was 5 ft 10 inches of square jawed, thick necked, barrel-chested, bow legged 1st XV hooker for an eminent local side. He was not the very model of a modern HR manager.

I breezed in. “Morning, Graham, how are you?”

He was looking a bit grim.

“Sit!”

A polite précis of a very one sided conversation would be along the lines of “look chum (any four letter word beginning with the letter C denoting friendship would have done), you’re not turning up for work with your usual vim and vigour, if you have a problem with substance abuse, the partners will happily help you sort it out, in your own time and at your own expense of course”.

The speed with which my jaw hit the floor would have done justice to a Tom & Jerry cartoon.

Did he really think that my carefully crafted balance sheets for his Black Country metal bashers were the work of a complete dope head? Evidently yes.

I managed as best I could to explain the Henley ambition, the training, Dave, etc. Suddenly his hard man façade lifted, he was round the desk in a shot, he broke into a grin and was shaking my hand. I might be a temporarily useless accountant, but at least I was One of Us, not One of Them.

The Henley Regatta will once again be the highlight of the British summer social calendar; with the iconic five days of action starting today.

For more information see our Henley Royal Regatta Hospitality Packages page.

Henley Royal Regatta 2016: Life of a Rower – Part 2

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 Two of a Five Part Series.

One summer someone suggested we drift down to Henley Regatta.

This was maybe 1974, and we were only slumming it, but I was immediately hooked. I wanted some of this.

What really sealed the ambition though was the final of the 1976 Thames Cup, when Henley RC went down in glorious defeat to Harvard by a few feet. That was it; I was going there!

I wanted to cruise up the sun dappled course, a couple of lengths to the good, to receive polite applause from an enraptured crowd, and admiring glances from the local nubility.

First thing, find a crew; simple enough.

Birmingham was then in a golden period, with plenty of graduates coming to work there, with time to still carry on playing sport. Would I swap with any current 25 year old? I doubt it, if you have a job your life’s hardly your own, and I feel for the poor sods without work.

So, whilst plenty of the members were fit and capable, who had the single mindedness to go the whole hog?

Colin, Paul, and Roddy, that’s who!

I was tall and talented, Paul was tall, talented, and experienced, having been to Henley with UCL, and Colin was, well, tall. What we needed was a bowside steersman. Roddy was medium height, lean, fit as a butcher’s dog, and technically very good.

There was just one small drawback, it was his severe myopia, wearing glasses (more like goggles) that fogged in the lightest rain, and seared his eyeballs in the sun. Without his glasses, there was distinct resemblance to Mr Magoo. Still, he was hewn of public school granite, he’d cope.

We only needed three more things for everything to come together, a boat, a qualifying win, and a coach.

The only boat we could get our hands on belonged to Birmingham University, and was made of five- ply, but it floated and went roughly straight.

Back in the 1970s one couldn’t enter the club level events at Henley without a win at a high status in the year before entry. Henley didn’t cater then for rowing riff raff. Numerous tries failed to get the win, but then came Ironbridge.

Great regatta, Ironbridge! A nice bendy course, plenty of scope for cheating, and the banks were head high in the sort of elephant grass that devoured umpires.

Senior A4s was the top event that year, and we had a straight final against the old enemy, Stourport, surely we couldn’t cock this up?

We didn’t.

Off the start like a rocket, and then lean into Stourport on their bend to minimise their advantage. We held them with blades interlocking, but thankfully not clashing, with all the usual Anglo-Saxon pleasantries exchanged. Then it was our bend, whip the rudder over, and cruise home a length to the good, top crew of the day!

Now we needed a coach to take us to the next level.

We found Dave. Dave was a sculler, one of the gun slingers of the sport. He was mean, moody, and a loner. He was a fitness fanatic.

Winter training in the week consisted of impossible weights sessions mixed with mile after mile of pounding Handsworth’s dark streets.

Rowing at weekends was a never ending sequence around Edgbaston Reservoir. Lacking the imagination to change direction, we ended the winter with a strokeside built like Charles Atlas, and a bowside like Charles Hawtrey.

Summer wasn’t any easier. Dave was dedicated to interval training, the endless repetition of short intense pieces of work, separated by shorter rest periods. Dave however, regarded the rest periods as an effeminate irrelevance.

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.

Henley Royal Regatta 2016: Life of a Rower – Part 1

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.

Henley Regatta Receives Record Entries for 2016

The 2016 Henley Royal Regatta has received a record number of entries, highlighting its position as the world’s most famous and prestigious rowing event.

The previous record was set in 1998 when 552 crews entered the event, but that number has been smashed in 2016 with 629 crews. The number of international entries the regatta has received has also smashed all previous records with 165 crews entered (133 overseas crews entered in 2012).

These entries come from a staggering 27 different countries; another record which beats the total of 22 nations set at the 2013 Henley Royal Regatta.

Stars return looking for more glory at the Henley Royal Regatta 2016

One of the stars of world rowing will return to the Henley Regatta next week as New Zealand’s Olympic Champion Mahe Drysdale; he will be looking for his sixth win in the Diamond Challenge Sculls, which would equal Australian Stuart MacKenzie’s record which has stood for more than 50-years.

The Dutch eight, who have won the first two World Cup races of the season will be looking to complete their preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics, as they compete in the Grand Challenge Cup alongside the Dutch pair and Dutch four.

While the majority of the British Olympic Team will not compete at the event but there will still be a strong representation from the home-team with former Junior World Champion Jess Leyden and the lightweight women’s quad who took the silver medal at last year’s World Championships.

Great Britain’s talented pair of Jack Beaumont and Nick Middleton will be looking to continue their fine season, after making two World Cup Finals, they will compete in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup.

Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Committee of Management of the Henley Regatta said: “The record entry level reflects the prestigious appeal Henley Royal Regatta holds for rowers at school, club, college, university and international levels.

“Personally I am looking forward to seeing the men’s double sculls having seen the GB boys come through the ranks and Jack recently made two World Cup finals in a day after being subbed into the quad and winning a silver. There’s a strong chance they’ll meet the Belgium Lightweight double which will make for an outstanding race.”

With just a week to go until the start of the Henley Regatta 2016 we still have limited hospitality packages available.

Why not join us there next time? For more information, see our fabulous Henley Regatta Hospitality Packages.

Henley Regatta Menu Confirmed for 2016!

Having discussed the menu requirements with Denise I am delighted to confirm full details of the fare being provided for VIP clients attending the Henley Royal Regatta later this year.

This will be the first time that Eventmasters have had representation on the banks of the Thames and the brief is that the catering experience will need to be of the very highest standards, many of our clients that attend Twickenham comment on the quality of the catering included within our rugby hospitality package, we are looking for the same high praise but with a completely different menu design.

The day will start from 11:00am with a brunch, canopy selection that will include

  • White Truffle & Wild Mushroom Omelette
  • Blanketed Toulouse Sausage
  • Croque-Monsieur
  • Virgin Mary Shots
  • Welsh Rarebit Barquettes

All of course accompanied by a glass of Champagne.

Lunch at Henley Regatta

Our lunch will be available from 12:00 noon

Artisan Breads, Balsamic & Olive Oil

Grilled Asparagus & Poached Free Range Egg Hollandaise

Slow Roast Chicken, Prawn & Scallop Mousse stuffing, Chardonnay & Scallions Fumet
Rosemary & Wild Garlic Fondant Potato
Roast Mediterranean Vegetables

Eton Mess & Florentine Wafer

Selection of English Cheeses served with Grapes & Millers Biscuits
(Oxfordshire Organic Cheddar, Cropwell Bishop Stilton, Lightwood Chaser, Red Storm)

Our Sommelier will be confirming the wines selected to accompany the lunch provision shortly.

The afternoon “tea party” will start from 4:30pm, and will include a selection of traditional sandwiches, cakes, fancies, strawberries and cream, a proper English afternoon tea.

Afternoon Tea

Smoked Salmon , Cream Cheese& Cucumber
Roast Beef, Horseradish & Rocket
Egg & Watercress
Scones, Strawberry Jam & Clotted Cream
Fresh Strawberries
Victoria Sponge
Lemon Drizzle
Macaroons
Fresh Fruit Platter

Coffee / Tea & Speciality Teas

I do hope to see you at Henley Royal Regatta, if you are attending please drop me a note back with any thoughts that you may have on our menu, I am always pleased to hear any recommendations for future consideration

Bon Appétit

Henley Royal Regatta 2016 – the Boaters Enclosure

With just over a month to go until the start of the Henley Royal Regatta 2016, one of the highlight events of the British summer, we take a look at our brand new facility – Boaters Enclosure. For the first time in 2016, Boaters will open its doors to guests looking to enjoy this unique sporting and social occasion.

The Henley Regatta has been the world’s leading regatta since first taking place in 1839, attracting some of the best rowing crews on the planet including Olympic teams, who compete in 200 international standard races across five action packed days.

The combination of history, sport and style make this an extremely popular fixture of the British social calendar, with thousands of fans flocking to the picturesque Oxfordshire countryside to enjoy a glorious day on the banks of the River ThamesHenley40Discount

Boaters Enclosure to provide the finest hospitality at the Henley Regatta 2016

In 2016 Boaters Enclosure will provide guests with a luxurious environment where they can entertain their important clients and guests, while still experiencing all the things that make the Henley Regatta such a special event.

Its prime location offers sweeping views of the iconic Temple Island, with its 18th century folly designed by James Wyatt; as well as the start line where the crews begin all of the races at the regatta.

Seeing these world class athletes in full flight is certainly a sight to behold and it doesn’t get any better than being up close to the action.

This stunning package includes all the finery that you would expect from a VIP hospitality package of the finest quality including; a luxurious marquee on the banks of the Thames with a private garden area, four
course fine dining experience, fine wines, complimentary bar, afternoon tea and much more.

Get your straw hats, dresses and blazers at the ready for the this unmissable summer event.

For more information please follow the link to our Henley Royal Regatta hospitality packages page.