Commodore’s Report 2013- Richard Hendron

2012, the year the Olympics came to London, sixteen unforgettable days that brought the nation together in sporting glory. London delivered undoubtedly the best Games that has ever been seen, a games that dazzled the world. After the games the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, declared. “It is now time for a little triumphalism and pointless displays of irritating flag-waving jingo”. Many of our members were involved in the games and were instrumental in the running of the canoe and kayak events at Dorney Lake. Particular mention goes to Sue Middlehurst, Gaby Stevenson, Trevor Wetherall, Wendy Periera and Catherine Pickering for their efforts in running the canoe and kayak events.

The games did inspire a generation, as well as captivating the imagination of all regardless of age or level. I have no doubt the games has, whether consciously or subconsciously, positively inspired our members in one way or another. One of “LOCOGS” (The London Olympic Organizing Committee) aims was to positively encourage people into sport, and to encourage people to be the best they can and fulfill sporting potential, whether that’s at Olympic level, national level or local club level.

As a club our challenge comes in ensuring that all those that want to, can fulfill their potential, whether that’s reaching division 7 or going to the Olympics. In recent years Richmond Canoe Club has made significant strides in improving the coaching, the coaching structure, and progression pathways that actively assist in athlete development, helping those who want to, to achieve their potential.

The novice section continues to be strong thanks to Coralie, Ian, Jemima, Jeff Lindsay, and others who have put in place a robust structure for novices that is well considered and aids development and progression. The junior section continues to grow and go from strength to strength, thanks largely to the hard work and dedication of the junior coaches. Particular mention goes to Tim Middlehurst who has put in place a clear pathway of junior progression, which has proven successful. Thanks and praise also goes to the other junior coaches who include, Mick Fegent, Tony Waszkiewicj, Sue and Wendy to name a few, and who provide considerable wisdom and give up considerable amounts of time to coach on average 40 kids a week.

Looking at the canoe club now, it is hard to believe that when the club was started it was predominantly canoe not kayak, and remained that way for many years until the kayak section grew, forcing the canoe section to rapidly shrink. The demise of canoe shared many similarities with the demise of the red squirrel. The squirrel numbers went into rapid decline as the stronger, more robust grey squirrel muscled in. The Grey squirrels were more forthright, more pushy, their squeak was louder and their bite was sharper. The grey squirrel signaled the end of red squirrel in much of our woodland.

The canoes in this situation are the red squirrels, pushed to the brink of extinction in many canoe clubs up and down the country, with few pockets remaining. We are one of those last remaining pockets. The Isle of Wight is a sanctuary for the red squirrel in the same way as Richmond is to the canoe. Canoe has not suffered the same fate at Richmond as elsewhere, as we have had a particularly robust, stubborn, territorial, rampant, some may say feral form of the red squirrel in the form of Marcus Gohar.

Marcus has been instrumental in developing and growing the canoe section at Richmond. Despite still being relatively small compared to kayak, it is strong. These red squirrels at Richmond appear to be genetically tougher than their predecessors, and this year we have seen Marko obtaining selection in C1 for the Europeans, and other international events. Marcus is also assisted by Louise Phillips who has been instrumental in supporting the coaching structure for canoe. It is largely down to the commitment of Marcus that Richmond is now seen as the premier sprint canoe club in the country.

We have been fortunate that Marcus has been able to put in the time he has as he was a paid coach by Canoe England. However within the next few weeks Marcus’s role comes to an end. I am pleased to announce that Canoe England is providing us with a new position of club development coach, which is in the majority funded by them with the club having to make a small contribution. Marcus will take up this position, however it will be less than half the hours he has now. Our challenge comes as we look to the year ahead in building up the structure around canoe, increasing the number of coaches to ensure resilience, and ensuring clear pathways in canoe that will enable people to achieve their potential.

Moving on to competitions and results. We have continued to be strong on the ground especially in marathon races. In the Hasler series we saw 352 crews race across 21 races achieving 82 promotions. In the Hare and Hound series Richmond dominated in numbers thanks largely to a high junior turnout. Over the series we saw 74 separate crews race, with many racing multiple times. We won two series prizes, best vet and best junior. The Marathon National Championships were last year based at Norwich and saw a healthy Richmond turnout. Lizzie Broughton continued her domination becoming national champion in both K1 and K2 in the senior ladies field. Harry Wells became U12 national champion as did Lily Wong. Renee also became U14 national marathon champion and Ellie Tomkins became U12 lightning champion.

On the international side Richmond enjoyed its best year it has seen for decades in terms of people getting selected for International events. Lizzie Broughton and Gaby Stevenson were selected by the organizers of a promotional international race in China.  Lizzie Broughton also attended Copenhagen for the Marathon World Cup and won the K2 race. In addition Lizzie also attended the Marathon World Championships in Rome.

Marko and Adam in canoe both got selected for the Piestany regatta with both winning medals. Both subsequently raced at the junior and under 23 European Championships, with Marko narrowly missing out on the A final. Marko then went on to make the final of the prestigious Olympic hopes regatta in Hungary. His 500 metre time of 1:59 and 1000 metre time of 4:10 are almost certainly some of the fastest ever times by a British junior C1 paddler. Oliver Khlaf was selected for the Gent marathon and finished well. Nick Romain was selected for Sobeka and also finished well. Nick is on the verge of selection for the sprint squad and it looks hopeful he may also achieve selection in marathon too. It is encouraging to see juniors coming through the system now and making it onto the international stage. I am certain that with the current junior structure this will continue. The masters continue to be strong too and we achieved success at the Master Sprint Worlds when Balaz, Gabor, Paul Stromsoe and Shane O’Cuinn won the K4 event.

As well as attendance at the internationals and Hasler races, Richmond continue to be strong at the more quirky races, showing the diversity and breadth of peddlers we have. 6 paddlers attended the Glasgow to Edinburgh race, with the junior crew of Isaac Blackman and Fred Scheske winning the race overall, and breaking the senior record. 11 people attended the Liffey Descent, 10 attended the Avon Descent and Richmond won the Cokethorpe team race.  In the Waterside Series Richmond entered 63 crews. Richmond continue to dominate the DW, winning the Team class and the Trans-Team class, and fielding  juniors, senior doubles, K1s and canoes.

The Richmond Races (Hasler marathon, Frank Luzmore and Good Friday Sprints) continue to be well attended. Tribute must be paid to Will Abson, who in his role as marathon sec has encouraged participation at races and organized both the Frank Luzmore and Hasler event. While thanks go to Wendy Periera and Sue Middlehurst and their team who organized the Richmond regatta at Littleton Lake.

It is clear that the canoe club is full of life, enthusiasm and upbeat tones, which is demonstrated via attendance at races and the buoyant nature of people around the club. The club coaches have been a vital part of Richmond’s success and tribute and recognition must be paid to these coaches. While we have much to be proud of, and it is important that we acknowledge our considerable achievements, we must not become complacent or coast. There is a lot more potential across the board at Richmond waiting to be unlocked. There is a lot more that we can do to help paddlers achieve their potential. We must continue to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Winston Churchill once said “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”.

Improving the gym equipment and increasing the gym capacity as well as the paddle machine capacity is one way that we can change and improve which will help people achieve potential, especially in winter when there is considerable congestion and competing demands for gym space and time. This is an area that I intend to address over the coming months.

Working with Marcus we aim for the year ahead to start to install a robust coaching and progression structure for canoe, however this will take time, as new coaches need to be developed and nurtured. Improving the kayak coaching and progression structure is another area of focus for the year ahead. We need to ensure that the coaching and progression structure enables those who want to, to achieve their potential. While the novice coaching structure is clear and robust, when people move beyond the novice remit, our progression structure is not so clear and a little diluted.

Richmond Canoe Club remains a unique and quirky sprint and marathon racing club. Our credibility continues to rise as we start to produce more and more international athletes, and get more people out to races at all levels. The outlook for the year ahead and the future is very good indeed. A special mention and thanks must be made to all the volunteers who make RIC what it is- the coaches, committee members, galley volunteers, and race marshals. Robert Kennedy once said, “few will have the greatness to bend history, but each can work to change a small proportion of events and the total of those acts will be written in the history of a generation”.

Every individual volunteer in the club, whether it’s driving the trailer to races, coaching, or running the galley is helping to shape the history and success of the club and its paddlers. It is the sum of these efforts that makes Richmond Canoe Club what it is, enables us to produce success, and makes us true to our motto, “Progredimur”, the first.

Commodore’s award.

This year was a particularly easy decision when deciding on the commodore’s award. Without the involvement of this person, it is likely we would not be sitting here today and enjoying the great facilities that we have. I am of course talking about Sean Martin. Sean served for over 10 years as commodore, carrying out his duties with diligence, tact, diplomacy and above all with great common sense and reason.

However, few will remember the days of the old club house when the lease was rapidly running out and the committee was at stalemate with the developers, who just had to sit out a few years for the expiry of the lease when they could have evicted us and developed as they wished.

Sean realized this and came in and took over as commodore and immediately started negotiating with the developers, rebuilding bridges and starting a dialogue which resulted in them giving us the freehold, in return that they could build the flat on top. In essence Sean not only saved the club but safeguarded its future for generations to come.