Ely Head Race 2019

On Sunday 3 November a trailer full of Champs Boats set off to Ely for the 5K Head Race. We were relieved to see the weather gods were smiling on us and blessed by no wind OR rain! Rachel Newell made her maiden voyage as trailer driver and all the boats arrived safely.  W1 ‘Dawn raiders’ did a very good time and were second in their category of 7 completing the race in 21.52 and ended the race with a rousing finish of ’10 for John’ cheered by our wonderfully committed coach John Welton and President Keith Benton.

Carole ‘David Beckham’ Mills did 3 races in: a) a single and won, b) a mixed Budapest quad with Cantabs which was fastest in their category of 1, and c) a double with Phil Jones. There was also a double for Steve Millar and Trish Reed, our club captain, and William Dulyea in a single with a time of 24.08.  Steve and Phil also fought it out in the singles category!  All good times and all happy and great preparation for head race season as 5K is a very decent distance.

William Dulyea recounts, “After having been off the racing circuits for a few years now this was a very nice race for me to pace my level. I have trained for months now with plenty of erg time and the ease of the first half of this race reflected this. The second half got a bit more challenging as the fatigue started to settle in. To keep myself motivated I was lucky enough to be chased by Phil Jones (our sculling guru from Champs) who managed to make noticeable gains on me up to the finish. I had to work hard to stop him from coming by so I will need to up my training. Overall a fun race and it was nice to work with the rest of the Champs crews and help out.”

The joy of this race is the wonderful stretch of river and the relaxed marshalling as well as of course the cakes- both Ely’s usual amazing cake stall and Laura Neild’s tin of home made birthday doughnuts. As ever with these events its not just the rowing that counts but the cakes, the chat, the jokes that make the loading and unloading process go faster and mean we all went home happy and full of Ely air.  Big thanks to the Isle of Ely rowing club for making us welcome as always.

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Order your winter Champs kit now

I’m hugely excited to say that The Champs kit room is now open for orders at: https://www.crewroom.co.uk/collections/champion-of-the-thames-rc The case sensitive password is available on the Champs Kit page on the members website. 5% discounts will be applied on checkout for JL unisuits, Long Sleeve JL Tech tops, Crewroom leggings, Tundras, Zephrs and Hoodies. And even more excitingly, we now can order custom Champs rowing bra tops!

Deadline 5th November so get those orders in. 

Good opportunity to stock up the winter kit cupboard in time for the Winter League racing.

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A fantastic year for Carole Mills

Champs has a very well run sculling school that goes out on a Saturday or Sunday morning (depending on races etcetera) and Carole Mills, our sculling captain, along with others from Champs and other Cambridge clubs went to compete at the World Masters in Budapest in September.  Given fierce and impressive competition Champs ‘punched well above its weight’ and Carole came second. Carole has had a fantastic year winning a gold at the National Masters in Strathclyde in June and a gold at Henley Masters in July, culminating with a second place at the World Masters. As a result Carole – to her surprise as this is an award she would normally announce- won the most improved scullers trophy for women. Well done Carole!

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Autumn Rowing

Although we all love those Summer outings, events and training there is something very special about Autumn rowing. This is a photo of our W1 crew this Sunday morning at 8am emerging from the mist on the water.  The club is focussed now on preparing for Autumn and Winter Head Races on the Cam, the Thames and Ely.  That means lots of 2x6K ergs, circuits, weights and ‘so many squats you can’t get your jeans on’ according to the W1 coach John Welton. All the Champs crews are looking forward to the head race season ahead after a successful summer and Bumps where W1 got their blades and the ‘returners’ – a crew of x juniors just back from uni – also got their blades including an over bump- you can’t ask for much more than that.  One of them had to bump her own mother to achieve it but Champs is a family friendly club and no one could have foreseen just how far and how fast a scratch crew full of determined young women would go.

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Champs AGM, 14 October at The Boathouse Pub

The Champs  AGM was well attended and there was standing room only at one point in the Boathouse Pub. We are very lucky to have Keith Benton as our President and Pete Twitchett as our Chariman for another year and they and other Champs officials gave speeches, appointed new volunteers to key roles and awarded prizes for most improved rower, sculler, cox and many more.  It’s a credit to the club that so many people volunteer to run the club gather subs, pay race fees, look after child welfare, manage the budget, attend CRA meetings, organise some very good social events, run sculling school and many many more duties that makes Champs the club it is.

Trish Reed in the photo has done a fantastic job captaining the women for the last year and was voted in to become overall club captain for men and women.  Trish will be supported in her role by a team of 2 captains (senior and intermediate) for the women Sam Hulston  and Sarah Corcoron respectively. Trish will be identifying a captain for the men and will be fully supported in this role by us all. We all know that means more 2 K tests at Christmas to inform selection process but it’s a formula that has worked well for the last year and it keeps us training! Trish also runs sculling school with Steve Millar and Carole Mills so this photo shows her getting an impressive trophy for her contribution to the club over the year. We would also like to thank Maura Rutter who has stepped down after several years as Secretary and John Tasker as Treasurer.

However rowing isn’t all about awards and trophies and erg test tests! Champs is an inclusive club that welcomes new comers and we have a clear structure of induction for new members and volunteers also put themselves forward to run the induction scheme at the AGM. We welcome new members who are keen to row and join in. If you are willing to learn and improve and become part of the club we would love to hear from you.

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Champs Eights Head 19th May 2019

Thank you to all competitors who raced in Champion of the Thames RC Champs Eights Head on Sunday 19th May 2019. Divisions were at 12:00, 13:30 and 15:00 with racing on a 1450m course from the Plough to the site of the former Penny Ferry pub.

Congratulations to Newnham W1 and Caius M1 who both broke the course records and took home magnums of champagne (as well as prizes for the most impressive starts). Full results and links to race photos can be found via the event page.

John Stewart and Helen Patterson Trophies awarded to the fastest Men’s and Women’s Crews
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CANCELLED: Champs Junior Sculling Head

Due to adverse weather forecasts, and in the interests of safety, we have taken the decision to CANCEL the Junior Sculling Head race on Sunday 10 March 2019. Conditions as forecast (particularly wind speed) are such that we cannot safely run this event.

Entrants will be emailed individually in the coming hours.

Posted Friday 8 March, 1045hours

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Champs Junior Sculling Head – 10th March 2019

Visit the event page for full details and links to BROE2 for online entry

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Champs news – we’re living up to our name

The last few months have been a whirlwind of successes for the club. In October seven Champs scullers braved the first arctic blast of winter at the Norfolk long distance sculls completion where they were treated to driving rain, hail, sleet and rainbows!  Many did the 5K race twice, but their efforts were rewarded as they won both the women’s double (Carole Mils, Louise Affleck) and women’s quad scull categories (Helen Christy, Denise Williams, Trish Reed and Anna-Louise Lawrence).


Carole Mils and Louise Affleck with their pots for the Norfolk long distance double sculls 

Helen Christy, Denise Williams, Trish Reed and Anna-Louise Lawrence winners of the quad scull category at Norfolk long distance sculls 

Carole then went on to win in a single scull at the Ely Head in November and take home a real pottery pot to add to her large collection.


    Carol Mils with her pot from Ely Head

To kick off the holiday season the scullers continued their winning streak closer to home, on a very windy Cam, with women’s master single and double scull wins at the CRCC Christmas Head in Cambridge. The men’s first crew also came away as the fastest men’s eight in the event completing the 1.8K course in 7.26 minutes. 


Men’s 1st crew coxed by Bonny O’Hanlon

They were joined in their celebrations by the women’s third crew who successfully won in the women’s novice eights class, showing how seasons of hard work and training together have created a strong and competitive unit.


The results of these races show how our crews are developing and we whilst we look forward to a bit of a rest over the Christmas holidays, we plan to share more of our winning streak in the New Year.


 Women’s 3rd crew in fancy dress for the Christmas Head
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Brian Ellis 1932-2018

On the last night of Town Bumps, over a hundred people rose to their feet to applaud a lost friend, Brian Ellis, who died on Tuesday June 17, aged 86. The assembled Champion of the Thames (‘Champs’) Rowing Cub members were celebrating the memory of one of the great characters of the River Cam, and remembered him too by chanting “Legs, Legs, Legs!” his famous coaching line, exhorting rowers to get their legs down for a really effective stroke.

Louise Affleck with Brian Ellis

Brian with Louise Affleck at Bedford Small Boats Head

President of the ‘Champs’ Club since 2008 (and a Vice-President of the Cambridge Rowing Association), Mr Ellis was often known as ‘Bogie’, a nickname he shared with his father. Last year, he celebrated seventy years ‘on the Cam’. Born in 1932, Brian used to come down to the river as a young schoolboy and offer to hold the horses during the bumps – in the days when bumps crews were still accompanied by coaches on horseback.

After national service as an army driver, Brian was briefly a chef at the University Arms. He joined Wallers’ Butchers that was run by the Weltons, a well-known Cambridge rowing family who understood his need to combine work with the river. Later, he worked with Malcolm Smith at Malcolm’s Meats before becoming a bus driver. On the buses, he was described as ‘always laughing, noisy and fun’.

He married Mary Haynes in 1953, with whom he shared a love of cycling, and often cycled a tandem to Hunstanton and back. They had a son and two daughters – Peter, Alda and Barbara (Barbara sadly died young aged 35 years). His daughter Alda recalls ‘‘we were always going for days out and if it wasn’t the seaside, it would be the banger racing. We were the first people in the street to have a car even though you did have to sit in the back with an umbrella!” Brian and Mary were devoted to each other, and Brian cared for Mary with great dedication in the last years of her life, carrying on preparing food for her even when she was moved to a nursing home. She died in 2005.

Brian in a scull

Brian in a scull

Rowing was a constant thread in Mr Ellis’s long and active life. First rowing as a 15 year old in 1947, starting as a cox because he was told he was too young to row. He was a serious competition rower over many years and a Champion Sculler on the Cam. His last competitive race was Town Bumps in 2000 with ‘Robs’. Eric Smith recalls: ‘Brian was tasked with filling the 12th boat. He announced that as this was his last competitive event he would only race for one minute – after that he would dip his blade and let the rest of us race. We ended up with 3 bumps and a row over (on the Friday night).’
He coached Richard Moseley as part of ‘Robs’’ First VIII when he first arrived in Cambridge in 1969 and started rowing for Rob Roy (‘Robs’). He also coached Richard Moseley when he was a member of the fastest four in Cambridge. Mr Ellis coached Christ’s College crews – but when the latter wanted to pay him and he said ‘just buy me a bottle of wine’.

One of his many successful scullers, Chris Owen recalls: ‘Brian first started coaching me in 2003, slightly bemused by a junior from 99s (not known as a sculling club) ploughing up and down the Cam powered only by brute force and ignorance. One of the most special wins for me was winning the fastest scull in the Rob Roy Small Boats Head, as Robs sculler, after Ben Caulton [who Brian coached in 2005-2006] had a few years before me and one Brian Ellis several decades before us both!’

Mary Twitchett says: ‘Brian started coaching me as a novice sculler in 2003 after competing for CUWBC as a lightweight. Brian never missed an outing. Always encouraging, always with a stopwatch – and always telling us “Legs, Legs”. We had an amazing two years unbeaten in local regattas and then Henley Veteran championship and National Rowing championships. In Vienna 2009, I won the World Masters in a double scull with Susan Brown. Without Brian none of this would have been possible. Pre-race, he would always say ‘Fill your lungs’ – it is something I still do pre-races and encourage the athletes who I coach to do. It calms your thoughts and reassures you that you are ready to race well’.

Brian with Mary Twitchett (r) and Linda Dennis (l) at Henley Veterans Regatta, 2006

Brian Ellis was quite simply an inspirational coach, determined, wryly humorous, with a natural gift for picking up on what a rower or a crew needed to think about on any particular day – he coached more than one generation of several Cambridge rowing families. Carole Mills recalls: ‘he coached both Louise Affleck and I until October last year when he could no longer get down to the river. Often, we’d arrive for an outing and he’d say ‘I’ve been thinking about you two’ and would come up with an innovative outing plan to get us thinking or working in a different way. He had a fantastic way of motivating us. I hear his voice in my head all the time when I’m racing, especially at the finish ‘now take it home!’ It was always worth racing well just to hear him say with great relish ‘we had a cracking race today!’

Carole Mills with Brian at Henley Vets – 2016

A gifted rower in his own right for many years, he was a most constructive and positive coach, and in old age cut a dignified figure in a thick blue jacket and bike helmet, riding his electric bike on the towpath – a long way from the horse-riding coaches and cedar-skinned sculls of the 1930s and 40s. Mr Ellis – and his inimitable smile – will be remembered with deep admiration and affection by many members of the Cambridge town clubs, especially ‘Robs’, ‘Nines’ and ‘Champs’, with which he had the closest associations.

Brian Ellis

Brian with his trusty electric bike, ready to coach scullers

Obituary kindly written by Jeremy Musson

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