Nottingham Rowing Club has its first woman Captain

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Thursday, 06 November 2014 22:04 Written by Administrator Last Updated on Thursday, 06 November 2014 22:18

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Helen Bloor has been elected as the first woman Captain of Nottingham Rowing Club in its history. She takes over from Mark Cooke, who continues in the role of the club's Business Manager. Helen remains as Women's coach but is currently interviewing all coaches before planning the way forward. Helen has been involved in the sport since 1980, and she describes her rowing career below:

"I started rowing in 1980 aged 14 and at the Becket School, where I was coached by Fred Brookes. I made good progress and was selected to race in a Women's Junior 2- in the Anglo French Match in 1982.

Then I was  selected as a  GB Junior in 1983 and 1984, but had to commute to London every weekend for 3 months and then live there for a month as I was the only member of the squad who lived outside London.

I was offered a scholarship to row in Columbia University in America, but back in the day that was a big thing and I declined.

The following years I raced with the senior women and won lots of National Championship medals and even completed five Boston Marathons, winning on each occasion, and after each one swore I wouldn’t to it again…but I did! I also spent a lot of time in a very successful mixed four which was great fun.

The first Nottingham Boat Club win at Henley Women’s Regatta win was in 1993 when I was fortunate enough to be a part of the winning crew with Louise Platts, Melanie Cane (now Fergusson) and Kate Gisby (now McManus). We had a very successful season, winning most of the major regattas and Henley was the icing the cake.

The following year I won again with a different coxed four, this time rowing in Staines Boat Club colours.

I was back in my favourite boat, the pair, in the following year but only managed the position of losing finalists at Henley for a few years but lots of National Championship medals kept me hungry for more. In the mid 90s I teamed up with friends from other clubs and again won Home Countries medals and National Championship medals and more losing finalist positions at Henley Women’s.

Sadly in 1998 I had a car accident and lost movement and strength in my right arm which meant no rowing for 2 years, so I drifted in to coaching with all that spare time.

Back in a rowing boat 3 years later I raced and coached a winning 8 in the WEHORR and we were delighted to all be invited to the presentation in London a week later.

My first Henley win as a coach came in a pair with Berni McCabe and Pippa Danks who had been undefeated all season. They went on to win Gold at the National Championships in Strathclyde. The next Henley Women’s win as a coach was a shared win with athletes from my squad and Ade Robert’s squad in a Senior 4x. A very close win, but a win's a win!

So I kicked Pippa out of the pair as she was far too young and jumped in to join Berni to race in Prague at the World Veteran Rowing Championships in a Women’s Veteran A pair. We won a gold in the pair and 2 more that year in Women’s Veteran A and B eights.

At the following years World Veteran Championships, this time in Strathclyde, we retained our title again winning in the pair and also the eights.

For a couple of years I was asked by Ade Roberts to jump in to his WEHORR 8 at the last minute, to race with the youngsters. I loved every minute, survived and picked up some fabulous finish places.

In 2008 I contracted ME, and for two years struggled to sustain any level of coaching activity and couldn’t row at all. It was a very emotional and difficult time but the family that is the rowing club all rallied round, supported and helped me get through it. Being stubborn I dismissed most of the advice to rest up but of course they were right and my recovery took much longer.

Four years later a return to racing resulted in a Henley Masters Gold in an 8 with my squad and then a return to the World Masters Rowing Championships in Duisburg with a gold medal in a pair with Pauline Bird. This was such an emotional race against some of Pauline’s previous Olympian peers as not only was I recovering and maintaining recovery from ME, but Pauline had undergone serious surgery on one of her lungs. We were called the comeback kids and both went on to win a second gold medal in a composite 8 which also had Sarah Royles in it and was coxed by Ashley Hewitt.

Another gold in the pair with Pauline in 2013 at the World Masters Rowing Championships in Varese meant we retained our title, but 2014 with the event taking place in Australia meant that this title was won by someone else. Maybe in 2015 at Hazewinkel we will take it back…

2014 was a great year for my squad as we won lots of events and helped secure the Victor Ludorum at the British Masters event in Nottingham. I was fortunate to win 3 gold medals but I was in great company as most of my squad came away with either 2 or 3 Gold medals so we definitely had a great day at the office that day!

Shortly after this came Henley Women’s, where we very nearly caused an upset in the final of the Intermediate 8 and were losing finalists to Thames.

As far as general club stuff is concerned, for many years I was on the committee of the club and also Secretary for the East Midlands Reqional Rowing Council. More recently, well actually for the last 10+ years, myself and Lynn Danby, a former senior rower in the club, have been Secretaries for the Head of the Trent and Nottingham City Regatta. There are a few of us on this Regatta Committee who have been there for a while waiting for others to join the fun.

So now Captain and a new challenge. I feel very privileged and honoured to be the first woman to be club Captain and I hope I manage to do as good a job of it as previous Captains."