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Power8 Sprints hailed a success by Cambridge rowers

By Andrew Baber


Semi-final defeats for men's and women's crews

Rowers representing Cambridge in the Power8 Sprints said they enjoyed every minute of the inaugural event after men’s and women’s crews battled it out in Bristol.

The first Power8 Sprints event was the headline act on the water at the annual Bristol Harbour Festival as thousands of spectators enjoyed the thrilling action.

Eight cities – Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford – represented by men’s and women’s crews went head-to-head over 350m to be crowned champions.

And despite both Cambridge crews being knocked out in the semi-final, men’s rower Carl Shiplee believes the event will really boost the profile of the sport.

“It’s been a really enjoyable experience,” he said. “We came here and we obviously wanted to win and we obviously haven’t won, but we’ve enjoyed every single minute of it.

“It’s been so much fun, a lot different to what we’ve been used to racing over 2000m, but that’s probably what’s made it really good, so it’s been fantastic to be a part of it.

“We had to approach racing a lot different to how we normally would do. It’s a flat-out sprint, so there’s no settle, there’s no ‘right, get into race pace’.

“We’ve got to start hard, stay hard and hope you’re in a good position. There’s not much time to react and if anything goes wrong you’ve just got to get on with it.

“It’s a shame that we didn’t reach the final, but we raced hard, raced well and it was really good fun. The racing’s great and it’s what we do this sport for.

“I think it’s going to really boost the profile of rowing in Britain. It’s something that I think we’ve needed to try and do for a while, they had something similar out in Germany.

“It’s hugely popular over there, so hopefully it will just encourage more people to get involved, more people to come down and watch it.”

British Rowing launched the new short-course competition, instead of the usual 2,000m, to help broaden the appeal of rowing and bring fans closer to the action.

In the men’s event, Cambridge started with a win over Newcastle in the first round, but they lost to eventual champions Manchester in their semi-final.

The women’s crew overcame Exeter in their opening race before losing their semi-final against hosts Bristol – not that it put a dampener on the day for Jess Bell.

“It’s been really interesting, normally when we’re racing it’s over such a longer distance and there’s more crews involved, but it’s two on the course, a minute long,” said the cox.

“It’s different to anything we’ve experienced before, such big crowds, so much noise, such a great atmosphere and then you’re having to focus in on such a short, sharp race.

“I think we did well, given that we hadn’t had much time together as a crew beforehand we really came together. We had a few practice sessions that were getting better and better each time, so I think we had a fair shot at it.

“It also brings other people together from different clubs, having to adapt to one style of rowing, which may not be what they’re used to, so that’s a good learning curve.”

Reigning Paralympic champion James Fox, who was victorious in the LTA mixed coxed four at Rio 2016, was the City Champion for Cambridge.

The three-time world champion was on hand to give the men’s and women’s crews advice and support in the build up and he said Power8 Sprints is exactly what rowing needs.

“There have been calls for rowing to be more exciting and more appealing for spectators and I think 350m is awesome for that,” said Fox.

“You can see the whole race and it’s just a lot more exciting as it’s smaller margins and faster racing.”

*The inaugural Power8 Sprints took place in Bristol on July 22. To find out how the action unfolded visit www.power8sprints.com


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