London rowers soaked up the atmosphere as men’s and women’s crews representing the capital city battled it out in the inaugural Power8 Sprints event in Bristol.
The first ever Power8 Sprints event was the headline act on the water at the annual Bristol Harbour Festival on Sunday 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 while London’s representatives were unable to bring home the silverware, University of London rower Tom Worthington believes the event will boost the profile of rowing.
“We had a good race, we were up against the home favourites Bristol and it was our first time racing over 350m as we’re normally used to racing over 2k,” he said.
“We’ve had a great time and although we lost the race, we’re just enjoying the atmosphere around us, the crowd was fantastic, and we just soaked it all in.
“We’ve loved Power 8 and it’s a really good initiative from British Rowing to have this new style of racing, short sprints, and I think it’s really boosting the image of the sport.
“We have loved representing our city, we’re all at university in London and we’re representing London, which we think is really cool, and had a great time.”
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.
The men’s team lost in their opening race to Bristol in one of the tightest races of the day, before the hosts went on to final where they were beaten by Manchester.
In the women’s event, London overcame Manchester in their first race to set up a semi-final with rivals and eventual champions Oxford, who proved too good on the day.
Each city crew raced in a unique and vibrant colour, allowing fans to get behind the team of their choice, and Alexandra Stonehill said the event was a cool new direction.
“It’s definitely different to all the racing we’ve done before and it’s great, it’s so quick as you have to give it everything you have and then it’s over,” she said.
“It was really cool to look across the water and see another eight people in a boat who were ready to go out and lay absolutely everything on the water.
“We’re all just working for the same goal and it’s just been nice to do something completely new compared to a lot of the racing we do throughout the season.
“I think it would be a really cool direction for rowing to take as it’s a different perspective for the spectators as well as for the athletes.”
Former Olympic champion Mark Hunter, who won gold at Beijing 2008, was City Champion for London and supported the men’s and women’s teams in the build up.
And Hunter, also a two-time world champion in the lightweight double sculls, said Power8 Sprints is exactly what the sport of rowing needed to freshen up the sport.
“It’s something completely different to what we really associate with the sport as we’re used to racing over 2,000m and this is over 350m,” he said.
“We’re always trying to move forward and challenge people’s ideas about what they think about the sport, moving it away from being a long race into a short, explosive race and bringing in a different dynamic of people.”
The inaugural Power8 Sprints took place in Bristol on 22nd July. To find out how the action unfolded visit www.power8sprints.com