In many ways this was not a season I would have chosen to end my time at Monkton, with a scarcity of wins overall and a particularly disappointing year for the 1st VIII.
Other frustrations shared by coaches and crews included: - the J14's crashing the octuple Hex every time it came out gleaming from the workshop after their last breakage! (at least four times in a row!); - the constant battle to get out a consistent J15 crew despite the large number of fourth form boys rowing; - the realisation in Nantes that running 1st Eight, 1st Four or even 1st Pair was not going to be competitive enough; - the J16 4- pulling up after 500m in their Nat Schools semi-final; - the Girls 1st IV not making it through the eliminators at National Schools and then finding out that their first-round opposition at Women's Henley had actually won that event overall!
Nevertheless, the dedication, perseverance and support from the coaching team, as well as enthusiasm, commitment and talent from many of the boys and girls themselves, once again more than made up for the disappointments. As a result, despite many setbacks there were still plenty of real highs to savour during the season. These included: enjoying the sunshine and friendly banter when coxing the girls senior novice IV at the Gloucester Head; - the sheer enthusiasm of the J14 quad (and their parents!) as they won through three races to reach the final at Coate Water Regatta; - the Girls 1st IV displaying pure aggression in storming away to win the S4 coxed Fours event at the same event; - the J16 coxless four whilst representing the region, rowing down St Paul's School to gain the bronze medal in the Inter-regional Championships; - Will and Piers after only 3 weeks sculling together, winning through a round of Championship Double Sculls; - Jamie Jameson's delight at seeing the J15 coxed four not only get through their heat to the semi-final of Nat Schools, but after a tremendous race, lose out on a place in the final by only 0.1 seconds; - Sarah Springett giving her absolute all while coxing the 1st VIII during the Henley Qualifiers.
Also after losing the legendary Barry Taylor to St Paul's School in February, apprehension pervaded the whole Boat Club for a time. Yet how lucky were we to be able to replace him with two great guys (on a job share!), in the form of Mike Smith and Carl Purchase. Both practical, down-to-earth locals, with a love of boats and rowing! A particular regret of mine in leaving Monkton, was missing the opportunity of working with these two for a longer period of time.
Finally, Will Quayle and Esther Vernon have done superb jobs as Captain of Boats and Club Secretary respectively. In what was a difficult year for the Senior Boys, Will did really well to come through injury to eventually gain selection for the England VIII at the Home Countries International in Cork, Ireland, in July. He has also once again showed that top class sport can be successfully combined with academic work by gaining 3 A's in his A level exams! Esther likewise also led by example and her exceptional stamina displayed in the Girl's 1st IV was purely as a result of gutsy commitment shown to all aspects of the training, throughout the year.