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Video: TV stars get Rowing Club help for race
Published 10/05/13



TELEVISION presenters Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury raced against each other at Henley Rowing Club.

Click here to watch our special video report of the race.

They went head-to-head in a girls versus boys contest filmed for an episode of the BBC’s Countryfile to be broadcast next Sunday (May 19).

Bradbury, 42, coxed the J18 quad, mostly made up of the winners of the inaugural junior women’s quadruple scull event at Henley Royal Regatta last year.

They competed against the J15 quad which won the Junior Inter-regional Regatta a fortnight ago but with Baker in the bow seat.

The crews rowed about 250m upstream, finishing outside the clubhouse. The girls pulled away shortly after the start and finished about a length ahead of their rivals.

Members of the club cheered on the crews from the riverbank and the balcony of the clubhouse.

Former Olympic rower Sarah Winckless arrived at the club midway through filming for a sculling practice and was surprised to see all the activity.

Baker, 35, who had never rowed before, admitted he had underestimated how difficult it would be.

“I didn’t actually think it would be scary,” he said. “Just trying to get the co-ordination is a lot trickier than it looks. To be honest, it’s very sobering to experience what these guys do, which is just phenomenal.

“I never normally go to the gym or get on rowing machines or anything like that but it’s a really good workout — you can really feel it. It’s a great form of exercise.”

He had spent some time getting to grips with the basics with help from double Olympic champion Pete Reed, of Leander Club.

The presenter practised his technique on an ergo before transferring to the water in a scull boat, watched by members of the club.

Reed, who umpired the race on board the Hobbs of Henley launch Enchantress, praised Baker’s enthusiasm.

He said: “It’s always very difficult getting started in the boat. We started off on the rowing machine which is nice and stable and that gives people a false sense of security.

“Matt’s a gymnast so he’s got the balance and the core for it and he’s actually pretty good.”

The girls’ crew, Pippa Birch, Maddy Wynn Jones, Jenny Norman and Alice White, were impressed by Bradbury’s ability as a cox.

Alice said: “She was really good — good motivational calls, really nice and loud. Matt looked a bit splashed with water so I felt a bit bad for him.”

Christy Stephens, who coxed the boys’ crew of Aly Roy, Ricky Hart, Harry Farley and Baker, said: “For a beginner, Matt was actually quite good.

“The race started off pretty rough but it got better. The boys adjusted so they kind of accounted for it and just went for it.”

Harry said: “It was interesting having Matt, who’s a novice rower but did very well.” Aly added: “He’s a nice guy, a genuinely good personality, and he’s funny so we enjoyed ourselves.”

Tom Skinner, one of the coaches of the boys’ crew, said the event was fun for everyone involved.

“It’s a big change for them because normally training is quite serious,” he said. “We train five times a week and they row at a pretty high level.

Hopefully, people will see the programme and be encouraged to come down and try rowing.”

Cameras were attached to Ricky and Jenny’s heads to capture the reaction from Baker and Bradbury during the race.

The BBC film crew also interviewed four-times Olympic champion Sir Matthew Pinsent as well as Henley Royal Regatta secretary Daniel Grist and chairman Mike Sweeney.


Published 10/05/13

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