Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Doctor has winning formula

A DOCTOR who rows to keep himself “young” won his 20th competition at this year’s Wargrave and Shiplake Regatta.

A DOCTOR who rows to keep himself “young” won his 20th competition at this year’s Wargrave and Shiplake Regatta.

William Konarzewski, 63, was one of 700 competitors who took part in 361 heats and races on the Thames on Friday and Saturday.

More than 2,500 spectators watched the action featuring skiffs, canoes, dinghies and dongolas. A special dongola race was held at the end of the event to celebrate 125 years of dongola racing at the regatta.

The most successful competitor was Adam Pennock, who won three trophies, but the star was Dr Konarzewski, who first won the Mardon Challenge Cup for the gentleman’s single Canadian canoe in 1982. His latest victory was against David Corke and made him the oldest winner of the event.

Dr Konarzewski has a home in both Shiplake, where he trains out of Bolney Ferry boathouse, and Colchester in Essex, where he works as consultant anaesthetist.

He said: “I train very hard every day of the year. If I can beat young men in the water then physiologically I’m as young as they are.

“The atmosphere very much helps and I can hear people calling my name — that gives me a lot of adrenaline.

“I’m just a big fish in a very small pond but I want to keep myself a young man.”

Peter Symons, honorary secretary of the regatta, said Dr Konarzewski’s event was one of the hardest to win as it is over the longest distance and to win it 20 times was “unbelievable”.

“William trains all year, only for this one event,” he said “At 63, he should be way too old to compete seriously but he still does. He is super-fit.”

Mr Pennock, 27, from Wargrave, won in the mixed double sculling skiff race, mixed handicap double punting and gentlemen’s handicap single punting.

He has competed at the regatta for the last 15 years and was a member of Wargrave Boating Club while growing up.

Mr Pennock, a civil servant, said the single punting race, which includes four legs of about 100m, was “tough”.

“I had to go round the pole each end and it’s trying to keep that clean,” he said. “That’s where most mistakes happen.

“It felt great to win as I hadn’t entered that event for years.”

The regatta holds training sessions in the build-up to the event and Mr Pennock began practising two weeks beforehand.

He said strength was a key requirement, adding: “They are heavy boats so it takes quite a bit of weight and strength between each push to move them.

“There was a lot of noise from the crowd and that makes quite a big difference.”

The special dongola race was between the winners of the four dongola events and was handicapped according to their finish times.

Many Out, Many In, which had earlier won the Dongola Grand Challenge Cup, won by a quarter of a length.

Mr Symons said the fine weather had played a big part in a successful weekend.

A number of spectators erected gazebos and had picnics and drinks on the river bank and most of the crowd stayed until the end to see the special dongola race.

Mr Symons said: “There were lots of people shouting from the side and there was a great atmosphere throughout the day.The racing was particularly good — the standard these days for what is considered a fun event is extremely high.”

The regatta, which started in 1867 and is now thought to be the third largest on the Thames, was traditionally regarded as a humorous event in which competitors often fell out of their boats.

“Nowadays people take it very seriously,” said Mr Symons. “Some still fell in but that was mainly due to imbalance.”

Regatta chairman Guy van Zwanenberg said the event was “very successful” with more races than ever.

He said: “We’re trying to encourage families from both Wargrave and Shiplake to get involved and support us.”

Other attractions included a bouncy castle, inflatable slide and gladiator arena where children fought each other with inflatable weapons.

There was also a bar and refreshments and a fireworks display was held in the evening.

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