Helena and Richard Smalman-Smith met as a result of their Oxford college boat clubs sharing the same boatman, and first raced in the same boat at the Head of the River Fours in 1988. They got married in 1993. Between them they've been rowing for over 50 years, with a fair degree of success, although almost all of Helena's wins have been as a cox. The main clubs they've raced for regularly include Bewl Bridge, Molesey, Kingston, York City, Kingston Grammar School Vets, Quintin, Upper Thames and Thames Valley Skiff Club.
Richard learned to row at King's Canterbury, gained a half blue for lightweight rowing in 1989 and got to the semi-final of the Queen Mother Cup at Henley in 1995. Most often racing as a single sculler in recent years, he has won a good selection of medals at the National Veteran and Henley Veteran regattas. He's done the Boston Marathon six times (or possibly seven, he's not sure), all but one of them in is single scull. He's well known as a school rowing coach, having coached probably close to 1,000 youngsters over the past 18 years at Hampton, St Peter's York and Kingston Grammar.
Helena rowed in her college 1st VIII at 3, because she was larger than bow, but as this was an unusual situation she subsequently realised that she'd win more coxing. She's managed to do this at most major events including the National Championships, the Head of the River Fours, Henley Women's and also the Brit at Henley Royal Regatta in 2007, as well as at domestic and International masters events.
She trains and competes as a "skiff shover" at Thames Valley Skiff Club, and takes bookings for coxing major events based on a number of criteria including speed and niceness of the crew..
Her taste for longer distance rowing has led her to row the Boston Marathon twice, once in a single and once in a quad, and also, in 2009, to be part of the first British women's crew to complete the Tour du Leman a L'Aviron, which is 160km non-stop round Lake Geneva, a race she's previously completed in a mixed crew. She coxed the Celtic Challenge across the Irish Sea, and provided "land team" support to Chris Andrews and Clint Evans and their cow-print boat in the 2005 Atlantic Rowing Race.
Together, Richard and Helena completed the 205km Rallye du Canal du Midi with 3 friends in 2009. This involved portaging the boat on a "chariot" around 49 locks and rowing in the afternoon after drinking red wine at lunchtime. They are relieved they won't be having to do either on the Atlantic.
Why are they doing the race? "Because we can't sail, because Helena's been hanging around with ocean rowers for too long, because Richard has gone sculling every day for the past 25 years so going sculling 6 times a day isn't much different, for a change (?) and because we hope to have a "whale" of a time."
And why "Tiger Team"? Because our boat's going to be painted in bright orange tiger-stripe livery. OK, let's try again - why the tiger thing at all? No real reason other than it's fun AND orange is visible at sea. And hey, it's a jungle out there. Grrr.
Chris Martin is an ocean rowing legend who crossed the Atlantic solo in 68 days in 2005-06, and then the Pactific in an epic 189 days with Mick Dawson in 2009. Visit his website at http://www.unlimitedadventures.co.uk to find out more about his excellent Adventure Story Evenings, based in London.
Before taking to the oceans, he rowed for GB at senior and junior level. H and R coached him a little bit when he was 14 and 15. H remembers coaching him in an awful coxed quad on the last day of J14 Henley camp. Cycling alongside a mismatched bunch of youngsters, she suddenly realised what they were all doing in a boat together - it was comedy crew day, and the line up comprised messers Aston, Martin, Smith and Wess(t)on.
Eric and Lisa Froggatt met at Bewl Bridge Rowing Club where Helena also got to know them in the early '90s, and with typical Bewl spirit, have remained good friends ever since. In fact, all have grown old in rowing together, and invariably meet at National Vets/Masters, Vet Henley and so on. This has involved Eric's Monmouth crews beating Helena's on far too many occasions.
In 2010, Lisa persuaded Helena to cox her Women's Vet C VIII at the Boston Marathon - as Eric had offered to take the whole crew out for a slap up meal if they could finish in under 4hrs 30 mins. They rose wonderfully to the challenge, finishing in under 4 hours to the delight of all concerned (apart from Eric's wallet).
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