Relph sister act makes rowing history books

Rowing sister act Pamela (right) and Monica Relph
Rowing sister act Pamela (right) and Monica Relph

The ‘Rowing Relphs’, Monica and Pamela from Weston Turville, made history last weekend when they became the first sisters to represent Great Britain at an international regatta held on home water.

The pair were competing in the second leg of the World Cup, which was staged at the Olympic venue, Eton Dorney.

Monica was rowing in the Women’s’ Quad and Paralympic gold medallist Pamela in the Legs Trunks Arms Mixed Four, for athletes with minimum disabilities.

They had mixed results in their respective competitions, with Pamela’s crew easily defeating their only opponents (Ukraine) in her final, with Monica coming fifth in her final behind powerhouses such as Germany and Australia.

With her race re-scheduled to Saturday morning to give the Para-rowers the best of the blustery conditions, Pamela’s four took an early lead, gaining clear water over their sole competition after 250m of the 1,000m course.

The GB crew – containing two new male athletes from the four that took Paralympic gold last September – were then able to relax and extend their lead to an impressive 26 seconds by the finish.

Despite the success Pamela, who had her post box in Weston Turville painted gold in her honour after her 2012 heroics, said it was bitter sweet.

“It was disappointing we didn’t get to race against more nations,” said Pamela.

“But, I understand in post-Olympic year budgets are tight. We can only race what is put in front of us and we gained valuable experience, especially the (new) boys and we know it will be tougher in South Korea (the venue for the World Championships in August).”

The weather was still blustery on Sunday when the GB Women’s First Quad raced in their final.

They faced fierce competition not only from boats containing Olympic medallists from Germany, Australia and Poland, but also from a second crew of British rowers, selected from the GB Women’s Eight, put together when no other nations chose to send crews for the Eights competition.

As expected the Germans, Australians and Poles shot out to compete for the podium places, but it was nip and tuck between the two British crews for fourth and fifth, with GB2 just edging their ‘civil war’ by less than a second.

“To be honest, whilst I hate losing at any time, it was always going to be difficult to get competitive for a medal and the other GB crew contained Olympians and athletes who have done exceptionally well in trials and who were expected to go well in the Eights, had they raced there,” said a considered Monica after the race.

“The water was very choppy and steering was difficult. I just hope I’ve done enough for selection for Lucerne (the final World Cup regatta) next month.”

And their views on each other? Pamela said: “I was more nervous watching Monica race than I was in my completion – at least I can do something to affect the outcome!”

Monica added: “I’m Pam’s biggest fan – as well as her biggest critic! I’m so proud of all she is achieving having to cope with her arthritis and the treatment she has to take to deal with it”.