photograph Change of direction for three in a row

While the rowers of Newcastle University Boat Club are working hard on their preparations for the 14th Annual University Boat Race on Sunday 9 May, things could have been very different for three of the squad.

Amy Jessett, James Dalton and Mike Haynes will be turning out to row for their University having turned their backs on promising careers in a variety of sports.

James, 19, who is studying Business Management at Newcastle University, was a promising golfer and was Junior Club Captain for Bedale Golf Club. He got his handicap down to only 11 before making the switch to rowing. While he still plays golf occasionally, James admits the leap from the serenity of the fairways to the intense physicality of rowing might seem like a strange move, but he explained: “I guess it was mainly the physical challenge that made me want to take up rowing.”

James isn’t the only member of the squad to make what could be considered an unusual leap between sports. Mike Haynes, 18, has been skiing since he was three years old, and says he could ski very shortly after he could walk. With an obvious link between skiing and rowing in terms of the high levels of fitness needed by participants, how do the sports compare? “Rowing is a lot more difficult. With skiing the focus is nearly all on the lower body, but rowing involves using your whole body” says modern languages student, Mike. 

Local student Amy Jessett, 19, made perhaps the most natural progression of the trio, having at least begun her sporting life in the water. Amy, from Gosforth, has swum for the City of Newcastle for several years, and at one point was regarded as one of the top 10 swimmers in the country. However, rowing has become her main focus over the past year, after she was attracted by the physical demands of the sport.”Like swimming, rowing is a high intensity sport, but it has more of a team element” she said.  

So far, Amy’s decision to take up rowing has been reaping rewards. At the North East Indoor Rowing Championships in December 2009, she won both the freshers’ category and the lightweight all-comers category, and achieved a GB trial time (lightweight category) in the process. As a result, she caught the eye of the Great Britain under-23 lightweight coach, Nick Strange, who is interested in following her progress throughout her novice year.

James, Mike and Amy will be hoping to match some of the success they have enjoyed in golf, skiing and swimming when they take to the water with their Newcastle University crews for the 14th Durham vs Newcastle University Boat Race on the River Tyne on Sunday 9 May.

Land- and river-based entertainment gets under way at 12.00 noon with the first of the rowing races at 1.00 pm.

published on: 29th April 2010