“Disaster” for Peterborough rowing club as race cancelled due to dramatic drop in river level

Peterborough City Rowing Club faced “disaster” on Saturday (February 5) as they were forced to cancel the Head of Nene River Race due to a lack of water.

By Ben Jones
Monday, 7th February 2022, 5:42 pm

Over 500 competitors, competing in roughly 270 boats, had entered the time trial race that the club were set to host on the River Nene, at the Embankment.

Yet, on the morning of the race, less than three hours before it was due to start, the club was forced to cancel the event due to a lack of water.

The water levels had been checked the day before but overnight a sluice gate, which controls the level of water, malfunctioned and drained the river.

The gate was located close to the Dog in a Doublet on Northside, Whittlesey; leaving water levels between Whittlesey and Orton Mere significantly reduced.

By the time this was noticed, the depth at the Embankment had plunged at least three feet, making it impossible to launch any of the boats as well as leaving nearby narrowboats and businesses based on the water, such as Charters and The Grain Barge, largely sitting on mud rather than floating on water.

The low water levels also revealed a large amount of debris and rubbish that has been dumped in the river. This meant that even if the boats could have been launched, it would have been unsafe to proceed with the event, as they could catch on all the debris, causing damage to the boat and proving dangerous for the competitors.

The club had no choice but to cancel and refund all the the entrants, many of whom had travelled significant distances, from London, Bedford, Nottingham and elsewhere further afield, and had already arrived.

Given the number of rowing events scheduled each weekend, it has not been feasible to find a new date and the race will not take place this year.

This has been described as a disaster by club Chairman and Regatta Secretary John Canton.

He said: “We checked the river the day before and all was fine. We then arrived at the embankment at just after 7am on Saturday, before the first race that was due off at 10am.

“We started setting up but then noticed that the river didn’t look right, given it was completely fine the day before, we didn’t even think about checking the water level initially; this never happens.

“We were then informed of the problem by the River Inspector and that it had been fixed but unfortunately there was just not enough time for the water to return to its usual level in time, it was going to take at least 24 hours.

“It was a real tragedy, so many of the competitors had already arrived or were well on their way.

“It was also a disaster for the club, we had hired toilets, radios, first aid etc and we were expecting the event to generate a good profit, which we would then have reinvested into new equipment for the club.

“Having to cancel has left us with these costs and has provided us with a big setback. It’s such a shame because there were so many people that entered and we could tell from that how glad they were to be back after no racing at all in 2020. We are well-established though and will survive but it is a setback.

“I’ve been doing this for years, I’ve gone to events worrying about what the wind is going to be like, having to deal with snowstorms, you name it, but I’ve never turned up and not had any water in the river.”

Page 1 of 4