Rowing: Woods displays mastery of tideway to be first among watermen

TOM WOODS, of Poplar, Blackwall Rowing Club, celebrates winning the Doggett's Coat and Badge race on the Thames Tideway yesterday, a victory that denied Kate Saunders the chance to become the first Waterwoman badge holder, writes Hugh Matheson. Woods was greeted rapturously by a crowd packed to the rails on his family's pleasure cruiser "Silver Baracuda".

Saunders, a bank clerk who qualifies as her father is a waterman, was having her second attempt at the oldest continuous sporting event, now in its 285th year. A four miles, five furlongs race, it is rowed by five scullers into the wind on top of the incoming tide from London Bridge to Chelsea.

From the start,Woods took the best of the stream holding to the middle arches of Southwark and Blackfriars Bridge before taking a straight line to pass the horizontal millennium wheel where he led Leonard Saunders, with Richard Kelly and Nick Howard close behind, and Kate Saunders trailing.

Woods, a skipper in his father's firm of river launches demonstrated his knowledge of the tideway, as well as impressive strength and watermanship by steadily increasing his advantage from Westminster to the finish, where the headwind was producing sinking conditions.

Photograph: Robert Hallam