Minerva’s Hidden Talent Profile

24th May, 2019

Some talent is evident at Minerva, but there is often also talent hidden behind the boat-racks, quietly plugging away and achieving personal goals. We like to celebrate and learn from all of our members’ talents and experiences.

This week we sought some wisdom from an older and wise head – Robert O’Farrell who, at 70, won his sculling event at Monmouth last weekend, racing at Masters H against younger opposition.

Robert began his rowing as a schoolboy, and why the Monmouth win was so special to him was that the last time he won a sculling event was competing when a pupil for St George’s College in 1966 at Egham regatta! (Do the maths!). He won sweep events rowing for Trinity College Dublin and Thames RC in the mid 70’s, but felt that he was “never that much of a star – I liked rowing for scratch crews, often as stroke”. Perhaps though Robert’s real rowing flair came later, combining his talent as a teacher of politics and economics.

Having coached at Barn Elms on The Tideway, in the mid ‘80’s Robert became coach to a J13 VIII, once again at St George’s College. Under his coaching, by the time they were J18, that original young and raw crew had won gold at the Nationals and represented England at the Home Countries regatta. Not bad for someone who, as an oarsman, regards himself as “a bit short and not that stylish”.

In 2015, Robert and his artist wife Sally (tolerant, but known to say to him “you’re always out rowing”!) moved to Bath, where he discovered Minerva. In 2017 he returned to the water and joined one of our Learn to Scull courses under the watchful eye of Ching. Admitting, “I still had the same old style problems! And I had to learn new 21st century techniques” Robert was, by his own admission “nurtured by the mid-weekers – with thanks to Sue, Heidi, et al”. He subbed for the Pocket Rockets and double sculled with Mel Brown “a fantastic experience”. Then early this year he upped his training regime to 5-6 days a week, both on his own erg and on the water, combining it with yoga “to keep my flexibility”. All of which brought him to his win at Monmouth last weekend, and the hidden talent was revealed – with perhaps more revelation to come at Masters H sculling at Henley Masters.

One of the easiest people to chat to, we couldn’t help but tap into Robert’s perceptions and well-grounded experience. On training, his view was “It’s motivation AND momentum”. On next year: “Well, I take every season as it comes” perhaps reflecting his two other great passions of his allotment and singing and performing in The CitySound Voices choir. And on Minerva’s development, this perceptive man simply said: “You need to be careful of not creating ‘federal groups’ based simply on age and gender. Remember, it’s a club”.

While Robert will no doubt continue to scull, because “I quite like being my own boss” he revealed that even at the age of 70 he was thinking of also taking up canoeing, “the advantage is you can see where you’re going – I’ve had a few incidents with a couple of trees recently!”

Hidden talent indeed.

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