Brian Fentiman

Brian died in Brixham of liver cancer on 20th April 2019. He was 72 years old. He was only diagnosed in late December 2018.  

Brian joined Quintin Boat Club in 1967. He rowed for Quintin in three eights that finished in the top 10 of the Tideway Head and in two Thames Cup semi-finals. He was in Quintin eights that represented England in the 1968 Home Countries match and that won the National Championships in 1973. In an era when GB crews competed in the National Championships, he won a bronze medal for open double sculls in 1972 and a silver medal for lightweight single sculls in 1978.

Brian rowed in the 1975 GB Bronze Medal LW VIII during the winter 1975/76 and joined the London RC VIII that was boating at weekends and training together at Elliot School three nights a week. He was another experienced asset to the group throughout that winter and one Ron Needs, the coach, knew from his time at Quintin. He made the 2 seat his own in the 1976 VIII which finished 5th in the HOR, won Grand VIIIs at the Metropolitan, LW VIIIs at The West German International Championships at Duisburg, Nottingham City, the National Championships and was the first LRC crew to enter the Grand at Henley Royal Regatta for nine years only losing to the winners by a canvas in the Semi Final. At the FISA World Championships in Villach, Austria the VIII won a Silver Medal. Brian continued with the Lightweight Group for the 1977 season. He was always a positive, encouraging and experienced influence on the group during his time at LRC.

Brian was a one-off. He was small and very strong. Coaches in club crews could not write him off on size because he generally was the fastest in a sculling boat. He had no shades of grey - it was either black or white. That did not mean that if he disagreed with you, he lacked respect for your opinion. He worked as a lecturer in Building Technology care.  Additionally, he was tending allotments and wine making. Above all, were you his friend he stuck with you through thick and thin.  The forced move to the West Country was a blessing in disguise as it was there he started to coach and there where he met Lin his partner for the last 12 years.

He was the very successful coach of Alasdair Stuart who says, “We first met in 1997 when he moved down to the West Country and the possibility of him potentially coaching me. One of his first lines was, “If I don’t like you I am going to tell you; If you don’t like me, I want you to tell me”. These words have been true ever since. We always had an open dialogue and never felt any fear in offending by speaking our minds. It was his typically direct, ‘Black and White’ mentality that meant you always knew precisely where you were with him. In the following few months, he started to build a squad around me, the ‘Boy’ as he called me (I called him the ‘Boss’). Through a five-year plan, we progressed through some National Medals and Nat Champs, then some representation for Scotland and saw me promoted from the “Boy” to the ‘Youth’. In 2002 this effort bore fruit and he brought me to success at the U23 Trials and, thankfully, being selected as the single sculler for the U23 World Regatta. This meant that I could share my success with him in the sense that he was recognised as my coach and an international level. After that I was further promoted  to ‘His Sculler’ - an accolade I will never top in rowing and which I hold most dear.

He was my coach, my mentor, my friend - the ‘Boss’. I progressed onto the titles of ‘Boatman’ and ‘Coach’, but I will always remain - ‘His Sculler’.”

Linda his partner says,

“We had twelve years together. We met, via an online dating site.  If I remember correctly, he had been very busy and had managed to meet the grand sum of 43 ladies! Once met, we learnt to trust again. I lived in Plymouth, he in Exeter. We spent alternate weeks together. The three allotments (in Exeter) were really to keep us busy. Just over 12 months ago, I bought a bungalow here to be nearer to him. We spent the last twelve months renovating the place. Despite his diagnosis, he was directing the final finishing touches from his bed.

I gave him my word that he would not go into a hospital or a hospice and he died in his bed beside me. The only thing that slowed this strong man down was the cancer. Rowing was his first love. I was his last.”