Bedford Spring Small Boats Head 2012

May 14, 2012

Another excellent performance by the Ladies’ squad saw us come away from the last Head of the year with another three wins.

We entered a relatively small number of crews into the event, with just eight crews out, six from the ladies’ squad and two from the men’s master’s squad. Held in what can only be described as “changeable” weather conditions, this was a good end to a very successful head season.

W.IM2 4+

This was a relatively new and untried (just two outings before the race) combination of Charlene, Jo, Lou and Alice with Andi coxing. Putting a relatively poor practice session behind them, the ladies came good in the race, chasing down and overtaking one of their opponents and posting a time of 7:50. This was good enough to win the category by four seconds from a strong field of Newark, UEA, CORC, Nottingham and a Rob Roy/X-Press composite. Even more encouragingly, their time put them just three seconds off the winning W.IM1 time!

Masters D 2x-

Steve and I had an eventful race, finishing second to Bedford in another large field, with two Oundle and one Star boats following us home.

A good, solid start had seen us catching the Norwich IM3 double in front. By the time we passed Star club, we’d closed them down to a couple of lengths advantage and were overhauling them quickly. Unfortunately, they then decided to use the same arch as us at Town Bridge and cut right across our bows, forcing us to stop. Coming through the arch, we picked it up and went past them but this had cost us time. Despite some rough water heading to the suspension bridge, it really clicked after then and we finished really strongly with Steve steering a near perfect line.

Our time of 7:56 was 28 seconds off the winners, so our coming together with Norwich probably didn’t make enough of a difference to the result, but very frustrating all the same.

W.Masters A/B 1x

This was the first of two categories in which we had two entries, with Helen M and Amelia racing their singles. With both of them in the “B” category and with just four seconds handicap against their younger “A” rivals, it was a big ask for them. In the event, they finished third and fourth, 15 and 37 seconds respectively off the winner from Wallingford. Very nice to see both of them racing – Helen seems to have the racing bug again and good to see Amelia not only in her single again but in green and black (and having had a very rapid boat re-numbering just before the race)!

W.Masters A/B 2x-

The second category with two crews in saw the doubles of Andi and Liz taking on Jenny and Helen M. The two boats were good enough to take the first two positions in the category, beating boats from Peterborough, Rob Roy and Guildford. In the event, it was the “youngsters” boat of Andi and Liz who took the honours, shading it by 11 seconds. As Jenny was sculling with a suspected broken hand, sustained skiing, I’m sure there’ll be opportunities for a re-match!

W.Masters C/D 4+

This looked to be a strong crew on paper, with Paula, Karen, Lou and Heidi, coxed by Liz, and it proved to be so on the water. Despite Heidi still being a novice (having done her “Learn to Row” course last summer) the power in the boat was enough to win the category convincingly. Posting a time of 8:03, they finished 35 seconds clear of the next crew, despite them having the handicap against them! The time was actually so fast, it was the leading Women’s Masters time of the day, including “A” and “B” crews.

Masters D/E 1x

Not content with the excitement in the double, Steve had yet another eventful race, this time in a rare outing in his single. When we’d rowed up to the start in the double, we’d noticed a fairly aggressive swan halfway between the start and County Bridge. Guarding it’s nest, the bird had pecked at the blades of a couple of boats and we’d had to avoid it ourselves in the race.

With his single, the bird seemed to take a particular dislike to Steve – not only pecking at him as he passed but actually chasing him down the river! This did add to his speed, so helped him to a very good third place (of nine), in a time of 8:16.

My thoughts…

It was an odd sort of day. As we were only racing from division six onwards, we only needed to get to Bedford at 1:30, so it meant that rarest of luxuries, a Sunday morning lie-in! This did lead to the surreal situation of sitting at home watching the early results coming through on Twitter, knowing we’d be racing there later in the day. It also made finding a space on Longholme Island very difficult; by the time we arrived it was chock full of cars, despite being meant for trailers only.

Although there was a fair weather forecast, the reality was a typical April day – ranging from warm and sunny to bitterly cold with hail lashing down. Fortunately, most of our crews avoided being out in the worst of the weather but certainly the ladies Masters boat suffered with some very strong winds at the start. Not like normal Bedford event weather at all; I can only assume the intended sacrificial junior escaped before they could be offered to the rain god…

The addition this year of the Twitter feed of results was a brilliant idea. The only down side was that by the time Tim got back from Bedford RC with the news of the ladies’ wins, they were already celebrating as they’d seen the results on Twitter!

As ever, it was a nicely run event, keeping well to time and friendly. Adding an extra pontoon down on the island was another really good touch, helping spread the boating load away from the school’s boat house area.

It was also a good end to the head season, with the ladies signing off with another three wins and firmly establishing them as serious competitors. All we need now is for the men’s squad to follow their example!

Results from the day are on the Bedford RC site and my photos on Google+


Lea Regatta 2012

April 30, 2012

This was our first time out at Lea and our first regatta of the season. Taking a relatively inexperienced squad and trying out a couple of new combinations, it was all the more pleasing to head home with two more wins. Held in bizarre weather, with April throwing everything at us, from warm Spring sunshine to biting winds, hail and rain, it was nice to visit a new location and race some different clubs too.

Novice 4+
This boats contained two of last year’s Learn to Row graduates (Ben and Antonio), in their first ever regatta, as well as two slightly more experienced (but still novice) rowers in Nelson and myself, with Paula coxing. We were drawn against what looked like a formidable crew from Queen Mary College for our first race. Although they were still a novice boat, they pulled one of the fastest starts I’ve ever seen and just scorched into a substantial lead – despite us getting a good, clean powerful start ourselves! For a first race together, it was pretty good, just that we were completely unmatched against a university crew (who I suspect might have done a bit of rowing at school as well) and we finished several lengths down. Enough for us to be encouraged though, but needing to compete against other club crews, not academic ones.

Mixed Masters D 2x-
Swapping sweep for sculls, I was out in our next event too. Racing for only the second time with Paula, we’d only had one practice session before the race as well, so weren’t sure how well this would go. In the event, we actually beat our opponents off the start but they came back at us quickly and eased into the lead. As a double, we’re still trying to overcome a definite pull to stroke side and fighting this all down the course certainly didn’t help – and led to an all too close encounter with a barge towards the end of the course! Still, we weren’t too far off the pace, especially considering we don’t do this combination very often (and Paula is far more of a sweep rower than sculler).

Women Masters D 2x-
With scarcely enough time to get her breath back, back was in the next division as well. This time she was racing with Karen in a Masters D double, sitting in for Lou. A very fine performance saw them right on the tails of the Lea crew all the way down the course, but they couldn’t quite catch them. Another very promising row and scope for seeing this combination more frequently?

Masters A/B 1x
Tim (aka “Rubberducky”) was really quite nervous about this race, having not raced singles very often at all. He was also giving away a handicap against his opponent from Broadlands, making it even more difficult. Anyway, he really shouldn’t have worried; despite the one second handicap seeming more like five, Tim put in a superb race to row clean through the other sculler and pick up our first win of the day.

Women Primary 4+
We’d originally entered our ladies (all Learn to Row graduates) as a Novice 4+, but Lea were unable to field an opposing crew. What they were able to provide was a Primary crew, also recent Learn to row graduates but rowing in training boats. These were wider and more stable than the fine boats (and weighed sooooo much) and had almost an armchair for the cox. As a primary event, the crews were guaranteed two races at least – as there were just the two entries, this would be done by taking the aggregate time across two races.

In the event, the two races provided some of the closest racing of the whole day; while our ladies were probably a bit more technical, the Lea ladies were younger and used to the boats. The first race saw the MKRC crew take an early lead but Lea came back at them and inched past, taking the honours in the first race by just two feet. This left our crew knowing what they had to do in the second race and, equally importantly, absolutely determined to win it back.

Again, the second race saw our boat push into an early lead, putting in a really good, solid start. This opened out to a clear length lead by halfway, but Lea started hunting them down. This time though, the novice women were not going to let them past. Literally gritting their teeth, the four of them dug deeper and deeper, and did enough to hold off the fast charging Lea ladies, crossing the line just three feet up. This was enough though and it earned them the win, the overall gap being given as one foot!

A really excellent first race and a great example of digging in and holding on, putting everything into the race. So, massive congratulations to Helen C, Winnie, Kelly (who found she does have a competitive streak!) and Rachael, not forgetting Karen who coxed them impeccably.

Results from the day are here and my photos of the day are here


WEHORR 2012

March 28, 2012

Following on from the highly encouraging performance at Trent Head, the ladies eight headed down to London for the annual Women’s Eights Head of the River Race (WEHORR). Despite the grey, overcast and chilly weather, the winds were quite light and the Thames looked as flat as I’ve seen it, so it looked all set for a good race. 

In the event, the MKRC ladies not only beat expectations but simply hammered them into the ground! With a target of aiming for a top 100 finish (out of nearly 300 crews) they simply flew down the course and posted a time of 22:08.65 to finish a stunning 76th overall. Looking more closely at this, the time put them as the second fastest Eastern Region crew (only a Broxbourne IM1 boat being quicker) and the sixth fastest IM2 club crew; considering this is an international class event, this has to be one of the club’s best ever performances.

Paula’s views on the race

Having done the Head of the Trent the week before, we went down to London a lot more relaxed than usual, knowing that we were well capable to finishing the course strongly.  We were boating from Barn Elms, which is just down the river from Putney.  This was the first time we had ever boated from there and we learnt a big lesson from the start.  Having put the eight together, complete with riggers, on one side of a fence, there was only a small gate in which to get the eight through, this also involved mountaineering up a muddy bank and then almost putting a couple of your crew in the Thames before there was room to turn the boat – lesson learnt, we de-rigged and split the boat BEFORE coming through the gate on the way back.

The advantage of boating at the Putney end is that you get a nice warm-up rowing to the start.  This was a good chance for us to try to gel as a crew as it was the first time we had all been together thanks to Mother Nature keeping the lake frozen for a couple of weeks.

Going off at number 134 meant that we didn’t have the long wait that we usually have on the Tideway and it seemed that no sooner had we got to the marshalling area, that we were moving down the river and were soon being told to get into racing kit.

We were very quickly spinning (for which Andi was complimented by one of the marshalls) and then we were off.  Andi pushed us from the very start to beyond the end!!! Helen wanted to overtake at least one crew – in the event, we very quickly took one crew and then another, we lost count in the end (think it was about 5 or 6). 

The race was long and hard (what race isn’t?) but very quickly Andi was giving us the final 20 push.

Only a short row back to Barn Elms, and my day was made when I saw Tim grinning like a Cheshire cat on the towpath.  After getting the boat out and de-rigging we all then went to buy a tee-shirt and replenish the caffeine levels at Costa whilst we waited for the provisional results.  The results were finally posted and we were provisionally 76th.  We had gone into the race hoping to be in the top 100 and we had done that with style!!!.


Head of the Trent 2012

March 2, 2012

Although I think MKRC may have raced at the Head of the Trent before (a long time ago, before my time) this was certainly the first time we’d entered more than one crew. Stepping up a level to a regional event, we had four boats out – considering the strength of the event, to then head home with two wins was very pleasing indeed. The women’s eight also put in a very fine performance, coming third in the W.IM2 8+ category, of eight crews.

W.IM1 4x-

This was a strong looking quad, with Helen M stroking, Liz steering and Jenny and Andi making up the crew. They had just one boat as competition, from Tyne, and they were drawn immediately behind our ladies. From the start, our boat pushed away hard and felt they were easing away down the course. This proved to be the case, with our time of 20:38.4 enough to win the event by nearly 30 seconds.

Masters C/D 4x-

This event gave us the opportunity to reprise our Master’s quad, with Pierre-Yves, Tim, Steve and I. We’d got two other crews in the category, but as these were both “D” and we were racing “C” were acutely aware of the need to not only race the others but also try to overcome what had to be a big handicap time.

We boated early, to allow us a stress free run up to the start, giving time to warm up well and put in a couple of race bursts, which seemed to go well. With three of us never having done the event before, we had no idea how far it was to the start; answer, a long, long way! After what seemed an eternity, we finally went under a bridge and there were some guys putting up the “start” banner. Having no idea about the marshalling positions, we drifted to a halt before noticing a couple of boats further up, so we moved up to join them. With no marshals to be seen we hung around for a while but boats with lower numbers started going past, so we paddled off again. Finally, we passed a sign with “1″, then one with “11″, so figured these must be marshalling positions – we were crew 58 so had even further to go (although the next board was another “11″ which kind of confused us). Much, much further up the river, we then found “51″ and tucked in there – Pierre-Yves then telling us we’d sculled 1.5 km from the start!

It was then a case of settling in and waiting for the rest of the crews to arrive. Keeping station was interesting as the stream was running pretty quickly, but we managed to latch on to the bank. Presently, our two opposition boats arrived, Peterborough and Nottingham and Union. Overhearing one of the other crews discussing how to help out with steering and the other saying they’d been beaten by them earlier in the season did give us a bit of confidence – but there was still the handicap time issue. It was all very pleasant sitting there in the early Spring sunshine, very peaceful and (partly because it is such a wide river) none of the usual ineptness you see at the start of a Head race.

Finally, we saw the front crews start to spin, so time to de-kit and get set. Easing out into the stream, we spun easily and paddled off gently – after all, we’d got over 1k to the start! The stream really was running fast and even at light pressure, we were starting to move. Approaching the start, we wound it up and hit race pace a couple of strokes before the “go”. Almost immediately through the first bridge, we were into dirty water, catching the Loughborough Ladies eight who were immediately ahead of us. To their credit, they kept out of our way and we powered past, settling into a good rhythm and rate, for the next 6 kilometres. Although Steve had never steered this river before, he did a fantastic job, keeping a tight line throughout and making sure we kept clear of all hazards.

Coming down the straight stretch towards Trent Bridge, we again started getting dirty water. This time it was a Yarm quad, who needed a gentle call to make sure they didn’t squeeze us going through the bridge. Fortunately, they got the hint and eased over, allowing us through to take our second crew. Passing Nottingham Forest’s ground we were into the last kilometre, but by now it was starting to hurt. To add to this, there was yet more rough water though, as we were now hard on the heels of a composite eight – they in turn were pushing off of us! Consequently, we raced them all the way through to the finish line, getting overlap but not quite pushing ahead of them – still, we counted it as another pass!

Quite a relief the hear the hooter as we passed the line – encouragingly, our oppositions boats were nowhere in sight, so we were hopeful that we’d pushed hard enough to overcome the handicapping as well. A light paddle back to the boating area (much harder than it sounds – this was against the stream and we were all pretty tired) and out; then the wait for the results.

One of the nice things is that they run the event with all competing crews in the same division – this means not only do all crews have the same conditions, but that we didn’t have to wait until the final division to get our result. When this came up, we found we’d won the category in a time of 19:36.1 (19:04.7 adjusted for age) with a comfortable gap of 1½ minutes – even with the 30 seconds or so handicap. Naturally, very pleased with this, both the result and what has to have been one of our best rows to date!

Senior 4+

This four, of Tim, Josh, Chris and Benn, coxed by Helen M (smaller and louder than the alternative of Steve) were always going to be up against it. With their only competition being half of the Star Club Elite Eight and our guys having just a handful of outings together, it was a real mismatch. Despite this, they gave it a real go, and pushed Star hard even though they were overtaken by them.

Women’s Masters C 8+

With pretty much the crew for the WEHORR, with Lindy and Karen sitting in for Helen J and Emma, this was going to be a good benchmark against some serious competition. With a few nerves showing, the ladies got boated early for the long paddle up to the start. Earlier plans to try and borrow a lightweight boat had been thwarted by the weather (not enough water time to get the boat kindly offered by Northampton RC rigged for them) so it was the somewhat heavy John Cunningham they were using.

After waiting on the bank for what seemed an eternity, I finally saw the distinctive green blades flashing in the sun, as the girls came into view. Looking far neater than many of the other eights going past they powered past me just before Trent Bridge. With Andi doing a great job of coxing (again, first time on the river), the crew of Liz, Jeny, Kate, Alice, Lou, Karen, Lindy and Paula (in a very unfamiliar bow seat) put in a great row, overtaking a couple of crews on their way to a time of 20:04.2 and a wonderful third place in the category.

Trent Head - Women's IM2 8+

Trent Head - Women's IM2 8+

My view…

I really enjoyed the event, although the weather certainly helped. It is a good course, quite challenging but a bit more interesting than most head courses (but very long). I do like events that put all competing crews in the same division – it does mean you all have the same conditions (having seen a head wind swing round to a tail wind at Bedford before now) so it is far more even and fair. It also saves the sitting around waiting to see if your time from Division one gets beaten by a crew in the final division.

They could do with a bit more organisation though – having overshot the trailer park entrance as there were no signs in to it at all and then had to go for a tour around Nottingham, the guy on the gate told us to head into the trailer park where we’d be directed where to park. No, no-one on duty at all, so it was a bit of a free for all with trailers dumped everywhere and anywhere. This, inevitably, led to one club setting up camp in the narrowest part of the park, the passageway through to the river. Showing a lack of respect for everyone else, they then proceeded to block off the sole access except for a narrow path allowing one boat through at a time – thanks guys.

Directions to the clubs weren’t brilliant – I’m still not sure which club we were meant to be using for coffee, loos, etc. There was plenty of boating area though (although getting out early definitely helped) and a really nice stretch of river, wide and peaceful. Once we’d figured out the waiting positions at the start, this made sense, although having a few more people up at the start might have helped. Everyone we came across was friendly and helpful– and I guess coming away with a couple of wins really helps, especially with the rather neat ceramic pots, a pleasant change from the usual pewter ones.

All in all, a great day out, rounded off by daughter Jo also picking up a win in her Nottingham Uni quad – fortunately for all, none of her crews were in the same categories as MKRC so no split loyalties on this occasion.

Results are on the Head of the Trent page and my photos are here


Northampton Head 2012

February 23, 2012

This year’s Northampton Head took place in unusually mild weather – we’re used to fun activities like breaking the ice on the side of the river and avoiding hypothermia while waiting for the start, so temperatures of a tropical 5-6 degrees were really welcome.

We had our usual strong entry out for the event, including another batch of Learn to Row graduates in their first ever races. Despite missing some of the stronger members of the squad and having a number of our top boats knocked out with no competition, we still left clutching four category wins.

Novice 4+
A new combination saw Nelson, Chris Rob M and Pierre-Yves, coxed by Karen set a good benchmark for the Novice men, of 6:47. This was good enough to see them finish 3rd, beaten by Leicester and Bedford School but only seven seconds adrift of the winners and ahead of three school crews.

J18 2x-
A first race for Ben S saw him stroke a Junior double with Alex. Despite being overtaken by two old boys (see below) they put in a very good race, good enough to win their category! A very impressive start for Ben, especially considering the pressure of stroking the boat having never raced before.

Masters D 2x-
Fresh from our win at Star in the previous week, Steve and I knew this would be much harder as we were up against long time rivals, Nemesis. Today’s race felt much better, picking up from the tail end of last year rather than the rusty performance at Star. A fast start saw us close down on the kiddies in front (Ben and Alex in the J18 double) pretty quickly and we were able to cruise past them. To their credit they then hung on to us and pushed us all he way to the finish. Steve steered a near immaculate course and this helped us to a time of 6:57. Not surprisingly, Nemesis did beat this but by a mere 8 seconds – a much smaller gap than in previous events and leaving the pair of us quite happy.

W.IM2 2x-
An interesting race this one for Helen M and Jenny. Originally entered as a Masters boat, they had no competition so had to row at IM2 level. A “normal ” MKRC crew, in that they’d only had one or two sessions together before racing but both are very good scullers. After a slight problem on boating (another MKRC crew had inadvertently taken their blades!) they had a good, steady start, before they had the misfortune to be caught by a J16 4+ boat – which, despite being coxed, promptly rowed into them, having pushed them over to the bank first! Despite this setback, the ladies got going again and with the incentive to catch up lost time, stormed down the course to finish as winners, their time of 7:31 putting them just three seconds ahead of Leicester, with Devil’s Elbow (love the name!) well back.

W.Nov 4+
This was a quartet of our Learn to Row graduates form last year, in their first race as a crew. Comprising Winnie, Kelly, Mary and Helen C, with Tim coxing, this was a “voyage of discovery”. Unfortunately, they set themselves a tough pace from the start, but the race distance was double the length of the lake and it told towards the end.  Still, a good learning experience for them and that’s the first race out the way.

J15 1x
With Phillip still being a beginner in the single, the main objective was a safe row, finishing the right way up! He managed this easily and although last by a fair margin, a creditable performance for someone still finding his way.

WJ 15 2x-
Two junior girls’ doubles out in this category. First up were Lainey and Alex setting a target time for the other competitors of 8:17. They held on to the lead until division four, when their clubmates Gemma and Hannah posted a time 15 seconds quicker; unfortunately, two Stratford boats went even quicker! This left our two crews in 3rd and 4th overall (out of seven entries), an encouraging trend up the results table.

WJ15 1x
Our junior girls provided no less than three of the five entries at this category. They finished 2nd, 3rd and 5th overall, with Lainey top of the MKRC juniors, only 13 seconds off of the winner from Oundle.

Novice 8+
Yes, really, MKRC entering a Men’s Novice eight! With a large influx of Learn to Row graduates, we were able to put out a complete novice crew, bolstered by some of our senior guys who haven’t yet had the good fortune of a regatta win. A credit to the club and the coaching they’ve received, they put in a really good performance, posting a time of 6:29 to finish 4th, behind Stratford, Bedford School and Leicester boats. Given this was the first race for many of the crew, this was a very encouraging start for Nelson, Chris, Rob M, Ben S, Antonio, James, Haemish and Geoff (last five being LTR grads), coxed by Karen, being just 23 seconds off the winners.

Mas C 4x-
This boat saw Pierre-Yves, Tim, Steve and I reprise our Henley Masters boat from 2010 – and we don’t think we’ve been out in this combination since! We started immediately in front of one of our two competitors, from Northampton, and this gave us a good focus for the race. The first part of the race felt a little sluggish, as we got used to sculling together again, and the Northampton boat clung stubbornly behind us. However, about a third of the course down, we pushed and upped the rate a bit and this saw us at first ease away from Northampton but then start opening a substantial gap. By three quarters, Steve and I were both glad we’d not been able to enter an impromptu mixed quad in the previous division – doing just the two races was seriously starting to hurt! Still, we clung on in there and get pushing hard, crossing the finish line to record what we felt was a very respectable time, of 6:08, well ahead of Northampton, on 6:37. We then had to wait for our other competitor (Hollowell Scullers), out in the next division. To our disappointment, they absolutely flew down the course to post a winning time of a staggering 5:54, beating us by 16 seconds.

Strangely, we all agreed after the race that it had felt slow over the first half and then picked up in the second – Pierre-Yves had, of course, recorded the race on his GPS tracker and the results he sent out in the evening were completely the other way round! A fast start, dropping off around half way with a late surge at the end – just shows you can’t trust how the boat feels…

W.IM2 1x
Fresh from her storming performance with Jenny in the double, Helen M was back in action in her single. After a late drama, as her seat had somehow disappeared (a big thank-you to Northampton for finding and lending her a spare for her Empacher) she duly delivered another win for both her and the club.

J16 1x
Alex moved from the winning double back to his single in the last division. Showing steady progress, he finished third out of five, in a very symmetrical field (Stowe, Northampton, MK, Northampton, Stowe) pushing the Stowe boat that followed him well away.

W.IM2 4+
A slightly contrived event this one. We’d originally entered an IM1 and Masters boat but both had no competition. Northampton were very accommodating and allowed Tim to shuffle the two crews to produce a pair of IM2 boats to race each other. Being guaranteed a club win it was all about crew rivalry. The aim on both sides was not to be beaten by a big margin – and this led to two very fine performances. First off was the “Sugar” boat, of Paula, Karen, Clare and Helen C, coxed by yours truly, with the “Spice” boat of Charlene, Alice, Kate and Winnie, Steve coxing, following a few boats back. After two really fine rows, the timing couldn’t have been closer, with a single second separating the two crews (7:46 to 7:47) – tragically, from my point of view, the rival “Spice” boat just edging it. Still, it shows the closeness of the women’s squad, both in ability and in getting on with each other, as despite some friendly banter, there were no hard feelings at all. Apart from the coxes…

My thoughts…
Another great day out at Northampton, despite the unusually warm weather (we’re so used to freezing there, being warm felt distinctly odd). It was really impressive seeing our huge flotilla of boats taking up substantial acreage in the boat park, having something like 12 or 13 different boats entered ranging from singles through to an eight. Great also to see so many new faces racing for the first time, and all of them enjoying the experience (even if a “bit” harder than they expected).


Peterborough training

October 23, 2011

Just recovering from a great day’s training at Peterborough, arranged by the brilliant Tim G! Mainly aimed at sorting out the Ladies’ crews for the Fours Head, it gave Steve and I a great opportunity to rack up a lot (18!) of Kilometres in our double.

After some really good seat races by the ladies, we’ve now got the quad and coxed four for the Tideway sorted and ready to go for this. Really encouraging to see so many of the women’s squad really pushing themselves to the limit for the right to race on the Thames in a couple of weeks. They were all certainly giving it their all. After eight 750m+ races in various combinations, the crews are all set for the big day.

Following this little paddle (and, by the way ladies, Steve and I racked up 2k more than you!) there was a little row up the Nene afterwards. This only added another 10k or so!!!!

Great day out and really wonderful to see the camaraderie amongst the squad – now for the Tideway…

Thanks again Tim!!!


Pairs Head 2011

October 17, 2011

For the first time, and showing real progress as a club, we had three crews out in this year’s Pair’s Head. As well as the “established” boats of Benn and Tim and Steve and I, Mike and John also raced in a double. Mixed fortunes for us, with Steve and I really pleased with our result but the others a little less so.

For the Tideway, the conditions weren’t too bad, although the amount of debris in the river as we were marshalling was a bit of a concern (including a wooden pallet!). There was a good stream running, winds were fairly light (although some nasty gusts) and not too cold – and following the trend of recent events, the marshals were friendly and polite.

Senior 2-
Because of an accumulation of points during the last season, Benn and Tim had to enter their pair at Senior level. Given that they were racing against crews that probably train together regularly, they were going to be up against it as they’d not rowed this boat since Peterborough. Despite this, they put in a reasonable time (13:41.33) albeit finishing last of thirteen crews (and ahead of many of the IM1 crews). Perhaps not their best race but for the first time as a Pair on the Tideway, a great effort.

IM2 2x-
Following the long tradition in MKRC of putting together scratch crews, Mike and John went out as a double for the first time on the Saturday morning before the race! Up against some tough opposition and with Mike steering the Tideway for the first time (and first time for both in a double or pair) this was more about taking part than racing. Despite a close encounter with one of the red buoys, they finished not too far off the pace, in a time of 13:18.71, again finishing last in the IM2 category but a promising first outing.

Masters D 2x-
We weren’t sure how we would do in this year’s race; we’d seen slow but steady progress over the last couple of years, moving from last to the bottom quarter of the event but we felt we’d come on a bit in recent months. Against this, in the line up we had some very quick crews following us, so (me at least) worried we’d be overwhelmed.

In the event, we got off to a good, solid start and could see that the Dart Totnes boat behind us wasn’t making any gains on us. Picking up a good rhythm, we were definitely holding our own, although some of the strong crews were gradually closing in. Around half-way, the Walton boat (eventual winners) did finally overtake us but that was the only one until around 200m from the end; here we were caught by two crews (Poplar Blackwell and Sons) who were gong at it hammer and tongs. We kind of got pulled along with this and really wound it up for the end, with neither of these two (who finished second and third respectively) making any real ground on us. This definitely pushed us over the last couple of hundred metres, right through to the finish; to say I was tired is a mild understatement but we felt we’d really given it a go. One very nice touch was the bow-man of the Poplar boat calling to us at the end “good sculling at the end, guys” – he didn’t need to say this and, coming from him (current GB Masters champions) was a real fillip.

Anyhow, when the results came through we were delighted! Whether it was being pushed so hard at the end, but we came in 10th of 20 – a top half finish. This was way above anything we’d managed before and put us right in the mix, beating several crews who’d seen us off in previous years. Discounting the top five crews who were miles ahead, our time of 13:32.66 put us just 11 seconds behind 6th place! This gives us a real target for next year and does kind of suggest we have made some real progress of late.

My thoughts…
First, thanks to our support crew! Without the help from Paula, Andi and Clare it would have been much harder to get boated and to de-boat at the end. It really is appreciated (and I know I keep saying it, but it is one of the things that seems different about MKRC, the way we all support each other). This year we boated from Putney Town RC (right next to Chiswick bridge – nowhere near Putney…) and must say thanks to them as well. The only bad thing about this was the row back – it’s hard enough when it is “just” to the Civil Service but, boy, this seemed to go on for an eternity.

Overall, a good day on the Tideway – really pleased with our double and although the others were a little disappointed in their races, good prospects for the future from the other guys.

Results from the race are here

Photographs of our crews are here


St Neots Head 2011

October 16, 2011

With a large proportion of the club doing the Spartan Race, our entries for this year’s St Neots Head were a bit sparse, only four boats entered. Although we picked up a couple of second places, we didn’t post any wins and (unusually) came home empty handed. Still, there were some good races and a very eventful one for the ladies’ quad.

Women Masters C/D 4+
Fourth crew off in the first division, the ladies put in a strong row and set a good time for the competition to aim for. They had one of their competitors from St Neots following them and felt they’d pulled away from them over the 2.6km course and it proved so. They then had to wait all the way through to the last division for their other competitor, another St Neots boat. Unfortunately, this crew (racing as a “D” boat rather than our “C” crew) posted a time some 11 seconds quicker, pushing the ladies into second.

Masters D/E 2x-
After the previous day’s exploits at Wallingford, this actually seemed quite a short race for Steve and I, the halfway point coming up surprisingly quickly! However, our exertions did start telling towards the end and the last section from the marina to the finish was a struggle. However, we were extremely pleased with the result – we finished second but just four seconds behind Nemesis, a crew that has beaten us easily on many occasions. We do seem to have closed the gap quite a bit over the last few races, so pleasing progress.

Masters C/D 4+
A new combination saw Iain and Roger join Steve and I in a coxed four. With Roger’s years offsetting Iain’s relative youth this put us as a “D” crew, up against another “D” from Peterborough and a “C” from St Neots. Despite a good, solid row, we were well off of the winning time, with Peterborough winning the class and St. Neots coming second.

Women’s IM2 4x-
A race that can best be described as “interesting”! After a good start and getting round the twisty bit at the beginning of the course, the ladies were settling into a good rhythm when they were aware of people on the bank shouting “swimmer – get out of the way”. Being a nice, hot day, some numpty decided it would be good to go for a swim in the river – while a race was on. Paula, at stroke, got a huge surprise when a head emerged right by her blade and took a whack from it. He appeared OK and, having done an crash stop, the girls set off again. Next on their target list was a black barge – fortunately the owner shouted a warning and they were able to hold the boat up just in time. Setting off again, they picked up and went really well down past the club house, down the regatta course and turned in to the bend towards the finish. Unfortunately, Clare misjudged the bend and the quad went into the reed bank at race pace, burying the boat in as far as Paula! As we went past in the four, all we could see was Paula and the stern, the rest of the ladies completely hidden in the reeds. They did finally manage to extricate themselves (by grabbing the reed stems and pulling against them – their blades were completely tangled) and get free to finish the course. Not surprisingly, their unplanned excursion cost them a lot of time and they finished last, slowest time of the day. Still, quite an amusing episode and no harm to the boat or the ladies (but hopefully the swimmer had a big headache).

My thoughts…
With the amazing, freak hot weather and a really chilled atmosphere, this was a lovely day, despite no wins. Congratulations to St Neots for the speed with which they posted up the results – our ladies were able to tell the St Neots Masters ladies they had won before they’d even got back to the pontoons to de-boat. With really sensible marshalling, setting big gaps between crews, there were few overtaking problems all day and we certainly were able to just focus on our races and not worry about traffic

Results can be found here.No photos as we were all racing in the same divisions!


Bedford Autumn Head 2011

October 13, 2011

After the disappointment of coming away with nothing from last week’s St Neots Head, today’s Bedford Head more than made up for it. A really good day’s racing saw us depart with no less than five wins including my first sweep oar win. Another really good aspect was the huge number of junior entries – although they didn’t claim any wins, it was still wonderful to see so many of them there.

Unusually for us, we had a fairly late start to the day, with Division 4 at 13:00 being our first crews. Despite having loads of time, we actually managed to arrive a bit late (we’d thought the division started half an hour later and loading the trailer took longer than expected) so everything got a bit rushed. Compounded by Clare having to pull out at the last moment with a back strain and Steve having to take her home (and typically having the riggers in his car) it was all getting a bit fraught. Add to this Tim stressing about where Benn was, as they were in pair in Division 4 (it was actually Division 5, so he wasn’t meant to be there!) and it’s a minor miracle we got everyone boated at the right time in the right boats and crews!

Masters C/D 2x-
It must be us getting used to doing longer races (Wallingford 4,250m, Pairs Head 4,000m) but this (scarily) didn’t seem too far! Despite clipping the railway bridge just before the start, we soon settled into a comfortable pace (even more scarily, rating 30-31) and it seemed that Bedford Rowing Club was there very quickly. Clearly dropping the Huntingdon boat following us, we were overhauling a Guildford Ladies double and in fact caught them just past the suspension bridge. This gave us something to push off of and we opened up clear water pretty quickly. Coming under the butterfly bridge, for the first time in a 2k head I was able to wind up the rate for the finish and we finished very strongly. Just how good a scull this was came out when we saw the results and we’d won the category by 19 seconds. The only downside to what was one of our best races was Steve tweaked his back scrambling out of the boat up by Longholme Island.

Women’s Masters B 1x
Helen “I don’t do heads” Marshall continued her recent run of form, taking the win in this category. Being followed by her only opposition, she could see that she was pulling away from the Guildford sculler and was able to control her race. A long time since Helen has raced 2k – and she certainly felt it! Another good race for her though and good to see her enjoying racing again.

Women’s IM2 4x-
A first race in Milton Keynes colours for Amelia, racing in a strong looking quad with Liz, Andi and Lou. Although it was a good race, their opposition form Guildford had posted a very quick time and the ladies weren’t quite able to match it, finishing some seven seconds down. A good performance in their first outing though!

Women’s Masters C 4+
Despite a last minute change in line up, with Karen swapping in for the injured Clare, the ladies (Helen J, Paula, Karen and Lou) felt they had a great chance and so it proved. Racing to beat a time of 8:28 set by their competition in an earlier division, they were confident of doing this. With Yemin making a welcome return (although just on coxing duties today) they put in a hard, controlled row to post 7:56, some 32 seconds ahead to win fairly comfortably.

Senior 2-
This event saw Tim and Benn reprising their pair from yesterday’s Pair’s Head. Another good row saw them place second of three, very commendable as the winners are an established pair. Definitely making progress as a pair, even having to row at such an elevated level.

Masters C 4+
This is the boat that nearly didn’t happen! With Steve having pulled his back and Tim desperately trying to find someone to cox, it was touch and go whether we’d manage to get out or not. In the end, Tim found a lad from BMS who would cox and Steve (very gamely) said he’d give it a go. With a crew of Tim, Steve, Iain and I it was a bit of a scratch effort but it seemed OK on the row up to the start. From the off, the power was there and it was reasonably balanced although Steve was clearly struggling (rowing one handed at one point!). In one of those interesting rowing anomalies, when we pushed and took the rate up, the boat actually seemed to slow down as it got a bit scrappy. Still, it felt like a good row at then end and it proved to be as we won the category by the huge margin of one second! Pretty sure this was my first sweep oar win and a first win of any kind for Iain as well.

Women’s IM2 4+
The ladies were really up against it in this category, racing against a school crew. In spite of a good row by Helen J, Paula, Karen and Alice (with Yemin returning to cox) they were well beaten, losing by 26 seconds.

Women’s IM1 2x-
Liz and Andi back in a double for the first time in a while saw a return to winning ways. Racing two Guildford boats, they proved more than a match, winning by 23 seconds.

J16 1x
A strong race by Alex especially as he is in the bottom part of the J16 age group and is still learning. In a very competitive category, he sculled well, finishing ahead of one of the Star boats and close to a number of school scullers.

J15 1x
Being Philip’s first single sculling head race, he did exceptionally well to finish sixth of eight in another highly competitive section.

Women’s J15 1x
Showing a growing presence, there were no less that three MK Junior girls racing at WJ15 this time out. In one of the biggest groups (bolstered by 14 girls from Sir William Perkins and eight from Marlow!), Lainey and Gemma (???) finished just one second apart in 21st and 23rd places respectively, while Roisin managed to stay upright but finished a bit further down the field.

IM3 2x-
With Mike unavailable, Benn swapped in to scull with John. With little or no practice in this combination, third out of four was a fair result.

J18 4x-
Racing two Star junior crews and with two of the junior boys in their first race, their main objective was to avoid hitting anything and to keep out of trouble, especially as Alex had never steered a race before. They managed all of these successfully and finished in a creditable time of 7:23, actually the fastest (non-handicapped) MKRC time of the day.

My thoughts…
All in all, a good day for the club and me personally. Coming away from a top event like Bedford with five wins augurs well for the rest of the head season and it was really good to see so many juniors out. It was really great in Division Seven as something like nine MK boats set off down to the start – suddenly there was green and black kit everywhere, a very impressive sight! Very nice to see Iain pick up a first win, to see Yemin back at an event and to welcome Amelia to our racing squad. A good variety of boats and crews out, showing again our ability to mix it up and still come home as winners.

As with all Bedford run events, the timing, marshalling and results service were top notch – very pleased that they were leaving enough gaps between boats that there were few issues with overtaking (and that the junior quads were at the back of the divisions this time).

So, overall, despite a stressful start to the day, a very good and rewarding end

Results can be seen here and my photos of the day are here


Wallingford Long Distance Sculls 2011

October 10, 2011

My first (and possibly the club’s first) race at the Wallingford Long distance Sculls, although I’d towed there previously with another club. Only four of us (Benn, Mike, Steve and I) made the trip, entering four boats in all. Held in the totally unseasonal, scorching sunshine (hottest October day on record) this was going to be a real endurance test, racing over 4,250m.

IM1 2x-
Mike and Benn were meant to be second off but the first crew didn’t show. This kind of threw their plans a bit as they intended following the lead crew down the river, as they’d not rowed it before. They managed to keep clear of most obstacles until fairly close to the end when they decided to hold it up rather try arguing with a barge (probably a sensible move). Racing up a level at IM1 on an unfamiliar river was a big ask and they were passed by a few crews but posted a respectable time of 17:40.1, putting them 58th overall

Masters D 2x-
After a good start, Steve and I were chasing down the only other “D” double (from Wallingford) but when we got to the first set of bends, their local knowledge paid off and they pulled away. This left us with a junior crew from one of the other Thames clubs chasing us – this proved to be a real pain as their course was continually forcing Steve to manoeuvre to avoid them as the closed on us. Ultimately, they caught us and promptly cut sharply across our bows, forcing us to ease right off. They weren’t pulling away from us at all and further on managed to catch us in a sandwich as we overtook another boat; needless to say, we weren’t overly impressed with them… anyway, this did then give us immense satisfaction when we hauled them in, got level and then just pushed away leaving them trailing by some distance. Avoiding any more serious problems, we went on to post 18:06.7, 90th overall. However, with the 45 second age handicap, this pushed us in front of Mike and Benn, something we may just have mentioned a few times…

Masters D 1x-
Following our exertions in the double in the morning, Steve and I swapped into our singles for the afternoon. Somewhat cruelly, I’d been put at the front of the Masters D boats and with my lack of experience (only the second single head race for me) I was soon being passed by a succession of boats. By the 500m mark, most (if not all) of the other “D” boats (including Steve) had cruised past me and I was then being chased by juniors. In the heat, I was really struggling, as my hands were so sweaty, I couldn’t get a good grip on the blades – add this to the “fun” of steering on an unknown river, keeping out of other people’s way and this explains the very slow time of 24:14.4, obviously last. Steve has a much better race, passing some and being passed by others but putting in a very good time of 18:34.7 to put him 5th in the “D” category, out of 10

My thoughts
A really pleasant venue, well run and friendly event, just a pity my single was so poor. Obviously, the weather played a major part (although wearing a black lycra on a hot, sunny day is “interesting”) but despite it being a big event, it was good fun. The organisation of the boating was spot on, calling crews by numbers to boat and plenty of pontoon space and lots of friendly, helpful volunteers. If I have one criticism, it would be how long we had to wait around at he beginning of division three; this just seemed an eternity, with no obvious signs of anything happening and it was sooooo hot!

Definitely one to look at again next year – maybe with a bit more advanced notice we could get more crews entered (although probably not my single!)

Results are on line here


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