Peterborough Spring Regatta 2011

What a week-end! After some really low points on Saturday, everything turned around on Sunday and it became our most successful Peterborough Regatta ever. So much so that, despite being a “small” club, we placed third overall in terms of club wins, with no less than six victories, one on Saturday and five on Sunday.

This featured some really strong performances, especially considering the conditions. Both days had extremely high winds blowing almost straight down the course, making it very hard going and causing real problems for crews getting onto the stake boats.

We also camped overnight and had a really good evening, helped by finding a secluded camping area and making into “mini-MK” for the night. Good food, good drinks and good company – obviously a recipe for success, looking at the Sunday results!

A bright start to the day, but strong winds blowing as we headed up to Peterborough. Quite a good turn out of crews, across both Men’s and Women’s squads. Entries seem down on previous years as the trailer park wasn’t as jammed as we’ve seen it and the car park didn’t extend beyond the spectator line. We set up camp and then settled in by the finish line to watch the day’s racing.

W.IM3 4+
No idea what to expect from this boat, as it was a completely scratch crew, comprising Helen, Liz, Alice and Sam, with Tim coxing. In their heat they put in a solid row to finish second behind X-Press, good enough to see them into the repêchage. They felt there was more to come and so it proved, with a storming win in the repêchage to put them into the final.

Knowing they needed to find yet more, they started fast, pushed into the lead and held off a determined fight back from the other crews to pull away and take the win. A really great set of races, and wonderful to see both Alice and Sam de-novice, especially at a top event and in such atrocious weather conditions. A bit of a shock though to find they all copped for two rowing points as there were more than eight boats in the event!

W.Masters B/C 4+
One side effect of the W.IM3 4+ boat getting to the repêchage was that this led to a crew clash with Helen being in that boat and the Masters 4+ which was scheduled eight minutes later. Despite Tim’s shuttle mission between the other crews and Race Control, this proved impossible, so they were left with trying to get Helen swapped and back up the course as quickly as possible.

In the event, despite a rapid change of crew and a frantic row back up the course, having told all the marshals what was happening, as the ladies got to the 250m meter mark, their race was started without them as they weren’t at the start at the correct time.

It’s hard to put into words just how upsetting this was; had it been them just boating late, fair enough but when we’d done everything to inform everyone and the crew were so close to the start, it seems unreasonable. This was made even more galling when our double was held up and raced out of sequence – to accommodate another crew who had had a crew clash.

Masters D 2x-
The heat saw Steve and I against Champs, Ardingly and Oundle. Knowing the first three went through, our aim was to try and sit on Oundle and make sure we led them. We had a good start and were up with Champs and Ardingly for the first couple of hundred meters and this put us clear of Oundle and allowed us to take it down a bit and just watch them through to the end, to put us into the final.

The final was clearly going to be a massive challenge, pitting us against Champs, Ardingly and Poplar, all of whom have beaten us easily. Sculling in the worst conditions I’ve ever raced in, I struggled badly and we were dropped off very quickly, with (not surprisingly) Poplar winning comfortably and the other crews well ahead of us.

IM3 2x-
Mike and Nelson reprising their boat from our Regatta, up against two Peterborough crews and one from Newark. Considering the conditions and their lack of water time together, they did really well, holding on to the other crews pretty well but unable to make it through to the final.

IM2 4+
A new look crew of Mike, Tim, Josh and Nelson were pitted against a strong line up of UEA, Peterborough and a composite from various London Unis. Another close race but the others were a bit too good and our guys finished in the tail end spot.

W.Mas B/C 4x-
A first outing for a Women’s Masters quad, with Paula, Lou, Clare and Karen. As with virtually every race, there were problems getting attached to the stake boats, as soon as one got attached, another would drift round. Eventually, all four crews were (sort of) aligned and the race started, Being a mixed (B/C) event, our ladies were off first but a big squall pushed them off course and into Star Club’s lane. This resulted in the race being halted and our crew being disqualified; a very bad day at the races for Paula, Lou and Karen who’d been in the W.Masters B/C 4+ boat earlier.

IM3 4x-
Our last (and very nearly THE last) race of the day saw Tim, Josh, Steve and I out in the quad, for the first time since the same event last year (well, you can over practice…). Drawn against Royal Chester, Peterborough and Rob Roy, we got a storming start with us and Rob’s pulling out into the lead. Suddenly, there was a lurch and I realised that Josh, in front of me, seemed to have had a problem. I then noticed he wasn’t on his seat but on the decking – in a quite amazing feat of gymnastics, he managed to hop himself up, onto the seat and pick up, all without missing a stroke although he then nearly pulled a crab. This had dropped us at least a length and a half off of the leaders and back level with Royal Chester. Digging very deep we wound up the pace and ate into Rob’s lead. Unfortunately, we ran out of lake and despite all our efforts lost out – but by just half a length!

End of the day
So ended a really frustrating day of racing. We were all upset over the treatment of the Women’s Masters Boat and the inconsistency of how the rules were applied.

The conditions were dreadful, strong winds making any manoeuvring at the start really difficult, although all credit to our coxes and steers people who seemed to cope better than most. Having said that, some of the coxing was simply woeful, with coxes with no clue about how to position a boat or hold it on station.

Still, we all retired to our “village” for a really nice evening, sharing a barbie and a few beers and having a good laugh. It does seem one of the things about MKRC, that we all get on really well off the water and evenings like this are just such good fun. As a really nice touch, Paula (who’d had to take Jo back to Uni after finishing her races) reappeared with a couple of bottles of bubbly, to toast Sam and Alice’s de-novicing; very well received!

We had entered an impressive contingent of ten crews up for the 500m Sprint race on Sunday. We awoke to a similar wind to yesterday, maybe a little lighter, but mostly grey and horrid. Not a nice day for racing, but still.

W.IM3 4+
After a quick reshuffle of crews following the brilliant win by the Women yesterday, the crew entered at IM2 swapped to IM3 having just few enough points. in the heat, a strong start and solid row saw Andi, Lindy, Ash and Sam cruise into first place to book a place in the final. First race of the day and off to a good start for the club.

From the start in the final, one of the crew missed a stroke and this slewed the boat around; rather than continuing and (probably) getting disqualified, Liz (coxing) stopped the boat, straightened up and set off in pursuit. Over 500m this was too much and although they overhauled one boat, they could only finish a disappointing third.

IM3 2x-
With Nelson not being available, Gwen sat in with Mike in their first race (outing?) together. In the heat, they did enough to finish third, taking them into the final.

Racing against more experienced crews, they were going to struggle but put up a really good row. Finishing last but still in contention, a good first race for the two of them.

W. Mas C 4+
With no dramas today, the Women’s Master four were able to start this race. Up against Bedford, St. Neots and a formidable looking Peterborough/Leicester composite (who’d won the event yesterday by a very long way) we expected our ladies to be battling it out for second. They had different ideas…

Off the start, they flew off keeping up with the composite and leaving the others in their wake. About halfway, Steve (coxing) called a push, the ladies responded and Steve shouted that they were rowing through the other crew. Paula, used to Steve’s economy with the truth when coxing, glanced across and saw this was actually the case. Pushing again, they seemed to break the other crew and then powered away, to storm to our first win of the day. After the disappointment of the previous day, to put that behind them and take such a big scalp really did give all of us a huge lift. Definitely one of the best performances I’ve seen by an MKRC crew.

W.IM2 4+
We were all just getting our breath back for the Women’s win when the next race down the course provided our second win of the day. Yesterday’s W.IM3 4+ boat, rowing at IM2 today clocked up another impressive row and beat off the other finalist from Warwick quite comfortably.

W.IM1 2x-
Our next boat out, Andi and Liz sculling as a double for the first time, provided our next win. With Andi stroking and Liz steering, they were able to push into a lead and hold it, crossing the line a length clear.

W.Mas Nov 2x-
Clare and Karen made up this new combination, with Clare steering for the first time in a race. Up against two Peterborough boats and a Champs one, this was a tough final. After an early diversion, Clare got the boat bang on course and they were very much in contention right to the end, but unfortunately finished last. However, an encouraging first race and a big well done to Clare on steering.

IM2 4+
Next up was the Men’s coxed four. Obviously stung that the ladies had clocked three wins to the mens’ none by this point, they really went for it. A new combination saw Mike, Benn, Tim and Josh involved in a really close race but they had enough to pull through the other crews, to add another win for the club. Given the strength of the opposition (including a composite of Uni kids) this was another very fine performance.

Mas D 2x-
With Steve and I drawn against an ominous looking trio of Poplar Blackwell, Champs and Nemesis, we knew this would be tough, very tough, as all three crews have beaten us comprehensively in the past. In the event, the Poplar Blackwell boat didn’t appear (quite funny – the marshals didn’t realise they weren’t there and were getting really stressed at a Warwick double that they thought were Poplar!) leaving us sandwiched between the other two. Despite a good start which kept us up with the other two, their superior ability and power soon told and by 200m Steve was calling to save it for the quad later, as we were so far adrift. Again, really horrid conditions, and I was struggling to cope in these.

IM2 2-
Benn and Tim were next up, racing their pair. In a close fought encounter, they finished last of the three boats – clearly disappointed, which augers well for them as a crew as they feel there’s a lot more to come..

IM3 4x-
With Tim having dropped out to row in the pair, Gwen replaced him in the quad from Saturday, with Josh moving to stroke. Our opponents were Peterborough and this turned out to be the crew we’d beaten easily the previous day.

From the start, we pushed away from them and were able to control the race comfortably, concentrating on keeping it clean and not making any mistakes rather than on power. Despite this, we continued to pull away all down the course and claimed our last win of the day.

What we hadn’t realised was that Josh was still a sculling novice, until he (quite modestly) told us as we were paddling in after the race, so another de-novice for the club.

We were all still buzzing from the results while we were packing up when they announced the results of the Victor Ludorum for the day. Normally, this just passes us by as this usually goes to the “big” clubs who put in loads of entries. Not today; to our amazement, Milton Keynes finished <strong>third overall</strong>, a quite spectacular result for the club.

It was then an en masse visit to Race Control to get our winning chits and then to the club to pick up our pots. Including the Saturday win, we collected a grand total of 24 pots – as seen below! Fortunately, they had run out of medals for those events held as straight finals, so we all got a proper trophy (to me, medals always seem a bit insignificant).

Having packed up it was time to head home, tired, but well pleased with the day’s effort. On the way back to MKRC, the heavens opened as well, so we’d been really fortunate that we’d kept dry (if cold) all week-end.

My views…
I guess it was the weather with the strong winds causing everyone to get more stressed but, other than our results, I didn’t enjoy this year as much as previous events at Peterborough. Normally, the Peterborough regattas are great, well organised, well marshalled and highly competitive, with loads of competition. This year seemed to be the opposite; we had the really distressing incident with the Women’s crew on Saturday and the some of the marshalling could have been better (holding crews on the stake boats in high cross winds just to avoid starting a race a minute early is a bit too picky) and inconsistent treatment. The entries seemed way down on previous years, with the boat park well short of full (although a certain club did manage to make life very difficult for all by blocking virtually every single access, please think about others!) and the car park not even reaching up into the meadow.

A word of praise for Tim in all this – in between racing he was trying to sort out the entries for East Midlands Regatta next week. No sooner had he got everything sorted than one of our crews would win, changing the crews’ point and needing another call to the regatta secretary! Surprised he didn’t tell us all to stop trying so hard in the end!

Finally, I’ll return to one of my favourite rants, the craziness of the new BR points system. By winning in a straight final against one other crew, who were clearly way short of us, I pick up another sculling point. As Steve pointed out, one more and it makes me an IM2 sculler – I don’t think so!!! All that is happening is rowers are being pushed into higher levels, where they are just going to act as “cannon fodder” for the better crews. This is demoralising and will lead to people not bothering to race. I know the argument is that not giving points for races with less than four entries led to pot hunting by crews (although I’ve never been aware of anyone doing this) but with all the results computerised at BR, surely there is scope to allow a maximum number of no point wins before giving rowers a point? This could also cover Mixed and Masters events, making it more even throughout.

Please note the views in this blog are my personal ones and do not reflect the official view of Milton Keynes Rowing Club. If you disagree with anything here, please use the comments section to discuss, rather than going to the club.


Saturday Results (pdf)
Sunday results (pdf)
MKRC Videos (courtesy of Benn)

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