Bedford Autumn Head 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


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