Fours Head/Veterans Four Head 2011

A little out of date, but here’s the story behind last year’s Fours and Veterans’ Four Head

Back down in London again, for this year’s Fours event, with two boats out on the Saturday in the Fours Head and one on Sunday in the Masters event. Really good performances from all three crews with the Tideway showing a complete change in conditions from one day to the next.

Fours HeadTwo ladies’ boats out in the main Fours Head, an IM1 quad and an IM1 coxed four. The quad, comprising Emma, Helen M, Andi and Liz, was first off. With limited practise time and this being Helen M’s first race in a crew boat for as long as I can remember, this was always more of a learning event but despite this, they put in a good time. The four also were a relatively new crew (Charlene, Paula, Lou and Alice, with Yemin coxing the Tideway for the first time) having been put together following the seat racing at Peterborough.

After an “interesting” start, where they boated at Civil Service and were then told to stop at Tideway Scullers (just the other side of Barnes Bridge!) and get out to wait for their division, they got off to a steady start. Having settled, they then ramped up the pace and started closing in on the crews in front, ultimately catching and passing two boats (interestingly, one of them when being overtaken was yelling at our ladies to move out of the way!) including a local rival! They were close to catching a third but ran out of river before they could manage this but an excellent race saw them place 15th of 30 in club crews – a top half finish, something to be really proud of.

Watching from the far end of Dukes Meadows, we then witnessed some of the most ridiculous rowing; returning boats were being held opposite us and allowed to cross by the marshals. As this involved crossing the racing line, you’d expect crews to really get a move on. Most did, apart from one crew (I don’t normally name and shame but York deserve a mention here). They dawdled across at a very shallow angle, until they realised there were boats racing towards them. At this point, instead of doing the sensible thing and stopping and backing down out of the way, they accelerated , making sure they hit an oncoming boat. A really horrible crunching sound ensued as they completely T-boned a ladies four; fortunately, the ladies were able to carry on (although the time they lost will have ruined any chance they had, plus there must be damage to their boat) but York were left with around two feet of bow hanging off. After paddling to the shore they were then collected by the rescue boat and ferried back down the river in a rowing version of the “walk of shame”.

Masters Fours Head
Our plans were thrown completely for the Masters event on Sunday as Steve’s back was still playing up and he was unable to row. Fortunately, Benn was available (and old enough!) to step in, but this left us racing time only as “B” instead of the entered “C” crew. It was also probably the first time Tim, Benn, Iain and I had actually rowed as a crew! Still, we’d rowed together in different combinations at various times…

Unlike yesterday’s benign conditions, today was pretty foul. Grey skies, chilly and, worst of all, a brisk wind blowing from the North. Having boated, we paddled our way towards the start – a much needed opportunity to work on balance and rowing together! Going past some of the other crews we were surprised by a sudden “Go MK” call from one of them – none other than ex-member for many years, Roger, rowing for City of Bristol.

After a brisk warm-up we then found our slot on the bank and began the game of trying to keep station. Working against a brisk stream and gusting winds was a real test, but Andi coped superbly, not allowing us to drift at all. Finally, it was time for the off, so stripping down to racing kit (that was cold!) we pulled out into the centre and built for the start. Running through Chiswick Bridge, the river started churning up with the winds and sitting at bow I was struggling to clear my blade on the recovery; unfortunately this aggravated a slight twinge I’d had in my shoulder for a few weeks and pretty soon it was extremely sore; still only another 6k to go…

The boat following us (Nottingham) were clearly very quick and were soon bearing down on us; despite a couple of good pushes, they eased through us and started to pull away somewhere around Dukes Meadows. Still, this was offset by Andi calling that we were catching a couple of other crews. As we came round by Chiswick Eyot, the wind really hit and suddenly the waves were breaking over the bows and stern and spray flying everywhere. Our experience on Caldecotte Lake helped as we just dug deep and powered through this, passing City of Bristol (with Roger) and Bedford through the rough stuff. With no-one else catching us and not making any dent on the boats in front, we then settled for the rest of the race.

Hammersmith Bridge came and went and we started the long haul for home; the river had settled down a bit and conditions to the end weren’t too bad. Building for the last couple of hundred, we closed a bit on the Nottingham boat that had taken us early on (but not gone away that much subsequently) but not enough to “un-lap” ourselves.

Having finished we then had the worst bit to come – don’t know about anyone else but the row back is sheer purgatory for me, especially as my shoulder was pretty well shot by now. Rowing back past Putney, we saw the most unusual sight – a quad sitting against the Black Buoy, upside down with the crew perched on the upturned hull! How they’d done this, no idea!

Inevitably on the way back, we’d had the usual numpties who insisted on racing – one Thames based crew even managed to row into us, so desperate were they to get past! Finally though, after what seemed like hours, we were back at Civil Service, sitting in the inevitable traffic jam. Watching the other boats being lifted out we could see they’d all suffered with the conditions too, as huge amounts of water were pouring out as they went to heads. Pleasingly, when we flipped our boat over, there was relatively little water (although Andi reckons this is because most of it had hit her instead…).

A long, hard (and painful) race but when the results came out we weren’t too disappointed. For a scratch crew, we managed 6th out of nine at “B” and around 90th overall out of 200+ starters

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