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).

Northampton Head 2011

January 30, 2011

Not quite as successful as in recent years, this year’s Northampton Head saw us come away with just two wins. These were for the Women’s IM3 4+ boat and a Mixed IM3 2x- crew. The relative lack of wins was, I think, down to a combination of a higher standard of competition (both quantity and quality) and a smaller MKRC entry than usual.Some interesting combinations entered and nice to get a Men’s Eight out again.

W.Mas C 4+

Going for time only (no competition at this category), the four of Paula, Lou, Karen and Clare, coxed by Liz, posted a good time of 7:33 to put down a marker for their “real” race later in the day.

Mas B/C 2x-

Pierre-Yves and Tim racing together again, first time out in a double for some time. Their opposition took a big lump out of them off the start but the guys then managed to hold them for the rest of the course. Considering their opponents include a Nat Masters winner, a creditable performance.

W. IM3 2x-

A new combination saw Jo and Andi racing (possibly rowing?) a double for the first time. Given lack of practise together (and Jo not having been in a boat at all for months) their stated aim was to finish the right way up and the right way round! They did this easily and actually pulled away from the crew chasing them.

Mas. D 2x-

Steve and I knew this was going to be a tough race, being drawn as a sandwich between Abingdon and Nemesis, both of whom have beaten us by some distance in the past. Nemesis put in a very strong and quick start, pulling back probably a couple of lengths in the first 200m but a detour into the bank dropped them back again. We were really pleased as we then sat on them all the way down the course, even pulling away a bit in the closing stages. Ultimately we were 2 seconds slower than them (and a further 5 seconds off of Abingdon) but this is much closed than we’ve ever been before, so real progress.

Rob coming off his seat at Northampton

Rob coming off his seat at Northampton

Mas. B 8+

Really nice to be able to put out a men’s eight again. Originally planned as an IM3 boat, the lack of competition in this category led to a quick rejig (jettisoning Josh as he’s too young) and entry as Master’s B. More of a practise run than a race, we’d not rowed in this combination before and certainly Steve, Pierre-Yves and I found it odd having just one blade. Despite this, we settled fairly quickly and were beginning to move the boat well. I’d noticed that my seat was making more creaking noises than usual and after about 500m it started sticking intermittently; then with about 500m to go it jammed completely throwing me backwards off the seat on the drive. I finished the race sitting at backstops, my seat in front of me, rowing arms only. As we got out, the reason for the problem became clear as one of the seat runner wheels was laying on the decking… Still, up to my malfunction it had been going really nicely.

W. IM3 4+
Paula, Lou, Karen and Clare back out again (with Liz doing the coxing honours again) this time in their serious piece. They were up against two other Oundle Town boats and put in a faster time (by 2 seconds) on this run. This was enough to see them clear, to win the category

Mxd. IM3 2x-
Another new combination saw Josh and Andi doubling for the first time. As we had the only two boats in this category, we were guaranteed a win, so it was down to inter-club rivalry. Although they have limited racing experience in sculls, the two of them looked strong and would be a good bet in Novice (they were rowing up as no competition at Novice).

Mst C 4x-
Our usual boat out again, racing against Abingdon and Canterbury Pilgrims. We seemed to take a while to settle (could be the lack of water time over the past two months?) but did finally find our rhythm. The exertions for Steve, Pierre-Yves and I over two previous races showed towards the end though and we weren’t really able to push hard in the finishing straight.

IM2 4+
A scratch crew of James, Benn, Nelson and Josh (yet again coxed by the admirable Liz) really gelled and put in a very strong row, managing to keep our quad at bay for the entire course. Again rowing up a level against school crews, they were unlikely to win the event but this boat looks like it could be very competitive over this year.

Mxd. IM3 2x-
Our second crew in this category saw Tim and Jo sculling together in yet another new combination. Their greater expertise paid off and they beat Josh and Andi by around seven seconds (despite heckling from the bank during the race – Andi helpfully shouting to them that they were going the wrong way).

Despite the bitterly cold temperatures and biting wind, another great day at Northampton Head. Maybe not as successful as other years but some good performances and nice to get a Men’s Eight out again. Definitely seemed to be more crews and a higher standard this year, wonder if the bad weather has meant more people looking to get in an early race? Whatever the reason, good to see Northampton getting more support, which they thoroughly deserve for such a well organised, friendly event. Even the waiting for late boating crews didn’t seem as bad this year.

Must sign off now though as we’ve got to go and wash just about everything we own; that bright yellow sandy mud from the car park gets everywhere and into everything!


The results are on-line here (by category, other views available) and my photos are here

Northampton Head 2010

January 30, 2010

The first race of the year at a cold, cold Northampton saw us come away with four wins for the club. There were other really good races as well from other crews, so a promising start to the year. We put in a good number of crews, especially from the ladies squad, showing the growing strength in depth. This also saw another four new rowers make their MKRC début – including a winning start for Ashling.

IM3 4+
First time out for three of this crew, who only just scraped into IM3 despite having three novices in the boat. Tim provided the experience (and the points) but a good row from the new guys saw a creditable time on their racing début.

Novice 1x
Despite having eight points (regressed!), Tim has no sculling points at all and this was his first race in a single. He accomplished his primary aim (finishing upright and dry) and actually posted a good time, despite a close encounter with the bank. Plenty more to come, was his view, as he gains experience.

Novice 2x-
Josh and Paul were racing (on handicap) against junior crews in this category and had the strength to see them take the win. A few interesting moments for the spectators as they seemed to cut up another MK crew but this was a trick of the distance

Vet C 2x-
Pierre-Yves and I reprised our successful outing at Peterborough last year, winning the category. Despite an interminable delay at the start (thanks to a Women’s Eight who kept everyone waiting in the freezing cold – thanks girls!) we put in a strong row and with Pierre-Yves nailing the lines put in a very pleasing time

Vet C 4x-
Despite a strong looking opposing crew from Canterbury Pilgrims, we pulled out probably our best race to date to win this event. A nice, powerful and controlled race actually saw us post the fastest time in the division, including being faster than an eight! All credit to Simon, picking up his first win.

Womens Novice 4+
First race for Ashling and only the second event for Frances and Andi but the practise and coaching paid off as they took the win in this category, beating their opposition by over a minute! Lou made up the crew and this looks to be a promising combination for the season ahead.

Womens IM3 4+ – three crews
As there was no opposition for the top boat at IM2, it was a case of mix and match at IM3, to produce three crews. These crews managed to place 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the category, all trailing a very quick Stratford boat. Promising to see some of the novice ladies rowing in these boats and not looking at all out of place. Despite not winning, it shows the strength in depth that the ladies are getting

Overall view
Although Northampton isn’t one of the “big” events, it IS friendly and well organised and one of our “must do” races. It’s a good starter for the year with less pressure and a nice bit of river. Somehow they always conjure up the same weather as well – brilliant blue sky but bitterly cold (my toes have only just thawed out). I guess the only suggestion would be to get the eights boated first in each division as we always seem to wind up sitting for ages in the cold waiting for an eight to wend it’s way down. It was really nice to see four new faces in their first events, and all seemed to “enjoy” their first taste of racing. Personally very pleasing to come away from an event with two wins as well. A good way to spend a Saturday!

Photos on-line at the MKRC fotopic site and results up at the Northampton RC site

Northampton Head 2009

February 2, 2009

So, to the first event of the New Year. Another good day out for us at Northampton, with the club taking three wins out of seven boats entered. Update: Shows nobody reads this – we actually won FOUR events!! I missed the Mens S3 4+ crew off – sorry guys.

As usual, the event was friendly and boating really well managed – some problems with Division 2 being delayed but this was down to certain crews boating way too late. The “shoe boxes” were a great idea – full marks to whoever thought that one up.

Division 1 started off in nice calm conditions, bright sunshine although very cold. The flat water led to some good rows, with the three winning boats all coming in this division. These were the S3 4x-, the WS3 4+ and, on their first competitive outing, the “handicapped pair” as they were referred to by race control (Paul and Nick in the S3 2-).

By the time Division 2 got underway, the wind had picked up and the river was getting pretty choppy. In this division we had two more women’s fours, one at S3 the other at S4. The S3 boat went off, followed immediately by the S4 crew. The two crews chased each other down the course, with the (younger) S4 boat finally overtaking the S3 ladies after 1200m or so. This despite the great line taken by the outstanding cox in the S3 boat (OK, it was me…).

Only one crew in Division 3, the Men’s S3 4+ boat. For a scratch crew, the performance was pretty good and opens up other possibilities for the rest of the season. And they won!

The Fourth and final division again saw two boats out. These were the Women’s S4 4x- (another scratch crew) and Steve and I in the Vet D 2x-. The Ladies quad went well (better than they expected) but I think the lack of water time caught up with Steve and I (certainly with me!) and our row was disappointing, being overhauled by the following Vet E boat (who had a 13 second handicap advantage) for Guildford. Having seen the results though, it wasn’t quite so bad.

Some good results and performances with some new combinations out. Nice to see another debut today as well, with Lou in her first race in the second WS3 4+ crew.

Summary of results

Crew Position
S3 4+ 1st of 2
S3 4x 1st of 2
WS3 4+ 1st of 3
WS3 4+ 2nd of 3
WS4 4+ 2nd of 4
S3 2- 1st of 7
VetD 2x 2nd of 3
WS4 4x 2nd of 2
WS3 4+ 2nd of 3

Sunny and no wind – this can’t be a rowing night, surely

June 10, 2008

What a great evening for training last night. Really bright and sunny (and hot) and virtually a flat calm. It’s amazing how the conditions make you more up for a good training session. We had quite a busy lake, with some serious work being done out there.

There was the Mens’ Coxless Four, carrying on their hard training, gearing up for Henley, the Womens’ Coxed Four that will be racing at Star this week-end, a Novice Eight a double and myself in a single. The Women were certainly pushed through their paces by Clarissa; she’s sussed the crews’ tactics of keeping her chatting at the end of a length, allowing them to drift halfway back. She now makes them back down to get in a full run if she realises what they’re up to. This crew includes Lindy – hard to believe she’s only been rowing three months or so. She already looks the part and is clearly up for the race on Saturday.

The Novice Eight is coming along as well, with five new guys in it. It’s really nice seeing so many new faces (just wonder what’s happened to some of the “old hands” though?).

Jo was out in the double with one of the juniors (“Twin 1” while “Twin 2” coxed the Eight) but the heat and being back at school full time after exams exacted its toll…

It was such a nice evening I just enjoyed myself sculling. My hands (and back and legs) are telling me all about it this morning though. Still, all good practice ahead of the week-end.

On that subject, it’s sad to see another local club struggle with their event. After Northampton had to cancel their Regatta due to lack of interest (I believe MKRC were the only club to put in an entry), seeing Star have to cut their event from two days to one is both a shame and quite worrying. Does this show a decline in interest in rowing, people being priced out of events or (worst of all) growing snobbery of clubs not wanting to complete in “small” events? Let me know your thoughts?

Northampton Head

January 26, 2008

First race of this year, back to the Northampton Head of the Nene. We had a good turnout today, especially from the womens’ squad, with nine rowers.

In the first division we had a Mens S4 4+ boat (Ray, Will, Nick and Graham with Clarissa coxing). They set a good time and overtook a couple of crews. Next down was a Vet C mens’ quad (Steve L, me, Steve I and Pierre-Yves) – we felt this went really well. This was all in this division – which was rowed into a really strong head wind. At times we felt like we were hardly moving!

The second division had a Womens’ S4 8+ – the first time we’ve put out a womens’ eight for a long, long time. This crew included Kathleen in her first event (the rest being Charlene, Steph, Kathleen, Yemin, Terri, Paula, Clare and Karen with Becks coxing). Despite being the first time they’d rowed together, they put in a neat run and were eventual winners! Thanks to Northampton for loaning us the boat. Next down for us, christening our really nice new HG boat, were Steve L and Pierre-Yves rowing at Vet C. The boat rows well and looks seriously cool.

The final division had a womens’ S4 4x boat (Paula, Steph, Clare and Karen), a womens’ N 4+ (Sadie – in her first race, Yemin, Terri and Charlene, again with Becks coxing), Steve L in his single and making our competitive debut, Will and I in a N 2x. Despite some close encounters of the bank kind, we really enjoyed it! Again, thanks to Northampton RC for loaning us two sets of sculling blades.

Although only the one winning crew, there was plenty of potential on show with some good crew options being suggested. It certainly illustrated the growing strength of the women’ squad and the surge in sculling within the club.