British Masters 2012

June 2, 2012

This year’s British Masters saw us look to build on the success of last year, with more crews entered than last time around. In a much stronger event, we still managed three Silver Medals with others just missing out – in one case by three hundredths of a second!

Despite not bringing home a Gold, the increased competition meant that the Silvers were actually harder earned, racing against some long established and larger clubs. Especially encouraging was the sheer number of competitors we put out, including a couple of Novice boats. Sadly, from a personal point of view, an injury to my doubles partner Steve meant we had to scratch, so no racing for me at this year’s event.

Novice A 4+
A straight final against Lea and Furnivall saw Iain swap in for Chris from the previous day’s Nottingham City Regatta novice boat, as Charlene take over coxing duty from me. With the other two crews getting a very quick start, our guys were dropped back fairly rapidly. Although they were able to close the gap slightly over the second half of the race, they weren’t able to make up the deficit and finished a couple of lengths down on the winners, Lea.

With limited practice and still hampered by slow starts, it was still a good first time out race performance by this crew.

WB 1x
We had not one but two ladies representing us in this category. First out was Amelia, in her first singles race for a long time. Despite this, she still managed to hold off two boats to finish fourth in her heat, sadly missing the final as the first three qualified.

Next up was Helen M, racing at the Masters for the first time. Blasting out of the start, she rapidly pulled into a length’s lead over her nearest competitor and was able to control the race from the front. This saw her win the heat reasonably comfortably and put her through to the final.

Having a heat of the double with Jenny before the single final didn’t help and despite another fast start that saw her fourth at the halfway stage and really in contention, Helen faded over the second half to finish last. Still, it was good learning for next year and a commendable sixth overall in a very big field.

WB 2x-
A strangely out of sorts row from Helen M and Jenny saw them place fourth in their heat, failing to make the final. Not helped by being hit by a big wash halfway down the course, they were a good few lengths off of the leading pack.

WB 4x-
This was very much an experimental crew, with Amelia hopping out of the single and Jenny out of the double to join Yemin and Becks in a “B” quad. Another straight final saw them racing some very strong opposition, with Leicester, Bristol, MAA, Ross and local rivals Star in the mix. The race fairly quickly split into three, with Leicester and Bristol contesting the lead, MAA and Ross slugging it out for third and our ladies and Star battling for local pride.

With just half a second between MK and Star at half way, it was a real case of digging deep and holding on, needing to cover every move that Star made. Despite a really big push into the red buoys, our crew has just enough to hang on to take a hard earned fifth place. Clearly lots of potential here, with only a few outings to date under their belts!

A 2-
Having won Silver in a double at last year’s Masters, Benn and Tim thought they’d try their luck in a pair this time around. This again proved their versatility as, for a second year running, they claimed Silver.

In a straight final with York and Worcester, they edged ahead of Worcester over the first half of the race, with York pulling ahead of them. The second half saw Benn and Tim push on and extend their lead but weren’t able to close in on York, but still more than enough for a (relatively) comfortable second place. Although there were only three boats racing, one crew had scratched, so they did qualify for their medals. Unfortunately, they didn’t realise this at the time and so didn’t get the pleasure of rowing over to the victory pontoon to collect them.

Benn and Tim, Silver Medalists

Benn and Tim, Silver Medalists

WA 4+
This was the first of what turned out to be many close fought races for the club. A tough looking final saw Liz, Andi, Lindy and Helen J (with me coxing) line up against a pair of Nottingham boats, and one each from Abingdon, Wallingford and Peterborough.

Although they’d had a good training session on the Trent in the morning, as a crew they were still short of race and, critically, start practice. From the “go”, we dropped about a length on virtually all the other crews (one of the Nottingham boats just flew out into the lead) and we were then left trying to claw it back. Trailing last at the halfway point, the girls gradually reeled in Peterborough to inch in front. The next target was Wallingford and we closed on and then passed them, gaining inexorably on Abingdon and the second Nottingham crew.

Unfortunately, as we were gaining on Abingdon for third (and bronze medal position) we simply ran out of lake, finishing just 1.2 seconds behind. Still with a poor start and just 2.3 seconds covering 3rd to 6th, a very fine performance indeed in a very hard fought race.

WB Nov 4+
Considering that three of this crew hadn’t even sat in a rowing boat until last August, this was yet another brilliant performance. For the crew as a whole, it was also their first race together, with Maria stroking, followed by Helen C, Kelly and Winnie with Karen coxing.

Another straight final saw Worcester race into an early lead but Milton Keynes got away well and were fighting it out with Oundle Town at the halfway stage. Lack of race practice then affected the ladies as they fell away from Oundle and Warwick rowed past them in the closing stages. Still, they placed fourth, well clear of Dart Totnes and Loughborough and under a length off third and what would have been a well deserved Bronze medal.

WC 4+
Next out were the “C” ladies four, with a strong looking line up of Helen J, Paula, Karen and Lou with Yemin in the cox’s seat. Lined up against them in the final were York, Stourport, Furnivall, Llandaff and Hereford. In last year’s event, Hereford had pipped Tees to the Gold Medal, so our ladies were keen to see how they measured up this year.

From the off, York, Hereford and MK pulled away from the other crews and got into a hard three-way battle, with Furnivall trying to hold on to them in fourth but the others drifting away. This was to be another momentous fight, with under a second separating the three leading crews at halfway, York in first, then Hereford with MK just behind.

Over the next 500m, our ladies chipped into Hereford’s lead, gradually inching past them, entering the red buoys maybe a quarter of a length up on Hereford and half a length down on York. Despite throwing everything at it, they couldn’t quite pick off York but had the immense satisfaction of beating last year’s winners to take second place and Silver medal.

A really hard earned medal from a simply stunning performance, in doubt right up to the line, missing Gold by just 2.6 seconds.

WC 4+ Silver Medalists

WC 4+ Silver Medalists

WA 2x-
Following on from one close finish, Liz and Andi then delivered an even closer one. In yet another straight final, they were drawn against Norwich, Nottingham, Bristol, Abingdon and Exeter.

The race split into two fairly quickly with our girls in the leading pack with Norwich, Abingdon and Nottingham, crossing halfway in that order with a mere 2.4 seconds covering the four crews. From halfway, Norwich and MK started piling on the pressure and pulled clear of the other two boats, opening up clear water to Abingdon but with nothing between them. Absolutely hammering for the line, both crews gave it absolutely everything, with a “beep-beep” finish needing it to “go upstairs” for a photo finish review.

After an agonising wait, the verdict went to Norwich, with a lead of 0.14 seconds! Despite missing the Gold by the tiniest fraction, Liz and Andi were delighted with their Silver medals. Yet another wonderful performance by the pair of them.

Liz and Andi, Silver medalists at A 2x-

Liz and Andi, Silver medalists at A 2x-

WC 8+
Having watched Liz and Andi coming so close, we honestly didn’t think racing could get any closer. Wrong.

The Ladies “C” eight had a very strong look about it and were aiming to take forward their hugely impressive showing on the Tideway (with a couple of the “kids” making way for “more experienced” ladies).
This was going to be a four way fight, with club crews from York and Nottingham as well as a multi-composite boat that seems to have people from all over the Eastern and Central regions. Obviously a put together crew to enter as strong a boat as possible, our ladies felt this was going to be a tough race.

Nottingham got off to a flier and eased into a length’s lead, with the composite boat and ours locked side by side and York following, slightly down. By halfway, Nottingham were holding the lead with MK and the composite crew sharing an identical time. A really strong push eased our boat into second but the others came back at them. To the line we could see the composite gaining and looking to be finishing the stronger – this time there was no “beep-beep” though. The two crews were so close, there was a single “beep” with neither crew being sure who’d taken second and with it Silver.

After what seemed an eternity, the verdict came through with again our ladies being on the wrong end – this time by a ridiculously small margin of 0.03 (yes, three hundredths) of a second. Enough for third but with only four boats entered no Bronze medal.

With Nottingham taking the win by just 3.78 seconds this shows how close it was – maybe if the ladies hadn’t had such a hard race in the four, or with a lighter boat, a medal next time around?

My thoughts…
Although we didn’t bring home any Golds this year, the three Silvers probably represented harder earned medals. Certainly, the numbers of competitors (and clubs) seemed up on last year, with MKRC making its own contribution by bringing an impressive eleven boats. Had Steve been fit, this would have added another couple (our double and Steve in his single).

Despite the foul weather (marginally better than the previous day) another hugely enjoyable day’s racing. The highlights of the day for me were those storming finishes in the ladies double, four and eight, really not knowing who was going to finish where and watching incredibly exciting side by side racing to the finish. It was just such a pity that we finished the wrong way round in them all!

It was noticeable the difference in the boat park compared to the previous day – our fleet suddenly looked more at home, with Janousek being probably the most common boat, compared to the “exotic” (and expensive) boats on Saturday.

Having said that, I do wonder how much faster the ladies eight would go in a lighter weight boat – watching their competitors hoist up their boats with little effort and stroll off, the struggle to lift JC out and get it to shoulders was quite galling. Oh well, maybe the Fairy Boatmother will read this and we’ll get a nice new, shiny Vespoli or something.

A brilliant day again and certainly one that can only have enhanced the reputation of Milton Keynes Rowing Club!

Results are here and my photos here

Nottingham City Regatta 2012

May 25, 2012

A slightly odd feeling, as we came away from Nottingham with no wins – this just shows how our expectations as a club have shifted. Being realistic though, we were stepping up a league here and banging heads with some serious competition, so the results were actually pretty damned good. We put in some very fine performances and certainly made a few people take notice of Milton Keynes Rowing Club!

Held in typical Holme Pieerepont weather, that is grey, breezy and very cold

Novice 4+
This was the first multi-lane event, first 2k race and first time at Holme Pierrepont for both Chris and Antonio, with Rob M and Nelson having only a little more experience. Considering we lined up against one university and three school crews, with just the first two crews qualifying for the final, this was going to be tough. Very tough.

Throw in to the mix, the stress of trying to collect numbers (one person handing out numbers for dozens of entries) making us a bit late and nearly getting swamped on the row up (this was a recurring theme all week-end, “safety” launches creating massive wakes) and it was with a degree of nerves that we lined up on the start.

On the “attention” call, the guys all came forward and set themselves. Then, on the “beep”, nothing! They’d never had a race start off of a beep, so needed a sharp shout from me of “go!” to get moving. As ever, a less than perfect start saw us dropped down behind the other four crews. However, a fast first 500m saw us ease ahead of Oundle School next to us and catch up on De Montfort University out in lane 6.

Belying their relative inexperience, the guys settled well and kept up the pressure on DMU, rowing through them and hunting down Norwich School. At the 1500m mark, we had pulled well clear of the two crews behind us and reduced the gap to Norwich to around a length. Over the last sprint, Norwich then really went for it, pulling away from us and closing up on St Edwards School, but not enough to catch them, leaving St Edwards as the winners, Norwich in second and us in a very creditable third place.

Not a bad result at all, especially from Antonio, who’d never raced this far (he was heard to say he was glad we didn’t have to do that again!), especially against a school and uni boats.

Senior 4-
To get more race time and practice together, the coxless four (Mike, Benn, Tim and Josh) entered into both the Senior and IM1 events. Obviously, rowing up a level at Senior was a big challenge and so it proved in the race.

Despite a good row, the other crews pulled away as was to be expected, and our guys finished in tail end place but, encouragingly, not that far off the pace.

W.IM2 4+
Not quite sure what happened to the draw on this race, as the ladies found themselves at the start alongside Agecroft (expected) and Durham School (not even on the draw!) but nobody else (expected two more crews)!

A good start saw the ladies push clear of Durham School but fall behind Agecroft at the first 500m. They were then able to settle and maintain nearly a length over Durham over the next 500m, although Agecroft were pulling away steadily. The lack of 2k races and practices then told as Durham gradually ate into their lead and inched past them, to be fractionally up by 1500m. Despite Paula calling a couple of massive pushes over the last 500, Durham consolidated and then extended their lead, leaving Charlene, Alice, Lindy and Helen to finish third, which wasn’t enough to progress to the final.

W.IM1 2x-
A tremendous battle for second, third and fourth positions in this race (Norwich leading comfortably throughout) saw Liz and Andi just miss out in the last few metres. With a mere 1.1 seconds covering MAA, Lea and MK, this could have gone any way but (according to the finish marshal) our pair lost it on the final stroke.

Another good performance though, in a class field.

IM1 4-
This was the coxless four’s second race of the day, dropping down from the Senior category to IM1. With Bedford School, Newark and Leeds sprinting off, our boys were left in a hard tussle with Tees. Having pulled away over the first 500m and extended their lead to over 5 seconds at the 1,500m mark, Mike, Benn, Tim and Josh were looking set for fourth place. Unfortunately, this was not to be as they fell away in the last sprint, with Tees edging them out.

W.IM2 8+
A case of split loyalties for me in this race, with wife Paula in the Milton Keynes boat and daughter Jo in the Nottingham University crew!

After another sluggish start, MK were trailing the field at the 500m mark, in contrast to the Nottingham Uni boat that had a blistering start to storm into the lead. Our ladies then pulled back and proceeded to row through Grosvenor over the next 500m, while Nottingham Uni were being hunted down by Lea, with Nottingham City chasing them hard.

As they came to the final sprint, Nottingham Uni and Lea had pulled clear and were going at it hammer and tongs. With the result in doubt virtually to the line, the Uni girls clung on to record the win.

MK were not far off the pace at the end, finishing in fourth, but just 12.5 seconds off of a scorching winning time – Jo saying it’s the hardest race she’s ever had! This again was a really strong performance by the Milton Keynes crew (Helen J, Charlene, Alice, Lou, Karen, Paula, Heidi and Becks, with Andi swapping sculls for a cox box) – especially rowing in the rather heavyweight JC!

A very difficult race to photograph, with all the crews close and trying to get shots of two crews.

W.IM2 2x-
Another high quality field saw Helen M and Jenny in their first regatta together. As they are still gelling as a partnership, it wasn’t too surprising that they were a bit off the pace. This was despite putting in maximum effort – evidenced by Jenny coming out with language we really didn’t think she knew when Helen pushed the rate up at 1500m!

Plenty more to come from this combination.

My thoughts…
Having established ourselves as a real force locally, this regatta gave us a chance to measure ourselves against top national crews. Despite coming away without a single win, we weren’t outclassed in any event and put in some great performances.

The gulf we’re trying to span was well illustrated in the boat park; our slightly older, tattier Janouseks, Aylings and Sims looked at bit out of place amongst the gleaming new Fillippis, Empachers and Vespolis!

Despite the weather (I’m still thawing out from that bitter northerly wind) it was a good event. I especially like the winners collecting their pots from the pontoon, and appreciate (from a photography point of view) the chilled attitude to allowing access to the finish area. It’s great to have the results posted up on the big board quickly and to get the 500m splits in the results. A special word too for the commentary – knowledgeable and amusing, with the occasional pithy comments thrown in, Nigel Mayglothling excelled himself (even if one of our crews were labeled as “munchkins”!).

My only niggle of the day was the safety boats. All too often they were blasting up the course, causing huge wakes which were bad enough for the crews rowing up but a couple of times actually affected the racing crews coming down the course. This really isn’t on.

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

Cambridge Autumn Regatta 2011

September 17, 2011

Not as successful as in recent times, this year’s Cambridge Autumn Regatta saw us come away with a solitary win. Despite this, we had many good performances, with the scratch IM3 4+ so nearly taking a win as well and the Women’s Eight narrowly missing out too. With many of our more experienced rowers missing and (again) a number of crews rejected for no competition, this wasn’t actually a disappointing day.

IM3 4+
This was a scratch crew, comprising Pierre-Yves, Simon, David and John, racing for the first time together. A fairly easy win in their first race (against Peterborough) put them into a semi, against a Boston/Lincoln composite. This was a much harder race with our boat being pushed all the way but they came out on top, winning by around a length. The final pitted them against Green Templeton College; despite a hard-fought row, it wasn’t to be their day and our guys finished just 3/4 length down. A really good performance, considering a scratch crew was racing a college boat!

IM3 1x
John hopped out of the IM3 four and into his single for a race against one of the Northampton giants. Despite giving away at least three feet in height (well, maybe not quite that much, but it seems it), John sculled really well, keeping Northampton under pressure all the way and trailing in by just over a length.

Masters C 4+
Swapping rowing for coxing, John made his inaugural appearance coxing the Master 4+. A hard learning curve for him as we undercut the corner and very nearly hit the bank. This disrupted our flow and although we had been keeping up with X-Press, this dropped us well behind. The frantic race to try and catch them led to the boat getting very scrappy and we finished well down. Not our best race.

CRA Women’s 8+
Thanks to Cambridge 99 for allowing us to enter a boat in this category, having had many of our ladies’ boats rejected. With a last minute change to swap Sue in for the missing Sam, this was a bit of an unknown. However, a storming start in the semi (against City of Cambridge) saw our ladies pull out a big lead and win the race comfortably. The final saw them against the second City of Cambridge boat. After a couple of missed strokes off the start, we were left chasing the City boat and although we were eating into their lead, they proved strong enough to hold off our ladies and we lost by 3/4 length. A good performance though from Lindy, Paula, Jo, Lou, Alice, Sue, Karen and Clare, excellently coxed by David.

Had this been a BR event, we’d have won it – the winners were roundly ticked off for “persistent and obvious coaching” from someone riding along the far towpath. When someone is calling for pushes and shouting out how far to the end, it is a bit OTT!

Women’s IM3 2x-
We originally had two boats entered in this category but one scratched on the day (a combination of not having blades and Sam not being there with neither Lindy nor Jo wanting to risk picking up a point) leaving Karen and Lou to row over in their first race. The final was against a very young crew from Peterborough, who flew off the start and pulled away quickly. As with many crews during the day, we then had a minor altercation with the far bank, leaving Peterborough to win with an “easily” verdict.

Women’s Masters B/C 1x
Great to see Helen back racing again! She had a straight final against Champions of the Thames, with the added handicap of a three second delay (she’s “B”, her opponent “C”). This didn’t deter Helen and she stormed off the start and had caught up the handicap well before halfway and was pulling away when her opponent also hit the bank. This left Helen with our only win of the day but still a satisfying one as she caught and passed her oppo before she’d stopped.

Masters D 2x-
Although they finished well down against Broxbourne, it was a delight to see this boat out and racing. With Roger making his racing début at 70+ and Iain steering a race for the first time, we didn’t expect a win but they sculled very well and (unlike so many) avoided the bank. A really encouraging first race, hopefully many more to come.

Women’s Novice 4+
Wonderful to see a crew from our last “Learn to Row” course out and racing so soon. As this was pretty much a learning experience, with none of the four of Sue, Mary, Gaya and Winnie (coxed by Jo) having ever raced before, the main objective was to get through the race. Pitted against a strong Broxbourne boat, it was noticeable that our ladies were technically neater although well behind on the course. An unfortunate crab stopped the boat but they recovered and carried on to finish. First race over ladies, now to start going for it!

My thoughts
I really like Cambridge Autumn. Whether it’s because it’s the last regatta of the year, it always seems more chilled than most and this was highlighted by the PA early in the day making it clear that flexibility was the main objective for the day – if you and your opponents are ready, then you can race whenever. A refreshing change from the “must run in order” attitude from some other events. The organisation is getting better each year (long gone are the stressful days of poor marshalling and communications) and the whole thing ran well to time despite the best efforts of some pleasure boats and barges.

This friendly attitude was also shown when we realised after the first round of the women’s eight that we hadn’t notified the crew change. On reporting this to race control, they were very relaxed about it and just accepted these things happen and that “common sense should prevail”. Helped by swapping a “three-pointer” for a novice but such a refreshing attitude.

Funniest things of the day – a coach of a crew that we’d beaten coming over to thank us, as his crew “needed taking down a peg or two”. We added to his amusement by telling him it was a scratch boat as well, something he was going to delight in relaying back to his crew! Second was the crazy coracle race at the end – imagine trying to row what is basically an oversized pudding bowl. As you take a stroke on one side the thing just swings round in the opposite direction; very funny to watch.

Thanks finally to the clubs (sorry but I don’t know which ones) that lent us cox boxes for the eight. Definitely saved David a lot of shouting.

Photos are online here and results are here

Peterborough Summer Regatta 2011

September 14, 2011

A very brief entry for this event – having been away on holiday this now seems a long, long time ago and I’m struggling to remember any details! The headline news was another five wins for MKRC, spread over the two days. It really shows how far we’ve come that this actually seemed a bit disappointing at the time.

The winning boats were (Saturday) Women’s IM1 (!) quad, Elite (!!) pair and Helen M making a welcome and winning return to racing. Sunday’s wins were delivered courtesy of the IM2 coxed four and a Women’s Masters coxed four.

A good turn out, especially from the juniors (including another first race, for Alex), although we again had many entries rejected through lack of competition and had to row up in many others.

It’s also disappointing that so many races are now straight finals; it seems that the days of a big race programme with several rounds are gone and we are seeing a lot of very one sided finals. Hopefully, next season will be better as the new (and distinctly unimproved) points system levels out.

St. Neots Regatta 2011

August 10, 2011

This year’s St Neot’s Regatta saw us pick up two wins on both days, continuing our winning run nicely. These came from a variety of sources, again showing the increasing breadth of competitive crews in the club. Our winners in the 1,000m races on Saturday were the new pairing of Tom and Mike, sculling at IM2x- and a ladies Quad of Liz, Andi, Sam and Lindy, racing at IM2 (with Sam de-novicing at sculling). Sunday’s 500m winners were the highly impressive juniors John and Alex, winning the IM3 event (Alex de-novicing at just 16!) and the mixed eight of Benn, Mike, Tim, Tom, Liz, Andi, Lindy and Jo.

With too many races to remember (and me being very busy) this entry won’t have the usual details of every race. Instead, I’ll just pick out some of the outstanding memories of (another) great week-end at St Neots.

Saturday didn’t actually start very auspicially. One of the first boats out was the double of John and Alex, rowing as J18. Their opponents appeared round the corner at the allocated race time, but no sign of them. Several races later, they came into view, but with only John sculling. As they passed us the reason became clear, as Alex was sitting nursing one complete blade and one in two pieces. He’d caught a crab off the start, the blade flicked under the boat and when he tried to free it, it snapped.

Strangely enough, John then had an almost identical problem in his single later in the day. This time though he went for the soft option and simply rolled in to the water. To his great credit, his opponent agreed to a re-row even though this wasn’t required, so well done to him.

Following the theme, John wasn’t to be the last soggy junior of the day – Roisin also got in on the act, this time just before the finish, in full view of the crowd. To her credit, she did exceptionally well to tow her boat clear of the course, well before the next race got to her.

The rest of the racing didn’t produce quite so much drama, although there were some incredibly close races. I had the honour of coxing one of these, the Men’s Novice 4+; after a slow start, our opponents pulled out to pretty much a two length lead around the bend but to their credit, our guys really went for it. A couple of strong pushes seemed to panic the other crew and by the finish line we were (as the commentator kept putting it) bowball—to bowball. We honestly didn’t know who had got it but the verdict finally came that our opponents had taken the win, by a bowball! A bit of work on the starts and this crew won’t be novices for long!

After a good day’s racing, we all retired to the MKRC “village” and set in for a very pleasant evening gathered around the Barbie, with the odd beer or two thrown in.

Sunday saw another day of close, exciting racing but pride of place has to go to John and Alex. Recovering from their broken blade incident yesterday, they cruised through the first two rounds, sculling at IM3 rather than Junior, to set up a final against ??. This they made look easy, pulling away off the start and striding out to a comfortable win.

The Mixed Eight had a relatively easy first round win, putting them into a final against hosts St. Neots. This was a far closer event, although our boat grabbed the lead and held on, St Neots pushed them really hard all the way, finishing just half a length down.

My views
Another wonderful week-end at St Neots. I love the atmosphere and the proximity of the spectators to the racing – and some really close hard races on both days. It was nice to see they’ve taken a more relaxed view on campers and barbies this year and restricting them to the far side of the path is a really smart move too.

I guess the only gripe is that our original entries were seriously cut back, through lack of competition. This meant Lou and Clare not getting any races and Paula just getting the one. Although I understand this is lack of other crews, how about closing entries a few days earlier, notifying the clubs that have had crews rejected and allowing them to rejig and resubmit crews into categories where there is competition? This way, our crews get a race and the host club gets more money – surely a “win-win”?

Bedford Quarts 2011

July 20, 2011

Another good day out at Bedford saw us come away with another three wins. These were nicely spread out with the Men winning the IM3 4x-, the Women the IM2 4+ and the Juniors (making a welcome return) winning the IM3 2x-. Some very close races, both in winning and losing and most crews at least making it through the first round.

J15 2x-
In their first race outside of Milton Keynes, Phillip and Alex acquitted themselves extremely well, winning their first race (against Star Club) with an “easily” verdict. In the next round they faced a strong (and eventual winning) boat from Northampton and lost by a similar verdict.

IM3 2x-
Two of the “Juniors” were out in this category, John and Ryan. After a first round row over, they faced Globe in the semi-final. An assured row saw them win by 3 1/2 lengths to put them into the final against Poplar Blackwall & District. This looked like a tough draw as this crew, although not the most technical, were huge. Indeed, the final turned out to be a really hard race, pretty much neck and neck for much of the course, but John and Ryan’s technique and power paid off and the came through to win by 1/3 length. Very nice to see the Juniors racing again and even better to kick it off with a win.

IM3 1x
Next up was Ryan, racing in a single. Up against stiff opposition from Star Club and with limited racing experience in a single, he went out in the first round, losing by 2 1/2 lengths

J15 1x
Another of the inexperienced juniors, Alex in his first race in a single was no match for a BMS sculler and he lost by 3 lengths

WJ14 2x-
Lainy and Roisin put up a good race against a Dame Alice double and pushed them hard all the way, but lost out by just 1 1/2 lengths.

WJ14 1x
A heart breaking result for Lainy in her single. Having fought hard against the Sudbury girl all down the course she lost out by just one foot! Can’t get much closer than that over a 600m course; a tough result and a horrid way to lose.

This was all from the juniors – one win and some very encouraging races from the others, especially poor Lainy. Still, a good sign and hopefully a pointer of greater things to come.

So to the senior crews…

W.IM3 4x-
A slightly different line up to that at East Midlands, with Lou swapping in for the absent Karen with Paula, Alice and Clare making up the crew. With the crew still being fairly new to sculling and with Clare still learning the art of steering, not surprisingly they lost out in their first race to Star Club, by 3 lengths.

Mas CDE 2-
Pierre-Yves and Steve swapped sculling blades for sweep and were out in the pair. Racing as a Masters C crew, their first opponents were a “D” crew from Star Club;this meant Steve and Pierre-Yves starting six seconds behind. From an absolutely storming start, the two of them pulled back the handicap start within the first couple of hundred meters and were then able to “sit” on the Star boat for a comfortable finish, 3/4 length clear. The final was the same handicap, this time against a Peterborough boat. This was to be a much harder race, with our guys pulling back the handicap fairly quickly but then fighting neck and neck down the course. Coming towards the end, Steve was cutting the line fine to gain a slight edge but, unfortunately, cut it a bit to close to Monkey Island and clipped the bank. This lost them precious seconds and the Peterborough boat pushed over the line to win by a length and a half. A real case of “what might have been” especially as we heard the Peterborough crew rowing back say that they’d have lost had Steve and Pierre-Yves not clipped.

IM3 4x-
For the first round our crew (of Mike, Josh, Nelson and Tom) faced a Northampton boat. With this being a new combination and Tom steering his first quad race, it could have gone any way. As it happens, the first round was a fairly comfortable run, beating Northampton by three lengths. Into the final, they were against a Medway Towns crew who had comprehensively beaten Star Club in their first race, so this looked like a tough draw. So it proved – there was nothing to choose between the two crews all down the course, with the lead swapping back and forth. Come the finish line, neither crew knew who had won – not surprisingly as the verdict was a win for MK by a mere three feet! Not a bad way for Tom and Nelson to de-novice either.

Mas BC 4+
For a pleasant change, we found we were the older crew in this event and had a five second handicap in our favour – I think this is the first time I’ve had this! This was a reprise of our National Masters boat, but with Pierre-Yves and I swapping sides to try and improve the balance and power. This certainly worked off the start with a really good, strong hard push away. Despite the quickest five seconds I’ve ever heard, we had enough to keep the Sudbury boat behind us, being able to (just) match their pushes. All down the course they were eating into our lead and by the time we crossed the line, although we thought we’d done enough, we weren’t sure and had to call over to the finish marshal to get confirmation – we’d won by a canvas.

The final was a bit of a shock – we’d seen in the draw that our opponents, X-Press, were again a “B” crew to our “C” and expected a similar head start. However, on the start line the start umpire called that we were both “C” and so there would be no handicap – a bit of a psychological blow, certainly for me! Anyhow, although we put in another really good start, so did X-Press and we were soon trailing , albeit just slightly. They proved to be just that bit quicker than us though and gradually eked out a lead, to finish a length clear. Despite this, we felt this was a good race, and maybe the exertions from Steve and Pierre-Yves in the pair and our having to fight through the first round (X-Press had a bye to the final) may have just made the difference.

A word for our cox here – David came all the way over to Bedford just to cox our boat, having no races of his own. He did a first class job and coxed really well – thank you, it was really appreciated!

W.IM2 4+
Although this crew hadn’t actually raced together, they had all raced in various combinations in the past and looked a strong boat. It comprised Charlene, back from a rest, with Lindy, Jo and Paula backing her up. From the start they pushed away from St Neots and just eased away from there. Already a couple of lengths clear approaching the finish, the St Neots boat also clipped Monkey Island (quite an achievement for a bow loader cox!) making it into a comfortable 3 1/2 lengths win.

Nice for the girls, especially given that they were lugging an 85 kilo cox down the course (Benn is not what you’d call natural coxing material) but a shame that again they pick up racing points off of a straight final that they’ve won easily.

IM2 4+
A second race of the day for Mike, John and Josh with Benn in his first outing. This was a straight final, against Peterborough, with our crew unable to get ahead and finishing some 1 1/4 lengths adrift.

Mas CD 2x-
Originally planned to be a racing début for Roger (at 70+!) he unfortunately twinged his back the previous day. Needing another “Master” to fill in and finding the rest of us “old boys” were in clashing events, Paula very gamely agreed to sit in with Benn. As this was their first outingever, they were up against two huge Norwich guys AND they had the handicap against them, the result wasn’t overly surprising! A good paddle nonetheless, although the “easily” verdict wasn’t unexpected.

My thoughts…
Not quite sure what went wrong with the weather – maybe the sacrifice wasn’t enough this time – as it was grey, cool and occasionally wet. Still, despite this it was another well run event, although (unusually for Bedford) there were a couple of glitches, mainly having to stop racing to sort out the marker buoys.

My biggest worry is that, yet again, entries seemed well down; this manifested itself in a number of ways. First, we had a couple of crews scratched with no competition, second, most of the races were straight finals and lastly the usual steady flow of races we normally see at Bedford was a bit staccato. I really think someone at British Rowing needs to start looking at this as, if this trend continues, we’ll start losing events off the calendar as they become non-viable (unless that is the intention?). Although there may be a financial aspect to this the general consensus seems to be the points regime is scaring people from entering races.

The biggest shame is that this is the last “Quarts” event – I guess the cost of these has become excessive but no more will we race for those magnificent 2-pint pots. Tragically, I never won one – made all the worse by wife and daughter celebrating their gallons, having won their fourth Quarts pot today.