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

Head of the Trent 2012

March 2, 2012

Although I think MKRC may have raced at the Head of the Trent before (a long time ago, before my time) this was certainly the first time we’d entered more than one crew. Stepping up a level to a regional event, we had four boats out – considering the strength of the event, to then head home with two wins was very pleasing indeed. The women’s eight also put in a very fine performance, coming third in the W.IM2 8+ category, of eight crews.

W.IM1 4x-

This was a strong looking quad, with Helen M stroking, Liz steering and Jenny and Andi making up the crew. They had just one boat as competition, from Tyne, and they were drawn immediately behind our ladies. From the start, our boat pushed away hard and felt they were easing away down the course. This proved to be the case, with our time of 20:38.4 enough to win the event by nearly 30 seconds.

Masters C/D 4x-

This event gave us the opportunity to reprise our Master’s quad, with Pierre-Yves, Tim, Steve and I. We’d got two other crews in the category, but as these were both “D” and we were racing “C” were acutely aware of the need to not only race the others but also try to overcome what had to be a big handicap time.

We boated early, to allow us a stress free run up to the start, giving time to warm up well and put in a couple of race bursts, which seemed to go well. With three of us never having done the event before, we had no idea how far it was to the start; answer, a long, long way! After what seemed an eternity, we finally went under a bridge and there were some guys putting up the “start” banner. Having no idea about the marshalling positions, we drifted to a halt before noticing a couple of boats further up, so we moved up to join them. With no marshals to be seen we hung around for a while but boats with lower numbers started going past, so we paddled off again. Finally, we passed a sign with “1”, then one with “11”, so figured these must be marshalling positions – we were crew 58 so had even further to go (although the next board was another “11” which kind of confused us). Much, much further up the river, we then found “51” and tucked in there – Pierre-Yves then telling us we’d sculled 1.5 km from the start!

It was then a case of settling in and waiting for the rest of the crews to arrive. Keeping station was interesting as the stream was running pretty quickly, but we managed to latch on to the bank. Presently, our two opposition boats arrived, Peterborough and Nottingham and Union. Overhearing one of the other crews discussing how to help out with steering and the other saying they’d been beaten by them earlier in the season did give us a bit of confidence – but there was still the handicap time issue. It was all very pleasant sitting there in the early Spring sunshine, very peaceful and (partly because it is such a wide river) none of the usual ineptness you see at the start of a Head race.

Finally, we saw the front crews start to spin, so time to de-kit and get set. Easing out into the stream, we spun easily and paddled off gently – after all, we’d got over 1k to the start! The stream really was running fast and even at light pressure, we were starting to move. Approaching the start, we wound it up and hit race pace a couple of strokes before the “go”. Almost immediately through the first bridge, we were into dirty water, catching the Loughborough Ladies eight who were immediately ahead of us. To their credit, they kept out of our way and we powered past, settling into a good rhythm and rate, for the next 6 kilometres. Although Steve had never steered this river before, he did a fantastic job, keeping a tight line throughout and making sure we kept clear of all hazards.

Coming down the straight stretch towards Trent Bridge, we again started getting dirty water. This time it was a Yarm quad, who needed a gentle call to make sure they didn’t squeeze us going through the bridge. Fortunately, they got the hint and eased over, allowing us through to take our second crew. Passing Nottingham Forest’s ground we were into the last kilometre, but by now it was starting to hurt. To add to this, there was yet more rough water though, as we were now hard on the heels of a composite eight – they in turn were pushing off of us! Consequently, we raced them all the way through to the finish line, getting overlap but not quite pushing ahead of them – still, we counted it as another pass!

Quite a relief the hear the hooter as we passed the line – encouragingly, our oppositions boats were nowhere in sight, so we were hopeful that we’d pushed hard enough to overcome the handicapping as well. A light paddle back to the boating area (much harder than it sounds – this was against the stream and we were all pretty tired) and out; then the wait for the results.

One of the nice things is that they run the event with all competing crews in the same division – this means not only do all crews have the same conditions, but that we didn’t have to wait until the final division to get our result. When this came up, we found we’d won the category in a time of 19:36.1 (19:04.7 adjusted for age) with a comfortable gap of 1½ minutes – even with the 30 seconds or so handicap. Naturally, very pleased with this, both the result and what has to have been one of our best rows to date!

Senior 4+

This four, of Tim, Josh, Chris and Benn, coxed by Helen M (smaller and louder than the alternative of Steve) were always going to be up against it. With their only competition being half of the Star Club Elite Eight and our guys having just a handful of outings together, it was a real mismatch. Despite this, they gave it a real go, and pushed Star hard even though they were overtaken by them.

Women’s Masters C 8+

With pretty much the crew for the WEHORR, with Lindy and Karen sitting in for Helen J and Emma, this was going to be a good benchmark against some serious competition. With a few nerves showing, the ladies got boated early for the long paddle up to the start. Earlier plans to try and borrow a lightweight boat had been thwarted by the weather (not enough water time to get the boat kindly offered by Northampton RC rigged for them) so it was the somewhat heavy John Cunningham they were using.

After waiting on the bank for what seemed an eternity, I finally saw the distinctive green blades flashing in the sun, as the girls came into view. Looking far neater than many of the other eights going past they powered past me just before Trent Bridge. With Andi doing a great job of coxing (again, first time on the river), the crew of Liz, Jeny, Kate, Alice, Lou, Karen, Lindy and Paula (in a very unfamiliar bow seat) put in a great row, overtaking a couple of crews on their way to a time of 20:04.2 and a wonderful third place in the category.

Trent Head - Women's IM2 8+

Trent Head - Women's IM2 8+

My view…

I really enjoyed the event, although the weather certainly helped. It is a good course, quite challenging but a bit more interesting than most head courses (but very long). I do like events that put all competing crews in the same division – it does mean you all have the same conditions (having seen a head wind swing round to a tail wind at Bedford before now) so it is far more even and fair. It also saves the sitting around waiting to see if your time from Division one gets beaten by a crew in the final division.

They could do with a bit more organisation though – having overshot the trailer park entrance as there were no signs in to it at all and then had to go for a tour around Nottingham, the guy on the gate told us to head into the trailer park where we’d be directed where to park. No, no-one on duty at all, so it was a bit of a free for all with trailers dumped everywhere and anywhere. This, inevitably, led to one club setting up camp in the narrowest part of the park, the passageway through to the river. Showing a lack of respect for everyone else, they then proceeded to block off the sole access except for a narrow path allowing one boat through at a time – thanks guys.

Directions to the clubs weren’t brilliant – I’m still not sure which club we were meant to be using for coffee, loos, etc. There was plenty of boating area though (although getting out early definitely helped) and a really nice stretch of river, wide and peaceful. Once we’d figured out the waiting positions at the start, this made sense, although having a few more people up at the start might have helped. Everyone we came across was friendly and helpful– and I guess coming away with a couple of wins really helps, especially with the rather neat ceramic pots, a pleasant change from the usual pewter ones.

All in all, a great day out, rounded off by daughter Jo also picking up a win in her Nottingham Uni quad – fortunately for all, none of her crews were in the same categories as MKRC so no split loyalties on this occasion.

Results are on the Head of the Trent page and my photos are here

Fours Head/Veterans Four Head 2011

February 2, 2012

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

St Neots Head 2011

October 16, 2011

With a large proportion of the club doing the Spartan Race, our entries for this year’s St Neots Head were a bit sparse, only four boats entered. Although we picked up a couple of second places, we didn’t post any wins and (unusually) came home empty handed. Still, there were some good races and a very eventful one for the ladies’ quad.

Women Masters C/D 4+
Fourth crew off in the first division, the ladies put in a strong row and set a good time for the competition to aim for. They had one of their competitors from St Neots following them and felt they’d pulled away from them over the 2.6km course and it proved so. They then had to wait all the way through to the last division for their other competitor, another St Neots boat. Unfortunately, this crew (racing as a “D” boat rather than our “C” crew) posted a time some 11 seconds quicker, pushing the ladies into second.

Masters D/E 2x-
After the previous day’s exploits at Wallingford, this actually seemed quite a short race for Steve and I, the halfway point coming up surprisingly quickly! However, our exertions did start telling towards the end and the last section from the marina to the finish was a struggle. However, we were extremely pleased with the result – we finished second but just four seconds behind Nemesis, a crew that has beaten us easily on many occasions. We do seem to have closed the gap quite a bit over the last few races, so pleasing progress.

Masters C/D 4+
A new combination saw Iain and Roger join Steve and I in a coxed four. With Roger’s years offsetting Iain’s relative youth this put us as a “D” crew, up against another “D” from Peterborough and a “C” from St Neots. Despite a good, solid row, we were well off of the winning time, with Peterborough winning the class and St. Neots coming second.

Women’s IM2 4x-
A race that can best be described as “interesting”! After a good start and getting round the twisty bit at the beginning of the course, the ladies were settling into a good rhythm when they were aware of people on the bank shouting “swimmer – get out of the way”. Being a nice, hot day, some numpty decided it would be good to go for a swim in the river – while a race was on. Paula, at stroke, got a huge surprise when a head emerged right by her blade and took a whack from it. He appeared OK and, having done an crash stop, the girls set off again. Next on their target list was a black barge – fortunately the owner shouted a warning and they were able to hold the boat up just in time. Setting off again, they picked up and went really well down past the club house, down the regatta course and turned in to the bend towards the finish. Unfortunately, Clare misjudged the bend and the quad went into the reed bank at race pace, burying the boat in as far as Paula! As we went past in the four, all we could see was Paula and the stern, the rest of the ladies completely hidden in the reeds. They did finally manage to extricate themselves (by grabbing the reed stems and pulling against them – their blades were completely tangled) and get free to finish the course. Not surprisingly, their unplanned excursion cost them a lot of time and they finished last, slowest time of the day. Still, quite an amusing episode and no harm to the boat or the ladies (but hopefully the swimmer had a big headache).

My thoughts…
With the amazing, freak hot weather and a really chilled atmosphere, this was a lovely day, despite no wins. Congratulations to St Neots for the speed with which they posted up the results – our ladies were able to tell the St Neots Masters ladies they had won before they’d even got back to the pontoons to de-boat. With really sensible marshalling, setting big gaps between crews, there were few overtaking problems all day and we certainly were able to just focus on our races and not worry about traffic

Results can be found here.No photos as we were all racing in the same divisions!

Wallingford Long Distance Sculls 2011

October 10, 2011

My first (and possibly the club’s first) race at the Wallingford Long distance Sculls, although I’d towed there previously with another club. Only four of us (Benn, Mike, Steve and I) made the trip, entering four boats in all. Held in the totally unseasonal, scorching sunshine (hottest October day on record) this was going to be a real endurance test, racing over 4,250m.

IM1 2x-
Mike and Benn were meant to be second off but the first crew didn’t show. This kind of threw their plans a bit as they intended following the lead crew down the river, as they’d not rowed it before. They managed to keep clear of most obstacles until fairly close to the end when they decided to hold it up rather try arguing with a barge (probably a sensible move). Racing up a level at IM1 on an unfamiliar river was a big ask and they were passed by a few crews but posted a respectable time of 17:40.1, putting them 58th overall

Masters D 2x-
After a good start, Steve and I were chasing down the only other “D” double (from Wallingford) but when we got to the first set of bends, their local knowledge paid off and they pulled away. This left us with a junior crew from one of the other Thames clubs chasing us – this proved to be a real pain as their course was continually forcing Steve to manoeuvre to avoid them as the closed on us. Ultimately, they caught us and promptly cut sharply across our bows, forcing us to ease right off. They weren’t pulling away from us at all and further on managed to catch us in a sandwich as we overtook another boat; needless to say, we weren’t overly impressed with them… anyway, this did then give us immense satisfaction when we hauled them in, got level and then just pushed away leaving them trailing by some distance. Avoiding any more serious problems, we went on to post 18:06.7, 90th overall. However, with the 45 second age handicap, this pushed us in front of Mike and Benn, something we may just have mentioned a few times…

Masters D 1x-
Following our exertions in the double in the morning, Steve and I swapped into our singles for the afternoon. Somewhat cruelly, I’d been put at the front of the Masters D boats and with my lack of experience (only the second single head race for me) I was soon being passed by a succession of boats. By the 500m mark, most (if not all) of the other “D” boats (including Steve) had cruised past me and I was then being chased by juniors. In the heat, I was really struggling, as my hands were so sweaty, I couldn’t get a good grip on the blades – add this to the “fun” of steering on an unknown river, keeping out of other people’s way and this explains the very slow time of 24:14.4, obviously last. Steve has a much better race, passing some and being passed by others but putting in a very good time of 18:34.7 to put him 5th in the “D” category, out of 10

My thoughts
A really pleasant venue, well run and friendly event, just a pity my single was so poor. Obviously, the weather played a major part (although wearing a black lycra on a hot, sunny day is “interesting”) but despite it being a big event, it was good fun. The organisation of the boating was spot on, calling crews by numbers to boat and plenty of pontoon space and lots of friendly, helpful volunteers. If I have one criticism, it would be how long we had to wait around at he beginning of division three; this just seemed an eternity, with no obvious signs of anything happening and it was sooooo hot!

Definitely one to look at again next year – maybe with a bit more advanced notice we could get more crews entered (although probably not my single!)

Results are on line here

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.

British Masters Regatta 2011

June 18, 2011


A simply stunning day at the British Masters was crowned by our Womens Masters B 4- boat taking the Gold Medal! The top result of a top day that also saw Tim and Benn take Silver in the Masters A IM3 2x-. We also had a number of other second and third places but where these had limited entries, didn’t medal.

Winning W.B 4- crew

Winning W.B 4- crew

I’m pretty sure this is Milton Keynes’ first ever national title, a real day to be proud of racing for the club. Huge congratulations to the winning ladies, Liz Tatman, Helen Jones, Paula Heywood and Andi Grossey.

This was a great end to the day, and somehow all the cold and wet misery from the incessant, pouring rain just evaporated as the ladies stormed their way to the line.

Strangely enough, the day started bright and sunny, although a bit chilly for the group of us who had camped over. After a reasonably leisurely start to the day (except Tim and Benn who went for a warm up on the Trent) and bacon butties on the barbie, it was time to get racing heads on. We fairly soon saw the advantages of arriving yesterday for the East Midlands Regatta, as we had a prime position in the near trailer park (unlike last year, where we had to carry boats what seemed like several miles). With a number of new combinations and unknown competition, we had no real idea what to expect; just an expectation that we’d move up a step from last year.

A IM3 2x-

First crew out were Tim and Benn, picking it up from their splendid win at the previous day’s East Midlands Regatta. Facing a tough looking draw against Dart Totnes, Bradford and Nottingham, they were soon fighting it out for the lead against the Dart Totnes boat. A very close, hard race finally saw Dart Totnes cross the line first with Tim and Benn picking up a well deserved Silver Medal for second place, with four boats in the category.

Women’s A 2x-

Next to go were Liz and Andi, sculling in the A Open category. In their heat, as one boat had scratched, all five crews would proceed to the final; against two boats apiece fro Nottingham and Warwick, they were content to watch the others and do enough to settle for third place (although the competitive streak kicked in with a few hundred meters to go – no way were they going to be fourth!).

The final saw them line up against the same opponents, with an extra crew from Cambridge 99s added in. From the heat, they were aware that the two Nottingham boats were going to be very quick, and this proved the case in the final as well. With these two surging into the lead, Liz and Andi were left in a fight for third place. Although down slightly at the halfway stage, they were able to ratchet up the power and drive through, to take third place. As there were only six boats in the event, this wasn’t enough to land them a medal, but they were still (justifiably) very pleased with their race and placing.

W.C IM3 1x

Following the win by the Novice Quad yesterday, this pushed Clare up from Novice to IM3 level in the single. At this stage, this was probably a step too far and she finished last of three, a long way off the pace.

D 2x-

Although Steve and I got a fairly good start in the double and were able to hang on to the Champions of the Thames boat for the first 250m, the others had long gone and then Champs also pulled away. A bit of a reprise of the races at Peterborough and confirmation that we need to stick to club events rather than top level championship competitions where we are way outclassed.

Around about now, the rain that had been threatening all morning drifted in. Light at first, it gradually picked up and we were in for a very wet day.

W.C 4+

This was a re-run for the boat that performed so well at Peterborough last week, with Paula, Helen, Karen and Lou, coxed by Liz. In a big final, with Tees, Hereford, Ross, Llandaff and St. Neots, the only known opposition was the St. Neots boat, whom they’d beaten easily at Peterborough. From the start, the race split into three separate clashes, with Tees and Hereford breaking into the lead, MK and Ross slugging it out for 3rd and 4th and Llandaff and St. Neots trailing. At the 500m mark there was under half a length between our ladies and Ross (with us just shading it); from here to the line it was a really hard fight, with Ross pushing and our boat countering; we had enough to hang on, and crossed the line in a highly commendable third place, with Hereford taking first and Tees second. Again, not a medal position but a really good performance again from the ladies.

C IM3 4+

OK, what happened in the lead up to this race is the sort of thing to go down in club history.

With the rain driving in now, everyone was taking shelter and putting kit in cars to keep it dry. Add to this the frantic chasing around after various crews and when we came to boat, we couldn’t find a cox box. With no signs of any in the trailer and Oundle’s spare not working, we had no choice but to boat without Paula having a cox box. Bearing in mind she’s only just recovered from having a polyp on her vocal chords removed (caused by shouting too much when coxing!) this was not a good thing. Still, the four of us (Steve, Iain, Pierre-Yves and I) got into the boat and set off up the course, with Paula calling as best she could. This was fine on the row up, but we were a little concerned as to what would happen in the race, with far higher background noise.

Passing the 500m mark on the way up, we passed Tim who was walking back to the start, having watched Andi and Liz start the previous race. We called over that we didn’t have a cox box but were managing – he had other ideas.

We carried on rowing up to the start, tried a practise start (usual pull to bow side) and sat around waiting to be called forward. Then we saw Tim running back up towards us – he’d run from the 500m point all the way down the course, through the boating area, trailer park and across to the camp site to his car, picked up a cox box and run all the way back (this time with an extra 500m). By my reckoning, that must have been around a 3 to 3.5 kilometre run! However, he was on the bank and we were out on the lake, but that wasn’t going to deter him. Starting to roll up his trousers (before he realised there was no point) he started wading out into the lake; despite us yelling at him not to worry, he just kept coming, up to his midriff and across to our boat. Calmly handing the cox box to Paula, he then waded back to the bank, leaving us utterly speechless and fully cox boxed up. This really was way beyond the call of duty, done because he was worried about Paula’s voice – Tim you’re a star!

So to the race. We were against two other clubs, Maidstone Invicta and Derby and again had no idea how we’d fare (after all, the race yesterday was our first one together). Off the start, we again pulled to bow side and this, together with an increasing crosswind, nearly put us into Maidstone’s lane. A great bit of coxing by Paula pulled us back straight and central in our lane but this had cost us a couple of lengths on Maidstone and the best part of a length on Derby. From here it was just a hard, hard slog. Gradually we pulled back on Derby, first to overlap and then level – by the halfway point, the timings show 1/10th of a second difference with us just getting our noses in front. Maidstone were still a good length clear but Paula called that we were catching them.

With Derby pushing really hard behind and us putting everything into catching Maidstone, this was turning into a seriously hard race. In the end, Maidstone eased out a bit more to finish just over a length clear, but we hung on and slightly increased our advantage over Derby, to take second place, by a second and a half.

By this time the rain was chucking it down and we were all dripping wet and cold. Never has a hot shower been as welcome as after this race…

A IM3 1x

Pierre-Yves swapped his rowing blades for sculling ones and was next up in a single. Having to row at “A” instead of “B” put him against much younger opponents and this, together with the exertions in the four, left him well behind trailing in behind the other two boats from Dart Tones and Furnivall.

W.C  IM3 4x-

The win by the Novice Quad yesterday had a knock-on effect to today. As the Novice boat included Paula, Karen and Clare they could no longer race Novice today (this rather upset Oundle who were the only other Novice Quad at “C” – they got a row over and Gold medals, but felt it was a bit pointless) and had to switch to IM3. This also left Paula with just 30 minutes between races. Lou made up the crew, switching in for Alice.

Drawn against crews from Falcon, Monmouth and Sudbury, they kept with the other crews from the start but the greater experience (bearing in mind this was only about the third or fourth outing in this combination) of the other crews started to tell and our ladies dropped off the pace slightly, finishing last but with another encouraging scull. A succesful piece of steering by Clare, still learning the ropes too.

W Mas B 4-

With Paula hopping straight out of the quad and into the coxless four and with very little practice (if any) in this boat, we didn’t know what to expect; having said that, the four of Liz, Helen, Paula and Andi looked strong on paper. Their only opponents in this straight final (our last and very nearly the last race of the day) were a strong looking crew from Norwich.

With visibility really hampered for us spectators by the torrential rain, it was very hard to see what was happening. As the two boats approached halfway, it was almost impossible to tell who was leading – heart said us, head said can’t be sure! Getting closer it became apparent that there was nothing to choose between them (the official timings shows MKRC leading at 500m by 0.4 seconds!). In a real scrap, gradually our ladies inched ahead until over the last 100m they started to widen the gap. The noise from our club members was deafening by this time as we could see them pushing and pushing, stealing away from Norwich. This last huge push was enough and they crossed the line a length clear, taking MKRC’s first gold medal at any national event. It’s hard to put into words just how proud we all were of them, so delighted at this little bit of history.

With the rain bucketing down, they spun and headed for the presentation pontoon – clearly oblivious to the conditions by now, they rowed over to collect the coveted gold medals, just such a magic moment. Brilliantly well done to them all.

After this, it was back to the boating area and time to pack up but with all of us absolutely buzzing. One of those “had to be there” moments.


Another great event for the club, culminating with that amazing win. Some other outstanding performances, with Tim and Benn collecting their Silvers, other second and third places. A big mention to Iain – placing second after less than a year rowing (I remember going out in the tub and training four with him in freezing cold conditions with him just last winter!) is some going.

The other stand out thing for me was how we work as a club. Whoever was boating or landing, there was always someone from the club there to help/congratulate/commiserate. Everyone mucks in and works with each other – in contrast to other clubs (for example, a double who’d won gold carrying their boat, blades and trestles back al on their own, a single sculler having to boat on her own). To me, this kind of makes us special, we’re in this for each other not just for personal glory.

The key memories of the day have to be the ladies win, just so good, and Tim’s wading exploits, just so incredible. There’s special mention for Benn as well – not sure how far he ran during the day but he was always appearing, rushing off, collecting something, running back and reappearing. In between he also found time to shoot some great video (see link below).

A special day for the club but most importantly for the four ladies – well done Liz, Helen, Paula and Andi, we’re all proud of you!

View my photos by clicking on the picture below:

National Masters Championships 2011

Results can be seen here

Benn’s videos can be found here

Veterans’ Head 2011

April 4, 2011

After the dire weather at training on Thursday and Saturday, it was a great relief to find Sunday morning breaking bright, sunny and (most importantly) calm. A very early start needed this morning as the race was scheduled for a 9:00 AM start, meaning we were away from the club at 6:15.

An uneventful run down to Chiswick, all hands on and we had the boat rigged and ready to go in 20 minutes, in plenty of time to boat. No last minute dramas today, Pierre-Yves not getting caught in traffic, unlike Hammersmith Head! Unlike WEHORR and Hammersmith Head, which ran on the highest tide I’ve seen on the Thames for years, today’s race was on pretty much the lowest tide I’ve seen.

The Civil Service was organised chaos with loads of boats getting out – the low tide allowed something like four or five crews to boat simultaneously, unlike the two at a time that normal conditions allow. Although this got all the crews out quickly it did lead to heavy congestion by Barnes bridge and in the ensuing crowd, we managed to almost lose our race number from the bows.

Anyhow, once out of the traffic, it was a nice controlled paddle up to the start, no real drama and excellent marshalling. None of the manic shouting of recent years but firm, polite calls. It makes such a difference. Racing at number 15, we didn’t have long to wait and pretty soon we were spinning and setting off for the start. The boat was sitting nicely and we accelerated over the start line and were off, just a mere four and a quarter miles to work through.

Rating around 32, we settled well and it seemed like quite a strong row. We were overhauled fairly quickly by a very fast moving Lea crew but looked like we were holding most of the other boats around us. Certainly, the conditions were much better than the last couple of sessions on Caldecotte Lake and the extra practice sessions were definitely paying off. An uneventful first half saw us through Hammersmith Bridge without incident although another crew caught and passed us just past the bridge. Coming up towards Fulham FC, Andi called another push as we were closing in on the crew in front. This, together with an increase in rating took us past Cantabs, a very nice feeling to be overtaking someone.

Towards the end, Andi called for another increase and somehow we managed to wind it up to an amazing (for us) 37 strokes per minute, making sure we weren’t passed by any of the other crews all pushing hard for the line. We went past the finish still flat out, before taking it down and spinning just past Putney bridge. It had been a good hard row, pretty stable most of the way and with some very strong pushes; all in all a pleasing performance.

Getting back proved to be an endurance event though. Because the tide was so low, there was no water at all through the small arch at Hammersmith, so the entire flotilla had to wait until the last racing crew had passed through the bridge before we were able to start on the journey back. Fortunately, it was warm and dry, otherwise this would have been miserable. As it was, this spread the field out and we were able to have a good practice paddle on the way back, fuelled by the Mars bars so thoughtfully provided by Paula!

Having arrived back at the Civil Service, we waded ashore, being careful not to ground the boat on the shallows and had it stripped and back on the trailer in no time. It was a slightly odd feeling though, to have finished the race and to be on our way home well before midday!

The results (here) were up later in the evening, and these gave us a time of 21:29.13, placing us 79th out of 204 overall but a disappointing 20th out of 21 in Masters B.

Evening rowing again!

March 31, 2011

With the clocks going forward, it’s been just light enough to get out on the water again in the evenings. Two sessions this week, both in the eight, training for the Vet’s Head on Sunday. These couldn’t have been more different – Monday was near perfect conditions, flat water, warm and a really pleasant evening. Tonight was blowing half a gale (average wind speed 25 knots) and the lake was choppy and very hard going.

Still, the contrast allowed us a pretty technical outing on Monday and sheer brute force this evening. The boat seems to be coming along nicely, the balance is getting there and all we need to hope for is decent conditions on the Tideway on Sunday (although after tonight, we can probably cope with just about anything).

Hammersmith Head 2011

March 24, 2011

Taking advantage of the eight being down in London (for WEHORR), we decided to enter Hammersmith Head for the first time. Managing to scrape together eight of us who were available, we entered a Master’s B 8+.

Although the weather wasn’t as good as the beautiful conditions for WEHORR, it was nowhere near as bad as we’ve seen it on the Tideway. Boating again from (an almost deserted) Civil Service was easy and didn’t take long to get on station for the start. There followed the usual wait, with Andi doing a great job of keeping us in the right position and out of trouble – although Gwen and I (at Bow and 2) were kept busy manoeuvring the boat. The only other “B” boat was right behind us, so we had a good view of our closest competition from the off.

We were caught a bit by surprise (at least, I was) by the start being the near side of Chiswick Bridge, instead of the far side (as it is for all the other Tideway events I’ve raced) so weren’t at full speed crossing the start line. However, we picked up to race pace quickly and were keeping station on the Sons of the Thames boat behind us, while overhauling a couple of boats in front. This was pretty much the position for the first half of the race, but as we hit slightly choppier water, Simon caught a crab, slowing the boat right down. This allowed Sons to close right up on us; a massive push once we’d recovered saw us push away a bit from them and hunt down St. George’s College.

Despite the lack of practise, there were some very strong pushes and the boat was sitting pretty well overall. With no further incidents, we overtook St. George’s and hauled in another couple of boats before crossing the line at Hammersmith.

The results saw us complete the course in 12:20.2, finishing 82nd overall (of 103 starters) but 7th out of 8 in the Master’s Handicap section, some 9 seconds behind Sons.

Results can be seen at the AK website while my photos are (temporarily I hope) on Picasa (link to follow).

This was actually a really nice event, a good taster for the Vets Eights Head in a couple of weeks, well organised and marshalled.

A huge thank-you to Andi, who made her coxing début big style, coxing a Tideway event – and doing so quite superbly.