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.
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!
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.
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.