Bedford Spring Small Boats Head 2012

May 14, 2012

Another excellent performance by the Ladies’ squad saw us come away from the last Head of the year with another three wins.

We entered a relatively small number of crews into the event, with just eight crews out, six from the ladies’ squad and two from the men’s master’s squad. Held in what can only be described as “changeable” weather conditions, this was a good end to a very successful head season.

W.IM2 4+

This was a relatively new and untried (just two outings before the race) combination of Charlene, Jo, Lou and Alice with Andi coxing. Putting a relatively poor practice session behind them, the ladies came good in the race, chasing down and overtaking one of their opponents and posting a time of 7:50. This was good enough to win the category by four seconds from a strong field of Newark, UEA, CORC, Nottingham and a Rob Roy/X-Press composite. Even more encouragingly, their time put them just three seconds off the winning W.IM1 time!

Masters D 2x-

Steve and I had an eventful race, finishing second to Bedford in another large field, with two Oundle and one Star boats following us home.

A good, solid start had seen us catching the Norwich IM3 double in front. By the time we passed Star club, we’d closed them down to a couple of lengths advantage and were overhauling them quickly. Unfortunately, they then decided to use the same arch as us at Town Bridge and cut right across our bows, forcing us to stop. Coming through the arch, we picked it up and went past them but this had cost us time. Despite some rough water heading to the suspension bridge, it really clicked after then and we finished really strongly with Steve steering a near perfect line.

Our time of 7:56 was 28 seconds off the winners, so our coming together with Norwich probably didn’t make enough of a difference to the result, but very frustrating all the same.

W.Masters A/B 1x

This was the first of two categories in which we had two entries, with Helen M and Amelia racing their singles. With both of them in the “B” category and with just four seconds handicap against their younger “A” rivals, it was a big ask for them. In the event, they finished third and fourth, 15 and 37 seconds respectively off the winner from Wallingford. Very nice to see both of them racing – Helen seems to have the racing bug again and good to see Amelia not only in her single again but in green and black (and having had a very rapid boat re-numbering just before the race)!

W.Masters A/B 2x

The second category with two crews in saw the doubles of Andi and Liz taking on Jenny and Helen M. The two boats were good enough to take the first two positions in the category, beating boats from Peterborough, Rob Roy and Guildford. In the event, it was the “youngsters” boat of Andi and Liz who took the honours, shading it by 11 seconds. As Jenny was sculling with a suspected broken hand, sustained skiing, I’m sure there’ll be opportunities for a re-match!

W.Masters C/D 4+

This looked to be a strong crew on paper, with Paula, Karen, Lou and Heidi, coxed by Liz, and it proved to be so on the water. Despite Heidi still being a novice (having done her “Learn to Row” course last summer) the power in the boat was enough to win the category convincingly. Posting a time of 8:03, they finished 35 seconds clear of the next crew, despite them having the handicap against them! The time was actually so fast, it was the leading Women’s Masters time of the day, including “A” and “B” crews.

Masters D/E 1x

Not content with the excitement in the double, Steve had yet another eventful race, this time in a rare outing in his single. When we’d rowed up to the start in the double, we’d noticed a fairly aggressive swan halfway between the start and County Bridge. Guarding it’s nest, the bird had pecked at the blades of a couple of boats and we’d had to avoid it ourselves in the race.

With his single, the bird seemed to take a particular dislike to Steve – not only pecking at him as he passed but actually chasing him down the river! This did add to his speed, so helped him to a very good third place (of nine), in a time of 8:16.

My thoughts…

It was an odd sort of day. As we were only racing from division six onwards, we only needed to get to Bedford at 1:30, so it meant that rarest of luxuries, a Sunday morning lie-in! This did lead to the surreal situation of sitting at home watching the early results coming through on Twitter, knowing we’d be racing there later in the day. It also made finding a space on Longholme Island very difficult; by the time we arrived it was chock full of cars, despite being meant for trailers only.

Although there was a fair weather forecast, the reality was a typical April day – ranging from warm and sunny to bitterly cold with hail lashing down. Fortunately, most of our crews avoided being out in the worst of the weather but certainly the ladies Masters boat suffered with some very strong winds at the start. Not like normal Bedford event weather at all; I can only assume the intended sacrificial junior escaped before they could be offered to the rain god…

The addition this year of the Twitter feed of results was a brilliant idea. The only down side was that by the time Tim got back from Bedford RC with the news of the ladies’ wins, they were already celebrating as they’d seen the results on Twitter!

As ever, it was a nicely run event, keeping well to time and friendly. Adding an extra pontoon down on the island was another really good touch, helping spread the boating load away from the school’s boat house area.

It was also a good end to the head season, with the ladies signing off with another three wins and firmly establishing them as serious competitors. All we need now is for the men’s squad to follow their example!

Results from the day are on the Bedford RC site and my photos on Google+

Bedford Autumn Head 2011

October 13, 2011

After the disappointment of coming away with nothing from last week’s St Neots Head, today’s Bedford Head more than made up for it. A really good day’s racing saw us depart with no less than five wins including my first sweep oar win. Another really good aspect was the huge number of junior entries – although they didn’t claim any wins, it was still wonderful to see so many of them there.

Unusually for us, we had a fairly late start to the day, with Division 4 at 13:00 being our first crews. Despite having loads of time, we actually managed to arrive a bit late (we’d thought the division started half an hour later and loading the trailer took longer than expected) so everything got a bit rushed. Compounded by Clare having to pull out at the last moment with a back strain and Steve having to take her home (and typically having the riggers in his car) it was all getting a bit fraught. Add to this Tim stressing about where Benn was, as they were in pair in Division 4 (it was actually Division 5, so he wasn’t meant to be there!) and it’s a minor miracle we got everyone boated at the right time in the right boats and crews!

Masters C/D 2x-
It must be us getting used to doing longer races (Wallingford 4,250m, Pairs Head 4,000m) but this (scarily) didn’t seem too far! Despite clipping the railway bridge just before the start, we soon settled into a comfortable pace (even more scarily, rating 30-31) and it seemed that Bedford Rowing Club was there very quickly. Clearly dropping the Huntingdon boat following us, we were overhauling a Guildford Ladies double and in fact caught them just past the suspension bridge. This gave us something to push off of and we opened up clear water pretty quickly. Coming under the butterfly bridge, for the first time in a 2k head I was able to wind up the rate for the finish and we finished very strongly. Just how good a scull this was came out when we saw the results and we’d won the category by 19 seconds. The only downside to what was one of our best races was Steve tweaked his back scrambling out of the boat up by Longholme Island.

Women’s Masters B 1x
Helen “I don’t do heads” Marshall continued her recent run of form, taking the win in this category. Being followed by her only opposition, she could see that she was pulling away from the Guildford sculler and was able to control her race. A long time since Helen has raced 2k – and she certainly felt it! Another good race for her though and good to see her enjoying racing again.

Women’s IM2 4x-
A first race in Milton Keynes colours for Amelia, racing in a strong looking quad with Liz, Andi and Lou. Although it was a good race, their opposition form Guildford had posted a very quick time and the ladies weren’t quite able to match it, finishing some seven seconds down. A good performance in their first outing though!

Women’s Masters C 4+
Despite a last minute change in line up, with Karen swapping in for the injured Clare, the ladies (Helen J, Paula, Karen and Lou) felt they had a great chance and so it proved. Racing to beat a time of 8:28 set by their competition in an earlier division, they were confident of doing this. With Yemin making a welcome return (although just on coxing duties today) they put in a hard, controlled row to post 7:56, some 32 seconds ahead to win fairly comfortably.

Senior 2-
This event saw Tim and Benn reprising their pair from yesterday’s Pair’s Head. Another good row saw them place second of three, very commendable as the winners are an established pair. Definitely making progress as a pair, even having to row at such an elevated level.

Masters C 4+
This is the boat that nearly didn’t happen! With Steve having pulled his back and Tim desperately trying to find someone to cox, it was touch and go whether we’d manage to get out or not. In the end, Tim found a lad from BMS who would cox and Steve (very gamely) said he’d give it a go. With a crew of Tim, Steve, Iain and I it was a bit of a scratch effort but it seemed OK on the row up to the start. From the off, the power was there and it was reasonably balanced although Steve was clearly struggling (rowing one handed at one point!). In one of those interesting rowing anomalies, when we pushed and took the rate up, the boat actually seemed to slow down as it got a bit scrappy. Still, it felt like a good row at then end and it proved to be as we won the category by the huge margin of one second! Pretty sure this was my first sweep oar win and a first win of any kind for Iain as well.

Women’s IM2 4+
The ladies were really up against it in this category, racing against a school crew. In spite of a good row by Helen J, Paula, Karen and Alice (with Yemin returning to cox) they were well beaten, losing by 26 seconds.

Women’s IM1 2x-
Liz and Andi back in a double for the first time in a while saw a return to winning ways. Racing two Guildford boats, they proved more than a match, winning by 23 seconds.

J16 1x
A strong race by Alex especially as he is in the bottom part of the J16 age group and is still learning. In a very competitive category, he sculled well, finishing ahead of one of the Star boats and close to a number of school scullers.

J15 1x
Being Philip’s first single sculling head race, he did exceptionally well to finish sixth of eight in another highly competitive section.

Women’s J15 1x
Showing a growing presence, there were no less that three MK Junior girls racing at WJ15 this time out. In one of the biggest groups (bolstered by 14 girls from Sir William Perkins and eight from Marlow!), Lainey and Gemma (???) finished just one second apart in 21st and 23rd places respectively, while Roisin managed to stay upright but finished a bit further down the field.

IM3 2x-
With Mike unavailable, Benn swapped in to scull with John. With little or no practice in this combination, third out of four was a fair result.

J18 4x-
Racing two Star junior crews and with two of the junior boys in their first race, their main objective was to avoid hitting anything and to keep out of trouble, especially as Alex had never steered a race before. They managed all of these successfully and finished in a creditable time of 7:23, actually the fastest (non-handicapped) MKRC time of the day.

My thoughts…
All in all, a good day for the club and me personally. Coming away from a top event like Bedford with five wins augurs well for the rest of the head season and it was really good to see so many juniors out. It was really great in Division Seven as something like nine MK boats set off down to the start – suddenly there was green and black kit everywhere, a very impressive sight! Very nice to see Iain pick up a first win, to see Yemin back at an event and to welcome Amelia to our racing squad. A good variety of boats and crews out, showing again our ability to mix it up and still come home as winners.

As with all Bedford run events, the timing, marshalling and results service were top notch – very pleased that they were leaving enough gaps between boats that there were few issues with overtaking (and that the junior quads were at the back of the divisions this time).

So, overall, despite a stressful start to the day, a very good and rewarding end

Results can be seen here and my photos of the day are 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.

Milton Keynes Regatta 2011

May 23, 2011

Don’t know about anyone else but I thoroughly enjoyed the Regatta on Saturday. This was only our second ever Regatta and was slightly bigger than last year’s with three other clubs attending (Bedford RC joining Northampton and Oundle). I’m not going to try and write up every event – partly there were too many and (mainly) I was either marshalling or racing so didn’t see half of them.

So, I’m just going to pick out some of the highlights (for me) of the day and leave it to others to add their own thoughts. That way, maybe we’ll wind up with a full picture!

Unlike last year, held in a dead calm, we had very strong winds and this made for some very challenging conditions, especially at the start.Despite this, we only had a couple of capsizes and no clashes in races, showing a high standard of rowing and sculling by all taking part. I know some crews found the going very tough but everyone battled through. We had some incredibly close races, including a couple where the verdict was one foot! It was good to see the full spectrum of events as well, juniors, seniors and masters, and everything from singles through to eights.

We re-jigged a couple of things from last year, firstly the trailer parking, having the trailers in front of the club house. This proved fortuitous as, having parked three trailers neatly, a fourth then turned up – Oundle having so many boats they needed two trailers! We were able to slot them in where we parked the trailers last year, so no real panic. Got to say how impressed I was with the parking ability of the trailer drivers, just wish I was that good. Assuming we expand next year, we’ll have to really think about this one though.

Second change was to the boating pontoon – we moved this to the left of the slipway and this did help with congestion along the footpath, although it did mean most crews opted to go off here, leading to some delays. Again, one to think about for next year. The circulation pattern worked better, removing the need to have crews crossing the racing line.

Personally, it was an interesting day, staying upright and dry in my first Regatta single scull race (only finished two lengths down, which I was really pleased with), being well and truly thumped in the quad and then finally getting a win at our home event in the double with Steve.

For me, some of the highlights were the Open Eight between Bedford and Northampton, one of the closest races of the day, with Bedford shading it at the finish (by a foot) and the Northampton against NSB quad, again a foot in it (with NSB emerging as winners). It was nice to see the pots and medals being spread around as well, no one club dominating things, although our ladies seemed to be putting in strong showings all round. Special mentions for Paula and Lou – first time ever in a double and (despite a scenic route) winning their straight final and to the two beginners crews, who put up a serious fight with only half a length in it, credit to the coaches from both Bedford and MK for getting beginners to this standard!

Starts were very difficult and all credit to the Sea Cadets, who did a tremendous job hanging on to the sterns of boats against strong winds, waves and rowers trying to keep on station. Their arms must seriously ache today (and be a couple of inches longer). As an illustration of just how hard this was, one boat managed to dislodge one of the stake boats, casting it adrift (quickly rescued by the safety launch) and another managed to get wedged between the stake boat and the bank, being battered by cross-waves.

The wind also made it deceptively cool and there’s a lot of people (me included) nursing some serious sunburn as a result.It was a long and tiring day but thoroughly enjoyable and showed again that we can run a good event. Now for planning next year…

If you were there, do let me know your thoughts and memories!

Bedford Amateur Regatta 2011

May 16, 2011

A good day’s racing at Bedford with some fine performances, although we came away empty handed at the end of the day. With only four crews entered and some very strong opposition (particularly from school and college boats) this was always going to be a tough event but we did get one finalist, in the Women’s IM3 4+ boat.

The only sour note of the day was the large gash left in the canvas of Arrow, courtesy of a clash with a school eight who were doing a race piece just before the finish line as we were finishing one race. Despite several calls to “hold it up” they took not a blind bit of notice and hit us at full pelt. Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt but our boat took the brunt of the collision. Accidents do happen but I’d like to think we’d have been a bit more concerned had we hit someone else.

W.IM3 4+ – Crew 1
The first crew out (Lou, Karen, Clare and Alice, coxed by Steve) drew the St. Neots A crew in the first round. Although they put in a good start and were half a length up at Bedford RC, the St Neots crew put on a strong push and crossed the finish line half a length up. This was a good performance by this crew, racing together for the first time.

W.IM3 4+ – Crew 2
We had what looked to be a daunting first round, against Bedford High School and it proved to be a tough race. From the start the girls (Andi, Ash, Lindy and Sam, coxed by me) pushed into a slim lead and held this all the way. Covering each of the High School pushes and pushing off at the end of these, we eased away and, despite a frantic fight back (and equally frantic response) we held on to take the win by just a canvas.

The second round pitted us against Broxbourne. This was a more controlled row by the girls and we pulled away off the start and continued to push away all through down the course, winning by a comfortable margin.

This put us into the final, up against St. Edwards School. They were a really strong crew, taking us off the start and easing away despite some really hard pushes by our girls. Another really good race by our ladies but not enough and we lost by four lengths in the end.

IM3 4+
Really pleasingly, the draw for this event had been split into Club and College/School divisions, meaning we actually got to race similar crews rather than being annihilated by the likes of Radley and Eton.

Our first round race saw us up against a crew from Bedford RC. We (Steve, Pierre-Yves, Gwen and I, coxed by Lindy) got a good, solid start that put us well over a length clear by the time we reached Star Club. Consolidating on this, we pushed away and then settled into a reasonably easy rhythm, finishing the race with an “easy” verdict. A pleasing race, given it was our first race as a crew and the first sweep race that Steve, Pierre-Yves and I have done in a very long time. The semi-final drew us against City of Oxford who, unlike all the other crews in this event, were all huge twenty-something uni type rowers… Not surprisingly, they blew us away from the start and disappeared down the river, leaving us to trail in by some distance. Despite losing by a big distance, it was another good row.

IM2 4+
First race in MK colours for Mike and crewing with Tim, Benn and Josh, with Steve coxing. In a very competitive event, they had a difficult first round draw against Radley College. Although this was only their first race together and with very limited practice, the guys fought really hard and were beaten by just a length. Radley were the ultimate winners, beating Warwick University, again by one length, putting our crew’s performance into perspective.

My views
As we had a fairly late first race, we arrived late (well, late for us). This meant we couldn’t boat from Longholme Island but instead wound up on the other embankment almost by Longholme Bridge. Funnily enough, this turned out to be a really good location as we were on our own, now getting hassle from other crews or queuing to boat. The only irritation was a school crew who just left their boat on the river and cleared off, leaving two girls to mind it – when we were waiting to get in.

The organisation was good, although maybe not as slick as normal (arriving at the start for our second round on the W.IM3 4+, no-one knew which side of the river we should be on) but still chilled and friendly and everyone seemed intent on having a good day. As ever, the results service was brilliant and somehow we managed to avoid the rain showers that were in and around the area all day, always a bonus keeping dry.

I was really pleased to see the separation of clubs from schools and colleges, if only at IM3 level (I guess the other events didn’t have enough entries to split them) as it gave us a reasonable chance rather than being obliterated in the first round. However, looking at the results and seeing that only two events were won by non-college/school crews (one of those being the CORC “club” boat that hammered everyone else in their category) it makes me wonder if it is worth attending in future as it seems to be drifting towards a non-club event.

Otherwise, the only real downer on the day (other than not winning anything) was the damage to Arrow.
Now for our next event – Milton Keynes Regatta!

Results for the day are available at the

Bedford Small Boats Head 2011

April 12, 2011

Today’s Bedford SBH was a brilliant end to the Head season, held in scorching April sunshine and run superbly. A really good day out, topped off by two wins for MKRC. The day was dominated by an extremely strong City of Oxford contingent, who cleaned up pretty much every event they entered, so our performances were really up against it.

A club visit to Nando’s in the evening really topped off a great day, also allowing us to celebrate the wins.

Master’s C/D 4x-
With Pierre-Yves away on business, Tim swapped in for him at stroke, with Steve, Simon and I in our normal line-up. Setting off as race number 2 (an unusual experience for us, being this high up the field) behind a St. Ives IM3 quad, we found a pretty good rhythm from the off. Conscious of a City of Oxford Women’s Elite four behind us, this gave us the incentive to keep pushing and we completed the course in 7:23, to place us fourth of six but only 22 seconds off the winner. A pleasing result given the change to our normal crew and lack of practice in this combination

Women’s IM2 4+
We entered no less than three crews in the IM2 coxed fours; being pitched against an extremely fast City of Oxford boat, we managed to place 2nd, 3rd and 4th out of the five crews. A mere ten seconds covered the three crews, just a single second separating 2nd and 3rd. Our top crew was some 37 seconds adrift of COX, giving some idea of what everyone was up against!

Novice 2x-
Benn and Gwen in another outing in their Novice double. Showing increasing confidence, they took twenty-one seconds off their run at Star Head, despite a couple of “close encounters” on the way. Putting down more power kind of upset the steering and resulted in a strong attraction towards the bank. That their finishing time was only sixteen seconds off the winners (placing them fifth of seven) even though they didn’t have the best of races is an indication of good things to come from this pair.

Women’s IM2 2x-
A very good performance from Liz and Andi saw them place second in this category (inevitably behind a COX double!). They were so quick, they took the fastest MKRC double time of the day (8:14), even though it looked like someone had been hacked to death in the boat at the end (sculler’s scratches on Andi’s hands, small wounds but boy, do they bleed!).

Mixed Novice 2x-
Managing to avoid any “domestics”, Tom and Lindy ran an excellent race, taking first place in the Mixed doubles. Very fortunately, Lindy found out that her gate wasn’t done up properly on the row down to the start, rather than during the race… the result (and their dryness) would have been a lot different if it had happened halfway down the course at race speed!

Mixed IM3 4x-
The mixed quad completely blew away their opposition from Lincoln, winning comfortably with the fastest MKRC time of the day (7:15), some 30 seconds clear. A nice first MKRC pot for Benn, sculling with Tim, Andi and Liz.

Masters D/E 2x-
Steve and I out in our double, but whether it was the heat, the earlier race in the quad or just being a bit out of sorts, we were well off the pace, coming third of four but a whopping 52 seconds behind the winners. After a couple of really good training sessions during the week, the balance and power just didn’t seem to be there, and the time shows this.

Women’s Masters B/C 2x-
First time out as a crew for Clare and Lou, so their main objective was to finish upright without hitting anything, which they achieved nicely. Not surprisingly, last of the three crews but a good first race together.

Women’s IM3 4+
Showing there is no rhyme nor reason in the categories, the ladies IM3 boat posted a faster time than all of the IM2 crews! With Oxford taking the first four places, our ladies finished seventh of ten but with a good time compared to the non-Oxford boats (who were in a different league).

Women’s IM3 2x-
A combination of lack of practice (in Jo’s case, a lack of any kind of rowing) and a strong field saw Jo and Lindy well off the pace in their double, trailing in last in a field of six.

My views…
Yet another great event at Bedford, well organised and friendly and in the inevitable brilliant weather (just how do they do this – do they sacrifice a junior sculler on the evening before or something?). I’m struggling to remember an event where every division started early! Obviously helped by the weather bringing out the best in everyone and with all crews co-operating, it ran like clockwork.

Apparently though, the entry was well down on previous years – I guess this is a combination of factors, including cost and an unfortunate clash with Abingdon Head on the same day. We’d normally attend both but were unable to do so; it appears Abingdon asked to move their event forward two weeks to avoid this but a club with an event on the same day blocked this, despite being in a different region and with no obvious overlap.

So, a fond (?) farewell to the “joys” of the Head season and into Regatta season. It all starts next week, see you at Leicester, first time we’ll have been to this event!

Another of the joys of Bedford is the speed with which results are published – we were in the Bedford Club House at the end of the day and the final results were on their computer before the crews from the last division had got back. That is just so impressive!

They were inevitably on-line before we got home and they can be found here.

Bedford Fours and Eights Head 2011

February 15, 2011

Continuing our recent run of form, this year’s Bedford Fours and Eights Head saw us take home three wins from the seven boats entered, a very good return. The other crews posted good times against stiff opposition, largely from the college and school crews who were out in strength. The event itself seems to go from strength to strength and attracted a record entry this year – the downside to this was, as we were a bit later in submitting entries, we wound up being there from Division 1 to Division 7. Still, this meant we were still around to pick up pots!

IM3 8+
Second outing for the Men’s Eight this year, with Gwen swapping in for Steve (compared to Northampton). Although a bit rough in parts, there were patches where we got the boat running well and there’s obviously real power in there. Helped by not having my seat collapse, we put out a time of 7:11 to put us level with Bedford RC with only Broxbourne beating us in the club crews.

Women’s Masters C 4+
Third win in a row for the Ladies, with Paula, Lou, Karen and Clare (coxed by Steve) putting down a time of 8:29, over half a minute ahead of their rivals from Bedford RC.

Women’s IM3 4-
A good, fast race by Andi, Ash, Liz and Sam saw them across the line in 7:50, some 43 seconds clear of their competition, from Exeter Uni, giving them another win.

IM3 4+
Despite a last minute change of crews, with James suffering a bereavement, the scratch crew of Josh, Nelson, Benn and Gwen (with Liz coxing again) were good enough to finish as the second club crew (well behind a very fast Abingdon boat), beating off two Star Club boats, in a time of 7:45

Masters C 4x-
Our usual crew of Pierre-Yves, Simon, me and Steve actually posted the fastest Masters Quad time of the day, at 7:23, but lost out on handicapping to Masters D boats from Star Club and Oundle, by 4 and 5 seconds respectively.

Mixed IM3 4x-
What started out as a “fun” entry turned into a very respectable boat, not only winning the category but setting the fastest MK time of the day. Also a first marital double for Andi and Tim, with Josh and Liz (rowing for a change!) completing the crew.

Women’s IM3 4+
The second race of the day for the Masters Ladies showed remarkable consistency, at just three seconds slower than their first run in the Masters event. This was enough to place them fourth of seven in a strong field, a very good performance by Paula, Lou, Karen and Clare (Steve coxing them a second time)

My views…
Unusually for Bedford, the weather wasn’t perfect (maybe the sacrifices weren’t up to standard?) but despite this another thoroughly enjoyable day’s racing. I do love the way they keep to time, chivvying crews along and taking no nonsense but always good naturedly. Being there all day did make it a long day (watching the crews for the last division trying to get motivated after an hour in the club house was quite amusing) but did allow us to be there to collect the well earned pots.

Must put in a special mention here for Liz – not only did she win two pots but spent the rest of the day coxing. In particular, the way she spun our eight at the start was simply jaw dropping – there can’t have been more than three feet spare at either end as she manoeuvred the boat, spinning it on the spot. Sheer class, totally impressed.

Also thanks to the wonderful lady at Bedford RC, who’s birthday it was, who kindly fed the gannets from MK the food left from her party. It was hugely appreciated.

Finally, octuples… I know they have to learn and take part in races but I do feel there should be a restriction on putting little kids in charge of little kids. Clearly, some of the crews were barely capable of sculling and having a young child attempting to steer them is an accident waiting to happen. Fortunately, we only caught one of them just by the butterfly bridge but even so, Steve was working overtime to avoid them as they zigzagged along the course. I do feel for the fastest fours who must have had to negotiate their way between them. Would it be possible/desirable to insist on a minimum age for coxes for junior boats to give some degree of control? Also, is it worth starting these boats at the back of the division, to remove any chance of interfering with faster adult crews following them?

As ever, the results were through in amazingly quick time and can be found here.

My photos are also on-line, these can be seen here