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


British Masters Regatta 2011

June 18, 2011

CHAMPIONS!

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.

Reflections

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!

Links
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