East Midlands Regatta 2011

June 14, 2011

This event was a bit of a “voyage into the unknown”. Taking advantage of it being at Holme Pierrepont the day before British Masters, we decided it was worth a try. I think it was also the first East Midlands event, hosted by Derby, Loughborough, Nottingham and Newark, and it meant racing against clubs that we don’t normally encounter.

As it happens this was a really good decision! Not only was it a really nice event but we took four wins setting us up nicely for the next day and continuing a superb winning run for the club.

After the utter confusion caused by our deluge of wins last week-end with the attendant status changes, together with the event organisers shuffling events and boats to maximise the number of entries, we played a kind of “guess who” game. I arrived thinking I was in two events, the normal double and a mixed quad (more of that later). I was then a bit surprised when Iain arrived, as I fully expected him the following day for our Masters C 4+ but not today. Trying delicately to broach the subject of “aren’t you a day early?” I discovered we were racing the 4+ today as well!!! A similar double take happened with Paula when Karen arrived – Paula then found she was not in the one race she expected but three. All good fun and, to me anyway, showing the club cohesion and “can do” attitude, we just got on with it.

After an unfortunate delay to the regatta start, while they rearranged the lanes (some were really wide while others were rather narrow!) we got underway; despite some grim weather forecasts during the week, it was bright and sunny with a moderate breeze blowing; pretty much as good as it gets at Nottingham!

IM3 1x
Not one but two singles out in this event, with John joining us from Row Caldecotte and Pierre-Yves making his first outing in a single outside our regatta. Pierre-Yves’ plans were thrown a bit into disarray as the car with the riggers for his boat arrived late (someone – and it would be cruel to say who… – overslept) but he blagged a nice Wintech from Nottingham. John was first out and cruised to second place to book a spot in the repêchage. Pierre-Yves followed suit and also made the rep.

Unfortunately, there was some confusion over the timing of events following the delayed start and somehow both of them missed their start times for their races; a pity as this lost them the chance of a second race in their singles and a pop at the final. Still, they both had other events later in the day.

Mixed IM3 4x-
This boat started out as a bit of fun, with the two couples (Paula and I, Steve and Clare) deciding to have a go. We’d had extensive (by MKRC standards) training (two outings) and these had gone really well, so we were hopeful of getting a good scull. We were entered at IM3 as no Masters event was available and were sitting by the start watching for our opposition, hoping it would be a similar kind of age. Various boats came up – masters, another masters, another masters and then up rocks a mixed quad of scary looking (i.e huge and young) kids. Yep, this was our opposition.

We got attached (how DOES Steve do it – a brisk cross-wind and nails it onto the stake boat first time every time) and waited for the off. After a really good, clean and powerful start where we kept with the Nottingham boat, they soon started pulling away and left us trailing in, ultimately by a good couple of lengths. Despite this, we all felt it had gone really well and started thinking about entering this more regularly, where we can find Masters opposition. I hate kids…

IM3 4x-
A completely new line up for an IM3 quad, with John stroking, Tim and Benn providing the grunt and Pierre-Yves steering. Racing against two Nottingham and Union crews and one from Newark, this was a closely fought affair. After a really hard race, the Newark crew ran out winners, with us in second and the two N&U boats bringing up the rear, some distance down.

IM3 4+
Mainly to get some race practice ahead of the National Masters tomorrow, we put in the Masters C four, albeit racing at IM3 level. We’d never raced this combination (Steve stroking, Iain, Pierre-Yves and I, coxed by Paula) before, so had no real idea of how we’d fare.

Lining up at the start, we were against three other boats; a Leicester Uni crew, and club boats from Loughborough and Trafford (spot the difference – their kit is identical to ours!). After a slight disagreement with one of the crews at the start as they tried to remove our bows, we settled and were ready. On “attention… go” we pulled quite violently to bow side and this put us a length down on the other boats straight away. Picking it up from here, we fairly quickly overhauled the Trafford boat and set about chasing Loughborough – the Leicester Uni kids had long since gone. Although all four boats would progress, the first two would go straight to the final and the second two to the rep, so we really wanted second spot.

Inch by inch, we clawed back on Loughborough, gradually reeling them in and then, as we hit the 250m to go marker, pulled level. Paula called a big push and this surged us past them and we gently pulled away taking second spot by a length or so. A very pleasing race, especially given the start.

So to the final. Here we lined up against not one but two Leicester Uni crews together with another Trafford boat. A similar start to the heat put us another length down and chasing. This time, we chased down the second Leicester Uni crew and passed them but the other two finished well clear.

However, given how few races we’ve had together (and how few Iain has had period) we were really pleased with this one, finishing third in a pretty high calibre field wasn’t too shabby at all.

W.IM3 4+
With Sam from the Henley crew unavailable, Jo sat in for her, together with Andi, Ash and Lindy. A lack of water time together didn’t help their cause and they finished second to Newark (probably the boat that won at Peterborough last week?) but well ahead of Derby and Leicester Uni.

IM3 2x-
Tim and Benn were next up, this time racing as a double, racing against Nottingham and Leicester. Given that this was only their second outing (they tried their first start on the way up to the start!) they weren’t sure what to expect. Despite this, from a good start, they pushed into an early lead and were a length up by the halfway point. From there, they eased away a little more, landing our first win by four seconds over the Nottingham crew. Not bad for a second outing.

Mas D 2x-
This event pitted Steve and I in a straight final against Lincoln. Straight from the off, we pushed into a lead and were able to extend this through the first 500m, to the point where we were able to sit on them quite comfortably. Despite hitting a massive sqall that near on stopped us in our tracks, we seemed to cope with the conditions in the second half much better and pulled away for our second win of the day. Personally, this was a real fillip after the misery at Peterborough last week.

W.Nov 4x-
Mixing it up from the Ladies Masters quad of last week, this was a really scratch crew. With Paula stroking, Alice and Karen in the middle and Clare steering at bow, they had a straight final against Nottingham. The lack of practice together certainly didn’t show – easing into a slight lead from the start, they pushed away slowly but surely to a length clear by the halfway point. Despite some really hard battling from Nottingham, the girls dug in and held off their challenge, to finish a length clear for our third win, de-novicing into the bargain.

IM1 2-
By now we, were really buzzing as the last three MKRC boats had all won. Tim and Benn swapped sculls for sweep and set out (at IM1 level!) against Derby. This proved to be a fairly comfortable race, as the two finished off their day with our fourth and final win.

Most of us who were racing at National Masters the following day had opted to camp over. We set up a little circle of tents on the camp site and settled in for another great evening. Gathered round the barbie, sharing a few beers (not too many in view of tomorrow – but there were pots to christen) and chatting, it made for another really great end to another brilliant day’s racing.

I really liked this one. Not only was it (another) good day for the club but it was just nice. There were some really good touches, such as ensuring anyone in an event with heats got at least two rows (going either to the final or to a repêchage) and the presenting of pots while in the boat. First time I’ve had this and it made it feel really special.

The whole atmosphere was chilled and especially the umpires – never had such polite, friendly and chatty people controlling a regatta. Holding it at a major facility and having (for Nottingham) pretty good weather obviously helped but I do hope they do the same next year. This was a great warm up event for the Masters the following day.

My favourite comment of the day came from one of the Duke of Edinburgh volunteers (they were really great by the way) – it was along the lines of “I’ve learnt the colours for Leicester and Milton Keynes today – they’re the ones winning everything”! Nice to know we’ve made an impact.

Results can be found here

Benn’s videos can be viewed here

Photos are on-line – click on the picture below

East Midlands Regatta 2011

Please note the views in this blog are my personal ones and do not reflect the official view of Milton Keynes Rowing Club. If you disagree with anything here, please use the comments section to discuss, rather than going to the club.

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!

Scratch regatta

May 3, 2011

Making full use of the Bank Holiday, last night saw us run another impromptu scratch “regatta”. This comprised four mixed crews, selected at random, racing in coxed fours in a round-robin event. Despite truly foul conditions, with a massive crosswind whipping up huge waves, it was a great, fun, event. There were some very close races and certainly plenty of competitive spirit in evidence…

The waves did make for some “interesting” rowing – a couple of us had the fun of placing the blade and then pulling through – in clear air, as the wave dropped away. Coxing was not for the feint hearted either, and definitely not for those wanting to keep dry.

Congratulations to the winning four of Tim, Steve, Andi and Lou, unbeaten across all three races.

A great evening, topped off by a club barbecue and then the brilliant news that Norwich were back in the Premier League!!!!

What a difference a week makes…

April 14, 2011

The contrast in this week’s training sessions couldn’t have been greater. Having just got home from a great session on almost perfectly flat water it seems hard to believe what we had on Monday. This session started out a with a bit of a breeze (well, a bit more than that but still rowable) and Tim and I got in a good few lengths. Gradually though the wind was strengthening and as the light was starting to go we agreed to do just one more length. This was a BIG mistake.

From somewhere the wind just picked up and up and up until we were bouncing all over the place, waves breaking over the front and rear canvases and spray everywhere; one big wave hit us and emptied itself all down my back. We got halfway back down the far side and decided to cut straight back across the lake to the clubhouse – by now the waves were so big we had me sit the boat while Tim spun it. Trying to scull across the swell was pretty hairy so we angled across, bouncing around like a cork, finally getting back to the pontoon after a pretty scary final length.

Paula and Jo were back as well and as their boat, Sharpie, is heavy at the best of times, I went to help lift it out. They grabbed both end and I took the middle; as we lifted it out and turn it over, the gallons of water in the bottom promptly emptied all down my front. That was bad enough but having wife and daughter almost in hysterics at this was the limit!

Strangely enough, despite the conditions it was actually a really good session, especially considering Tim and I hadn’t been in a double together for probably six months.

Tonight, we got down to the club and the lake was at the other extreme. Flat, calm water, surprisingly warm and just about perfect conditions for sculling. This allowed us to put in some good strong lengths and get in some racing starts, all good practice for Sunday. We decided to polish off the session by doing a couple of race starts against Paula and Jo, out again in their double. Off the first one, we got quite a good first few strokes but about five into the settle my right calf seized up with the most painful cramp I’ve ever had. It took me a good five minutes to recover, every time I put my foot back in the shoe, it just cramped again. Anyhow, it finally eased (but is still sore while I’m writing this) and we caught up with the other double for another go. This turned out to be our best start yet, so I’m trying to figure out how to induce cramp on the row down to the start at Leicester this Sunday! After a few more starts (including a couple of near collisions as our steering went off a bit) it was time to head in after a really good session.

Roll on Sunday, first Regatta of the season.

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).

Milton Keynes Regatta 2010

May 24, 2010

So, we finally managed it! After years of discussion and months of hard work we put on the first ever MKRC Regatta on Saturday 22nd May 2010. Helped by the glorious weather, this was a real success and enjoyed by everyone, competitors, organisers and spectators. This was the culmination of a big effort by many,many people – I’m not going to go into a big long list here but really have to say a big thank-you to Tim who was the driving force behind this.

Caldecotte Lake proved to be a wonderful venue for regatta racing, with the entire course visible from just about anywhere on the lake shore. Angling the racing lines across the lake gave us a 600m course, with the start line by the road bridge (useful vantage point for watching the start) and finish line just down from the club house.

As this was our first ever event, we ran it as an invitation only private match. This limited us to three other clubs; wanting to get clubs of similar size as ourselves, we invited Northampton, Oundle Town and Isle of Ely. Unfortunately, because of what seems to have been an utter foul up in internal communications, Isle of Ely told us on the Thursday before the Regatta that they we withdrawing. Having just two days notice to find a replacement was always going to be difficult, so we just had to scratch their entries. As well as a significant financial loss this caused a lot of problems with race scheduling and led to a staccato start to racing.

Despite this setback, everything went incredibly well. I’m not going to list out all the races and how all our crews did – there were so many of each (we wound up with around 80 races) – just pick out some of my highlights. Please feel free to add to these – that’s what the comments box is all about…..

So, my highlights of the day

John Cunningham – not only getting to race again but in the boat named after him. Not sure his grin could have got any wider even though we lost in both the MK Vet 8+ and the composite 8+ with Oundle. Well deserved John and great to see.

Jeff Pearce – started the club 15 years ago and this was a proud moment for him

Womens’ Novice 4+ – doubt they will remain Novice for long the way they went about winning this category; all the more pleasing as three of the crew were from last year’s learn to row intake

The only capsize of the day – a Northampton sculler who self-rescued – and then rolled over completely and capsized the other side!

Steph, who lived up to her Miss Chatterbox award by providing a really, really, really good commentary (you need to listen to the interview on BBC 3 Counties Radio).

The MKRC crew who were the only crew all day to get a warning (for failing to follow the circulation pattern)!

My most enjoyable race of the day (OK, I lost in all four, but it was all fun), sculling in a double with my younger daughter, Jo. First time we’d ever been in a double together, so losing by one length wasn’t too shabby at all.

I’m sure there’s loads more – please do chip in so we can build up more of a record of what was a really brilliant first ever MKRC regatta. On the feedback we’ve had so far, we’re now starting to think about next year’s event already, so watch this space

We’ve made the local papers too – see the MK Citizen article

The results from the day are now available here  MKRC Regatta 2010 Results

The big freeze

January 7, 2010

The disadvantages of training on a lake are becoming all too apparent. Given the low temperatures and heavy snow around MK, the WHOLE of Caldecotte Lake is frozen. This is playing havoc with our training – our last session on the water was well before Christmas and even circuits are off tonight as the club house is snowed in. Mind you, I’m still suffering from Monday’s session.

Photos taken this afternoon from Monellan Grove. Brrrr…

More photos now on the MKRC photo site