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+

Head of the River 2012

March 30, 2012

Checking back, it looks like six years since we last had a boat entered in the Eight’s Head, so it was very pleasing to be able to pull together a crew for this year’s event.

With most of the crew being available for a few weeks before, we’d also been able to get in a few practice rows. These had had mixed results, varying from very good to very poor (and very, very wet at Northampton the Sunday it rained non-stop for three hours). Against this, and that we were rowing IM2 despite having four novice rowers  in the boat, we weren’t really sure what to expect.

Returning to Civil Service to boat (having gone from Barn Elms the previous week) we got down to London in plenty of time, our new, aerodynamically shaped trailer (courtesy of a close encounter with a low barrier – oops) attracting some attention. We were actually rigged early enough that there was some discussion as to whether to get out for a quick paddle before boating time, but in the end, we decided this would be a bit tight.

Come the due time, we joined the queue for boating and without too much delay got waterborne just after ten. After an uneventful paddle upstream, we pulled over to our marshalling station virtually opposite the finish post for the Boat Race. We’d got quite a while to kill and with the stream getting quicker this led to the usual fun trying to keep on station. In our case, this meant the poor bow man (me!) rowing more or less continually to stop us drifting off down stream. Still, a good way to keep warm on what was a pretty dull, cold day, punctuated with the odd intermittent shower.

After what seemed an eternity, the first boats burst through Chiswick bridge and set off down the course; it was then our turn to shuffle up stream, past Putney Town RC and virtually to Kew Bridge. Finally, it was our turn to strip down to racing kit and spin. Liz, coxing, manoeuvred us beautifully into the stream and we set off towards the start line. Building as we approached Chiswick Bridge, we shot through the arch and got the “go” call. We were off.

Pretty soon, we had the crew behind us (Pembroke College Oxford) on our tail and pushing to get past. Not surprising as their average age was probably half of ours and they’d started very close behind us, but a bit demoralising. Still, this was offset by encouraging calls from Liz that we were closing on Marlow in front of us. With us still chasing them, we were gradually caught by a succession of crews, but kept pushing along.

The boat was running reasonably well but we’d never quite ironed out the sudden dip to bow-side just at the catch. Just before Hammersmith Bridge, this was nearly very costly as I got caught going in off square and the blade whipped away and down from me. Fortunately, I was able to control it before it became a full-blown crab – in fact, no-one else noticed! Off the bridge, Benn called a push and this was easily the best part of the race – the boat really lifted and we could feel the surge in power and improved run. This seemed to make the run past Fulham FC go incredibly quickly and we were soon across the finish line.

With a lot of traffic building up past Putney, we were told to pull the equivalent of a handbrake turn and head back up river. It’s such a long paddle back, although nowhere near as far, it seems, in an eight compared to a four. With two of us dropping out at a time to re-kit (and stuff a most welcome Mars Bar) we kept moving and were fairly soon back to the crossing point at Chiswick Steps, before returning to our boating area.

All things considered, not a bad return to the HORR. Given the very mixed ability in the boat and the wide spread of ages, it would have been a miracle had we finished anywhere near the top half. In the event, we came in 337th overall (of 394) and 69th of 74 in IM2.

My thoughts…

Must have been the grey weather but the marshalling wasn’t as chilled as in all the recent races on the Tideway. Despite an almost complete absence of the normal idiocy from crews, they were definitely grumpy – mind you, I probably would be too, stuck in a launch for hours in the cold and rain!

From a personal point of view, it’s nice to be able to say I’ve raced in the HORR but I think this will be the first and last time. Rowing isn’t my strong point, being far more of a sculler, and racing with a crew where the stern four are all about a foot taller exacerbates how short my stroke is! So, I think I’ll stick to the fours head and, if we can rustle up enough “oldies”, the Masters Head in future.

Anyhow, thanks to the rest of the guys (Benn, Mike, Josh, Pierre-Yves, Nelson, Chris and Steve) plus the excellent Liz for coxing, for carrying me down the Thames!

Results can be seen at the HORR website and my photos here on Google+

Head of the Trent 2012

March 2, 2012

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

W.IM1 4x-

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

Masters C/D 4x-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senior 4+

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

Women’s Masters C 8+

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

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

Trent Head - Women's IM2 8+

Trent Head - Women's IM2 8+

My view…

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

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

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

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

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

Northampton Head 2012

February 23, 2012

This year’s Northampton Head took place in unusually mild weather – we’re used to fun activities like breaking the ice on the side of the river and avoiding hypothermia while waiting for the start, so temperatures of a tropical 5-6 degrees were really welcome.

We had our usual strong entry out for the event, including another batch of Learn to Row graduates in their first ever races. Despite missing some of the stronger members of the squad and having a number of our top boats knocked out with no competition, we still left clutching four category wins.

Novice 4+
A new combination saw Nelson, Chris Rob M and Pierre-Yves, coxed by Karen set a good benchmark for the Novice men, of 6:47. This was good enough to see them finish 3rd, beaten by Leicester and Bedford School but only seven seconds adrift of the winners and ahead of three school crews.

J18 2x-
A first race for Ben S saw him stroke a Junior double with Alex. Despite being overtaken by two old boys (see below) they put in a very good race, good enough to win their category! A very impressive start for Ben, especially considering the pressure of stroking the boat having never raced before.

Masters D 2x-
Fresh from our win at Star in the previous week, Steve and I knew this would be much harder as we were up against long time rivals, Nemesis. Today’s race felt much better, picking up from the tail end of last year rather than the rusty performance at Star. A fast start saw us close down on the kiddies in front (Ben and Alex in the J18 double) pretty quickly and we were able to cruise past them. To their credit they then hung on to us and pushed us all he way to the finish. Steve steered a near immaculate course and this helped us to a time of 6:57. Not surprisingly, Nemesis did beat this but by a mere 8 seconds – a much smaller gap than in previous events and leaving the pair of us quite happy.

W.IM2 2x-
An interesting race this one for Helen M and Jenny. Originally entered as a Masters boat, they had no competition so had to row at IM2 level. A “normal ” MKRC crew, in that they’d only had one or two sessions together before racing but both are very good scullers. After a slight problem on boating (another MKRC crew had inadvertently taken their blades!) they had a good, steady start, before they had the misfortune to be caught by a J16 4+ boat – which, despite being coxed, promptly rowed into them, having pushed them over to the bank first! Despite this setback, the ladies got going again and with the incentive to catch up lost time, stormed down the course to finish as winners, their time of 7:31 putting them just three seconds ahead of Leicester, with Devil’s Elbow (love the name!) well back.

W.Nov 4+
This was a quartet of our Learn to Row graduates form last year, in their first race as a crew. Comprising Winnie, Kelly, Mary and Helen C, with Tim coxing, this was a “voyage of discovery”. Unfortunately, they set themselves a tough pace from the start, but the race distance was double the length of the lake and it told towards the end.  Still, a good learning experience for them and that’s the first race out the way.

J15 1x
With Phillip still being a beginner in the single, the main objective was a safe row, finishing the right way up! He managed this easily and although last by a fair margin, a creditable performance for someone still finding his way.

WJ 15 2x-
Two junior girls’ doubles out in this category. First up were Lainey and Alex setting a target time for the other competitors of 8:17. They held on to the lead until division four, when their clubmates Gemma and Hannah posted a time 15 seconds quicker; unfortunately, two Stratford boats went even quicker! This left our two crews in 3rd and 4th overall (out of seven entries), an encouraging trend up the results table.

WJ15 1x
Our junior girls provided no less than three of the five entries at this category. They finished 2nd, 3rd and 5th overall, with Lainey top of the MKRC juniors, only 13 seconds off of the winner from Oundle.

Novice 8+
Yes, really, MKRC entering a Men’s Novice eight! With a large influx of Learn to Row graduates, we were able to put out a complete novice crew, bolstered by some of our senior guys who haven’t yet had the good fortune of a regatta win. A credit to the club and the coaching they’ve received, they put in a really good performance, posting a time of 6:29 to finish 4th, behind Stratford, Bedford School and Leicester boats. Given this was the first race for many of the crew, this was a very encouraging start for Nelson, Chris, Rob M, Ben S, Antonio, James, Haemish and Geoff (last five being LTR grads), coxed by Karen, being just 23 seconds off the winners.

Mas C 4x-
This boat saw Pierre-Yves, Tim, Steve and I reprise our Henley Masters boat from 2010 – and we don’t think we’ve been out in this combination since! We started immediately in front of one of our two competitors, from Northampton, and this gave us a good focus for the race. The first part of the race felt a little sluggish, as we got used to sculling together again, and the Northampton boat clung stubbornly behind us. However, about a third of the course down, we pushed and upped the rate a bit and this saw us at first ease away from Northampton but then start opening a substantial gap. By three quarters, Steve and I were both glad we’d not been able to enter an impromptu mixed quad in the previous division – doing just the two races was seriously starting to hurt! Still, we clung on in there and get pushing hard, crossing the finish line to record what we felt was a very respectable time, of 6:08, well ahead of Northampton, on 6:37. We then had to wait for our other competitor (Hollowell Scullers), out in the next division. To our disappointment, they absolutely flew down the course to post a winning time of a staggering 5:54, beating us by 16 seconds.

Strangely, we all agreed after the race that it had felt slow over the first half and then picked up in the second – Pierre-Yves had, of course, recorded the race on his GPS tracker and the results he sent out in the evening were completely the other way round! A fast start, dropping off around half way with a late surge at the end – just shows you can’t trust how the boat feels…

W.IM2 1x
Fresh from her storming performance with Jenny in the double, Helen M was back in action in her single. After a late drama, as her seat had somehow disappeared (a big thank-you to Northampton for finding and lending her a spare for her Empacher) she duly delivered another win for both her and the club.

J16 1x
Alex moved from the winning double back to his single in the last division. Showing steady progress, he finished third out of five, in a very symmetrical field (Stowe, Northampton, MK, Northampton, Stowe) pushing the Stowe boat that followed him well away.

W.IM2 4+
A slightly contrived event this one. We’d originally entered an IM1 and Masters boat but both had no competition. Northampton were very accommodating and allowed Tim to shuffle the two crews to produce a pair of IM2 boats to race each other. Being guaranteed a club win it was all about crew rivalry. The aim on both sides was not to be beaten by a big margin – and this led to two very fine performances. First off was the “Sugar” boat, of Paula, Karen, Clare and Helen C, coxed by yours truly, with the “Spice” boat of Charlene, Alice, Kate and Winnie, Steve coxing, following a few boats back. After two really fine rows, the timing couldn’t have been closer, with a single second separating the two crews (7:46 to 7:47) – tragically, from my point of view, the rival “Spice” boat just edging it. Still, it shows the closeness of the women’s squad, both in ability and in getting on with each other, as despite some friendly banter, there were no hard feelings at all. Apart from the coxes…

My thoughts…
Another great day out at Northampton, despite the unusually warm weather (we’re so used to freezing there, being warm felt distinctly odd). It was really impressive seeing our huge flotilla of boats taking up substantial acreage in the boat park, having something like 12 or 13 different boats entered ranging from singles through to an eight. Great also to see so many new faces racing for the first time, and all of them enjoying the experience (even if a “bit” harder than they expected).

Star Head 2011 – take 2

February 3, 2012

After the disappointment of the original event being postponed because of thick fog (see earlier blog entry), the 2011 Star Head was finally rescheduled for January 22nd 2011. Despite our concerns that this would also be affected (this time by very strong winds) it did go ahead as planned.

Although we’d put together a bumper entry for the original event, unavailability reduced us down to “just” ten crews entered. Out of this entry, we managed to come away with no less than six event wins, with the ladies again proving dominant with three wins and the Ladies Masters’ boat narrowly missing out on handicap time.

WIM2 4+
A strong crew of Helen J, Paula, Alice and Kate (in her first race for MK) with cox Yemin put down a fast time of 7:53 in the first division. This was to prove more than quick enough, beating the Star boat (their only competition) by a substantial margin of 31 seconds to win the category.

WIM3 4+
Another very strong looking boat, with Kate, Alice, Lou and Jenny, with Yemin again coxing. With this being Jenny’s first MKRC race and Kate’s second (her first being the W.IM2 boat earlier) we weren’t sure how it would go. The answer was “quickly”, posting a faster time (7:46) than the IM2 crew, easily enough to again take the win by 28 and 57 seconds over Star and St. Neots respectively.

WMas B/C 4x
With Jenny switching to sculling and, very creditably, steering the quad in her first ever row at Bedford, the crew of Andi, Amelia, Karen and Jenny overcame the handicap time and sculled to victory, proving too strong for Star and Oundle.

Mas D 2x-
This saw Steve and I out in the double for the first time in what seems ages. This showed as our race wasn’t as fluent as those at the end of last year, and certainly felt like hard work. Despite this, Steve steered a near flawless course and we posted a respectable time of 7:54, comfortably ahead of Oundle, to pick up another win

Mas B 2x-
Despite not having raced together for a very long time, Tim and Pierre-Yves put in a great performance, not only winning their category but posting the fastest MKRC time of the day! Their time, 7:28, put them 29th overall for the day, comfortably beating many fours and quads and even one eight!

Mxd Mas A/C 2x-
Not only taking on their competitors, but running a significant risk of marital fall-out (would YOU let your spouse steer a race or would your spouse let YOU call the pace and tactics????) Tim and Andi also beat the handicapping to see off two “C” boats and win the category by 23 seconds and 33 seconds from Oundle and Sudbury respectively.

IM3 4+
A new combination saw Steve, Pierre-Yves and I swap sculls for sweep and add Chris (in his first MKRC race) to put out an IM3 four. After a “hot swap” as we were sharing Mistral with the Women’s IM3 crew (with Helen J jumping in to relieve Yemin from coxing a third straight race!) we paddled down to the start. Not really knowing how this would go, having had just a couple of outings, we set off at a reasonable rate. Unfortunately, we’d been placed immediately ahead of what was obviously a very quick Star quad and coming up to Star club, Helen had to steer very wide to let them through. Despite this we settled back onto the racing line but as we came through County bridge it was like rowing out into the Atlantic. Very high waves, rough water and boat stopping winds made for “interesting” conditions – a bit like rowing on Caldecotte Lake! This persisted through to the Suspension Bridge where the water calmed down a bit and from the Butterfly Bridge it all really clicked and (for the last 200 meters!) felt really strong and balanced. A good end to a reasonable race but we finished last of the five, but a mere three seconds covered 3rd, 4th and 5th. Still, 30 seconds off the winners in what was basically a Masters’ boat wasn’t too bad, especially not for a first outing and had, we not had to avoid the quad, could have been even better.

WMas C/E 4+
Despite a very good row, the Ladies Masters were just unable to overcome the handicap (racing “C” against a St. Neots “E” boat) and although 23 seconds quicker, Paula, Karen, Lou and Clare, with Amelia coxing, lost out by 4 seconds on the handicap time. Had Clare not had to do a third straight race (see the WMas CDE 2x- race), maybe they would have been able to close that little gap.

J17 2x-
James and Alex out in a junior double, were up against two strong crews from St. Neots and Kings School Ely and their lack of experience showed as they trailed in a long way down. Still, they can only get quicker with practice.

J16 1x
Alex found himself up against three other J16 scullers, from Kings School Ely, Star and St. Ives. Again, still learning the ropes, he was well beaten although the times posted by the others were extremely fast (winning time was a scorching 7:31!).

WMas CDE 2x-
Clare and Trish, in her first race for the club, had a torrid time. Having raced down in Division 1, they got to the end to be told that their time hadn’t been recorded! They then had to row back, up to the start and do it all over again. This clearly affected their performance and they came in well off the pace with a time of 10:03. Still, a first race together out the way and hopefully next time they’ll only need to do it once!

Results for the day can be seen here and my photos here

So, all in all, another good day at the races, especially for Jenny and Kate who picked up wins (two in Jenny’s case) in their first races in MKRC colours. A reasonable first race for the Men’s IM3 4+, although last, this was by just a few seconds, so a bit more practice should see us further up the field.

Star Head 2011 – damned fog!

February 3, 2012

After a clear, beautiful sunny day on Saturday, we were hoping for the same on Sunday for Star Head. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case – we woke to a thick blanket of fog, but hoped it would burn off by the time we got to Bedford.

We’d got a bumper entry in for the event, some 25 crews entered, making this one of (if not the) biggest entries we’ve ever mustered. For the first time ever, this necessitated us taking a second trailer as we had too many boats for just one. Pleasingly, these entries spanned a huge range – we’d got everything from a Novice four to a Senior pair, Masters boats from “A” to “D” and a whole load of junior crews to boot.

After an uneventful (but gloomy) drive over to Bedford, we found the fog no better. We offloaded and rigged the boats for the first division, planned for 9. Fairly soon though, word came round that it was being postponed for half an hour, so we adjourned to the club house to await developments. Sitting in the club house, we could just see the far bank and the Town Bridge was completely obscured, so this was obviously too dangerous for racing. Equally obvious was the stuff was going nowhere fast – it would lift a bit but then come down just as heavy as before. Star kept us updated every half hour but it was becoming pretty clear that they were losing too much race time and ultimately they had no choice but to cancel.

So, back to the trailer, de-rig and load and back to MK. Typically, by the time we’d unloaded and rigged, the fog (which was so thick we couldn’t see the far bank) had cleared and we had a bright, sunny day.

Nothing Star could have done and they kept us all well informed and made the right call. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to race, let alone steer, in those conditions. I did feel sorry for Ben – first race, he towed the second trailer and didn’t even get his boat rigged!

Fours Head/Veterans Four Head 2011

February 2, 2012

A little out of date, but here’s the story behind last year’s Fours and Veterans’ Four Head

Back down in London again, for this year’s Fours event, with two boats out on the Saturday in the Fours Head and one on Sunday in the Masters event. Really good performances from all three crews with the Tideway showing a complete change in conditions from one day to the next.

Fours HeadTwo ladies’ boats out in the main Fours Head, an IM1 quad and an IM1 coxed four. The quad, comprising Emma, Helen M, Andi and Liz, was first off. With limited practise time and this being Helen M’s first race in a crew boat for as long as I can remember, this was always more of a learning event but despite this, they put in a good time. The four also were a relatively new crew (Charlene, Paula, Lou and Alice, with Yemin coxing the Tideway for the first time) having been put together following the seat racing at Peterborough.

After an “interesting” start, where they boated at Civil Service and were then told to stop at Tideway Scullers (just the other side of Barnes Bridge!) and get out to wait for their division, they got off to a steady start. Having settled, they then ramped up the pace and started closing in on the crews in front, ultimately catching and passing two boats (interestingly, one of them when being overtaken was yelling at our ladies to move out of the way!) including a local rival! They were close to catching a third but ran out of river before they could manage this but an excellent race saw them place 15th of 30 in club crews – a top half finish, something to be really proud of.

Watching from the far end of Dukes Meadows, we then witnessed some of the most ridiculous rowing; returning boats were being held opposite us and allowed to cross by the marshals. As this involved crossing the racing line, you’d expect crews to really get a move on. Most did, apart from one crew (I don’t normally name and shame but York deserve a mention here). They dawdled across at a very shallow angle, until they realised there were boats racing towards them. At this point, instead of doing the sensible thing and stopping and backing down out of the way, they accelerated , making sure they hit an oncoming boat. A really horrible crunching sound ensued as they completely T-boned a ladies four; fortunately, the ladies were able to carry on (although the time they lost will have ruined any chance they had, plus there must be damage to their boat) but York were left with around two feet of bow hanging off. After paddling to the shore they were then collected by the rescue boat and ferried back down the river in a rowing version of the “walk of shame”.

Masters Fours Head
Our plans were thrown completely for the Masters event on Sunday as Steve’s back was still playing up and he was unable to row. Fortunately, Benn was available (and old enough!) to step in, but this left us racing time only as “B” instead of the entered “C” crew. It was also probably the first time Tim, Benn, Iain and I had actually rowed as a crew! Still, we’d rowed together in different combinations at various times…

Unlike yesterday’s benign conditions, today was pretty foul. Grey skies, chilly and, worst of all, a brisk wind blowing from the North. Having boated, we paddled our way towards the start – a much needed opportunity to work on balance and rowing together! Going past some of the other crews we were surprised by a sudden “Go MK” call from one of them – none other than ex-member for many years, Roger, rowing for City of Bristol.

After a brisk warm-up we then found our slot on the bank and began the game of trying to keep station. Working against a brisk stream and gusting winds was a real test, but Andi coped superbly, not allowing us to drift at all. Finally, it was time for the off, so stripping down to racing kit (that was cold!) we pulled out into the centre and built for the start. Running through Chiswick Bridge, the river started churning up with the winds and sitting at bow I was struggling to clear my blade on the recovery; unfortunately this aggravated a slight twinge I’d had in my shoulder for a few weeks and pretty soon it was extremely sore; still only another 6k to go…

The boat following us (Nottingham) were clearly very quick and were soon bearing down on us; despite a couple of good pushes, they eased through us and started to pull away somewhere around Dukes Meadows. Still, this was offset by Andi calling that we were catching a couple of other crews. As we came round by Chiswick Eyot, the wind really hit and suddenly the waves were breaking over the bows and stern and spray flying everywhere. Our experience on Caldecotte Lake helped as we just dug deep and powered through this, passing City of Bristol (with Roger) and Bedford through the rough stuff. With no-one else catching us and not making any dent on the boats in front, we then settled for the rest of the race.

Hammersmith Bridge came and went and we started the long haul for home; the river had settled down a bit and conditions to the end weren’t too bad. Building for the last couple of hundred, we closed a bit on the Nottingham boat that had taken us early on (but not gone away that much subsequently) but not enough to “un-lap” ourselves.

Having finished we then had the worst bit to come – don’t know about anyone else but the row back is sheer purgatory for me, especially as my shoulder was pretty well shot by now. Rowing back past Putney, we saw the most unusual sight – a quad sitting against the Black Buoy, upside down with the crew perched on the upturned hull! How they’d done this, no idea!

Inevitably on the way back, we’d had the usual numpties who insisted on racing – one Thames based crew even managed to row into us, so desperate were they to get past! Finally though, after what seemed like hours, we were back at Civil Service, sitting in the inevitable traffic jam. Watching the other boats being lifted out we could see they’d all suffered with the conditions too, as huge amounts of water were pouring out as they went to heads. Pleasingly, when we flipped our boat over, there was relatively little water (although Andi reckons this is because most of it had hit her instead…).

A long, hard (and painful) race but when the results came out we weren’t too disappointed. For a scratch crew, we managed 6th out of nine at “B” and around 90th overall out of 200+ starters