St Neots Head 2011

October 16, 2011

With a large proportion of the club doing the Spartan Race, our entries for this year’s St Neots Head were a bit sparse, only four boats entered. Although we picked up a couple of second places, we didn’t post any wins and (unusually) came home empty handed. Still, there were some good races and a very eventful one for the ladies’ quad.

Women Masters C/D 4+
Fourth crew off in the first division, the ladies put in a strong row and set a good time for the competition to aim for. They had one of their competitors from St Neots following them and felt they’d pulled away from them over the 2.6km course and it proved so. They then had to wait all the way through to the last division for their other competitor, another St Neots boat. Unfortunately, this crew (racing as a “D” boat rather than our “C” crew) posted a time some 11 seconds quicker, pushing the ladies into second.

Masters D/E 2x-
After the previous day’s exploits at Wallingford, this actually seemed quite a short race for Steve and I, the halfway point coming up surprisingly quickly! However, our exertions did start telling towards the end and the last section from the marina to the finish was a struggle. However, we were extremely pleased with the result – we finished second but just four seconds behind Nemesis, a crew that has beaten us easily on many occasions. We do seem to have closed the gap quite a bit over the last few races, so pleasing progress.

Masters C/D 4+
A new combination saw Iain and Roger join Steve and I in a coxed four. With Roger’s years offsetting Iain’s relative youth this put us as a “D” crew, up against another “D” from Peterborough and a “C” from St Neots. Despite a good, solid row, we were well off of the winning time, with Peterborough winning the class and St. Neots coming second.

Women’s IM2 4x-
A race that can best be described as “interesting”! After a good start and getting round the twisty bit at the beginning of the course, the ladies were settling into a good rhythm when they were aware of people on the bank shouting “swimmer – get out of the way”. Being a nice, hot day, some numpty decided it would be good to go for a swim in the river – while a race was on. Paula, at stroke, got a huge surprise when a head emerged right by her blade and took a whack from it. He appeared OK and, having done an crash stop, the girls set off again. Next on their target list was a black barge – fortunately the owner shouted a warning and they were able to hold the boat up just in time. Setting off again, they picked up and went really well down past the club house, down the regatta course and turned in to the bend towards the finish. Unfortunately, Clare misjudged the bend and the quad went into the reed bank at race pace, burying the boat in as far as Paula! As we went past in the four, all we could see was Paula and the stern, the rest of the ladies completely hidden in the reeds. They did finally manage to extricate themselves (by grabbing the reed stems and pulling against them – their blades were completely tangled) and get free to finish the course. Not surprisingly, their unplanned excursion cost them a lot of time and they finished last, slowest time of the day. Still, quite an amusing episode and no harm to the boat or the ladies (but hopefully the swimmer had a big headache).

My thoughts…
With the amazing, freak hot weather and a really chilled atmosphere, this was a lovely day, despite no wins. Congratulations to St Neots for the speed with which they posted up the results – our ladies were able to tell the St Neots Masters ladies they had won before they’d even got back to the pontoons to de-boat. With really sensible marshalling, setting big gaps between crews, there were few overtaking problems all day and we certainly were able to just focus on our races and not worry about traffic

Results can be found here.No photos as we were all racing in the same divisions!

Wallingford Long Distance Sculls 2011

October 10, 2011

My first (and possibly the club’s first) race at the Wallingford Long distance Sculls, although I’d towed there previously with another club. Only four of us (Benn, Mike, Steve and I) made the trip, entering four boats in all. Held in the totally unseasonal, scorching sunshine (hottest October day on record) this was going to be a real endurance test, racing over 4,250m.

IM1 2x-
Mike and Benn were meant to be second off but the first crew didn’t show. This kind of threw their plans a bit as they intended following the lead crew down the river, as they’d not rowed it before. They managed to keep clear of most obstacles until fairly close to the end when they decided to hold it up rather try arguing with a barge (probably a sensible move). Racing up a level at IM1 on an unfamiliar river was a big ask and they were passed by a few crews but posted a respectable time of 17:40.1, putting them 58th overall

Masters D 2x-
After a good start, Steve and I were chasing down the only other “D” double (from Wallingford) but when we got to the first set of bends, their local knowledge paid off and they pulled away. This left us with a junior crew from one of the other Thames clubs chasing us – this proved to be a real pain as their course was continually forcing Steve to manoeuvre to avoid them as the closed on us. Ultimately, they caught us and promptly cut sharply across our bows, forcing us to ease right off. They weren’t pulling away from us at all and further on managed to catch us in a sandwich as we overtook another boat; needless to say, we weren’t overly impressed with them… anyway, this did then give us immense satisfaction when we hauled them in, got level and then just pushed away leaving them trailing by some distance. Avoiding any more serious problems, we went on to post 18:06.7, 90th overall. However, with the 45 second age handicap, this pushed us in front of Mike and Benn, something we may just have mentioned a few times…

Masters D 1x-
Following our exertions in the double in the morning, Steve and I swapped into our singles for the afternoon. Somewhat cruelly, I’d been put at the front of the Masters D boats and with my lack of experience (only the second single head race for me) I was soon being passed by a succession of boats. By the 500m mark, most (if not all) of the other “D” boats (including Steve) had cruised past me and I was then being chased by juniors. In the heat, I was really struggling, as my hands were so sweaty, I couldn’t get a good grip on the blades – add this to the “fun” of steering on an unknown river, keeping out of other people’s way and this explains the very slow time of 24:14.4, obviously last. Steve has a much better race, passing some and being passed by others but putting in a very good time of 18:34.7 to put him 5th in the “D” category, out of 10

My thoughts
A really pleasant venue, well run and friendly event, just a pity my single was so poor. Obviously, the weather played a major part (although wearing a black lycra on a hot, sunny day is “interesting”) but despite it being a big event, it was good fun. The organisation of the boating was spot on, calling crews by numbers to boat and plenty of pontoon space and lots of friendly, helpful volunteers. If I have one criticism, it would be how long we had to wait around at he beginning of division three; this just seemed an eternity, with no obvious signs of anything happening and it was sooooo hot!

Definitely one to look at again next year – maybe with a bit more advanced notice we could get more crews entered (although probably not my single!)

Results are on line here

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.

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).

Hammersmith Head 2011

March 24, 2011

Taking advantage of the eight being down in London (for WEHORR), we decided to enter Hammersmith Head for the first time. Managing to scrape together eight of us who were available, we entered a Master’s B 8+.

Although the weather wasn’t as good as the beautiful conditions for WEHORR, it was nowhere near as bad as we’ve seen it on the Tideway. Boating again from (an almost deserted) Civil Service was easy and didn’t take long to get on station for the start. There followed the usual wait, with Andi doing a great job of keeping us in the right position and out of trouble – although Gwen and I (at Bow and 2) were kept busy manoeuvring the boat. The only other “B” boat was right behind us, so we had a good view of our closest competition from the off.

We were caught a bit by surprise (at least, I was) by the start being the near side of Chiswick Bridge, instead of the far side (as it is for all the other Tideway events I’ve raced) so weren’t at full speed crossing the start line. However, we picked up to race pace quickly and were keeping station on the Sons of the Thames boat behind us, while overhauling a couple of boats in front. This was pretty much the position for the first half of the race, but as we hit slightly choppier water, Simon caught a crab, slowing the boat right down. This allowed Sons to close right up on us; a massive push once we’d recovered saw us push away a bit from them and hunt down St. George’s College.

Despite the lack of practise, there were some very strong pushes and the boat was sitting pretty well overall. With no further incidents, we overtook St. George’s and hauled in another couple of boats before crossing the line at Hammersmith.

The results saw us complete the course in 12:20.2, finishing 82nd overall (of 103 starters) but 7th out of 8 in the Master’s Handicap section, some 9 seconds behind Sons.

Results can be seen at the AK website while my photos are (temporarily I hope) on Picasa (link to follow).

This was actually a really nice event, a good taster for the Vets Eights Head in a couple of weeks, well organised and marshalled.

A huge thank-you to Andi, who made her coxing d├ębut big style, coxing a Tideway event – and doing so quite superbly.


March 23, 2011

In contrast to last year’s race, everyone seemed to enjoy WEHORR this year. Helped by really nice weather, a far more relaxed start from the Civil Service (instead of the mayhem at Putney) and far more chilled marshalling, it was a really nice day out.

Despite being a virtually scratch crew, the ladies put in a strong performance to record a time of 22:22:40. This placed them 78th of 122 at Intermediate 3 level and 209th of 297 overall. With a bit more training together this could become a very quick boat.

As a mere spectator this year, I can’t add much – would one of the ladies like to add their thoughts?

Results are here and my photos (on Picasa) 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