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

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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.

Evening
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.

Overview
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.

Links
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.