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+

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Master’s Head of the River 2012

April 2, 2012

Following hot on the heels of the Women’s success in the WeHORR the week before, the ladies entered a Masters “C” boat into the Vesta head. With just a couple of changes from the WEHORR boat to replace “kids” with eligible Masters it was another very strong looking crew.

Starting an hour later than the HORR the previous day, and with the boat almost ready (split but still rigged) we weren’t quite so early away from Milton Keynes. In contrast to the grey overcast of Saturday, it was bright and clear as we set off, just clouding over a bit as we reached London.

It definitely seemed less frenetic than in previous years and with less of a queue, the ladies were soon boated. Even by our normal standards, their boating was lightning fast and they cleared away in very short order, getting a couple of compliments from the local helpers.

Jo and I then power walked down towards Hammersmith Bridge, to cheer them on and take photos. By this time, the cloud had increased and it started drizzling off and on (although not as horrid as yesterday!). Finding a convenient slipway a short distance before the bridge, we stopped and waited for the race.

It’s great fun watching this race, seeing such a wide variety of abilities and ages, compared to the HORR and WEHORR, where then isn’t such a range. With everything from Masters “A” (just out of nappies) to “F” (I hope I can manage a race like this at that age) and a wide standard (from very, very good to obvious novice) it really is a great sight.

After a huge gap between division two and three, the crews from 150 upwards started coming into view; our ladies were racing as crew 202. Reaching the 190’s we started keeping a sharp eye out, hoping they’d have made some progress through the field. Sure enough, we then saw the familiar green blades come round the corner as they came tanking down the river – passing us, they were a couple of crews up and in the process of storming past another. Obviously, they were gong extremely well and making good progress up the ranks – and looking pretty damned good into the bargain!

Another long walk back to Barnes Bridge, keeping an eye out for the ladies, but we were back in plenty of time. It then seemed an eternity before the came back into view and we went and helped them in. As with the WEHORR boat, they were really elated, feeling the race had gone very well, overtaking six crew in all.

On the drive back, Paula was continually refreshing the results page on her ‘phone until finally the times were up. In an astonishing race, they finished a stunning third in Women Master’s C and (age adjusted) a hugely impressive 11th overall. This was just the latest in a string of wonderful performances from the ladies squad, who are really putting MKRC on the map.

My thoughts…

OK, prize of the day goes to the Vesta Women.

We were watching the race when a Vesta ladies boat came into sight – they all seemed to have something in their hair but we couldn’t quite make it out. As they got closer, it was obvious that they all had feathers in their hair, warpaint on their faces and the cox was wearing a huge Indian headdress. This was very funny but better still, about five crews back came the second boats – you’ve guessed it, the Cowboys! False moustaches, check shirts and Stetsons, with the cox trailing an inflatable cactus. Absolutely brilliant, well done to them all for raising a real laugh on the day.

A big thank-you to Steve as well, he and a guy from Reading RC did a sterling job helping all of the returning crews land and de-boat.

Finally, very nice to be rigging the boat and see someone else in an MKRC splash top – this was none other than one of the founders of the club, Jim Flood, racing for Reading.

My photos of the day are now here on Google+ and the results are on the Vesta RC site


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


St. Neots Regatta 2011

August 10, 2011

This year’s St Neot’s Regatta saw us pick up two wins on both days, continuing our winning run nicely. These came from a variety of sources, again showing the increasing breadth of competitive crews in the club. Our winners in the 1,000m races on Saturday were the new pairing of Tom and Mike, sculling at IM2x- and a ladies Quad of Liz, Andi, Sam and Lindy, racing at IM2 (with Sam de-novicing at sculling). Sunday’s 500m winners were the highly impressive juniors John and Alex, winning the IM3 event (Alex de-novicing at just 16!) and the mixed eight of Benn, Mike, Tim, Tom, Liz, Andi, Lindy and Jo.

With too many races to remember (and me being very busy) this entry won’t have the usual details of every race. Instead, I’ll just pick out some of the outstanding memories of (another) great week-end at St Neots.

Saturday didn’t actually start very auspicially. One of the first boats out was the double of John and Alex, rowing as J18. Their opponents appeared round the corner at the allocated race time, but no sign of them. Several races later, they came into view, but with only John sculling. As they passed us the reason became clear, as Alex was sitting nursing one complete blade and one in two pieces. He’d caught a crab off the start, the blade flicked under the boat and when he tried to free it, it snapped.

Strangely enough, John then had an almost identical problem in his single later in the day. This time though he went for the soft option and simply rolled in to the water. To his great credit, his opponent agreed to a re-row even though this wasn’t required, so well done to him.

Following the theme, John wasn’t to be the last soggy junior of the day – Roisin also got in on the act, this time just before the finish, in full view of the crowd. To her credit, she did exceptionally well to tow her boat clear of the course, well before the next race got to her.

The rest of the racing didn’t produce quite so much drama, although there were some incredibly close races. I had the honour of coxing one of these, the Men’s Novice 4+; after a slow start, our opponents pulled out to pretty much a two length lead around the bend but to their credit, our guys really went for it. A couple of strong pushes seemed to panic the other crew and by the finish line we were (as the commentator kept putting it) bowball—to bowball. We honestly didn’t know who had got it but the verdict finally came that our opponents had taken the win, by a bowball! A bit of work on the starts and this crew won’t be novices for long!

After a good day’s racing, we all retired to the MKRC “village” and set in for a very pleasant evening gathered around the Barbie, with the odd beer or two thrown in.

Sunday saw another day of close, exciting racing but pride of place has to go to John and Alex. Recovering from their broken blade incident yesterday, they cruised through the first two rounds, sculling at IM3 rather than Junior, to set up a final against ??. This they made look easy, pulling away off the start and striding out to a comfortable win.

The Mixed Eight had a relatively easy first round win, putting them into a final against hosts St. Neots. This was a far closer event, although our boat grabbed the lead and held on, St Neots pushed them really hard all the way, finishing just half a length down.

My views
Another wonderful week-end at St Neots. I love the atmosphere and the proximity of the spectators to the racing – and some really close hard races on both days. It was nice to see they’ve taken a more relaxed view on campers and barbies this year and restricting them to the far side of the path is a really smart move too.

I guess the only gripe is that our original entries were seriously cut back, through lack of competition. This meant Lou and Clare not getting any races and Paula just getting the one. Although I understand this is lack of other crews, how about closing entries a few days earlier, notifying the clubs that have had crews rejected and allowing them to rejig and resubmit crews into categories where there is competition? This way, our crews get a race and the host club gets more money – surely a “win-win”?


Bedford Quarts 2011

July 20, 2011

Another good day out at Bedford saw us come away with another three wins. These were nicely spread out with the Men winning the IM3 4x-, the Women the IM2 4+ and the Juniors (making a welcome return) winning the IM3 2x-. Some very close races, both in winning and losing and most crews at least making it through the first round.

J15 2x-
In their first race outside of Milton Keynes, Phillip and Alex acquitted themselves extremely well, winning their first race (against Star Club) with an “easily” verdict. In the next round they faced a strong (and eventual winning) boat from Northampton and lost by a similar verdict.

IM3 2x-
Two of the “Juniors” were out in this category, John and Ryan. After a first round row over, they faced Globe in the semi-final. An assured row saw them win by 3 1/2 lengths to put them into the final against Poplar Blackwall & District. This looked like a tough draw as this crew, although not the most technical, were huge. Indeed, the final turned out to be a really hard race, pretty much neck and neck for much of the course, but John and Ryan’s technique and power paid off and the came through to win by 1/3 length. Very nice to see the Juniors racing again and even better to kick it off with a win.

IM3 1x
Next up was Ryan, racing in a single. Up against stiff opposition from Star Club and with limited racing experience in a single, he went out in the first round, losing by 2 1/2 lengths

J15 1x
Another of the inexperienced juniors, Alex in his first race in a single was no match for a BMS sculler and he lost by 3 lengths

WJ14 2x-
Lainy and Roisin put up a good race against a Dame Alice double and pushed them hard all the way, but lost out by just 1 1/2 lengths.

WJ14 1x
A heart breaking result for Lainy in her single. Having fought hard against the Sudbury girl all down the course she lost out by just one foot! Can’t get much closer than that over a 600m course; a tough result and a horrid way to lose.

This was all from the juniors – one win and some very encouraging races from the others, especially poor Lainy. Still, a good sign and hopefully a pointer of greater things to come.

So to the senior crews…

W.IM3 4x-
A slightly different line up to that at East Midlands, with Lou swapping in for the absent Karen with Paula, Alice and Clare making up the crew. With the crew still being fairly new to sculling and with Clare still learning the art of steering, not surprisingly they lost out in their first race to Star Club, by 3 lengths.

Mas CDE 2-
Pierre-Yves and Steve swapped sculling blades for sweep and were out in the pair. Racing as a Masters C crew, their first opponents were a “D” crew from Star Club;this meant Steve and Pierre-Yves starting six seconds behind. From an absolutely storming start, the two of them pulled back the handicap start within the first couple of hundred meters and were then able to “sit” on the Star boat for a comfortable finish, 3/4 length clear. The final was the same handicap, this time against a Peterborough boat. This was to be a much harder race, with our guys pulling back the handicap fairly quickly but then fighting neck and neck down the course. Coming towards the end, Steve was cutting the line fine to gain a slight edge but, unfortunately, cut it a bit to close to Monkey Island and clipped the bank. This lost them precious seconds and the Peterborough boat pushed over the line to win by a length and a half. A real case of “what might have been” especially as we heard the Peterborough crew rowing back say that they’d have lost had Steve and Pierre-Yves not clipped.

IM3 4x-
For the first round our crew (of Mike, Josh, Nelson and Tom) faced a Northampton boat. With this being a new combination and Tom steering his first quad race, it could have gone any way. As it happens, the first round was a fairly comfortable run, beating Northampton by three lengths. Into the final, they were against a Medway Towns crew who had comprehensively beaten Star Club in their first race, so this looked like a tough draw. So it proved – there was nothing to choose between the two crews all down the course, with the lead swapping back and forth. Come the finish line, neither crew knew who had won – not surprisingly as the verdict was a win for MK by a mere three feet! Not a bad way for Tom and Nelson to de-novice either.

Mas BC 4+
For a pleasant change, we found we were the older crew in this event and had a five second handicap in our favour – I think this is the first time I’ve had this! This was a reprise of our National Masters boat, but with Pierre-Yves and I swapping sides to try and improve the balance and power. This certainly worked off the start with a really good, strong hard push away. Despite the quickest five seconds I’ve ever heard, we had enough to keep the Sudbury boat behind us, being able to (just) match their pushes. All down the course they were eating into our lead and by the time we crossed the line, although we thought we’d done enough, we weren’t sure and had to call over to the finish marshal to get confirmation – we’d won by a canvas.

The final was a bit of a shock – we’d seen in the draw that our opponents, X-Press, were again a “B” crew to our “C” and expected a similar head start. However, on the start line the start umpire called that we were both “C” and so there would be no handicap – a bit of a psychological blow, certainly for me! Anyhow, although we put in another really good start, so did X-Press and we were soon trailing , albeit just slightly. They proved to be just that bit quicker than us though and gradually eked out a lead, to finish a length clear. Despite this, we felt this was a good race, and maybe the exertions from Steve and Pierre-Yves in the pair and our having to fight through the first round (X-Press had a bye to the final) may have just made the difference.

A word for our cox here – David came all the way over to Bedford just to cox our boat, having no races of his own. He did a first class job and coxed really well – thank you, it was really appreciated!

W.IM2 4+
Although this crew hadn’t actually raced together, they had all raced in various combinations in the past and looked a strong boat. It comprised Charlene, back from a rest, with Lindy, Jo and Paula backing her up. From the start they pushed away from St Neots and just eased away from there. Already a couple of lengths clear approaching the finish, the St Neots boat also clipped Monkey Island (quite an achievement for a bow loader cox!) making it into a comfortable 3 1/2 lengths win.

Nice for the girls, especially given that they were lugging an 85 kilo cox down the course (Benn is not what you’d call natural coxing material) but a shame that again they pick up racing points off of a straight final that they’ve won easily.

IM2 4+
A second race of the day for Mike, John and Josh with Benn in his first outing. This was a straight final, against Peterborough, with our crew unable to get ahead and finishing some 1 1/4 lengths adrift.

Mas CD 2x-
Originally planned to be a racing début for Roger (at 70+!) he unfortunately twinged his back the previous day. Needing another “Master” to fill in and finding the rest of us “old boys” were in clashing events, Paula very gamely agreed to sit in with Benn. As this was their first outingever, they were up against two huge Norwich guys AND they had the handicap against them, the result wasn’t overly surprising! A good paddle nonetheless, although the “easily” verdict wasn’t unexpected.

My thoughts…
Not quite sure what went wrong with the weather – maybe the sacrifice wasn’t enough this time – as it was grey, cool and occasionally wet. Still, despite this it was another well run event, although (unusually for Bedford) there were a couple of glitches, mainly having to stop racing to sort out the marker buoys.

My biggest worry is that, yet again, entries seemed well down; this manifested itself in a number of ways. First, we had a couple of crews scratched with no competition, second, most of the races were straight finals and lastly the usual steady flow of races we normally see at Bedford was a bit staccato. I really think someone at British Rowing needs to start looking at this as, if this trend continues, we’ll start losing events off the calendar as they become non-viable (unless that is the intention?). Although there may be a financial aspect to this the general consensus seems to be the points regime is scaring people from entering races.

The biggest shame is that this is the last “Quarts” event – I guess the cost of these has become excessive but no more will we race for those magnificent 2-pint pots. Tragically, I never won one – made all the worse by wife and daughter celebrating their gallons, having won their fourth Quarts pot today.


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