Peterborough training

October 23, 2011

Just recovering from a great day’s training at Peterborough, arranged by the brilliant Tim G! Mainly aimed at sorting out the Ladies’ crews for the Fours Head, it gave Steve and I a great opportunity to rack up a lot (18!) of Kilometres in our double.

After some really good seat races by the ladies, we’ve now got the quad and coxed four for the Tideway sorted and ready to go for this. Really encouraging to see so many of the women’s squad really pushing themselves to the limit for the right to race on the Thames in a couple of weeks. They were all certainly giving it their all. After eight 750m+ races in various combinations, the crews are all set for the big day.

Following this little paddle (and, by the way ladies, Steve and I racked up 2k more than you!) there was a little row up the Nene afterwards. This only added another 10k or so!!!!

Great day out and really wonderful to see the camaraderie amongst the squad – now for the Tideway…

Thanks again Tim!!!

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Pairs Head 2011

October 17, 2011

For the first time, and showing real progress as a club, we had three crews out in this year’s Pair’s Head. As well as the “established” boats of Benn and Tim and Steve and I, Mike and John also raced in a double. Mixed fortunes for us, with Steve and I really pleased with our result but the others a little less so.

For the Tideway, the conditions weren’t too bad, although the amount of debris in the river as we were marshalling was a bit of a concern (including a wooden pallet!). There was a good stream running, winds were fairly light (although some nasty gusts) and not too cold – and following the trend of recent events, the marshals were friendly and polite.

Senior 2-
Because of an accumulation of points during the last season, Benn and Tim had to enter their pair at Senior level. Given that they were racing against crews that probably train together regularly, they were going to be up against it as they’d not rowed this boat since Peterborough. Despite this, they put in a reasonable time (13:41.33) albeit finishing last of thirteen crews (and ahead of many of the IM1 crews). Perhaps not their best race but for the first time as a Pair on the Tideway, a great effort.

IM2 2x-
Following the long tradition in MKRC of putting together scratch crews, Mike and John went out as a double for the first time on the Saturday morning before the race! Up against some tough opposition and with Mike steering the Tideway for the first time (and first time for both in a double or pair) this was more about taking part than racing. Despite a close encounter with one of the red buoys, they finished not too far off the pace, in a time of 13:18.71, again finishing last in the IM2 category but a promising first outing.

Masters D 2x-
We weren’t sure how we would do in this year’s race; we’d seen slow but steady progress over the last couple of years, moving from last to the bottom quarter of the event but we felt we’d come on a bit in recent months. Against this, in the line up we had some very quick crews following us, so (me at least) worried we’d be overwhelmed.

In the event, we got off to a good, solid start and could see that the Dart Totnes boat behind us wasn’t making any gains on us. Picking up a good rhythm, we were definitely holding our own, although some of the strong crews were gradually closing in. Around half-way, the Walton boat (eventual winners) did finally overtake us but that was the only one until around 200m from the end; here we were caught by two crews (Poplar Blackwell and Sons) who were gong at it hammer and tongs. We kind of got pulled along with this and really wound it up for the end, with neither of these two (who finished second and third respectively) making any real ground on us. This definitely pushed us over the last couple of hundred metres, right through to the finish; to say I was tired is a mild understatement but we felt we’d really given it a go. One very nice touch was the bow-man of the Poplar boat calling to us at the end “good sculling at the end, guys” – he didn’t need to say this and, coming from him (current GB Masters champions) was a real fillip.

Anyhow, when the results came through we were delighted! Whether it was being pushed so hard at the end, but we came in 10th of 20 – a top half finish. This was way above anything we’d managed before and put us right in the mix, beating several crews who’d seen us off in previous years. Discounting the top five crews who were miles ahead, our time of 13:32.66 put us just 11 seconds behind 6th place! This gives us a real target for next year and does kind of suggest we have made some real progress of late.

My thoughts…
First, thanks to our support crew! Without the help from Paula, Andi and Clare it would have been much harder to get boated and to de-boat at the end. It really is appreciated (and I know I keep saying it, but it is one of the things that seems different about MKRC, the way we all support each other). This year we boated from Putney Town RC (right next to Chiswick bridge – nowhere near Putney…) and must say thanks to them as well. The only bad thing about this was the row back – it’s hard enough when it is “just” to the Civil Service but, boy, this seemed to go on for an eternity.

Overall, a good day on the Tideway – really pleased with our double and although the others were a little disappointed in their races, good prospects for the future from the other guys.

Results from the race are here

Photographs of our crews are here


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


Peterborough Summer Regatta 2011

September 14, 2011

A very brief entry for this event – having been away on holiday this now seems a long, long time ago and I’m struggling to remember any details! The headline news was another five wins for MKRC, spread over the two days. It really shows how far we’ve come that this actually seemed a bit disappointing at the time.

The winning boats were (Saturday) Women’s IM1 (!) quad, Elite (!!) pair and Helen M making a welcome and winning return to racing. Sunday’s wins were delivered courtesy of the IM2 coxed four and a Women’s Masters coxed four.

A good turn out, especially from the juniors (including another first race, for Alex), although we again had many entries rejected through lack of competition and had to row up in many others.

It’s also disappointing that so many races are now straight finals; it seems that the days of a big race programme with several rounds are gone and we are seeing a lot of very one sided finals. Hopefully, next season will be better as the new (and distinctly unimproved) points system levels out.


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.