This year’s Northampton Head took place in unusually mild weather – we’re used to fun activities like breaking the ice on the side of the river and avoiding hypothermia while waiting for the start, so temperatures of a tropical 5-6 degrees were really welcome.
We had our usual strong entry out for the event, including another batch of Learn to Row graduates in their first ever races. Despite missing some of the stronger members of the squad and having a number of our top boats knocked out with no competition, we still left clutching four category wins.
A new combination saw Nelson, Chris Rob M and Pierre-Yves, coxed by Karen set a good benchmark for the Novice men, of 6:47. This was good enough to see them finish 3rd, beaten by Leicester and Bedford School but only seven seconds adrift of the winners and ahead of three school crews.
A first race for Ben S saw him stroke a Junior double with Alex. Despite being overtaken by two old boys (see below) they put in a very good race, good enough to win their category! A very impressive start for Ben, especially considering the pressure of stroking the boat having never raced before.
Masters D 2x-
Fresh from our win at Star in the previous week, Steve and I knew this would be much harder as we were up against long time rivals, Nemesis. Today’s race felt much better, picking up from the tail end of last year rather than the rusty performance at Star. A fast start saw us close down on the kiddies in front (Ben and Alex in the J18 double) pretty quickly and we were able to cruise past them. To their credit they then hung on to us and pushed us all he way to the finish. Steve steered a near immaculate course and this helped us to a time of 6:57. Not surprisingly, Nemesis did beat this but by a mere 8 seconds – a much smaller gap than in previous events and leaving the pair of us quite happy.
An interesting race this one for Helen M and Jenny. Originally entered as a Masters boat, they had no competition so had to row at IM2 level. A “normal ” MKRC crew, in that they’d only had one or two sessions together before racing but both are very good scullers. After a slight problem on boating (another MKRC crew had inadvertently taken their blades!) they had a good, steady start, before they had the misfortune to be caught by a J16 4+ boat – which, despite being coxed, promptly rowed into them, having pushed them over to the bank first! Despite this setback, the ladies got going again and with the incentive to catch up lost time, stormed down the course to finish as winners, their time of 7:31 putting them just three seconds ahead of Leicester, with Devil’s Elbow (love the name!) well back.
This was a quartet of our Learn to Row graduates form last year, in their first race as a crew. Comprising Winnie, Kelly, Mary and Helen C, with Tim coxing, this was a “voyage of discovery”. Unfortunately, they set themselves a tough pace from the start, but the race distance was double the length of the lake and it told towards the end. Still, a good learning experience for them and that’s the first race out the way.
With Phillip still being a beginner in the single, the main objective was a safe row, finishing the right way up! He managed this easily and although last by a fair margin, a creditable performance for someone still finding his way.
WJ 15 2x-
Two junior girls’ doubles out in this category. First up were Lainey and Alex setting a target time for the other competitors of 8:17. They held on to the lead until division four, when their clubmates Gemma and Hannah posted a time 15 seconds quicker; unfortunately, two Stratford boats went even quicker! This left our two crews in 3rd and 4th overall (out of seven entries), an encouraging trend up the results table.
Our junior girls provided no less than three of the five entries at this category. They finished 2nd, 3rd and 5th overall, with Lainey top of the MKRC juniors, only 13 seconds off of the winner from Oundle.
Yes, really, MKRC entering a Men’s Novice eight! With a large influx of Learn to Row graduates, we were able to put out a complete novice crew, bolstered by some of our senior guys who haven’t yet had the good fortune of a regatta win. A credit to the club and the coaching they’ve received, they put in a really good performance, posting a time of 6:29 to finish 4th, behind Stratford, Bedford School and Leicester boats. Given this was the first race for many of the crew, this was a very encouraging start for Nelson, Chris, Rob M, Ben S, Antonio, James, Haemish and Geoff (last five being LTR grads), coxed by Karen, being just 23 seconds off the winners.
Mas C 4x-
This boat saw Pierre-Yves, Tim, Steve and I reprise our Henley Masters boat from 2010 – and we don’t think we’ve been out in this combination since! We started immediately in front of one of our two competitors, from Northampton, and this gave us a good focus for the race. The first part of the race felt a little sluggish, as we got used to sculling together again, and the Northampton boat clung stubbornly behind us. However, about a third of the course down, we pushed and upped the rate a bit and this saw us at first ease away from Northampton but then start opening a substantial gap. By three quarters, Steve and I were both glad we’d not been able to enter an impromptu mixed quad in the previous division – doing just the two races was seriously starting to hurt! Still, we clung on in there and get pushing hard, crossing the finish line to record what we felt was a very respectable time, of 6:08, well ahead of Northampton, on 6:37. We then had to wait for our other competitor (Hollowell Scullers), out in the next division. To our disappointment, they absolutely flew down the course to post a winning time of a staggering 5:54, beating us by 16 seconds.
Strangely, we all agreed after the race that it had felt slow over the first half and then picked up in the second – Pierre-Yves had, of course, recorded the race on his GPS tracker and the results he sent out in the evening were completely the other way round! A fast start, dropping off around half way with a late surge at the end – just shows you can’t trust how the boat feels…
Fresh from her storming performance with Jenny in the double, Helen M was back in action in her single. After a late drama, as her seat had somehow disappeared (a big thank-you to Northampton for finding and lending her a spare for her Empacher) she duly delivered another win for both her and the club.
Alex moved from the winning double back to his single in the last division. Showing steady progress, he finished third out of five, in a very symmetrical field (Stowe, Northampton, MK, Northampton, Stowe) pushing the Stowe boat that followed him well away.
A slightly contrived event this one. We’d originally entered an IM1 and Masters boat but both had no competition. Northampton were very accommodating and allowed Tim to shuffle the two crews to produce a pair of IM2 boats to race each other. Being guaranteed a club win it was all about crew rivalry. The aim on both sides was not to be beaten by a big margin – and this led to two very fine performances. First off was the “Sugar” boat, of Paula, Karen, Clare and Helen C, coxed by yours truly, with the “Spice” boat of Charlene, Alice, Kate and Winnie, Steve coxing, following a few boats back. After two really fine rows, the timing couldn’t have been closer, with a single second separating the two crews (7:46 to 7:47) – tragically, from my point of view, the rival “Spice” boat just edging it. Still, it shows the closeness of the women’s squad, both in ability and in getting on with each other, as despite some friendly banter, there were no hard feelings at all. Apart from the coxes…
Another great day out at Northampton, despite the unusually warm weather (we’re so used to freezing there, being warm felt distinctly odd). It was really impressive seeing our huge flotilla of boats taking up substantial acreage in the boat park, having something like 12 or 13 different boats entered ranging from singles through to an eight. Great also to see so many new faces racing for the first time, and all of them enjoying the experience (even if a “bit” harder than they expected).