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”?

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.

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.

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.

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.

Peterborough Spring Regatta 2011

June 9, 2011

What a week-end! After some really low points on Saturday, everything turned around on Sunday and it became our most successful Peterborough Regatta ever. So much so that, despite being a “small” club, we placed third overall in terms of club wins, with no less than six victories, one on Saturday and five on Sunday.

This featured some really strong performances, especially considering the conditions. Both days had extremely high winds blowing almost straight down the course, making it very hard going and causing real problems for crews getting onto the stake boats.

We also camped overnight and had a really good evening, helped by finding a secluded camping area and making into “mini-MK” for the night. Good food, good drinks and good company – obviously a recipe for success, looking at the Sunday results!

A bright start to the day, but strong winds blowing as we headed up to Peterborough. Quite a good turn out of crews, across both Men’s and Women’s squads. Entries seem down on previous years as the trailer park wasn’t as jammed as we’ve seen it and the car park didn’t extend beyond the spectator line. We set up camp and then settled in by the finish line to watch the day’s racing.

W.IM3 4+
No idea what to expect from this boat, as it was a completely scratch crew, comprising Helen, Liz, Alice and Sam, with Tim coxing. In their heat they put in a solid row to finish second behind X-Press, good enough to see them into the repêchage. They felt there was more to come and so it proved, with a storming win in the repêchage to put them into the final.

Knowing they needed to find yet more, they started fast, pushed into the lead and held off a determined fight back from the other crews to pull away and take the win. A really great set of races, and wonderful to see both Alice and Sam de-novice, especially at a top event and in such atrocious weather conditions. A bit of a shock though to find they all copped for two rowing points as there were more than eight boats in the event!

W.Masters B/C 4+
One side effect of the W.IM3 4+ boat getting to the repêchage was that this led to a crew clash with Helen being in that boat and the Masters 4+ which was scheduled eight minutes later. Despite Tim’s shuttle mission between the other crews and Race Control, this proved impossible, so they were left with trying to get Helen swapped and back up the course as quickly as possible.

In the event, despite a rapid change of crew and a frantic row back up the course, having told all the marshals what was happening, as the ladies got to the 250m meter mark, their race was started without them as they weren’t at the start at the correct time.

It’s hard to put into words just how upsetting this was; had it been them just boating late, fair enough but when we’d done everything to inform everyone and the crew were so close to the start, it seems unreasonable. This was made even more galling when our double was held up and raced out of sequence – to accommodate another crew who had had a crew clash.

Masters D 2x-
The heat saw Steve and I against Champs, Ardingly and Oundle. Knowing the first three went through, our aim was to try and sit on Oundle and make sure we led them. We had a good start and were up with Champs and Ardingly for the first couple of hundred meters and this put us clear of Oundle and allowed us to take it down a bit and just watch them through to the end, to put us into the final.

The final was clearly going to be a massive challenge, pitting us against Champs, Ardingly and Poplar, all of whom have beaten us easily. Sculling in the worst conditions I’ve ever raced in, I struggled badly and we were dropped off very quickly, with (not surprisingly) Poplar winning comfortably and the other crews well ahead of us.

IM3 2x-
Mike and Nelson reprising their boat from our Regatta, up against two Peterborough crews and one from Newark. Considering the conditions and their lack of water time together, they did really well, holding on to the other crews pretty well but unable to make it through to the final.

IM2 4+
A new look crew of Mike, Tim, Josh and Nelson were pitted against a strong line up of UEA, Peterborough and a composite from various London Unis. Another close race but the others were a bit too good and our guys finished in the tail end spot.

W.Mas B/C 4x-
A first outing for a Women’s Masters quad, with Paula, Lou, Clare and Karen. As with virtually every race, there were problems getting attached to the stake boats, as soon as one got attached, another would drift round. Eventually, all four crews were (sort of) aligned and the race started, Being a mixed (B/C) event, our ladies were off first but a big squall pushed them off course and into Star Club’s lane. This resulted in the race being halted and our crew being disqualified; a very bad day at the races for Paula, Lou and Karen who’d been in the W.Masters B/C 4+ boat earlier.

IM3 4x-
Our last (and very nearly THE last) race of the day saw Tim, Josh, Steve and I out in the quad, for the first time since the same event last year (well, you can over practice…). Drawn against Royal Chester, Peterborough and Rob Roy, we got a storming start with us and Rob’s pulling out into the lead. Suddenly, there was a lurch and I realised that Josh, in front of me, seemed to have had a problem. I then noticed he wasn’t on his seat but on the decking – in a quite amazing feat of gymnastics, he managed to hop himself up, onto the seat and pick up, all without missing a stroke although he then nearly pulled a crab. This had dropped us at least a length and a half off of the leaders and back level with Royal Chester. Digging very deep we wound up the pace and ate into Rob’s lead. Unfortunately, we ran out of lake and despite all our efforts lost out – but by just half a length!

End of the day
So ended a really frustrating day of racing. We were all upset over the treatment of the Women’s Masters Boat and the inconsistency of how the rules were applied.

The conditions were dreadful, strong winds making any manoeuvring at the start really difficult, although all credit to our coxes and steers people who seemed to cope better than most. Having said that, some of the coxing was simply woeful, with coxes with no clue about how to position a boat or hold it on station.

Still, we all retired to our “village” for a really nice evening, sharing a barbie and a few beers and having a good laugh. It does seem one of the things about MKRC, that we all get on really well off the water and evenings like this are just such good fun. As a really nice touch, Paula (who’d had to take Jo back to Uni after finishing her races) reappeared with a couple of bottles of bubbly, to toast Sam and Alice’s de-novicing; very well received!

We had entered an impressive contingent of ten crews up for the 500m Sprint race on Sunday. We awoke to a similar wind to yesterday, maybe a little lighter, but mostly grey and horrid. Not a nice day for racing, but still.

W.IM3 4+
After a quick reshuffle of crews following the brilliant win by the Women yesterday, the crew entered at IM2 swapped to IM3 having just few enough points. in the heat, a strong start and solid row saw Andi, Lindy, Ash and Sam cruise into first place to book a place in the final. First race of the day and off to a good start for the club.

From the start in the final, one of the crew missed a stroke and this slewed the boat around; rather than continuing and (probably) getting disqualified, Liz (coxing) stopped the boat, straightened up and set off in pursuit. Over 500m this was too much and although they overhauled one boat, they could only finish a disappointing third.

IM3 2x-
With Nelson not being available, Gwen sat in with Mike in their first race (outing?) together. In the heat, they did enough to finish third, taking them into the final.

Racing against more experienced crews, they were going to struggle but put up a really good row. Finishing last but still in contention, a good first race for the two of them.

W. Mas C 4+
With no dramas today, the Women’s Master four were able to start this race. Up against Bedford, St. Neots and a formidable looking Peterborough/Leicester composite (who’d won the event yesterday by a very long way) we expected our ladies to be battling it out for second. They had different ideas…

Off the start, they flew off keeping up with the composite and leaving the others in their wake. About halfway, Steve (coxing) called a push, the ladies responded and Steve shouted that they were rowing through the other crew. Paula, used to Steve’s economy with the truth when coxing, glanced across and saw this was actually the case. Pushing again, they seemed to break the other crew and then powered away, to storm to our first win of the day. After the disappointment of the previous day, to put that behind them and take such a big scalp really did give all of us a huge lift. Definitely one of the best performances I’ve seen by an MKRC crew.

W.IM2 4+
We were all just getting our breath back for the Women’s win when the next race down the course provided our second win of the day. Yesterday’s W.IM3 4+ boat, rowing at IM2 today clocked up another impressive row and beat off the other finalist from Warwick quite comfortably.

W.IM1 2x-
Our next boat out, Andi and Liz sculling as a double for the first time, provided our next win. With Andi stroking and Liz steering, they were able to push into a lead and hold it, crossing the line a length clear.

W.Mas Nov 2x-
Clare and Karen made up this new combination, with Clare steering for the first time in a race. Up against two Peterborough boats and a Champs one, this was a tough final. After an early diversion, Clare got the boat bang on course and they were very much in contention right to the end, but unfortunately finished last. However, an encouraging first race and a big well done to Clare on steering.

IM2 4+
Next up was the Men’s coxed four. Obviously stung that the ladies had clocked three wins to the mens’ none by this point, they really went for it. A new combination saw Mike, Benn, Tim and Josh involved in a really close race but they had enough to pull through the other crews, to add another win for the club. Given the strength of the opposition (including a composite of Uni kids) this was another very fine performance.

Mas D 2x-
With Steve and I drawn against an ominous looking trio of Poplar Blackwell, Champs and Nemesis, we knew this would be tough, very tough, as all three crews have beaten us comprehensively in the past. In the event, the Poplar Blackwell boat didn’t appear (quite funny – the marshals didn’t realise they weren’t there and were getting really stressed at a Warwick double that they thought were Poplar!) leaving us sandwiched between the other two. Despite a good start which kept us up with the other two, their superior ability and power soon told and by 200m Steve was calling to save it for the quad later, as we were so far adrift. Again, really horrid conditions, and I was struggling to cope in these.

IM2 2-
Benn and Tim were next up, racing their pair. In a close fought encounter, they finished last of the three boats – clearly disappointed, which augers well for them as a crew as they feel there’s a lot more to come..

IM3 4x-
With Tim having dropped out to row in the pair, Gwen replaced him in the quad from Saturday, with Josh moving to stroke. Our opponents were Peterborough and this turned out to be the crew we’d beaten easily the previous day.

From the start, we pushed away from them and were able to control the race comfortably, concentrating on keeping it clean and not making any mistakes rather than on power. Despite this, we continued to pull away all down the course and claimed our last win of the day.

What we hadn’t realised was that Josh was still a sculling novice, until he (quite modestly) told us as we were paddling in after the race, so another de-novice for the club.

We were all still buzzing from the results while we were packing up when they announced the results of the Victor Ludorum for the day. Normally, this just passes us by as this usually goes to the “big” clubs who put in loads of entries. Not today; to our amazement, Milton Keynes finished <strong>third overall</strong>, a quite spectacular result for the club.

It was then an en masse visit to Race Control to get our winning chits and then to the club to pick up our pots. Including the Saturday win, we collected a grand total of 24 pots – as seen below! Fortunately, they had run out of medals for those events held as straight finals, so we all got a proper trophy (to me, medals always seem a bit insignificant).

Having packed up it was time to head home, tired, but well pleased with the day’s effort. On the way back to MKRC, the heavens opened as well, so we’d been really fortunate that we’d kept dry (if cold) all week-end.

My views…
I guess it was the weather with the strong winds causing everyone to get more stressed but, other than our results, I didn’t enjoy this year as much as previous events at Peterborough. Normally, the Peterborough regattas are great, well organised, well marshalled and highly competitive, with loads of competition. This year seemed to be the opposite; we had the really distressing incident with the Women’s crew on Saturday and the some of the marshalling could have been better (holding crews on the stake boats in high cross winds just to avoid starting a race a minute early is a bit too picky) and inconsistent treatment. The entries seemed way down on previous years, with the boat park well short of full (although a certain club did manage to make life very difficult for all by blocking virtually every single access, please think about others!) and the car park not even reaching up into the meadow.

A word of praise for Tim in all this – in between racing he was trying to sort out the entries for East Midlands Regatta next week. No sooner had he got everything sorted than one of our crews would win, changing the crews’ point and needing another call to the regatta secretary! Surprised he didn’t tell us all to stop trying so hard in the end!

Finally, I’ll return to one of my favourite rants, the craziness of the new BR points system. By winning in a straight final against one other crew, who were clearly way short of us, I pick up another sculling point. As Steve pointed out, one more and it makes me an IM2 sculler – I don’t think so!!! All that is happening is rowers are being pushed into higher levels, where they are just going to act as “cannon fodder” for the better crews. This is demoralising and will lead to people not bothering to race. I know the argument is that not giving points for races with less than four entries led to pot hunting by crews (although I’ve never been aware of anyone doing this) but with all the results computerised at BR, surely there is scope to allow a maximum number of no point wins before giving rowers a point? This could also cover Mixed and Masters events, making it more even throughout.

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.


Saturday Results (pdf)
Sunday results (pdf)
MKRC Videos (courtesy of Benn)

Milton Keynes Regatta 2011

May 23, 2011

Don’t know about anyone else but I thoroughly enjoyed the Regatta on Saturday. This was only our second ever Regatta and was slightly bigger than last year’s with three other clubs attending (Bedford RC joining Northampton and Oundle). I’m not going to try and write up every event – partly there were too many and (mainly) I was either marshalling or racing so didn’t see half of them.

So, I’m just going to pick out some of the highlights (for me) of the day and leave it to others to add their own thoughts. That way, maybe we’ll wind up with a full picture!

Unlike last year, held in a dead calm, we had very strong winds and this made for some very challenging conditions, especially at the start.Despite this, we only had a couple of capsizes and no clashes in races, showing a high standard of rowing and sculling by all taking part. I know some crews found the going very tough but everyone battled through. We had some incredibly close races, including a couple where the verdict was one foot! It was good to see the full spectrum of events as well, juniors, seniors and masters, and everything from singles through to eights.

We re-jigged a couple of things from last year, firstly the trailer parking, having the trailers in front of the club house. This proved fortuitous as, having parked three trailers neatly, a fourth then turned up – Oundle having so many boats they needed two trailers! We were able to slot them in where we parked the trailers last year, so no real panic. Got to say how impressed I was with the parking ability of the trailer drivers, just wish I was that good. Assuming we expand next year, we’ll have to really think about this one though.

Second change was to the boating pontoon – we moved this to the left of the slipway and this did help with congestion along the footpath, although it did mean most crews opted to go off here, leading to some delays. Again, one to think about for next year. The circulation pattern worked better, removing the need to have crews crossing the racing line.

Personally, it was an interesting day, staying upright and dry in my first Regatta single scull race (only finished two lengths down, which I was really pleased with), being well and truly thumped in the quad and then finally getting a win at our home event in the double with Steve.

For me, some of the highlights were the Open Eight between Bedford and Northampton, one of the closest races of the day, with Bedford shading it at the finish (by a foot) and the Northampton against NSB quad, again a foot in it (with NSB emerging as winners). It was nice to see the pots and medals being spread around as well, no one club dominating things, although our ladies seemed to be putting in strong showings all round. Special mentions for Paula and Lou – first time ever in a double and (despite a scenic route) winning their straight final and to the two beginners crews, who put up a serious fight with only half a length in it, credit to the coaches from both Bedford and MK for getting beginners to this standard!

Starts were very difficult and all credit to the Sea Cadets, who did a tremendous job hanging on to the sterns of boats against strong winds, waves and rowers trying to keep on station. Their arms must seriously ache today (and be a couple of inches longer). As an illustration of just how hard this was, one boat managed to dislodge one of the stake boats, casting it adrift (quickly rescued by the safety launch) and another managed to get wedged between the stake boat and the bank, being battered by cross-waves.

The wind also made it deceptively cool and there’s a lot of people (me included) nursing some serious sunburn as a result.It was a long and tiring day but thoroughly enjoyable and showed again that we can run a good event. Now for planning next year…

If you were there, do let me know your thoughts and memories!

Leicester Regatta 2011

April 18, 2011

Nice to get a winning start to the Regatta season, with two wins at Leicester. We had a good day’s racing, held on the Grand Union Canal through the centre of Leicester, in early Spring sunshine. The highlight was Been and Gwen proving the potential they had shown in the Head races at Bedford by winning the Novice double, de-novicing as a result!

Women’s Novice 4x+
This was a scratch crew thrown together for this event and sculling in the Junior’s boat, so we didn’t really know what to expect. After a frantic start, we were holding the Newark crew but an unfortunate crab gave the opposition three lengths lead. Strangely, this seemed to settle the ladies who then set into a more controlled race and clawed back on Newark at a real rate, to finish under half a length down at the line – another 100m and we’d have rowed through them. After the poor start, a very good race by a novice crew (Paula, Helen J, Sam and Alice) not helped by a lightweight boat – the stern was almost under the water!

Women’s IM3 2x-
Paula hopped straight out of the Quad into a double, for her first race in anything less than a four. This was a nice Mother and Daughter combination, with Jo steering the boat. As a first race together and after just a couple of practice sessions, they sculled really well but were beaten in their first race.

IM3 2x-
Tim and I ventured out of Masters races for this one (no Masters B event available) so, with me giving away more years than I want to think about, weren’t sure how this would go. This was also our first race together since winning at Dorney 18 months ago! From the start, our opponents from Lincoln pulled away and were a length up but we dug in and started pulling back on them. We’d got an overlap when they ran into the reeds at the side of the canal and slewed round, coming to a stop. This allowed us to take it down and paddle thorough to the finish to get through to the final. In the final we were against another Lincoln crew but this time they simply blew us away and stormed down the course, winning easily. Still, a nice couple of rows and encouraging that we did win the first race.

Mixed IM2 4+
A straight final against Lincoln for this scratch boat, of Tim, Benn, Sam and Andi. Looking very good on he row down, they powered away from their opposition and, despite a couple of hard pushes from Lincoln, kept in front from start to finish, take the win. Galling for Ash, who’d had to pull out through illness, but a first Regatta pot for Sam

Novice 2x-
A day full of drama for Benn and Gwen! Their first round opponents had scratched, leaving them with a row over. In their second race, they were up against a Derby crew; after a very fast start, Benn and Gwen then piled on the pressure and pulled away down the course for a comfortable win.

So, to the final, which pitted them against a Loughborough pair. At the start, Benn was having some problems as the Start Marshall was continually getting him to adjust (the problem with a free start) and as a result, was slightly off line at the “go”. This led them to move across slightly, the Loughborough boat moved away from them, clipped the bank and spun round. Benn and Gwen then had an easy paddle down to the finish, to take the win comfortably, although the other crew gave chase.

At the boating pontoon, Tim had a surprise for them – a bucket of (fortunately clean) water to celebrate their de-novicing. While they were standing there dripping wet, the Chief Umpire came over with another, far more unpleasant surprise. The start marshal had decided that our guys had caused Loughborough to crash by going into their water and had disqualified them!

He did then go on to say that he had suggested to Loughborough that, as this was a final (and a Novice event), would they consider a re-row rather than winning by default. Very sportingly, the Loughborough crew agreed. So, still dripping wet, Benn and Gwen stepped back into the boat and went down to the start to run the race again.

With no drama at the start this time, our guys grabbed the lead and pushed away steadily, to be a length clear after 200m. They held this despite a really hard push from their opponents and then pushed away further to finish a couple of lengths clear to celebrate a first win.

My views
First time we’ve been to Leicester as a club and I can see this becoming a regular. It’s nice to get a Regatta this early in the season (although a serious shock to the system!) and good to be up against different clubs. The location is great and makes for some really good spectating, although it was surprising how few close races there were. The finish is interesting as well – it’s a case of over the line and hold it up, as there are often boats turning into the offcut where the boating area is.

The batch system worked well, something we’ll have to think about for our Regatta, and the whole event ran to time. Although not quite the “buzz” from other regattas, we all really enjoyed the day, especially with Gwen and Benn delivering on the promise they’ve shown through the Head season.

Can’t finish without a mention for Byron. We’d seen him race in the DMU Mixed eight and thought he looked a bit wet, but just assumed he’d got splashed during the race. The truth was far better; they’d done a racing start on the way down to the start area and he’d caught a massive crab. This had, in his own works, flicked him clean out of the boat! His bedraggled appearance was actually the results of an unplanned swim in the canal. Tragically, none of us saw this and, despite all the cameras along the tow-path, it seems there are no photos or videos either.

Bedford Small Boats Head 2011

April 12, 2011

Today’s Bedford SBH was a brilliant end to the Head season, held in scorching April sunshine and run superbly. A really good day out, topped off by two wins for MKRC. The day was dominated by an extremely strong City of Oxford contingent, who cleaned up pretty much every event they entered, so our performances were really up against it.

A club visit to Nando’s in the evening really topped off a great day, also allowing us to celebrate the wins.

Master’s C/D 4x-
With Pierre-Yves away on business, Tim swapped in for him at stroke, with Steve, Simon and I in our normal line-up. Setting off as race number 2 (an unusual experience for us, being this high up the field) behind a St. Ives IM3 quad, we found a pretty good rhythm from the off. Conscious of a City of Oxford Women’s Elite four behind us, this gave us the incentive to keep pushing and we completed the course in 7:23, to place us fourth of six but only 22 seconds off the winner. A pleasing result given the change to our normal crew and lack of practice in this combination

Women’s IM2 4+
We entered no less than three crews in the IM2 coxed fours; being pitched against an extremely fast City of Oxford boat, we managed to place 2nd, 3rd and 4th out of the five crews. A mere ten seconds covered the three crews, just a single second separating 2nd and 3rd. Our top crew was some 37 seconds adrift of COX, giving some idea of what everyone was up against!

Novice 2x-
Benn and Gwen in another outing in their Novice double. Showing increasing confidence, they took twenty-one seconds off their run at Star Head, despite a couple of “close encounters” on the way. Putting down more power kind of upset the steering and resulted in a strong attraction towards the bank. That their finishing time was only sixteen seconds off the winners (placing them fifth of seven) even though they didn’t have the best of races is an indication of good things to come from this pair.

Women’s IM2 2x-
A very good performance from Liz and Andi saw them place second in this category (inevitably behind a COX double!). They were so quick, they took the fastest MKRC double time of the day (8:14), even though it looked like someone had been hacked to death in the boat at the end (sculler’s scratches on Andi’s hands, small wounds but boy, do they bleed!).

Mixed Novice 2x-
Managing to avoid any “domestics”, Tom and Lindy ran an excellent race, taking first place in the Mixed doubles. Very fortunately, Lindy found out that her gate wasn’t done up properly on the row down to the start, rather than during the race… the result (and their dryness) would have been a lot different if it had happened halfway down the course at race speed!

Mixed IM3 4x-
The mixed quad completely blew away their opposition from Lincoln, winning comfortably with the fastest MKRC time of the day (7:15), some 30 seconds clear. A nice first MKRC pot for Benn, sculling with Tim, Andi and Liz.

Masters D/E 2x-
Steve and I out in our double, but whether it was the heat, the earlier race in the quad or just being a bit out of sorts, we were well off the pace, coming third of four but a whopping 52 seconds behind the winners. After a couple of really good training sessions during the week, the balance and power just didn’t seem to be there, and the time shows this.

Women’s Masters B/C 2x-
First time out as a crew for Clare and Lou, so their main objective was to finish upright without hitting anything, which they achieved nicely. Not surprisingly, last of the three crews but a good first race together.

Women’s IM3 4+
Showing there is no rhyme nor reason in the categories, the ladies IM3 boat posted a faster time than all of the IM2 crews! With Oxford taking the first four places, our ladies finished seventh of ten but with a good time compared to the non-Oxford boats (who were in a different league).

Women’s IM3 2x-
A combination of lack of practice (in Jo’s case, a lack of any kind of rowing) and a strong field saw Jo and Lindy well off the pace in their double, trailing in last in a field of six.

My views…
Yet another great event at Bedford, well organised and friendly and in the inevitable brilliant weather (just how do they do this – do they sacrifice a junior sculler on the evening before or something?). I’m struggling to remember an event where every division started early! Obviously helped by the weather bringing out the best in everyone and with all crews co-operating, it ran like clockwork.

Apparently though, the entry was well down on previous years – I guess this is a combination of factors, including cost and an unfortunate clash with Abingdon Head on the same day. We’d normally attend both but were unable to do so; it appears Abingdon asked to move their event forward two weeks to avoid this but a club with an event on the same day blocked this, despite being in a different region and with no obvious overlap.

So, a fond (?) farewell to the “joys” of the Head season and into Regatta season. It all starts next week, see you at Leicester, first time we’ll have been to this event!

Another of the joys of Bedford is the speed with which results are published – we were in the Bedford Club House at the end of the day and the final results were on their computer before the crews from the last division had got back. That is just so impressive!

They were inevitably on-line before we got home and they can be found here.

Northampton Head 2011

January 30, 2011

Not quite as successful as in recent years, this year’s Northampton Head saw us come away with just two wins. These were for the Women’s IM3 4+ boat and a Mixed IM3 2x- crew. The relative lack of wins was, I think, down to a combination of a higher standard of competition (both quantity and quality) and a smaller MKRC entry than usual.Some interesting combinations entered and nice to get a Men’s Eight out again.

W.Mas C 4+

Going for time only (no competition at this category), the four of Paula, Lou, Karen and Clare, coxed by Liz, posted a good time of 7:33 to put down a marker for their “real” race later in the day.

Mas B/C 2x-

Pierre-Yves and Tim racing together again, first time out in a double for some time. Their opposition took a big lump out of them off the start but the guys then managed to hold them for the rest of the course. Considering their opponents include a Nat Masters winner, a creditable performance.

W. IM3 2x-

A new combination saw Jo and Andi racing (possibly rowing?) a double for the first time. Given lack of practise together (and Jo not having been in a boat at all for months) their stated aim was to finish the right way up and the right way round! They did this easily and actually pulled away from the crew chasing them.

Mas. D 2x-

Steve and I knew this was going to be a tough race, being drawn as a sandwich between Abingdon and Nemesis, both of whom have beaten us by some distance in the past. Nemesis put in a very strong and quick start, pulling back probably a couple of lengths in the first 200m but a detour into the bank dropped them back again. We were really pleased as we then sat on them all the way down the course, even pulling away a bit in the closing stages. Ultimately we were 2 seconds slower than them (and a further 5 seconds off of Abingdon) but this is much closed than we’ve ever been before, so real progress.

Rob coming off his seat at Northampton

Rob coming off his seat at Northampton

Mas. B 8+

Really nice to be able to put out a men’s eight again. Originally planned as an IM3 boat, the lack of competition in this category led to a quick rejig (jettisoning Josh as he’s too young) and entry as Master’s B. More of a practise run than a race, we’d not rowed in this combination before and certainly Steve, Pierre-Yves and I found it odd having just one blade. Despite this, we settled fairly quickly and were beginning to move the boat well. I’d noticed that my seat was making more creaking noises than usual and after about 500m it started sticking intermittently; then with about 500m to go it jammed completely throwing me backwards off the seat on the drive. I finished the race sitting at backstops, my seat in front of me, rowing arms only. As we got out, the reason for the problem became clear as one of the seat runner wheels was laying on the decking… Still, up to my malfunction it had been going really nicely.

W. IM3 4+
Paula, Lou, Karen and Clare back out again (with Liz doing the coxing honours again) this time in their serious piece. They were up against two other Oundle Town boats and put in a faster time (by 2 seconds) on this run. This was enough to see them clear, to win the category

Mxd. IM3 2x-
Another new combination saw Josh and Andi doubling for the first time. As we had the only two boats in this category, we were guaranteed a win, so it was down to inter-club rivalry. Although they have limited racing experience in sculls, the two of them looked strong and would be a good bet in Novice (they were rowing up as no competition at Novice).

Mst C 4x-
Our usual boat out again, racing against Abingdon and Canterbury Pilgrims. We seemed to take a while to settle (could be the lack of water time over the past two months?) but did finally find our rhythm. The exertions for Steve, Pierre-Yves and I over two previous races showed towards the end though and we weren’t really able to push hard in the finishing straight.

IM2 4+
A scratch crew of James, Benn, Nelson and Josh (yet again coxed by the admirable Liz) really gelled and put in a very strong row, managing to keep our quad at bay for the entire course. Again rowing up a level against school crews, they were unlikely to win the event but this boat looks like it could be very competitive over this year.

Mxd. IM3 2x-
Our second crew in this category saw Tim and Jo sculling together in yet another new combination. Their greater expertise paid off and they beat Josh and Andi by around seven seconds (despite heckling from the bank during the race – Andi helpfully shouting to them that they were going the wrong way).

Despite the bitterly cold temperatures and biting wind, another great day at Northampton Head. Maybe not as successful as other years but some good performances and nice to get a Men’s Eight out again. Definitely seemed to be more crews and a higher standard this year, wonder if the bad weather has meant more people looking to get in an early race? Whatever the reason, good to see Northampton getting more support, which they thoroughly deserve for such a well organised, friendly event. Even the waiting for late boating crews didn’t seem as bad this year.

Must sign off now though as we’ve got to go and wash just about everything we own; that bright yellow sandy mud from the car park gets everywhere and into everything!


The results are on-line here (by category, other views available) and my photos are here