Nottingham City Regatta 2012

May 25, 2012

A slightly odd feeling, as we came away from Nottingham with no wins – this just shows how our expectations as a club have shifted. Being realistic though, we were stepping up a league here and banging heads with some serious competition, so the results were actually pretty damned good. We put in some very fine performances and certainly made a few people take notice of Milton Keynes Rowing Club!

Held in typical Holme Pieerepont weather, that is grey, breezy and very cold

Novice 4+
This was the first multi-lane event, first 2k race and first time at Holme Pierrepont for both Chris and Antonio, with Rob M and Nelson having only a little more experience. Considering we lined up against one university and three school crews, with just the first two crews qualifying for the final, this was going to be tough. Very tough.

Throw in to the mix, the stress of trying to collect numbers (one person handing out numbers for dozens of entries) making us a bit late and nearly getting swamped on the row up (this was a recurring theme all week-end, “safety” launches creating massive wakes) and it was with a degree of nerves that we lined up on the start.

On the “attention” call, the guys all came forward and set themselves. Then, on the “beep”, nothing! They’d never had a race start off of a beep, so needed a sharp shout from me of “go!” to get moving. As ever, a less than perfect start saw us dropped down behind the other four crews. However, a fast first 500m saw us ease ahead of Oundle School next to us and catch up on De Montfort University out in lane 6.

Belying their relative inexperience, the guys settled well and kept up the pressure on DMU, rowing through them and hunting down Norwich School. At the 1500m mark, we had pulled well clear of the two crews behind us and reduced the gap to Norwich to around a length. Over the last sprint, Norwich then really went for it, pulling away from us and closing up on St Edwards School, but not enough to catch them, leaving St Edwards as the winners, Norwich in second and us in a very creditable third place.

Not a bad result at all, especially from Antonio, who’d never raced this far (he was heard to say he was glad we didn’t have to do that again!), especially against a school and uni boats.

Senior 4-
To get more race time and practice together, the coxless four (Mike, Benn, Tim and Josh) entered into both the Senior and IM1 events. Obviously, rowing up a level at Senior was a big challenge and so it proved in the race.

Despite a good row, the other crews pulled away as was to be expected, and our guys finished in tail end place but, encouragingly, not that far off the pace.

W.IM2 4+
Not quite sure what happened to the draw on this race, as the ladies found themselves at the start alongside Agecroft (expected) and Durham School (not even on the draw!) but nobody else (expected two more crews)!

A good start saw the ladies push clear of Durham School but fall behind Agecroft at the first 500m. They were then able to settle and maintain nearly a length over Durham over the next 500m, although Agecroft were pulling away steadily. The lack of 2k races and practices then told as Durham gradually ate into their lead and inched past them, to be fractionally up by 1500m. Despite Paula calling a couple of massive pushes over the last 500, Durham consolidated and then extended their lead, leaving Charlene, Alice, Lindy and Helen to finish third, which wasn’t enough to progress to the final.

W.IM1 2x-
A tremendous battle for second, third and fourth positions in this race (Norwich leading comfortably throughout) saw Liz and Andi just miss out in the last few metres. With a mere 1.1 seconds covering MAA, Lea and MK, this could have gone any way but (according to the finish marshal) our pair lost it on the final stroke.

Another good performance though, in a class field.

IM1 4-
This was the coxless four’s second race of the day, dropping down from the Senior category to IM1. With Bedford School, Newark and Leeds sprinting off, our boys were left in a hard tussle with Tees. Having pulled away over the first 500m and extended their lead to over 5 seconds at the 1,500m mark, Mike, Benn, Tim and Josh were looking set for fourth place. Unfortunately, this was not to be as they fell away in the last sprint, with Tees edging them out.

W.IM2 8+
A case of split loyalties for me in this race, with wife Paula in the Milton Keynes boat and daughter Jo in the Nottingham University crew!

After another sluggish start, MK were trailing the field at the 500m mark, in contrast to the Nottingham Uni boat that had a blistering start to storm into the lead. Our ladies then pulled back and proceeded to row through Grosvenor over the next 500m, while Nottingham Uni were being hunted down by Lea, with Nottingham City chasing them hard.

As they came to the final sprint, Nottingham Uni and Lea had pulled clear and were going at it hammer and tongs. With the result in doubt virtually to the line, the Uni girls clung on to record the win.

MK were not far off the pace at the end, finishing in fourth, but just 12.5 seconds off of a scorching winning time – Jo saying it’s the hardest race she’s ever had! This again was a really strong performance by the Milton Keynes crew (Helen J, Charlene, Alice, Lou, Karen, Paula, Heidi and Becks, with Andi swapping sculls for a cox box) – especially rowing in the rather heavyweight JC!

A very difficult race to photograph, with all the crews close and trying to get shots of two crews.

W.IM2 2x-
Another high quality field saw Helen M and Jenny in their first regatta together. As they are still gelling as a partnership, it wasn’t too surprising that they were a bit off the pace. This was despite putting in maximum effort – evidenced by Jenny coming out with language we really didn’t think she knew when Helen pushed the rate up at 1500m!

Plenty more to come from this combination.

My thoughts…
Having established ourselves as a real force locally, this regatta gave us a chance to measure ourselves against top national crews. Despite coming away without a single win, we weren’t outclassed in any event and put in some great performances.

The gulf we’re trying to span was well illustrated in the boat park; our slightly older, tattier Janouseks, Aylings and Sims looked at bit out of place amongst the gleaming new Fillippis, Empachers and Vespolis!

Despite the weather (I’m still thawing out from that bitter northerly wind) it was a good event. I especially like the winners collecting their pots from the pontoon, and appreciate (from a photography point of view) the chilled attitude to allowing access to the finish area. It’s great to have the results posted up on the big board quickly and to get the 500m splits in the results. A special word too for the commentary – knowledgeable and amusing, with the occasional pithy comments thrown in, Nigel Mayglothling excelled himself (even if one of our crews were labeled as “munchkins”!).

My only niggle of the day was the safety boats. All too often they were blasting up the course, causing huge wakes which were bad enough for the crews rowing up but a couple of times actually affected the racing crews coming down the course. This really isn’t on.


Lea Regatta 2012

April 30, 2012

This was our first time out at Lea and our first regatta of the season. Taking a relatively inexperienced squad and trying out a couple of new combinations, it was all the more pleasing to head home with two more wins. Held in bizarre weather, with April throwing everything at us, from warm Spring sunshine to biting winds, hail and rain, it was nice to visit a new location and race some different clubs too.

Novice 4+
This boats contained two of last year’s Learn to Row graduates (Ben and Antonio), in their first ever regatta, as well as two slightly more experienced (but still novice) rowers in Nelson and myself, with Paula coxing. We were drawn against what looked like a formidable crew from Queen Mary College for our first race. Although they were still a novice boat, they pulled one of the fastest starts I’ve ever seen and just scorched into a substantial lead – despite us getting a good, clean powerful start ourselves! For a first race together, it was pretty good, just that we were completely unmatched against a university crew (who I suspect might have done a bit of rowing at school as well) and we finished several lengths down. Enough for us to be encouraged though, but needing to compete against other club crews, not academic ones.

Mixed Masters D 2x-
Swapping sweep for sculls, I was out in our next event too. Racing for only the second time with Paula, we’d only had one practice session before the race as well, so weren’t sure how well this would go. In the event, we actually beat our opponents off the start but they came back at us quickly and eased into the lead. As a double, we’re still trying to overcome a definite pull to stroke side and fighting this all down the course certainly didn’t help – and led to an all too close encounter with a barge towards the end of the course! Still, we weren’t too far off the pace, especially considering we don’t do this combination very often (and Paula is far more of a sweep rower than sculler).

Women Masters D 2x-
With scarcely enough time to get her breath back, back was in the next division as well. This time she was racing with Karen in a Masters D double, sitting in for Lou. A very fine performance saw them right on the tails of the Lea crew all the way down the course, but they couldn’t quite catch them. Another very promising row and scope for seeing this combination more frequently?

Masters A/B 1x
Tim (aka “Rubberducky”) was really quite nervous about this race, having not raced singles very often at all. He was also giving away a handicap against his opponent from Broadlands, making it even more difficult. Anyway, he really shouldn’t have worried; despite the one second handicap seeming more like five, Tim put in a superb race to row clean through the other sculler and pick up our first win of the day.

Women Primary 4+
We’d originally entered our ladies (all Learn to Row graduates) as a Novice 4+, but Lea were unable to field an opposing crew. What they were able to provide was a Primary crew, also recent Learn to row graduates but rowing in training boats. These were wider and more stable than the fine boats (and weighed sooooo much) and had almost an armchair for the cox. As a primary event, the crews were guaranteed two races at least – as there were just the two entries, this would be done by taking the aggregate time across two races.

In the event, the two races provided some of the closest racing of the whole day; while our ladies were probably a bit more technical, the Lea ladies were younger and used to the boats. The first race saw the MKRC crew take an early lead but Lea came back at them and inched past, taking the honours in the first race by just two feet. This left our crew knowing what they had to do in the second race and, equally importantly, absolutely determined to win it back.

Again, the second race saw our boat push into an early lead, putting in a really good, solid start. This opened out to a clear length lead by halfway, but Lea started hunting them down. This time though, the novice women were not going to let them past. Literally gritting their teeth, the four of them dug deeper and deeper, and did enough to hold off the fast charging Lea ladies, crossing the line just three feet up. This was enough though and it earned them the win, the overall gap being given as one foot!

A really excellent first race and a great example of digging in and holding on, putting everything into the race. So, massive congratulations to Helen C, Winnie, Kelly (who found she does have a competitive streak!) and Rachael, not forgetting Karen who coxed them impeccably.

Results from the day are here and my photos of the day are 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.


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


East Midlands Regatta 2011

June 14, 2011

This event was a bit of a “voyage into the unknown”. Taking advantage of it being at Holme Pierrepont the day before British Masters, we decided it was worth a try. I think it was also the first East Midlands event, hosted by Derby, Loughborough, Nottingham and Newark, and it meant racing against clubs that we don’t normally encounter.

As it happens this was a really good decision! Not only was it a really nice event but we took four wins setting us up nicely for the next day and continuing a superb winning run for the club.

After the utter confusion caused by our deluge of wins last week-end with the attendant status changes, together with the event organisers shuffling events and boats to maximise the number of entries, we played a kind of “guess who” game. I arrived thinking I was in two events, the normal double and a mixed quad (more of that later). I was then a bit surprised when Iain arrived, as I fully expected him the following day for our Masters C 4+ but not today. Trying delicately to broach the subject of “aren’t you a day early?” I discovered we were racing the 4+ today as well!!! A similar double take happened with Paula when Karen arrived – Paula then found she was not in the one race she expected but three. All good fun and, to me anyway, showing the club cohesion and “can do” attitude, we just got on with it.

After an unfortunate delay to the regatta start, while they rearranged the lanes (some were really wide while others were rather narrow!) we got underway; despite some grim weather forecasts during the week, it was bright and sunny with a moderate breeze blowing; pretty much as good as it gets at Nottingham!

IM3 1x
Not one but two singles out in this event, with John joining us from Row Caldecotte and Pierre-Yves making his first outing in a single outside our regatta. Pierre-Yves’ plans were thrown a bit into disarray as the car with the riggers for his boat arrived late (someone – and it would be cruel to say who… – overslept) but he blagged a nice Wintech from Nottingham. John was first out and cruised to second place to book a spot in the repêchage. Pierre-Yves followed suit and also made the rep.

Unfortunately, there was some confusion over the timing of events following the delayed start and somehow both of them missed their start times for their races; a pity as this lost them the chance of a second race in their singles and a pop at the final. Still, they both had other events later in the day.

Mixed IM3 4x-
This boat started out as a bit of fun, with the two couples (Paula and I, Steve and Clare) deciding to have a go. We’d had extensive (by MKRC standards) training (two outings) and these had gone really well, so we were hopeful of getting a good scull. We were entered at IM3 as no Masters event was available and were sitting by the start watching for our opposition, hoping it would be a similar kind of age. Various boats came up – masters, another masters, another masters and then up rocks a mixed quad of scary looking (i.e huge and young) kids. Yep, this was our opposition.

We got attached (how DOES Steve do it – a brisk cross-wind and nails it onto the stake boat first time every time) and waited for the off. After a really good, clean and powerful start where we kept with the Nottingham boat, they soon started pulling away and left us trailing in, ultimately by a good couple of lengths. Despite this, we all felt it had gone really well and started thinking about entering this more regularly, where we can find Masters opposition. I hate kids…

IM3 4x-
A completely new line up for an IM3 quad, with John stroking, Tim and Benn providing the grunt and Pierre-Yves steering. Racing against two Nottingham and Union crews and one from Newark, this was a closely fought affair. After a really hard race, the Newark crew ran out winners, with us in second and the two N&U boats bringing up the rear, some distance down.

IM3 4+
Mainly to get some race practice ahead of the National Masters tomorrow, we put in the Masters C four, albeit racing at IM3 level. We’d never raced this combination (Steve stroking, Iain, Pierre-Yves and I, coxed by Paula) before, so had no real idea of how we’d fare.

Lining up at the start, we were against three other boats; a Leicester Uni crew, and club boats from Loughborough and Trafford (spot the difference – their kit is identical to ours!). After a slight disagreement with one of the crews at the start as they tried to remove our bows, we settled and were ready. On “attention… go” we pulled quite violently to bow side and this put us a length down on the other boats straight away. Picking it up from here, we fairly quickly overhauled the Trafford boat and set about chasing Loughborough – the Leicester Uni kids had long since gone. Although all four boats would progress, the first two would go straight to the final and the second two to the rep, so we really wanted second spot.

Inch by inch, we clawed back on Loughborough, gradually reeling them in and then, as we hit the 250m to go marker, pulled level. Paula called a big push and this surged us past them and we gently pulled away taking second spot by a length or so. A very pleasing race, especially given the start.

So to the final. Here we lined up against not one but two Leicester Uni crews together with another Trafford boat. A similar start to the heat put us another length down and chasing. This time, we chased down the second Leicester Uni crew and passed them but the other two finished well clear.

However, given how few races we’ve had together (and how few Iain has had period) we were really pleased with this one, finishing third in a pretty high calibre field wasn’t too shabby at all.

W.IM3 4+
With Sam from the Henley crew unavailable, Jo sat in for her, together with Andi, Ash and Lindy. A lack of water time together didn’t help their cause and they finished second to Newark (probably the boat that won at Peterborough last week?) but well ahead of Derby and Leicester Uni.

IM3 2x-
Tim and Benn were next up, this time racing as a double, racing against Nottingham and Leicester. Given that this was only their second outing (they tried their first start on the way up to the start!) they weren’t sure what to expect. Despite this, from a good start, they pushed into an early lead and were a length up by the halfway point. From there, they eased away a little more, landing our first win by four seconds over the Nottingham crew. Not bad for a second outing.

Mas D 2x-
This event pitted Steve and I in a straight final against Lincoln. Straight from the off, we pushed into a lead and were able to extend this through the first 500m, to the point where we were able to sit on them quite comfortably. Despite hitting a massive sqall that near on stopped us in our tracks, we seemed to cope with the conditions in the second half much better and pulled away for our second win of the day. Personally, this was a real fillip after the misery at Peterborough last week.

W.Nov 4x-
Mixing it up from the Ladies Masters quad of last week, this was a really scratch crew. With Paula stroking, Alice and Karen in the middle and Clare steering at bow, they had a straight final against Nottingham. The lack of practice together certainly didn’t show – easing into a slight lead from the start, they pushed away slowly but surely to a length clear by the halfway point. Despite some really hard battling from Nottingham, the girls dug in and held off their challenge, to finish a length clear for our third win, de-novicing into the bargain.

IM1 2-
By now we, were really buzzing as the last three MKRC boats had all won. Tim and Benn swapped sculls for sweep and set out (at IM1 level!) against Derby. This proved to be a fairly comfortable race, as the two finished off their day with our fourth and final win.

Evening
Most of us who were racing at National Masters the following day had opted to camp over. We set up a little circle of tents on the camp site and settled in for another great evening. Gathered round the barbie, sharing a few beers (not too many in view of tomorrow – but there were pots to christen) and chatting, it made for another really great end to another brilliant day’s racing.

Overview
I really liked this one. Not only was it (another) good day for the club but it was just nice. There were some really good touches, such as ensuring anyone in an event with heats got at least two rows (going either to the final or to a repêchage) and the presenting of pots while in the boat. First time I’ve had this and it made it feel really special.

The whole atmosphere was chilled and especially the umpires – never had such polite, friendly and chatty people controlling a regatta. Holding it at a major facility and having (for Nottingham) pretty good weather obviously helped but I do hope they do the same next year. This was a great warm up event for the Masters the following day.

My favourite comment of the day came from one of the Duke of Edinburgh volunteers (they were really great by the way) – it was along the lines of “I’ve learnt the colours for Leicester and Milton Keynes today – they’re the ones winning everything”! Nice to know we’ve made an impact.

Links
Results can be found here

Benn’s videos can be viewed here

Photos are on-line – click on the picture below

East Midlands Regatta 2011

Please note the views in this blog are my personal ones and do not reflect the official view of Milton Keynes Rowing Club. If you disagree with anything here, please use the comments section to discuss, rather than going to the club.