British Masters 2012

June 2, 2012

This year’s British Masters saw us look to build on the success of last year, with more crews entered than last time around. In a much stronger event, we still managed three Silver Medals with others just missing out – in one case by three hundredths of a second!

Despite not bringing home a Gold, the increased competition meant that the Silvers were actually harder earned, racing against some long established and larger clubs. Especially encouraging was the sheer number of competitors we put out, including a couple of Novice boats. Sadly, from a personal point of view, an injury to my doubles partner Steve meant we had to scratch, so no racing for me at this year’s event.

Novice A 4+
A straight final against Lea and Furnivall saw Iain swap in for Chris from the previous day’s Nottingham City Regatta novice boat, as Charlene take over coxing duty from me. With the other two crews getting a very quick start, our guys were dropped back fairly rapidly. Although they were able to close the gap slightly over the second half of the race, they weren’t able to make up the deficit and finished a couple of lengths down on the winners, Lea.

With limited practice and still hampered by slow starts, it was still a good first time out race performance by this crew.

WB 1x
We had not one but two ladies representing us in this category. First out was Amelia, in her first singles race for a long time. Despite this, she still managed to hold off two boats to finish fourth in her heat, sadly missing the final as the first three qualified.

Next up was Helen M, racing at the Masters for the first time. Blasting out of the start, she rapidly pulled into a length’s lead over her nearest competitor and was able to control the race from the front. This saw her win the heat reasonably comfortably and put her through to the final.

Having a heat of the double with Jenny before the single final didn’t help and despite another fast start that saw her fourth at the halfway stage and really in contention, Helen faded over the second half to finish last. Still, it was good learning for next year and a commendable sixth overall in a very big field.

WB 2x-
A strangely out of sorts row from Helen M and Jenny saw them place fourth in their heat, failing to make the final. Not helped by being hit by a big wash halfway down the course, they were a good few lengths off of the leading pack.

WB 4x-
This was very much an experimental crew, with Amelia hopping out of the single and Jenny out of the double to join Yemin and Becks in a “B” quad. Another straight final saw them racing some very strong opposition, with Leicester, Bristol, MAA, Ross and local rivals Star in the mix. The race fairly quickly split into three, with Leicester and Bristol contesting the lead, MAA and Ross slugging it out for third and our ladies and Star battling for local pride.

With just half a second between MK and Star at half way, it was a real case of digging deep and holding on, needing to cover every move that Star made. Despite a really big push into the red buoys, our crew has just enough to hang on to take a hard earned fifth place. Clearly lots of potential here, with only a few outings to date under their belts!

A 2-
Having won Silver in a double at last year’s Masters, Benn and Tim thought they’d try their luck in a pair this time around. This again proved their versatility as, for a second year running, they claimed Silver.

In a straight final with York and Worcester, they edged ahead of Worcester over the first half of the race, with York pulling ahead of them. The second half saw Benn and Tim push on and extend their lead but weren’t able to close in on York, but still more than enough for a (relatively) comfortable second place. Although there were only three boats racing, one crew had scratched, so they did qualify for their medals. Unfortunately, they didn’t realise this at the time and so didn’t get the pleasure of rowing over to the victory pontoon to collect them.

Benn and Tim, Silver Medalists

Benn and Tim, Silver Medalists

WA 4+
This was the first of what turned out to be many close fought races for the club. A tough looking final saw Liz, Andi, Lindy and Helen J (with me coxing) line up against a pair of Nottingham boats, and one each from Abingdon, Wallingford and Peterborough.

Although they’d had a good training session on the Trent in the morning, as a crew they were still short of race and, critically, start practice. From the “go”, we dropped about a length on virtually all the other crews (one of the Nottingham boats just flew out into the lead) and we were then left trying to claw it back. Trailing last at the halfway point, the girls gradually reeled in Peterborough to inch in front. The next target was Wallingford and we closed on and then passed them, gaining inexorably on Abingdon and the second Nottingham crew.

Unfortunately, as we were gaining on Abingdon for third (and bronze medal position) we simply ran out of lake, finishing just 1.2 seconds behind. Still with a poor start and just 2.3 seconds covering 3rd to 6th, a very fine performance indeed in a very hard fought race.

WB Nov 4+
Considering that three of this crew hadn’t even sat in a rowing boat until last August, this was yet another brilliant performance. For the crew as a whole, it was also their first race together, with Maria stroking, followed by Helen C, Kelly and Winnie with Karen coxing.

Another straight final saw Worcester race into an early lead but Milton Keynes got away well and were fighting it out with Oundle Town at the halfway stage. Lack of race practice then affected the ladies as they fell away from Oundle and Warwick rowed past them in the closing stages. Still, they placed fourth, well clear of Dart Totnes and Loughborough and under a length off third and what would have been a well deserved Bronze medal.

WC 4+
Next out were the “C” ladies four, with a strong looking line up of Helen J, Paula, Karen and Lou with Yemin in the cox’s seat. Lined up against them in the final were York, Stourport, Furnivall, Llandaff and Hereford. In last year’s event, Hereford had pipped Tees to the Gold Medal, so our ladies were keen to see how they measured up this year.

From the off, York, Hereford and MK pulled away from the other crews and got into a hard three-way battle, with Furnivall trying to hold on to them in fourth but the others drifting away. This was to be another momentous fight, with under a second separating the three leading crews at halfway, York in first, then Hereford with MK just behind.

Over the next 500m, our ladies chipped into Hereford’s lead, gradually inching past them, entering the red buoys maybe a quarter of a length up on Hereford and half a length down on York. Despite throwing everything at it, they couldn’t quite pick off York but had the immense satisfaction of beating last year’s winners to take second place and Silver medal.

A really hard earned medal from a simply stunning performance, in doubt right up to the line, missing Gold by just 2.6 seconds.

WC 4+ Silver Medalists

WC 4+ Silver Medalists

WA 2x-
Following on from one close finish, Liz and Andi then delivered an even closer one. In yet another straight final, they were drawn against Norwich, Nottingham, Bristol, Abingdon and Exeter.

The race split into two fairly quickly with our girls in the leading pack with Norwich, Abingdon and Nottingham, crossing halfway in that order with a mere 2.4 seconds covering the four crews. From halfway, Norwich and MK started piling on the pressure and pulled clear of the other two boats, opening up clear water to Abingdon but with nothing between them. Absolutely hammering for the line, both crews gave it absolutely everything, with a “beep-beep” finish needing it to “go upstairs” for a photo finish review.

After an agonising wait, the verdict went to Norwich, with a lead of 0.14 seconds! Despite missing the Gold by the tiniest fraction, Liz and Andi were delighted with their Silver medals. Yet another wonderful performance by the pair of them.

Liz and Andi, Silver medalists at A 2x-

Liz and Andi, Silver medalists at A 2x-

WC 8+
Having watched Liz and Andi coming so close, we honestly didn’t think racing could get any closer. Wrong.

The Ladies “C” eight had a very strong look about it and were aiming to take forward their hugely impressive showing on the Tideway (with a couple of the “kids” making way for “more experienced” ladies).
This was going to be a four way fight, with club crews from York and Nottingham as well as a multi-composite boat that seems to have people from all over the Eastern and Central regions. Obviously a put together crew to enter as strong a boat as possible, our ladies felt this was going to be a tough race.

Nottingham got off to a flier and eased into a length’s lead, with the composite boat and ours locked side by side and York following, slightly down. By halfway, Nottingham were holding the lead with MK and the composite crew sharing an identical time. A really strong push eased our boat into second but the others came back at them. To the line we could see the composite gaining and looking to be finishing the stronger – this time there was no “beep-beep” though. The two crews were so close, there was a single “beep” with neither crew being sure who’d taken second and with it Silver.

After what seemed an eternity, the verdict came through with again our ladies being on the wrong end – this time by a ridiculously small margin of 0.03 (yes, three hundredths) of a second. Enough for third but with only four boats entered no Bronze medal.

With Nottingham taking the win by just 3.78 seconds this shows how close it was – maybe if the ladies hadn’t had such a hard race in the four, or with a lighter boat, a medal next time around?

My thoughts…
Although we didn’t bring home any Golds this year, the three Silvers probably represented harder earned medals. Certainly, the numbers of competitors (and clubs) seemed up on last year, with MKRC making its own contribution by bringing an impressive eleven boats. Had Steve been fit, this would have added another couple (our double and Steve in his single).

Despite the foul weather (marginally better than the previous day) another hugely enjoyable day’s racing. The highlights of the day for me were those storming finishes in the ladies double, four and eight, really not knowing who was going to finish where and watching incredibly exciting side by side racing to the finish. It was just such a pity that we finished the wrong way round in them all!

It was noticeable the difference in the boat park compared to the previous day – our fleet suddenly looked more at home, with Janousek being probably the most common boat, compared to the “exotic” (and expensive) boats on Saturday.

Having said that, I do wonder how much faster the ladies eight would go in a lighter weight boat – watching their competitors hoist up their boats with little effort and stroll off, the struggle to lift JC out and get it to shoulders was quite galling. Oh well, maybe the Fairy Boatmother will read this and we’ll get a nice new, shiny Vespoli or something.

A brilliant day again and certainly one that can only have enhanced the reputation of Milton Keynes Rowing Club!

Results are here and my photos here


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.


Bedford Spring Small Boats Head 2012

May 14, 2012

Another excellent performance by the Ladies’ squad saw us come away from the last Head of the year with another three wins.

We entered a relatively small number of crews into the event, with just eight crews out, six from the ladies’ squad and two from the men’s master’s squad. Held in what can only be described as “changeable” weather conditions, this was a good end to a very successful head season.

W.IM2 4+

This was a relatively new and untried (just two outings before the race) combination of Charlene, Jo, Lou and Alice with Andi coxing. Putting a relatively poor practice session behind them, the ladies came good in the race, chasing down and overtaking one of their opponents and posting a time of 7:50. This was good enough to win the category by four seconds from a strong field of Newark, UEA, CORC, Nottingham and a Rob Roy/X-Press composite. Even more encouragingly, their time put them just three seconds off the winning W.IM1 time!

Masters D 2x-

Steve and I had an eventful race, finishing second to Bedford in another large field, with two Oundle and one Star boats following us home.

A good, solid start had seen us catching the Norwich IM3 double in front. By the time we passed Star club, we’d closed them down to a couple of lengths advantage and were overhauling them quickly. Unfortunately, they then decided to use the same arch as us at Town Bridge and cut right across our bows, forcing us to stop. Coming through the arch, we picked it up and went past them but this had cost us time. Despite some rough water heading to the suspension bridge, it really clicked after then and we finished really strongly with Steve steering a near perfect line.

Our time of 7:56 was 28 seconds off the winners, so our coming together with Norwich probably didn’t make enough of a difference to the result, but very frustrating all the same.

W.Masters A/B 1x

This was the first of two categories in which we had two entries, with Helen M and Amelia racing their singles. With both of them in the “B” category and with just four seconds handicap against their younger “A” rivals, it was a big ask for them. In the event, they finished third and fourth, 15 and 37 seconds respectively off the winner from Wallingford. Very nice to see both of them racing – Helen seems to have the racing bug again and good to see Amelia not only in her single again but in green and black (and having had a very rapid boat re-numbering just before the race)!

W.Masters A/B 2x

The second category with two crews in saw the doubles of Andi and Liz taking on Jenny and Helen M. The two boats were good enough to take the first two positions in the category, beating boats from Peterborough, Rob Roy and Guildford. In the event, it was the “youngsters” boat of Andi and Liz who took the honours, shading it by 11 seconds. As Jenny was sculling with a suspected broken hand, sustained skiing, I’m sure there’ll be opportunities for a re-match!

W.Masters C/D 4+

This looked to be a strong crew on paper, with Paula, Karen, Lou and Heidi, coxed by Liz, and it proved to be so on the water. Despite Heidi still being a novice (having done her “Learn to Row” course last summer) the power in the boat was enough to win the category convincingly. Posting a time of 8:03, they finished 35 seconds clear of the next crew, despite them having the handicap against them! The time was actually so fast, it was the leading Women’s Masters time of the day, including “A” and “B” crews.

Masters D/E 1x

Not content with the excitement in the double, Steve had yet another eventful race, this time in a rare outing in his single. When we’d rowed up to the start in the double, we’d noticed a fairly aggressive swan halfway between the start and County Bridge. Guarding it’s nest, the bird had pecked at the blades of a couple of boats and we’d had to avoid it ourselves in the race.

With his single, the bird seemed to take a particular dislike to Steve – not only pecking at him as he passed but actually chasing him down the river! This did add to his speed, so helped him to a very good third place (of nine), in a time of 8:16.

My thoughts…

It was an odd sort of day. As we were only racing from division six onwards, we only needed to get to Bedford at 1:30, so it meant that rarest of luxuries, a Sunday morning lie-in! This did lead to the surreal situation of sitting at home watching the early results coming through on Twitter, knowing we’d be racing there later in the day. It also made finding a space on Longholme Island very difficult; by the time we arrived it was chock full of cars, despite being meant for trailers only.

Although there was a fair weather forecast, the reality was a typical April day – ranging from warm and sunny to bitterly cold with hail lashing down. Fortunately, most of our crews avoided being out in the worst of the weather but certainly the ladies Masters boat suffered with some very strong winds at the start. Not like normal Bedford event weather at all; I can only assume the intended sacrificial junior escaped before they could be offered to the rain god…

The addition this year of the Twitter feed of results was a brilliant idea. The only down side was that by the time Tim got back from Bedford RC with the news of the ladies’ wins, they were already celebrating as they’d seen the results on Twitter!

As ever, it was a nicely run event, keeping well to time and friendly. Adding an extra pontoon down on the island was another really good touch, helping spread the boating load away from the school’s boat house area.

It was also a good end to the head season, with the ladies signing off with another three wins and firmly establishing them as serious competitors. All we need now is for the men’s squad to follow their example!

Results from the day are on the Bedford RC site and my photos on Google+


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


Head of the Trent 2012

March 2, 2012

Although I think MKRC may have raced at the Head of the Trent before (a long time ago, before my time) this was certainly the first time we’d entered more than one crew. Stepping up a level to a regional event, we had four boats out – considering the strength of the event, to then head home with two wins was very pleasing indeed. The women’s eight also put in a very fine performance, coming third in the W.IM2 8+ category, of eight crews.

W.IM1 4x-

This was a strong looking quad, with Helen M stroking, Liz steering and Jenny and Andi making up the crew. They had just one boat as competition, from Tyne, and they were drawn immediately behind our ladies. From the start, our boat pushed away hard and felt they were easing away down the course. This proved to be the case, with our time of 20:38.4 enough to win the event by nearly 30 seconds.

Masters C/D 4x-

This event gave us the opportunity to reprise our Master’s quad, with Pierre-Yves, Tim, Steve and I. We’d got two other crews in the category, but as these were both “D” and we were racing “C” were acutely aware of the need to not only race the others but also try to overcome what had to be a big handicap time.

We boated early, to allow us a stress free run up to the start, giving time to warm up well and put in a couple of race bursts, which seemed to go well. With three of us never having done the event before, we had no idea how far it was to the start; answer, a long, long way! After what seemed an eternity, we finally went under a bridge and there were some guys putting up the “start” banner. Having no idea about the marshalling positions, we drifted to a halt before noticing a couple of boats further up, so we moved up to join them. With no marshals to be seen we hung around for a while but boats with lower numbers started going past, so we paddled off again. Finally, we passed a sign with “1”, then one with “11”, so figured these must be marshalling positions – we were crew 58 so had even further to go (although the next board was another “11” which kind of confused us). Much, much further up the river, we then found “51” and tucked in there – Pierre-Yves then telling us we’d sculled 1.5 km from the start!

It was then a case of settling in and waiting for the rest of the crews to arrive. Keeping station was interesting as the stream was running pretty quickly, but we managed to latch on to the bank. Presently, our two opposition boats arrived, Peterborough and Nottingham and Union. Overhearing one of the other crews discussing how to help out with steering and the other saying they’d been beaten by them earlier in the season did give us a bit of confidence – but there was still the handicap time issue. It was all very pleasant sitting there in the early Spring sunshine, very peaceful and (partly because it is such a wide river) none of the usual ineptness you see at the start of a Head race.

Finally, we saw the front crews start to spin, so time to de-kit and get set. Easing out into the stream, we spun easily and paddled off gently – after all, we’d got over 1k to the start! The stream really was running fast and even at light pressure, we were starting to move. Approaching the start, we wound it up and hit race pace a couple of strokes before the “go”. Almost immediately through the first bridge, we were into dirty water, catching the Loughborough Ladies eight who were immediately ahead of us. To their credit, they kept out of our way and we powered past, settling into a good rhythm and rate, for the next 6 kilometres. Although Steve had never steered this river before, he did a fantastic job, keeping a tight line throughout and making sure we kept clear of all hazards.

Coming down the straight stretch towards Trent Bridge, we again started getting dirty water. This time it was a Yarm quad, who needed a gentle call to make sure they didn’t squeeze us going through the bridge. Fortunately, they got the hint and eased over, allowing us through to take our second crew. Passing Nottingham Forest’s ground we were into the last kilometre, but by now it was starting to hurt. To add to this, there was yet more rough water though, as we were now hard on the heels of a composite eight – they in turn were pushing off of us! Consequently, we raced them all the way through to the finish line, getting overlap but not quite pushing ahead of them – still, we counted it as another pass!

Quite a relief the hear the hooter as we passed the line – encouragingly, our oppositions boats were nowhere in sight, so we were hopeful that we’d pushed hard enough to overcome the handicapping as well. A light paddle back to the boating area (much harder than it sounds – this was against the stream and we were all pretty tired) and out; then the wait for the results.

One of the nice things is that they run the event with all competing crews in the same division – this means not only do all crews have the same conditions, but that we didn’t have to wait until the final division to get our result. When this came up, we found we’d won the category in a time of 19:36.1 (19:04.7 adjusted for age) with a comfortable gap of 1½ minutes – even with the 30 seconds or so handicap. Naturally, very pleased with this, both the result and what has to have been one of our best rows to date!

Senior 4+

This four, of Tim, Josh, Chris and Benn, coxed by Helen M (smaller and louder than the alternative of Steve) were always going to be up against it. With their only competition being half of the Star Club Elite Eight and our guys having just a handful of outings together, it was a real mismatch. Despite this, they gave it a real go, and pushed Star hard even though they were overtaken by them.

Women’s Masters C 8+

With pretty much the crew for the WEHORR, with Lindy and Karen sitting in for Helen J and Emma, this was going to be a good benchmark against some serious competition. With a few nerves showing, the ladies got boated early for the long paddle up to the start. Earlier plans to try and borrow a lightweight boat had been thwarted by the weather (not enough water time to get the boat kindly offered by Northampton RC rigged for them) so it was the somewhat heavy John Cunningham they were using.

After waiting on the bank for what seemed an eternity, I finally saw the distinctive green blades flashing in the sun, as the girls came into view. Looking far neater than many of the other eights going past they powered past me just before Trent Bridge. With Andi doing a great job of coxing (again, first time on the river), the crew of Liz, Jeny, Kate, Alice, Lou, Karen, Lindy and Paula (in a very unfamiliar bow seat) put in a great row, overtaking a couple of crews on their way to a time of 20:04.2 and a wonderful third place in the category.

Trent Head - Women's IM2 8+

Trent Head - Women's IM2 8+

My view…

I really enjoyed the event, although the weather certainly helped. It is a good course, quite challenging but a bit more interesting than most head courses (but very long). I do like events that put all competing crews in the same division – it does mean you all have the same conditions (having seen a head wind swing round to a tail wind at Bedford before now) so it is far more even and fair. It also saves the sitting around waiting to see if your time from Division one gets beaten by a crew in the final division.

They could do with a bit more organisation though – having overshot the trailer park entrance as there were no signs in to it at all and then had to go for a tour around Nottingham, the guy on the gate told us to head into the trailer park where we’d be directed where to park. No, no-one on duty at all, so it was a bit of a free for all with trailers dumped everywhere and anywhere. This, inevitably, led to one club setting up camp in the narrowest part of the park, the passageway through to the river. Showing a lack of respect for everyone else, they then proceeded to block off the sole access except for a narrow path allowing one boat through at a time – thanks guys.

Directions to the clubs weren’t brilliant – I’m still not sure which club we were meant to be using for coffee, loos, etc. There was plenty of boating area though (although getting out early definitely helped) and a really nice stretch of river, wide and peaceful. Once we’d figured out the waiting positions at the start, this made sense, although having a few more people up at the start might have helped. Everyone we came across was friendly and helpful– and I guess coming away with a couple of wins really helps, especially with the rather neat ceramic pots, a pleasant change from the usual pewter ones.

All in all, a great day out, rounded off by daughter Jo also picking up a win in her Nottingham Uni quad – fortunately for all, none of her crews were in the same categories as MKRC so no split loyalties on this occasion.

Results are on the Head of the Trent page and my photos are here


Northampton Head 2012

February 23, 2012

This year’s Northampton Head took place in unusually mild weather – we’re used to fun activities like breaking the ice on the side of the river and avoiding hypothermia while waiting for the start, so temperatures of a tropical 5-6 degrees were really welcome.

We had our usual strong entry out for the event, including another batch of Learn to Row graduates in their first ever races. Despite missing some of the stronger members of the squad and having a number of our top boats knocked out with no competition, we still left clutching four category wins.

Novice 4+
A new combination saw Nelson, Chris Rob M and Pierre-Yves, coxed by Karen set a good benchmark for the Novice men, of 6:47. This was good enough to see them finish 3rd, beaten by Leicester and Bedford School but only seven seconds adrift of the winners and ahead of three school crews.

J18 2x-
A first race for Ben S saw him stroke a Junior double with Alex. Despite being overtaken by two old boys (see below) they put in a very good race, good enough to win their category! A very impressive start for Ben, especially considering the pressure of stroking the boat having never raced before.

Masters D 2x-
Fresh from our win at Star in the previous week, Steve and I knew this would be much harder as we were up against long time rivals, Nemesis. Today’s race felt much better, picking up from the tail end of last year rather than the rusty performance at Star. A fast start saw us close down on the kiddies in front (Ben and Alex in the J18 double) pretty quickly and we were able to cruise past them. To their credit they then hung on to us and pushed us all he way to the finish. Steve steered a near immaculate course and this helped us to a time of 6:57. Not surprisingly, Nemesis did beat this but by a mere 8 seconds – a much smaller gap than in previous events and leaving the pair of us quite happy.

W.IM2 2x-
An interesting race this one for Helen M and Jenny. Originally entered as a Masters boat, they had no competition so had to row at IM2 level. A “normal ” MKRC crew, in that they’d only had one or two sessions together before racing but both are very good scullers. After a slight problem on boating (another MKRC crew had inadvertently taken their blades!) they had a good, steady start, before they had the misfortune to be caught by a J16 4+ boat – which, despite being coxed, promptly rowed into them, having pushed them over to the bank first! Despite this setback, the ladies got going again and with the incentive to catch up lost time, stormed down the course to finish as winners, their time of 7:31 putting them just three seconds ahead of Leicester, with Devil’s Elbow (love the name!) well back.

W.Nov 4+
This was a quartet of our Learn to Row graduates form last year, in their first race as a crew. Comprising Winnie, Kelly, Mary and Helen C, with Tim coxing, this was a “voyage of discovery”. Unfortunately, they set themselves a tough pace from the start, but the race distance was double the length of the lake and it told towards the end.  Still, a good learning experience for them and that’s the first race out the way.

J15 1x
With Phillip still being a beginner in the single, the main objective was a safe row, finishing the right way up! He managed this easily and although last by a fair margin, a creditable performance for someone still finding his way.

WJ 15 2x-
Two junior girls’ doubles out in this category. First up were Lainey and Alex setting a target time for the other competitors of 8:17. They held on to the lead until division four, when their clubmates Gemma and Hannah posted a time 15 seconds quicker; unfortunately, two Stratford boats went even quicker! This left our two crews in 3rd and 4th overall (out of seven entries), an encouraging trend up the results table.

WJ15 1x
Our junior girls provided no less than three of the five entries at this category. They finished 2nd, 3rd and 5th overall, with Lainey top of the MKRC juniors, only 13 seconds off of the winner from Oundle.

Novice 8+
Yes, really, MKRC entering a Men’s Novice eight! With a large influx of Learn to Row graduates, we were able to put out a complete novice crew, bolstered by some of our senior guys who haven’t yet had the good fortune of a regatta win. A credit to the club and the coaching they’ve received, they put in a really good performance, posting a time of 6:29 to finish 4th, behind Stratford, Bedford School and Leicester boats. Given this was the first race for many of the crew, this was a very encouraging start for Nelson, Chris, Rob M, Ben S, Antonio, James, Haemish and Geoff (last five being LTR grads), coxed by Karen, being just 23 seconds off the winners.

Mas C 4x-
This boat saw Pierre-Yves, Tim, Steve and I reprise our Henley Masters boat from 2010 – and we don’t think we’ve been out in this combination since! We started immediately in front of one of our two competitors, from Northampton, and this gave us a good focus for the race. The first part of the race felt a little sluggish, as we got used to sculling together again, and the Northampton boat clung stubbornly behind us. However, about a third of the course down, we pushed and upped the rate a bit and this saw us at first ease away from Northampton but then start opening a substantial gap. By three quarters, Steve and I were both glad we’d not been able to enter an impromptu mixed quad in the previous division – doing just the two races was seriously starting to hurt! Still, we clung on in there and get pushing hard, crossing the finish line to record what we felt was a very respectable time, of 6:08, well ahead of Northampton, on 6:37. We then had to wait for our other competitor (Hollowell Scullers), out in the next division. To our disappointment, they absolutely flew down the course to post a winning time of a staggering 5:54, beating us by 16 seconds.

Strangely, we all agreed after the race that it had felt slow over the first half and then picked up in the second – Pierre-Yves had, of course, recorded the race on his GPS tracker and the results he sent out in the evening were completely the other way round! A fast start, dropping off around half way with a late surge at the end – just shows you can’t trust how the boat feels…

W.IM2 1x
Fresh from her storming performance with Jenny in the double, Helen M was back in action in her single. After a late drama, as her seat had somehow disappeared (a big thank-you to Northampton for finding and lending her a spare for her Empacher) she duly delivered another win for both her and the club.

J16 1x
Alex moved from the winning double back to his single in the last division. Showing steady progress, he finished third out of five, in a very symmetrical field (Stowe, Northampton, MK, Northampton, Stowe) pushing the Stowe boat that followed him well away.

W.IM2 4+
A slightly contrived event this one. We’d originally entered an IM1 and Masters boat but both had no competition. Northampton were very accommodating and allowed Tim to shuffle the two crews to produce a pair of IM2 boats to race each other. Being guaranteed a club win it was all about crew rivalry. The aim on both sides was not to be beaten by a big margin – and this led to two very fine performances. First off was the “Sugar” boat, of Paula, Karen, Clare and Helen C, coxed by yours truly, with the “Spice” boat of Charlene, Alice, Kate and Winnie, Steve coxing, following a few boats back. After two really fine rows, the timing couldn’t have been closer, with a single second separating the two crews (7:46 to 7:47) – tragically, from my point of view, the rival “Spice” boat just edging it. Still, it shows the closeness of the women’s squad, both in ability and in getting on with each other, as despite some friendly banter, there were no hard feelings at all. Apart from the coxes…

My thoughts…
Another great day out at Northampton, despite the unusually warm weather (we’re so used to freezing there, being warm felt distinctly odd). It was really impressive seeing our huge flotilla of boats taking up substantial acreage in the boat park, having something like 12 or 13 different boats entered ranging from singles through to an eight. Great also to see so many new faces racing for the first time, and all of them enjoying the experience (even if a “bit” harder than they expected).


Star Head 2011 – take 2

February 3, 2012

After the disappointment of the original event being postponed because of thick fog (see earlier blog entry), the 2011 Star Head was finally rescheduled for January 22nd 2011. Despite our concerns that this would also be affected (this time by very strong winds) it did go ahead as planned.

Although we’d put together a bumper entry for the original event, unavailability reduced us down to “just” ten crews entered. Out of this entry, we managed to come away with no less than six event wins, with the ladies again proving dominant with three wins and the Ladies Masters’ boat narrowly missing out on handicap time.

WIM2 4+
A strong crew of Helen J, Paula, Alice and Kate (in her first race for MK) with cox Yemin put down a fast time of 7:53 in the first division. This was to prove more than quick enough, beating the Star boat (their only competition) by a substantial margin of 31 seconds to win the category.

WIM3 4+
Another very strong looking boat, with Kate, Alice, Lou and Jenny, with Yemin again coxing. With this being Jenny’s first MKRC race and Kate’s second (her first being the W.IM2 boat earlier) we weren’t sure how it would go. The answer was “quickly”, posting a faster time (7:46) than the IM2 crew, easily enough to again take the win by 28 and 57 seconds over Star and St. Neots respectively.

WMas B/C 4x
With Jenny switching to sculling and, very creditably, steering the quad in her first ever row at Bedford, the crew of Andi, Amelia, Karen and Jenny overcame the handicap time and sculled to victory, proving too strong for Star and Oundle.

Mas D 2x-
This saw Steve and I out in the double for the first time in what seems ages. This showed as our race wasn’t as fluent as those at the end of last year, and certainly felt like hard work. Despite this, Steve steered a near flawless course and we posted a respectable time of 7:54, comfortably ahead of Oundle, to pick up another win

Mas B 2x-
Despite not having raced together for a very long time, Tim and Pierre-Yves put in a great performance, not only winning their category but posting the fastest MKRC time of the day! Their time, 7:28, put them 29th overall for the day, comfortably beating many fours and quads and even one eight!

Mxd Mas A/C 2x-
Not only taking on their competitors, but running a significant risk of marital fall-out (would YOU let your spouse steer a race or would your spouse let YOU call the pace and tactics????) Tim and Andi also beat the handicapping to see off two “C” boats and win the category by 23 seconds and 33 seconds from Oundle and Sudbury respectively.

IM3 4+
A new combination saw Steve, Pierre-Yves and I swap sculls for sweep and add Chris (in his first MKRC race) to put out an IM3 four. After a “hot swap” as we were sharing Mistral with the Women’s IM3 crew (with Helen J jumping in to relieve Yemin from coxing a third straight race!) we paddled down to the start. Not really knowing how this would go, having had just a couple of outings, we set off at a reasonable rate. Unfortunately, we’d been placed immediately ahead of what was obviously a very quick Star quad and coming up to Star club, Helen had to steer very wide to let them through. Despite this we settled back onto the racing line but as we came through County bridge it was like rowing out into the Atlantic. Very high waves, rough water and boat stopping winds made for “interesting” conditions – a bit like rowing on Caldecotte Lake! This persisted through to the Suspension Bridge where the water calmed down a bit and from the Butterfly Bridge it all really clicked and (for the last 200 meters!) felt really strong and balanced. A good end to a reasonable race but we finished last of the five, but a mere three seconds covered 3rd, 4th and 5th. Still, 30 seconds off the winners in what was basically a Masters’ boat wasn’t too bad, especially not for a first outing and had, we not had to avoid the quad, could have been even better.

WMas C/E 4+
Despite a very good row, the Ladies Masters were just unable to overcome the handicap (racing “C” against a St. Neots “E” boat) and although 23 seconds quicker, Paula, Karen, Lou and Clare, with Amelia coxing, lost out by 4 seconds on the handicap time. Had Clare not had to do a third straight race (see the WMas CDE 2x- race), maybe they would have been able to close that little gap.

J17 2x-
James and Alex out in a junior double, were up against two strong crews from St. Neots and Kings School Ely and their lack of experience showed as they trailed in a long way down. Still, they can only get quicker with practice.

J16 1x
Alex found himself up against three other J16 scullers, from Kings School Ely, Star and St. Ives. Again, still learning the ropes, he was well beaten although the times posted by the others were extremely fast (winning time was a scorching 7:31!).

WMas CDE 2x-
Clare and Trish, in her first race for the club, had a torrid time. Having raced down in Division 1, they got to the end to be told that their time hadn’t been recorded! They then had to row back, up to the start and do it all over again. This clearly affected their performance and they came in well off the pace with a time of 10:03. Still, a first race together out the way and hopefully next time they’ll only need to do it once!

Results for the day can be seen here and my photos here

So, all in all, another good day at the races, especially for Jenny and Kate who picked up wins (two in Jenny’s case) in their first races in MKRC colours. A reasonable first race for the Men’s IM3 4+, although last, this was by just a few seconds, so a bit more practice should see us further up the field.