The trailer was loaded and the van packed ready for the seniors and novices to take on BUCS Head. However, the weather had other plans and with winds forecast to be around 30mph on the Sunday of BUCS Head, the organisers decided to move Sunday’s racing (the Championship and Intermediate categories) to Saturday and the beginner categories were unfortunately cancelled. Luckily for us, our novice captains were quick on their feet and managed to put in last minute entries into UH Head. So, this is the report from the seniors in Boston at BUCS Head and look out for the novices’ report on UH Head down at the Tideway.
Division 1 (women’s 8s and men’s 4s)
The seniors had an early start on Saturday with the coach leaving London at 5.15am, most people managed to get some sleep on the way up which meant we arrived in Boston feeling relatively awake and ready to race.
The crews made their way up to the start where strong winds, and the attempt of crews to keep circulating made for some chaotic marshaling. The women’s 1st 8 managed to keep out of too much trouble and made their way to the start. It was a good race, and the crew managed to cope with the conditions pretty well. The results confirmed this showing that they’d come 2nd earning themselves silver medals, a nice reward for a tough couple of months training! Due to rigger troubles, the 2nd 8 unfortunately had to scratch during marshaling, but they nonetheless had a competitive paddle down the course in preparation for the second division, albeit in 6s!
The morning racing brought an interesting situation for the men – two fours were fielded, A and B. One had slightly more power but 16kg more weight on board per man. One with bold purple leggings (new standard issue??), one with standard JL black issue. One with a 66kg stroke, one a 96kg stroke. Who would turn out on top? Tensions were high.
B pulled the pants off A, they beat them by 25 seconds and secured a strong 6th position in intermediate 4s. Impressive really considering their freshly comprised make up, low weight and a bruising headwind being present along the majority of the course. Well done boys. Silly leggings B’s silly leggings were swiftly and silently removed and covered up as they glumly looked to themselves for answers. Ed Barrett was quick to offer personal support to the crew at this difficult time, thanks Ed, you’re right ‘size isn’t everything’.
Division 2 (men’s 8s and women’s 4s)
The men’s 1st 8 comprised of a composite of the morning’s 4s, could glory be found in the amalgam of the morning’s crews? Not quite this time, despite undeniable guts (See photo) the 8 lacked the cohesion and panache necessary to break into the top end of the field, coming in very middlingly in the intermediate field. The very light 2nd 8 knew they were to have a tough race as they paddled up to the start and turned to face the battering headwind. The race, it was unanimously said, was overshadowed by this relentless wind (the cause of the cancelling of the novice racing) and despite their best efforts the 2nd 8 headed home disappointed with their result.
The takeaway message for the men this weekend is that there is clearly a lot of boat speed still to unlock and still to come this year. The Head now lies less than a month away. With this year’s novices coming on fast and keen to push for seats in the top boats it should be clear to all, seniors in particular, that every seat on the 29th March is up for grabs and as yet, unset. As the competition heats up it’s going to be an exciting, dynamic month for the men as we search for speed and work towards our goals at The Head.
The senior women had entered 3 4s. All crews had had only a few outings before this race as the training focus has been the 8s with WeHORR just around the corner. But despite this, all the crews put in a good performance. The first 4 had a very good paddle up to the start leaving the whole crew feeling confident and excited to see how they would perform. There was a slight mishap with the cox box cutting out shortly after starting though luckily the cox could still be heard (just) and the crew took it upon themselves to make calls when necessary. It was an exciting race, overtaking Durham though not quite catching up UWE who won the category, 4.5 seconds ahead of UCL who bagged themselves another silver medal!
The 2nd 4, having rowed in the 8 earlier, knew to expect fierce headwinds as they rounded the corner onto the last 3k. They still proved a challenge, with many excellent race-face photographs to prove it! Though they kept it together and did a great job gritting it out to the end coming an impressive 8th showing a good depth to the women’s squad.
Moving on from their misfortune in the second 8, the 3rd 4 entered the second division with fighting spirit and energy, and had an enjoyable race. It was a strong and consistent performance down the whole length of the course, the boat stayed set strong through the incessant head-wind, and the crew that set off before them was never out of sight. That is until things went a ~little~ pear-shaped about 200m from the finish line as a men’s champ quad (determined on overtaking on the inside) ploughed straight into the stern, wiping out the steering and bringing both crews to a sudden stop. But fair play to the girls, as soon as the boat was pointed in the right direction again they absolutely gunned for the finish and managed to keep themselves out of last place.
All in all, it was a successful and promising day of racing for the girls. It is now less than a week to go until WeHORR. Training is heating up and PBs are getting smashed as all the girls (seniors and novices) are fighting for a seat. Unfortunately there have been a couple of injuries recently meaning that there’s been a reshuffle of crews but despite this, come the 14th March, there will be 3 speedy 8s racing down our home stretch of river. Watch out for crews 42, 203 and 205!