Autumn Head

[By Kate]

It doesn't seem a year ago since the last Autumn Head, my first ever race, when we witnessed a stunning sunrise that  I later used as inspiration for a poster (pictured) for our own club race in April; the Head of the Cam. I felt so honoured to be on the river to bear witness to such a beautiful morning. It was misty and the boats ahead were silhouetted against the warm sun. Now, a year on,  I feel so lucky to have a connection to the river and its wildlife; that I get to see it in its many different lights and seasons.

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This year the Autumn Head was later in the year and later in the morning but the river magic was still there as ever. We had the first of Autumn's crispness in the air, a gentle light and a cold, choppy wind on our backs.

We only had a few boats on the river for the Autumn Head this year with some of our club off at the Amsterdam Marathon (they smashed it of course and we are super proud of them!).  Even without some of strongest, super-marathon-running-women, our Women's IM3 VIII (me included) won our division by 4 seconds!! Congratulations to Katie, Dawn and Evelyne on winning their first pots! 

We were a pretty hotch-potch crew, consisting  of CRC Women's 1st, 2nd and 3rd boats and had a few unnerving changes to the crew at the last minute. The row up seemed pretty lethargic as we lugged the boat to the start but Alison, our cox, was there with just the right words, reminding us to all pull our weight, to put in that extra effort and trust the rest of the crew to do the same. She made us work hard on the row to the start, pushing our muscles into racing mode.  We stepped up our game and I was reminded of the importance of a great cox who can gauge exactly what her crew need to hear.

There was the usual shuffling about at the start line with boats getting tangled in knots like a ball of wool. We managed to detangle ourselves, spin and pulled up at the bank. By this point our Men's VIII had already begun their race and were heading towards the boat houses, leaning into that strong wind. The Men’s crew had many newcomers, some racing for their first time or second only to the craziness of Bumps week. We saw them at the boathouse before they set off, one an old friend I have known since school. I had a flashback to those first race jitters, wondering if I would not have the energy to row the full course or worse, catch a crab. They finished second in their division. I am pretty sure they must all have caught the rowing bug by now. 

Gradually our Women's VIII approached the start with a steady build and the knowledge that it would soon be over. I found I still had those nerves and slight disbelief that I would make the full 2600m. But our race was a good one. We took tight corners and kept to a strong and steady rhythm, set by our stroke and new Women's Captain, Amelia. It felt calm and capable, building back up when we seemed to be waning. Needless to say, throughout the race our cox, Alison, continued to pull every last bit of strength from us, making all the right calls of encouragement and discipline. She's a great cox.

Our third boat in the Autumn Head was our Women's IM3 VI. Three of the crew had already rowed in our VIII after generously subbing in for missing crew members, so had a tough job to muster the strength for a second solid row. The fourth crew member was the wonderful Naz, who stepped in from a different club altogether. They had a tough row, finishing last in their category, not true to their usual form.

For CRC, this was a positive start to the winter season. Our Men’s Captains, Simon and William have done a fantastic job bringing in more men to the club this season. We have some very promising rowers who are keen and able; a real plus for the club. The Women's crews continue to go from strength to strength with regular land training sessions and frequent outings. Now with November approaching fast, we've had an email from our Captains planning for the winter league and racing season. I'm excited to think of the months ahead of cold, icy mornings, training on the river. Whenever I tell people who don't row that I row, they always ask about early starts and winter outings, thinking these must be the downside of rowing. But it's at these times where the river really comes into its own and you feel part of a secret club who know winter’s true beauty. On these coming frosty mornings, when the streets are quiet and most people are still tucked up in their warm homes there's a lively buzz down at the river. And all around, the sound of blades chopping through the cold water. I love it. Roll on November.

Joy at Boston

Once again I signed up for Boston. As usual, arranging transport was harder than doing the race :-). Joy got to ride on Anton's trailer (thanks!) but I was another matter.

Here I am:

Not enough compression, which together with a variety of other flaws in my sculling style explains why I didn't win my category. But! I did handily beat the old Mas Nov D 1x course record, and I did come in under 5 hours, which I was rather pleased with. Though doubtless the tailwind had something to do with that.

Top tips from this year:

  • Gels not chocolate bars made for far faster food stops: good.
  • Despite extra padding, my arse still hurt. Lots.
  • Transport is a pain. Did I mention that at all?

Town Bumps 2014 - Thursday (Day 3)

The penultimate day of the Bumps proved decisive, with many ups and downs,

In brief: Two up, three Down, and a row-over, overall: net down 1, here's the details:

  • W3 (row-over): The women of W3 faced a long-row over, after 99's W5 managed to catch the unfortunate Champs W7, this should however provide good prospects for W3 tonight, who will be looking to catch them to make it +3 overall.
    • No videos yet...

 

W2 - After bumping City 8

W2 - After bumping City 8

  • M3 (down): Down again on Thursday unfortunately, after being caught by Cambridge Vets at first post corner, however they won't have to worry about being the sandwich boat tonight, should also provide more time at the Beer Tree this evening.


  • W2 (Up): Managed to catch City W8 in short order, even before the A14 motorway bridge, and also taking the 2nd Boat back into Division 2


W1 - After taking down Champs 1, at Ditton Corner.

W1 - After taking down Champs 1, at Ditton Corner.

  • M2: were down one to X-Press M4 approaching grassy corner, after Cantabs M6 caught Champs M3 ahead of them, scuppering their chances of a Bump.


  • W1: managed to get their first long overdue batch of Willow after catching Champs W1 on Ditton Corner. Tonight they'll have a second chance at St Neots, the crew they chased on Tuesday evening, good luck to them!

 

  • M1 (down): No happy ending for M1 on Thursday alas. We had a good start, and not one but two whistles on Tabs into Grassy, and all of that was the plan, but we lacked the oomph to close down the last half length plus the overlap. Which was the bit that wasn’t under our control. We also got a rather wide line round Grassy which shows up clearly in the video; and rowed down Plough Reach in Tab’s puddles which slowed us down (ah, you can even see it in the GPS trace) (um, or do I have to take that back? Perhaps we were just tired? See Jo’s video), unlike Press who picked the other side and gained noticeably: from being merely on station into Grassy they gained to nearly half a length at Ditton. From there its a long way to top finish and we only made it halfway down the Reach. So much for our dreams.

    Tactically, we could have rowed a different race: accepted we weren’t fast enough to get Tabs, and backed off. Rowed a more even pace, saved ourselves their puddles, and left Press with ours, whilst leaving ourselves enough margin to keep pushing them away. In retrospect, that would have been wiser. But less glorious.

Town Bumps 2014 - Wednesday (Day 2)

Another great day of Bumps action, lots of row-overs today, with several crews setting up for a pivotal night tonight (Thursday).

In brief: One up, One Down, and four row-overs, so overall: a big fat net zero, but that doesn't begin to describe the hot action underlying it, so read on:

W3 - Up Again! (Photo: Katie Bolt)

W3 - Up Again! (Photo: Katie Bolt)

  • W3 (up): A second batch of Willow for W3 last-night, after they managed to Bump-up again after catching Cantabs W7. Well done them. I gather that it was harder work than yesterday. Tonight they will be chasing 99's W5, can they catch them before they catch Champs W7?
    • No videos yet...

 

  • M3 (down): It was another unfortunate night for M3, who were down again alas, by the law of balance. That leaves them with the fun of being sandwich boat at the head of the M4 division today.

 

W2 - Showing some good rotation (Photo: Kate Freeland)

W2 - Showing some good rotation (Photo: Kate Freeland)

  • W2: Rowed-over successfully as head of the third division ahead of Rad W2, but then everything ahead of them bumped out in the second division. They have an excellent prospect of getting Tabs 5 today, and hence back into the second division, if they can hold off the Rad again. Good luck!
    • No videos yet...

 

M2 approaching Grassy Corner (photo: Michael Prior-Jones)

M2 approaching Grassy Corner (photo: Michael Prior-Jones)

  • M2 (row-over): A seat-falling-off incident after 20 strokes slowed them down, and it took them a while to get back to speed. They recovered to be very very close at the line, and should have a good chance of going up tonight. Stay calm boys: row faster not harder.

 

 

 

  • W1 (row-over): St Neots W1 bumped Champs W1 ahead of them, which looks like it makes for good prospects for W1 tonight (it would be nice and symmetrical if our W1 could catch Champs W1 just like in the men's division!).
    • No videos yet...

 

  • M1 (row-over): Press demolished Champs behind us in short order as expected, which left us a free shot at Tabs 2, but it didn't happen. We got a whistle before First Post and were maybe 3/4 of a length down at the entrance to grassy, but lets draw a discrete veil over what happened next. A video from Grassy is available here for those who wish to savor the event, or my "RiggerCam". Since we're now in the Big League we get Top Finish, and St Neots looked surprisingly good steaming up the Reach for the over-bump, but didn't get close enough to be worrying. For Thursday we have Tabs ahead again, and Press behind us, which should prove exciting.

 

Town Bumps 2014 - Tuesday (Day 1)

A glorious day of bumping action, with ups and downs and a fine start in glorious weather to the pinnacle of the rowing calendar.

In brief: we're up one overall over the day, In more detail:

W3 - outside Combined Boathouse, after bumping 99's W6.

W3 - outside Combined Boathouse, after bumping 99's W6.

 

  • M3 (down): Unfortunate winners of the closely-fought "least number of strokes in the bumps" prize, going down the the City Presidents VIII. There have been some slightly odd-shall-we-say decisions about the order of the crews.
  • W2 (down): a long row from the lock with all the crews ahead of them bumped out, holding off the crew behind until after First Post; they then got a bit tired and the crew behind closed them down at Grassy. They get to be sandwich boat today, if they can row over as head of W3 ahead of Rad 2.
  • M2 (up): Managed to catch Cantabs M7, after only 35 strokes, I'm told, which sounds like the sort of bump you want. And good prospects for tonight as the crew now ahead of them rowed over.
    • No known pix or videos so far...
  • W1 (row over): Chased St-Neots all the way to the finish, apparently closing the gap down to maybe a length on the Reach, and nearly a canvas before the finish. 
M1 - Up one to 8th

M1 - Up one to 8th

  • M1 (up): We had Press behind us, who beat us by 3 feet in Nines regatta, and by 5 seconds in the timed race. And ahead of us, Champs 1, who no-one had seen. That turned out to be because they hadn't been out much; they looked a bit rough rowing up, and proved quite catchable: we had overlap not far past First Post, rowed in massively choppy water apparently hitting them several times, before they finally conceded just before Grassy. Which lead to some chaos trying to clear; there was some suggestion Press might have conceeded to the crew behind, but no. Ahead of us City 2 (hello Tom) caught Tabs 2 (hello Petr) so we're chasing Tabs 2 tonight.

- William Connolley