Head of the Cam 2015: aftermath

Whew, its done. Pretty well everything went well and everyone seemed happy. There's an archive of the headofthecam entry page here.

Downing M1, fastest crew of the day; and Downing W1, fastest women's VIII. Fastest women's crew of the day was the CCRC quad. On display is the fine "Head of the Cam" shield dating back to 1962; we're really hoping to get it updated with winners from recent years, this year.

Downing M1, fastest crew of the day; and Downing W1, fastest women's VIII. Fastest women's crew of the day was the CCRC quad. On display is the fine "Head of the Cam" shield dating back to 1962; we're really hoping to get it updated with winners from recent years, this year.

Fastest men's crew of the day was Downing M1 with 9:05, set in division one and not beaten, though Cantabs M1 with 9:10 in division two came close. Fastest women's crew was a City quad in division four, who were careless enough not to give themselves a catchy name.

Thanks to: everyone who made the event a success, by helping or by rowing. Special thanks to Bill, Eric, Hannah and Colm for umpiring.


The results are now up at http://tinyurl.com/headofthecam2015. As in previous years these were live-edited, which worked very well. So well, indeed, that this year race control was paperless - everyone was viewing them online, there was no need to print them out. The results are available in overall time order for all divisons; by category; and by club.

Prizes were awarded to anyone who won a category with at least three entrants, and in some cases to categories with two entrants; and to the fastest women. Not everyone was there on the day; please get in contact (headofthecam@gmail.com) if you are deserving of an uncollected prize.


Everyone likes pictures of themselves. Here are some:

* SpottedRabbitFarm was the "offical photographer" for the day, and has pic of each division.

* Cantabs have div 2 (only, I think) up on facebook.

* Dawn kindly took video of the finishes - here's div 1 for example - which offers you a brief fragment of you going over the line. The video was mostly intended to help resolve any uncertainty over finish ordering; happily, there wasn't any this year.


Things that didn't go quite perfectly

Well, nothing is ever quite perfect. In rough order:

Div 1 went off late, by about 20 minutes, because of a boat coming from Baits Bite lock and refusing to stop. From the information I've been given it was asked several times and refused; its possible that if we'd had someone at the lock they might have been about to talk more easily; we'll add that to the list of things to do better next time.

Div 4 had a bit of a clash around 418 / 419 / 420 / 421, around about Ditton corner. 420 - a IV - caught up with the slower VIIIs - 418 and 419 - as they were side by side, and was impeded, by perhaps as little as a few seconds; the pair 421 similarly. We need to start the VIIIs off en bloc, mostly, so it will sometimes happen that there are faster small boats behind slower VIIIs; for this reason, I advise people that if they think they need a larger gap, because they are faster than the boat ahead, they should ask for it. The start marshalls will be sympathetic, even in div 4. The race rules are for slower crews to give way to faster, but there are sections of the course where this may not be immeadiately possible; and of course safety is always the overriding priority.

At the prize giving I made the casual assumption that the fastest women's crew of the day was obviously an VIII; but it wasn't; it was a City quad; so well done them. Happily no-one noticed this faux pas at the time.

Vets Head: IM3 VIII

We won! Not the whole thing, naturally, but our own little section: the IM3 mixed VIII's. It was not a crowded section, there were two boats in it, but nonetheless we felt we'd rowed well, and it was really nice to get a pot for it. Note: this was on  Saturday 28 March 2015; I'm behind in my posts.

Originally, we were going to be a MasC mixed VIII, which left us rather stuck with Bailee, who unlike the rest of us is Young. We hadn't quite made the unpalatable choice between kicking her out (nooooo!) or keeping her, and giving back a pot if we won it (nooooo!), when Vesta made it for us, by opening the race to non-Vet crews.


Full results are available at http://d8qhkz6a47cpe.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/FINAL_results.pdf. We got 21:34, beating Bradford by nearly two minutes. But we would have won the MasC category, since our average age was well into the 40's, beating Sons of the Thames / AK by nearly 3 seconds, and two others in that category.


If you care to watch it, there's a GoPro video from the 6 seat, showing mostly Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ6amR1hrtI.

Here we all are: James Tidy; Bailee Stratton; Sarah Coates-Holland; William Connolley; Chris Wood; Dave Byrne; Dave Richards; Meg Richards; Anne Roberts. 

Here we all are: James Tidy; Bailee Stratton; Sarah Coates-Holland; William Connolley; Chris Wood; Dave Byrne; Dave Richards; Meg Richards; Anne Roberts. 

Afterwards, to the Bull just a few hundred yards away on the river front, and very good it was too. And we talked, of our glorious race, but also of What To Do About Tomorrow: because tomorrow was the HoRR, and the weather forecast was Bad. And we'd been burnt last year. There was a real safety concern (we'd have at least one tideway novice) and a rather less focussed but real concern that turning up, possibly faffing on the river for hours, only to see it cancelled, would be depressing. Opinions varied; in the end, we essentially went for scrubbing it, which I still somewhat regret, because the HoRR did turn out to be on, though conditions were clearly non-optimal. hey ho, so it goes.


Outside the pub, long after the race, the Thames has shrunk to a thread. Deeply symbolic of something, I imagine.

Outside the pub, long after the race, the Thames has shrunk to a thread. Deeply symbolic of something, I imagine.

Oh, yes: and I should add: we trailered with Champs (thanks!) to ULBC. Which is even further out than Sons. So, its convenient to get to, and they have a nice big boathouse and serve food and drink. And its easy to park nearby. All big plusses. The big minus is, of course, the row back after the race. As it happened, this one time, we were rowing so well that it really wasn't a problem. However, in a strong wind (like there would have been on the Sunday) or in a crew making heavy going, it would have been hell.

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.


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.