Fours Head

Or the Vets Fours Head, for those of us not pointy enough. First the Ladies, by Lorraine. Then the Men, by William.

Saturday - Fours Head (Robert; Bailee, Jo, Amanda and Lorraine)

The start of the race on Saturday was delayed whilst a decision was made on whether it should go ahead or raced on a shorter course to Hammersmith.  In the end it went ahead as planned and as no one sank it was obviously the right decision.  Starting at 462 out of 467 at least we would have had plenty of warning.  Although prepared for the worst donning bin bags the the wind and rain had mostly past once we got on the water.  The first part of the race (to Hammersmith) went well we pushed off two crews behind and Robert held his line whilst we overtook a crew with a fairly aggressive cox behind trying to take the stream. We were cheered on from Hammersmith bridge by Simon with the Chesterton flag. But the conditions then became more choppy, we lost a bit of momentum and a couple of crews overtook us at that stage.  The final stretch to Putney was tough as always but we finally crossed the finish line pleased with our race.

The Ladies, and an extra from a nearby audition for a remake of "This is Spinal Tap".

The Ladies, and an extra from a nearby audition for a remake of "This is Spinal Tap".


Women's IM2 4+:23.21     22/27 in category 345/372 overall

Sunday - Vets Fours Head (Will; Anne, Meg, Jo and Annie)

The pre-race photo in Furnival Gardens looked calm and peaceful but the conditions past Hammersmith were described by some as the worst they'd witnessed in 15 years!  By all accounts the race to Hammersmith went well but as the conditions worsened after Hammersmith the crew tried to hold it together and battled on through the waves.

Women's Vet D 4+: 26.20   6/7  in category

A special mention to our lovely coxes Robert and Will and to Jo for braving the conditions both days.  As always racing on the Thames is a unique experience so different from the Cam.  Challenging, slightly scary at times but fun!

Sunday, Men - Vets Fours Head (James T; William, Chris, Steven, Dave)

We'd trained hard - two whole outings, a total of five yes I tell you five reaches - and were determined to put the full depth of our training to the test. Although there was some doubt if the riggers were on properly. Never mind. The boating went well, I even got a last minute wee, and we were off. There was none of yesterday's torrential rain, indeed conditions were quite pleasant, though there was a bit of a breeze. Comedy of the row up was when we started zig-zagging uncontrollably, and the marshalls starting patronising James and telling him that he needed to take account of the stream. We pulled in at Quintin - they were frightfully nice about getting out of the way for us - and James checked the rudder - no - then the fin - oh, yes, there's a big block of wood stuck to it. Oops. Things went rather better after that. Sadly we forgot to keep it and mount it as the "tideway coxing prize".

Fettling the boats before the off. Who let that giant into our crew of pygmies?

After that we had to actually row. As IM3 IV+'s we were a block of five between the women's quads. Maidenhead were in front of us at 153, Lea behind us at 155, then Oxford Academicals and local rivals Press. After say a minute it was clear that we'd got off to a tolerable start, and were unlikely to be troubled from behind, which is always nice. Somewhat later James was calling us as three lengths down on 153, and gaining nicely. Then two and a half, then two, then we had quite a long phase of gaining nicely but mysteriously staying at two lengths, I do like that. But then we went past them, hurrah, aided by getting a better line on the stream. In the moderate distance behind us it looks like the Evil Demons of the Press were going past OA and then Lea, and were probably gaining on us; but sice Lea had faded to a long way back that was still quite a way behind us. At some point we overtook our second victim, which may have been 148, Ardingly, WC 4x. After Hammersmith the river turned and the water grew really quite choppy, which slowed us down a good bit, since it exposed our distressing lack of balance; and pulling the blade back through a wave is tricky. Opinions differ as to whether dropping down from 30/31 to 27/28 was a good way to deal with the poor conditions in that section, or whether we should have bruted it through. Suffice to say that no-one got what they actually wanted. But, we finished.

GPS trace, including heart rate, so you can tell that I was working.

Having started at 154 we finished at 98, in 22:47; 2/5 in the IM3 category. Or 22:52, if you include the as-yet-unexplained 5 second penalty they gave us. Was it because they knew we had Tidy in the boat? I've mailed them; if they reply, I'll update this. Press beat us by 27 seconds, boo.

"row like dogs, get up with fleas"

There's the video. I challenge you to watch it all, its pretty dull :-). BTW, we were entered as IM3 because we didn't know exactly who would be in the crew when the entry went in, so didn't know if we should have been Vet C or D.

Huntingdon head, 2015

The Huntingdon head was something of a mixed experience for us.  The ladies did well, winning pots as VIII and IV+, in 16:51 (fastest women's crew) and 18:51. The men however suffered from an incomprehensibly stupid draw (who puts a 2- in front of an VIII?) and had to settle for 4th place in 15:15. But as Simon E said, one of the men won two pots. Division 1 was still, grey, but dry. Division 2 was a little wet, I understand.

Simon E (cox); Anne, Annie, Jo, Meg.

Simon E (cox); Anne, Annie, Jo, Meg.

The men's row wasn't our finest - we rated 32 for most of the course, and would probably have been faster at a longer 30 - but it was quite decent. Unfortunately the aforesaid 2- was ahead of us, and we left it a large gap (alas either not large enough, or too long: with a small gap we'd have got past in the first 2 k where you can overtake) which lead to us overtaking it - on the fourth attempt - towards the end of the course (one, two, three, at last). And then there were the comedy ducks (just as we'd got past the pair, James called us "OK, settle down now, concentrate, our race...").

How much time did the draw / pair lose us? We'll never know for sure. My estimates range from 1:30 (looking at the GPS track) to a rather conservative 0:45 based on a rough guess at splits. Just 1:00 would have won us the event, which is frustrating.

Crew: Me, Dan McGreal, Simon Lloyd, Steven Andrews, Simon Green, Mike Prior-Jones, Brian Stevens, Keith Lee. Cox: Mr Tidy.

Trailering by Mr Emmings; our thanks again.

Notes on the course: its a nice place to row, and fairly close to Cambridge, so it was good to go and see it. If you're going to overtake, do it in the first 2k or so, after that its a nightmare. The course is 3800 m not 4k. Slightly regrettably the boating stage, which will take one VIII, is just on the course side of the finish line, so everyone stacks up around the town bridge waiting for the division to finish before they can de-boat. If I were them, I'd buoy off a thin channel so that people can sneak back off while the race is still on.

Autumn head

As Chris put it: the same as the others, but in the Autumn.

For the men, our first race of the new post-summer-holidays season, and looking towards winter. We came third of eight IM3 VIII's in 10:02.5 and 12th overall; there's the usual GPS trace if you're interested. What to compare it to? Well, not to the race winners, Lea IM3 VIII in 9:18, who were in a class of their own 15 seconds ahead of Lysander and then Downing. However, we were only 10 seconds behind Clare and Christs. We were significantly better than the 2015 Winter League (11:30, 10:34, 11:11) but not as good as two of the legs of 2014 (09:28, 09:28, 10:05) but better than 2013 (11:08, 11:21, 10:20). But 2014 was a good year; today was nearly windless and the river calm. In terms of technique, we weren't quite as solid as we could have been - a few wobbles, not rock-solid - but decent; and there's still the rush waiting in the background ready to pounce at any opportunity. In conclusion: just over 10 is a decent time we can be happy with and build on.

The women had two crews: and VIII in division 1 and a IV in division 2. There's some nice video of the IV which I'll include here.

The women's VIII came in at 12:17.7 - 6/6 at IM3 and the IV at 12:23.1 - 3/3 at IM3. Of the latter, L says "A really excellent time (our best yet!) and a good overtake too; a competitive category". Of the former, "It's fairer to look at the results in context of the Novice category.  We would have been 6 out of 11 which is a really decent result given we had three rowers with very little race experience".



The Boston Marathon

Ah! Its that time of the year again, when I am forcefully re-reminded of my father's saying.

TL;DR: 3:52:04; fifth overall. Mx IM3 VIII course record by 10 minutes, and pots in that category.

After the traditional last minute breakages (Sarah, dearly departed, slain by the Great Ouse; Big Simon, diverted into a bike ride; Chris Wood, suffering from too much humping) we ended up with the following motley crew, which was like the Ouse but with Dave R in for Simon L, and Anne for Sarah. Simon E nobly fell on his sword and offered to trailer; and Simon L, reprieved from his bike ride, joined the transport crew, completed by Meg. Thanks to the efforts of our support crew the day, excluding the rowing itself, was remarkably painless and pleasant. Decent weather helped, too.

Bailee (S), Amanda (B), Keith (3), Dave R (4), the Mayor, Dan (5), William (6), Lorraine (7), Anne (2); Will (Cox).

Bailee (S), Amanda (B), Keith (3), Dave R (4), the Mayor, Dan (5), William (6), Lorraine (7), Anne (2); Will (Cox).

We didn't take the mayor along, apparently he'd done it 57 years ago. Not to ruin the suspense but as the photo suggests, we won pots.

Before I go on, between the Great Ouse and Boston a lesser-known event occured in Germany. It was only 12.7 km, which is probably how they managed to sustain 1:30 for the distance :-).

I wrote some wise advice up in advance; you may care to read that if you're interested in generalities.

As for the race: if you look at our GPS trace, you'll see its quite consistent. There's a little period at the start while we wind ourselves up to 24, after which we're fairly constant to 10 km. After about 10 km the route goes from being due E to nearly SE; our split drops about 10 pips, because we come into a slight head wind. The three breaks in 6's for food and drink are clearly visible. We hadn't practised those, and could probably optimise about 30 seconds out of each. Going over the lock was quite efficient; short of actually running with the boat we couldn't have done much better. You can see a slight fade over the course, mitigated over the last 6 km by the approaching end, and another turn of the course back to the E. At the end we wind it up, finishing with a grand 32.

The usual Boston problem is Hands. Keith and Bailee win the bravery award. Anne I think wins the sanity award. I found gloves helpful.

Our time, 3:52:04, was good; fifth overall, fastest VIII, beaten by two quads and two doubles. Nick Thorn and his Nines IV+ were 6th. In 2013 we were 6th in 3:56 if I recall correctly. This year's crew wasn't really faster; 2013 had a respectable headwind. It was a pleasant row: a well sat boat, a good feeling to the rowing, good coxing, and good weather. Will's best call was to remind us of our finishes, and no matter how often he called, it always had a salutary effect, which I think means our finishes persistently slip off. I mean theirs do; mine don't, obviously. We kept to 23-24 without much need to push it up; our average split over the GPS record is 2:21. Our before-the-race estimate of what we needed to do to beat the former record of 4:02 was 2:22 to the lock, and 2:25 thereafter. That would have us pushing off from the lock at 1:02; as it was, we left at 1:00 so were two minutes up already; and despite the slight headwind we kept beating 2:25 splits and so salting down margin every k. At about 30 km we overtook the other Mx VIII, thus guaranteeing us the pots; to be fair they were 7 women and one man and so only technically mixed.

Here are the sweep-oared mixed records - we have no truck with sculling-type folk, of course. Elite, Sen and IM2 are up for grabs next year. As are IM2/3 IV+ records; or indeed, the 2- if anyone would like to accompany me..?

And... that's it. "Traditionally" Boston is the last act of the outgoing committee, and Simon E is now men's captain. Over to you...

Great Ouse (half) Marathon

Isle of Ely run the Great Ouse (half) Marathon. Its about 22 km, approximately the same distance as a half marathon,  and significantly shorter than Boston. Hence, an excellent training opportunity. Here we all are waiting for the start:

L to R: Keith, Big Simon, Will, Little Simon, William, Bailee, Sarah, Amanda, Lorraine, Dan.

L to R: Keith, Big Simon, Will, Little Simon, William, Bailee, Sarah, Amanda, Lorraine, Dan.

We'd been through the traditional faff of exactly which crews we could put in, who was available, and so on; which resulted in a few late subs and ended up with Keith in the mixed VIII instead of a double, and Simon E generously offering to trailer. Just before the start, we all made our careful preparations:

And... it was all great. There's a GPS trace, of course. We managed 2:08 average. We started at 18-20, went up to 24 after a few k, stayed there for a fair while (with a break in pairs at 11 k), up to 26-27 for the last ~6 k and up to 30+ for the last 2k.

Afterwards, we were all smiles. Well, nearly. This is by me, standing up at 6 and looking towards the landing stages, with the cathedral in the distance. Sarah at 7 was a touch less smiley, having got something a bit like cramp for the last 2 k.

Our time, 1:31:58, gets us the IM3 Mx VIII course record. It would also have got us the Men's IM3 course record, had we entered as all men -). Or the IM2, since there's no record yet in that category. We were 5th overall. Winner was a very impressive MasE VIII from Monmouth in 1:27.