{Race Report} Rowers in the mist: Second 8 takes on Remenham Challenge

by Mike ‘Plodders’ Walsh

We set off in to the mist from Putney with hope in our hearts and fiery determination in our eyes…..and also a Carson in our Cox seat.

Our crew had two fresh faced debutants within it, Alan “AH HA” Hunton in the 6 seat and summer signing from Cygnet Rob Alexander at 2 seat.

Boating was fairly challenging for the coxes in the lead up to the start line, navigating between 60 odd boats in fog thicker than Carson’s Saturday morning porridge proved hairy on more than one occasion. A Kingston Vets crew may have almost been decapitated by us. May have been! They weren’t actually decapitated. They were a bit angry though.

We knew we were setting off just behind the Staines first boat, and we set our sights fully on them. Well, Carson did. The rest of us couldn’t actually see them, obviously. They were behind us. JC had raced for Staines previously and reliably informed us they were “not terrible, but beatable.” It turned out he was right!

We set up a good pace from the start line and managed to catch the Staines crew by St Pauls. As we came level to their bow man they called a power ten, but it was no use! We kept our heads matched them stroke for stroke before pushing away from them towards Hammersmith.

Unfortunately as Staines disappeared in to the fog behind us we found ourselves in a slight vacuum and lost some of our initial intensity.

When we got to the mile post, however, we rallied and set up for a speedy finish.

Once we had crossed that line our thoughts very quickly went to the bottles of port Luca had stashed in his locker to be shared out in the showers. Rightfully so….It was totally delicious and set up our festive celebrations for the rest of the day perfectly.

From left – Seb Wachholz, Joe Casey, Alan Hunton, Chris Goodfellow, Andy Carson (c), Oli Chapman, Mike Walsh, Rob A, Alex Küng

{Race Report} First 8 finds their rhythm for Remenham Challenge

by Will Pearson

The men’s senior squad had a positive vibe going into the Remenham Challenge this year. Approaching Christmas, there has been a great atmosphere at training and having two 8s out battle paddling in the build up to the race has kept everyone in the squad feeling motivated and competitive. A short outing on the Friday night before the race with a few two minute race-pace pieces was probably some of the 1st 8’s best rowing this season, so there was optimism in the air.

Unfortunately, the race looked under threat the next morning when there was also a thick fog in the air (worse even than the foggy memories which some squad members were to experience the following day after the post-race Christmas party). A pre-paddle gave us a chance to check out the conditions, but after we came off the water and consumed the obligatory coffee and porridge, visibility continued to worsen and the race was in doubt. But the fickle Putney weather wasn’t settled yet. The trees in Bishop’s Park emerged from the mist across the river once again, and the race was on.

The 1st 8 boated and made its way up to the start at Chiswick Pier, slotting into place between London and Kingston. The order came to spin and before we knew it, Mario was calling us up to rate. Off the start we quickly settled into a rhythm which was perhaps one or two pips lower on the rate than our pieces the night before, but had good length and ratio. Through the fog we could just see Kingston some way behind us, and we pushed off them. There was little else to look at besides a wall of white, so who knows what line we were steering, but Mario kept us focused on our technical points.

Races tend to become a blur in my mind, but I’m sure Mario said something about finishes, and maybe catches? Probably the drive and recovery too. Whatever he was saying seemed to work, as we slowly crept away from Kingston, and towards the Twickenham 8 which was propping up the bottom of the Elite entries ahead. We were still striking a consistent 32 and as we emerged from Hammersmith Bridge we made a sustained push for 100 strokes to take us towards the finishing stretch where we would begin our build. The Thames crew who were to finish as eventual winners of our category had charged past Kingston behind us, so we now had a new crew to hold off in the sprint for the line. The rate came up slightly and the legs pushed just that little bit harder as we ticked off the markers: the Mile Post, Barn Elms, Beverley Brook, the Black Buoy… Vesta flag pole couldn’t come soon enough!

We crossed the line having given everything, and paddled through the bridges to spin. We made our way back in to the club, with a waiting bottle of port acting as the motivator for our engine room to get the boat back on the rack in double-quick time.

We were all in agreement in the debrief that for the first 8s race of the season, we’d had a solid row, finishing 4th of 7 in our category. We now head into the Christmas period knowing where we stand and what we have to do to emerge stronger in the New Year, as a crew and as a squad. We are all eagerly looking forward to the 12 ergs of Christmas which will provide us with some justification for the over-indulgence of turkey and mince pies.

From left – Mike Warren, Chris Clemments, Gainni Galavotti, Luca Tuner, Mario (Nicola) Sani (c), Alex Burton, Rob D, Will Pearson, Sven Radcke

{Race Report} Veteran Fours Head of the River 2016

by Peter Simpson
The day after the wet and cold Fours Head we woke to beautiful conditions for the Veteran Fours Head which raced upstream from the  Mile Post to just short of UL. 
The club was represented by a Mas.D 4x quad of Peter Simpson (stroke), Michael Ferguson, Bryan Williams and Michael Maynard (steers) in the first race for this new combination. The training paid off and we had a strong start and steered a good course. Eventually we opened the door for some crews to get past but in the end we were happy with how we raced. 
The result showed where we were and what we need to do to be competitive in the future. At this stage of the season the process has been more important than the outcome; rowing together, doing  ergs and weights, joining the club time trial and doing pieces with Vesta crews has all been part of the experience and we will build on this over the winter.
 
Thanks to all the coaches who have given comments, the other crews that we have rowed with, the Captain for the boat allocation and to Bryan for organising all the outings.

{Race Report} The head course is a long way in a 4+ . . .

by Neil Fraser

Preparation for the race hadn’t gone to plan with us only being able to get out into the boat together 3-4 times, but our last paddle together went smoothly and gave us a bit of confidence going into the race.

For all of us this was our first time racing Fours Head so we didn’t have much to lose and went into the race hoping to execute the race plan and come through knowing that we’d given it our best shot.

The paddle up to Chiswick was a bit nervy, but Mario did a great job manoeuvring us around the other boats. Fortunately the weather was improving and the water conditions were better than expected – we just had to keep ourselves warm before we could strip down to race kit and get started.

We went under Chiswick Bridge starting to build and get the hands spinning – the rate went up and we were quickly up to race speed as we crossed the start line. Working towards Barnes Bridge was a reminder of how long this first stretch of the race is, but the shouts from the White Hart were soon heard and we pushed on around the bend.

We seemed to hit a bad patch along the island, but tried our best to keep the rhythm and hold onto the crews just ahead of us. Going under Hammersmith Bridge was a big boost – the Vesta shouts kicked us on to the stretch of the course we know best. Going into the last 500 meters we were battling hard to hold off a crew from Kingston RC and just about managed it.

We were pleased to see the finish line, spin and get off the water – it’s a long way in a 4+. Looking at the results we weren’t as competitive as we would have liked, but we took away a lot of experience from the race which we’ll be looking to build quickly upon as the season progresses.

We’ve all got a lot to work on, but look forward to moving into the 8 as the head season progresses.

First time taking on the Fours Head

Crew: N. Sani (Cox), A. Kung, M. Walsh, L. Turner, N. Fraser

{Race Report} Summer round up: Novice boys find success both on and off the water

By Neil Fraser

On the whole it’s been a successful regatta season for the squad. In our usual manner though, it took us a while to get going.

Having heard how special winning your novice pot is we went into the opening regattas based up around Chiswick with a lot of hope. We kept getting left on the start line though – our competition would be half a length up as we were mid-wind. Needless to say, our races ended with a long row straight back to Putney.

We didn’t have any success in the eight and with availability for training becoming an issue we decided to switch to the 4+. Twickenham Regatta was the first breakthrough for the squad with a win coming for Alex B, Luca T, Neil F, Mike W and Cat (cox) in the 4+. It was scrappy and nervy, but after a few clashes with the Kingston boat we crossed the line first. Celebrations were heard.

Up next came Henley qualifiers. We didn’t have the numbers to enter our own boat, but a couple of the squad teamed up with the remaining Seniors and entered the VRC Amalgam 8. We learnt a huge amount from the lead up to qualifiers and the event itself. We fell short, but it was a humbling and memorable experience which we took a lot from.

novice-boys-1a

Novice wins came at Molesey Regatta for Andrew C, Felix X-L, Nick H, Jerry K and Coach Wendy (cox) in the 4+. The win was bitter sweet though when the guys were presented with medals instead of pots…seriously, Molesey? It was a successful day for the squad with the IM3 4+ boys taking a win in the morning session. Beers were drunk back at Vesta.

Special mention to Oli Chapman (C2) who has been referring to himself as ‘quite the sculler’ for the last few months. He’s been through more races than all of us and found a win at HT&V, his last race of the season – very well deserved. Oli didn’t stop there though and continued all the way to Blackstaffe Day with a win in the Love Double.

Congrats to the Novice girls for a successful season. Your first win came well before ours, thanks for celebrating so modestly. Our biggest joint success though must be the mingling of squads and for introducing Felix to his Little Pixie. Cute.

An enormous thanks to Wendy for supporting us throughout the summer season. The new intake of novices are very lucky to have you. Special thanks as well to co-Coaches Ben and Zara plus Cat and Jack for coxing us throughout the year. Lastly, to our late Italian signing, Mario, who took us through our last races and fed us spaghetti bolognese.

We’ve had a memorable first year at Vesta with many of us looking forward to continuing when the new season starts and keeping the Vesta bar profits healthy (see 2015-2016 accounts).

See you in September.

novice-boys-2

{Race Report} Summer round up: Novice girls transform into Dev women

Was summer only a few short weeks ago? It sure feels like a distant memory. . . Here’s our round up covering a summer of racing.

by Lauren Hardcastle

Novice girls complete the metamorphosis to transform into the development women….well almost all of them!

With training camp completed (survived) the novice girls started the summer full of nervous energy fighting for an elusive seat in that Henley 8. Training was stepped up a gear and with the squad whittled down to 9 with two of us proficiently turning a natural hand to coxing! The race was on – so to speak, not only to find that perfect, knee length, dress for Henley Royal (somewhat of a challenge for these tall girls amongst us!) but to get a respectable time in the 2k vomit inducing test and a seat in the boat for Henley women’s!

A few weeks later and there we were on a beautiful balmy Thursday evening paddling down the Henley course with not one head in the boat, I’m not sure any one of us (including James and Chris!) thought we’d be sat there looking into an incredible sunset making all the blood, sweat and tears worth every second! Although our Henley 8 did not make it through the time trial we had the best race of our season and were massively punching about our weight in the big leagues, the experience alone was incredible and it just made us more determined to keep our seats in the intermediates next year!

So – with Henley women’s over for 2016 we put down the AIO and pulled out the dresses for Henley Royal! Not too shabby to be part of the Remenham Club and definitely the way to do Henley Royal, the weather was kind and the champagne very friendly and unbelievably no one missed the bus home. A great few days and a slightly painful liver later it was back to reality and the fun of summer regattas.

We decided to tackle Kingston, Molesey and to finish our season at Henley Town and Visitors Regatta. For some of us the drive to win that shiny first pot made us like magpies flocking to the river. Kingston went well with a nail biting heat and winning by a canvas! We were over the moon until we realised it was the Cambridge Development Squad who were our competitors for the final, we gave it our best and gave them a good race but sadly they pipped us to the post. We drowned our sorrows in a post-race bbq on the Vesta balcony! Not to worry, onwards and upwards to Molesey regatta…where let’s just say it didn’t quite go to plan! We made the rookie error of taking the wrong rigger and as we are all aware one cannot rig a boat with 5 stroke side riggers, we were somewhat screwed until a lovely man from Molesey lent us a boat and the race was on – we located our cox (who had been borrowed by 8 London boys who were intent on keeping her forever – that is a fight they would never win!) we made it to the start with no time to spare in our borrowed boat – alas it was not to be but we sure did learn our lesson!! – Our cox won her pot with the London boys and took a swim in the river for the privilege!!!

And so, all of a sudden it was back to Henley Town and Visitors with a scratch IM3 4+ and a wildcard entry.. We smashed the heat winning by a comfortable 4 lengths and the wait was on to see if we could end the season on a high, once again just being beaten to the pot by a meagre half a length but we were satisfied nonetheless, the glimpse of good things to come ensured we went home happy and contented we couldn’t have tried any harder.

novice-girls-2a

I can honestly say joining Vesta has been one of the hardest, most challenging things we have ever done, there have been friends made for life, everyone has relocated to within a 1 mile radius of Vesta and we have callouses in places we never knew were possible, rowing is not just a sport but a way of life and I think that one that none of us are willing to give up. We are looking forward to embracing the Intermediates, Blackstaffe Day and a few well-earned weeks off.

September is just around the corner and we are not the Novices anymore – one might think we should know better now and can avoid those horrific hangovers and hand blisters but it is Vesta after all, it would be rude not to have a drink in the bar after training and from what I’ve seen so far the learn to row course are already giving us a run for our money with the biggest bar takings Vesta have ever seen last year! It’s a great place to be and with a new Captain and a new influx who knows what might happen next year, one thing for sure the Development Girls aren’t going anywhere….

 

novice-girls-1

{Race Report} Vesta Novice Ladies do WeHoRR!

By Lauren Hardcastle and Cathy Hare

Another day, another race, and another eventful marshalling up to Chiswick! The Vesta Novice Ladies came out in force for the WeHoRR!

Borrowing a boat, we managed to get 16 excited (nervous) ladies on the Tideway raring to go. Again we were lucky enough to be looked after by the fabulous cox’ns Cat and Jack. We certainly couldn’t have done it without their cheery dispositions and endless supply of Jelly Babies!

The sunny start to Saturday lured us into a slightly false sense of security so, thankfully, when the rain started, we quickly scurried back upstairs for another three layers!

The A Boat – a tale of broken blades, revenge fantasies and time penalties

We set off from Vesta with many cries of “wait – I still need to pee!” Nothing like 3 hours in a boat to realise that one extra coffee may have been a bad idea!

2 minutes into the paddle there were other cries from 2 seat of “s**t my blade is broken” – once again Jack coming to the rescue with a stone and some muscle (don’t ask!) – once a teacher always a teacher – and a makeshift solution to get us through the race.

It was a slow paddle upriver, making some friends with nice crews along the way – bonding over the chaos and eventually creating a flotilla of boats with the cox’ns standing on the beach – again Jack being wonderful this time, entertaining the masses with a quiz of what’s the capital of Peru??

Finally, we’re at Chiswick and it’s our turn! We step on the gas and we’re off – trying our hardest to remember everything we’ve been taught, whilst stamping on the footplate like it’s the face of every guy who never called us back – as it was so aptly described by Jack. We followed our race plan, and slowly started to pick off the crews ahead. In no time at all we came around the bend and Vesta flagpole was in sight.

We fought for every stroke and actually thought we might vomit at the end! But we did it, with a impressive rate of 30+ the entire race! A disappointing (dubious) time penalty for the A boat, but a satisfying result nonetheless.

The B Boat – a classic Head Race story of a failed coxbox and a dodgy gate

The Vesta Novice B boat had a rather memorable race on Saturday, beginning from the moment we set off from Vesta and realised our coxbox was on the blink.

With a lot of shouting down the boat to bow and 2, we somehow survived marshalling, which was pretty uneventful…until we got pushed into a tree by another boat and nearly spun out onto the race course. This nerve-wracking moment was dealt with amazingly by Cat, with the marshals congratulating her for managing to save us from ruining the race!

We’d endured what felt like an eternity of waiting about in the freezing cold, and had just stripped down to our race kit ready to go. Shivering violently, we turned the boat round, into a Putney Town crew, accidentally breaking their number into several pieces. This awkward little incident sort of set the tone for the race, as we pushed past them rather aggressively early on… with only 7 of us rowing! Shanice at stroke very nearly lost her blade when her gate came open early in the race, but with her remarkably quick recovery, and Cat screaming at us to keep on rowing, the race was not over for the courageous B boat.

We may not be the fastest Vesta boat, but right now we’re probably the most famous, with an album titled “99 Problems – #1 The Gate” by Rowing Photography, dedicated to us on Facebook.

Despite these setbacks, we sat tall, stamped down and gave it our all, spurred on by the cheers we heard down the course. WeHoRR 2016 was a race we will never forget!

And that’s a wrap

So… Finally after all the hard work, sweat and tears (and a few swear words along the way) here are the cold hard facts:

  • It’s the first time since 2010 Vesta has had 2 novice crews entered in WeHoRR
  • The Novice A boat beat last year’s placing by 8 places, 15 if it wasn’t for the time penalty
  • And it’s the highest finish by a Vesta novice crew since 2012.

Not too bad at all ladies; here’s to sunnier days, blades working and in the gate, and roll on regatta season!!!

 

{Race Report} Senior Women win Hammersmith Head

By Charlotte Lennox
Hammersmith head was our final race in the run up to WeHoRR and the senior women’s first 8 were setting off second last in IM2. The race plan, as dictated by our coach, was to have an aggressive rhythm and ‘smash it’.
We set off from Putney with our standard warm up of all 8 square blades, bodies only – definitely not a way to scare the opposition! Whilst sitting marshalling in the cold wind we could only dream about our early start position for next Saturday.
And then we were off.
Through the start we built up to rate 36 and maintained this through to Barnes Bridge, easing through the crew ahead of us. The Vesta supporters at the White Hart reported us looking aggressive, although even our coach doubted whether we could maintain that rhythm for the duration of the race – we were to prove him wrong! With the rate not dropping below 35 we had a strong row through the middle part of the course, powering down the island before starting to wind up (not that there was much ‘up’ left) for the finish as we came off the end of the island. The full crew was definitely relieved to be finishing at Hammersmith bridge! It was only once we had easied did our cox Robyn, tell us to look behind for us to see how much we had caught up with the 3 crews ahead.
After a gentle paddle back home we were eager to see the results …… 3 days later it was confirmed –  WE WON! A first win in Vesta kit for many of the crew and first ever win for our 3 girl, Buffy.
Next stop ….. WeHoRR!

{Race Report} How to row faster than schoolgirls

By Neil Fraser

Quintin Head was a bit of a wake-up call for the Novice Boys. The U14 Kingston High School Novice Girls might know how to row, but Vesta men shouldn’t be losing to them. We’ve made good progress since Quintin with the boat moving a little smoother and faster in the water – things were shaping up well for Hammersmith.

In typical Novice Boys fashion, Saturday morning started well with the rigger at three-seat splintering in the pre-paddle. It was too late to fix things so we taped it up and set off on the paddle up to Chiswick Bridge. Choppy, cold, wet, windy – it wasn’t much fun but we got up there to be welcomed by Judith, ‘Novice Boys, put your dry clothing on NOW’. We didn’t have any, so sat tapping on for the next hour while the crew, all but stern pair and the cox, passed an Oasis bottle (wide rim) back and forth to get down to race weight.

Dev men race in skins in February!

Marshals made the call to start stripping down – we did. Our turn came to spin and we started to build – the crew locked in at rate 29-30 and everything felt good. We were letting the boat run, there was power, the slide wasn’t rushed and we still had eight riggers. Our strokes were confident and they remained throughout.

This set the building blocks for a strong race, where the boys put the power down in the legs (some for the first time!) and Cox Cat made the calls to catch the crew ahead who we were ‘slowly’ closing in on. Water conditions were better than we were expecting and we were quickly approaching Hammersmith Bridge. We held off the Imperial Novice 8 at the finish and went under the bridge with the feeling that we’d been in a race.

Arrived back at Vesta where Wendy met us to say how pleased she was, but also how stupid we were for not dressing appropriately.

Finished 7th out of the 17 novice crews – a respectable result which gives us a boost leading up to the Kingston Head and Head of the River.

Thanks to Coaches and Coxes for their on-going commitment and patience. They really do put up with a lot.

Novice Boys 1 – Kingston High School Girls 1

{Race Report} Dev Women take on Hammersmith Head

By Lauren Hardcastle

At the start of the season Wendy warned that Head racing on a cold, wet February morning will sort out the strong from the weak. She wasn’t kidding! Whilst us dev ladies played it safe in five layers plus hats we were a tad surprised to see the novice boys (or development men as they like to be known!) boating in bare legs and only race suits! Brave or crazy was yet to be determined!

We were lucky enough to have borrowed cox Jack for the race, who was amazing and kept morale high despite the loss of feeling to our fingers and toes!
So we set off from Vesta full of beans and raring to go but quickly realised that we were in for a long wait. Of course that’s when the rain started! Other than a little incident which nearly lost our cox to the Thames, we arrived at Chiswick relatively unscathed! Now what will 8 women + Jack do to pass the time in the freezing cold, wet Chiswick waters?? Well… jelly babies and a game of “who would you rather shower with later” certainly made us laugh! Even if I was shaking the boat from shivering so much!
Dev women getting it done at Hammersmith Head.

Dev women getting it done at Hammersmith Head.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity in the Arctic, we set off – warming up pretty quickly and pushing through to  Hammersmith Bridge! The ‘come on Vesta’ calls (James’s voice really does carry!) at the White Hart pub were uplifting, and spurred us on, and we finished strong with no crabs and a respectable 6th place. Onwards and upwards to the WeHoRR, and hopefully pushing up the pack and, finally – fingers crossed for a sunny (warm) Saturday next time!