Vesta win Horton Cup for Senior 4- at Met Regatta

Met Regatta came to a barnstorming conclusion for Vesta yesterday as the coxless four of Harry Bond, Richard Lear, Si Woodfine and Richard Stebbings bagged the historic Horton Cup for Senior Coxless Fours.

Horton Cup 2.1

Vesta had a large number of crews competing over the weekend at the Metropolitan Regatta at Eton Dorney, one of the big events of the summer season. The Club had a good weekend all round with both men’s and women’s crews racing in multiple finals, including IM1 8+, IM2 8+, IM2 4- W.ELI 2x, W.SEN 2x, W.ELI 2- and W.ELI 4-.

The weekend was topped by a win in the Senior Mens Coxless Four of Harry Bond, Richard Lear, Si Woodfine and Richard Stebbings who won the Horton Cup on Sunday evening. The same four joined by cox Jo Street competed in Elite and Senior Coxed Fours on the Saturday, coming a close 3rd in Elite against fast crews from Oxford Brookes and Sport Imperial, and 3rd in Senior against strong combinations from IC and Molesey (who the guys beat later in the elite final). Three of this crew reached the semi-finals of the Wyfold Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta in 2013, and they look set for a strong challenge again this year in either the Wyfolds or Britannia Challenge Cup.

The Horton Cup is an exact replica of the Australian Open lawn tennis champs trophy and the prestigious regatta trophy is housed at Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke of Devonshire. Vesta have won the trophy twice in its history- first by Harry Blackstaffe in 1909 and most recently in 1955 by Harry Prior and Tommy Thompson.

A huge well done to all the racing crews and best of luck in the coming few weeks!

HORR 2014: Is this the unluckiest man in rowing?

As you will have all undoubtedly heard, the Head of the River Race was again cancelled this year – but not until all 390 crews had made it to their marshaling positions and around 100 had tried to complete the race. In the event only 75 completed, with a handful of sinkings, crashes and 20 odd crews stopped mid-race.

Unsurprisingly, no pennants were awarded this year. Vesta’s 1st VIII raced and managed to return to Vesta still afloat. Finishing in 42nd position was a respectable result considering the conditions. Vesta’s 2nd VIII were less fortunate, with the race abandoned as their division were preparing to set off.

Sam Lindsay was sitting in the stroke seat of the 2nd VIII, his 7th failed attempt to row the Eights Head. Is he the unluckiest man in rowing?


Please enjoy reading his story (cry for help?) below…

“For most typical club and student rowers, the Head of the River held on the Tideway each March is the pinnacle of the winter rowing season. It is the biggest head race of the year, guaranteeing competition across every level of ability, from all over the UK and even some from abroad. It is their personal Boat Race, raced over a historic course, against the clock, and against all of their fiercest rivals.

In the 7 and a half years since I started rowing at Imperial, I’ve had my fair share of great rowing experiences, with IC and in the last 18 months with Vesta: winning a load of BUSA/BUCS medals for Imperial, racing against Oxford blues at an invitational regatta in Poland, a couple of glorious Henley Wednesdays (and back in the bar on Thursday evening). But my curse, my motivation to keep rowing for another season, and also my hint that maybe the sport just doesn’t want me, is that I have never raced the Eights Head!

2007 – After an incredibly successful novice winter season, trading 1st and 2nd place finishes throughout head season with Oxford Brookes, my crew boated for the head, ready for a fight, looking for a top 100 finish and a Novice pennant. What we got in the end, in our Empacher 8 borrowed from the women’s squad, was a hull full of water, almost sinking in awful conditions which saw the race abandoned after the 1st division had raced. We bailed out enough water to get our boat home from Chiswick, but lost our Novice status 6 weeks later and our chance for the pennant was gone.

2008 – Now living at the IC boathouse, and well into the senior squad ranks, I was in the 2nd student 8 when I got food poisoning a few days before the race, was quarantined in my room, and in the end my crew didn’t even get to race. They watched the race from our balcony and I spent the night in my room, at least with some company from my girlfriend at the time, who had been coxing the novices. I went on that season to struggle with a heavy exam schedule and a seemingly unsympathetic coach. I petulantly told Steve Trapmore I quit, 5 mins before he was about to announce that I was in the bow seat of the IC ‘A’ for the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley Royal. About a month later, my friend in the B crew roped me into coming back and helping them to qualify. We didn’t. I got a 2:2 that year….

2009 – I decided not to row in the final year of my MSci, and did much better academically, although I did miss rowing, and again ended up being invited to help an underdog B crew attempt to qualify for Henley that summer. We didn’t.

2010 – This time rowing as an alumnus, without the stress of university work, and only working about 25 hours a week at a gym, I was in the best shape of my life, and rowing well. Alas, having a better ergo than anyone in the 2nd 8 (and a few of the 1st 8) wasn’t enough for Mr Trapmore, and I was left languishing at 6 in the 3rd 8. I’d have been OK with it if he’d at least got all the entries in! Alas, my crew, and the Novice 2nd 8 weren’t given the opportunity to race this year. At least I got to finally race at Henley Royal that year, stroking a Sport Imperial 4- through qualifiers and through to Thursday.

2011 – Having started a PhD at University of Hertfordshire, the commute to Putney, and finding the time to row was going to become difficult. I continued to train and race at IC until Fours Head, then raced a couple of times for Hertfordshire before going on the IC training camp that easter. I raced 4 times for UH, and in 2 of those races 1/4 of the crew was female (a 4x and an 8+). I finished one of those races rowing inside arm only, with the 7 man, giving a gun show to onlookers on the bridge overhead. No Eights Head for us that year…

2012 – Into the heart of a PhD, with all the work and extensive travel involved, I didn’t touch a rowing boat for a whole season! I tried rugby, attempting to relive my childhood, but this time with the 6′ 5″ frame to back it up. I injured both shoulders and played 4 matches all season. Maybe rowing wouldn’t be so bad…

2013 – Having been invited along by Ben Anstiss, my former crew-mate at IC and now terrorizing Vesta, I made a gradual return to rowing at a new club, more understanding of my limited availability and fitness. By mid-winter, I had a little bit of fitness back, and managed to earn a seat in the 1st 8 (a new experience in itself), and had a great head race season, capped off with a victory at Kingston Head, a week before the big one on the Tideway! Excited to be in a genuinely speedy crew, the last thing I wanted was 4-man JB to be hospitalized by an infection and would unable to race. Downhearted by the inevitable crew change, and a loss of pace in the boat, I was buoyed by the thought of at least competing in my first HoRR! A few days later, the inclement weather conditions resulted in the race being cancelled anyway. ‘ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!’

2014 – This season, I have been coming to the close of my PhD, and couldn’t decide whether to quit entirely, or to keep going and inevitably lose fitness and/or form, while also jeopardizing my studies. I went for the latter, after being reassured by Nick that I was still a valuable member of the squad. Despite some diabolical seat racing, I was thrown a lifeline, clinging onto a seat in the 1st 8 (I rowed at stroke, 5, 3 and 2 in Richard Burnett between January and March) until the last minute, losing a fight over the 2 seat to Alex Foreman. Charged with stroking the 2nd 8, I had the chance to prove my worth all over again, and spent my few weeks in Killerwal trying to help us exceed the sum of our parts. We really did make great strides with the Eights Head approaching (along with my thesis deadline), and I thought at least if it is my last race, it’ll be the big one! We made it to the start, the sun was shining, and we cheered the 1st 8 as they turned and took the rate up through Chiswick Bridge. Kit off, game face on, let’s get ready to turn into the middle…. “STAY WHERE YOU ARE, THE RACE HAS BEEN ABANDONED”, a marshall interrupted. Not again!!!

I’ve raced the Scullers Head, Pairs Head, Fours Head, Henley Royal, and had a fairly full and enjoyable rowing career (and that’s the important bit, right?). But I have still never raced the Eights Head, after 7 and a half years, and 6 winter seasons of rowing. On the one hand, this makes me more determined that I have to carry on for another season, and take care of unfinished business. But after reading this, what crew would want me?! Maybe I should try rugby again….”

…we still love you Sam! 🙂


Vets Head results


This year’s overall Vets Head results were severely impacted by the effects of the tide. We realised several weeks before the event that the scheduled start time was too early and that the low tide was going to be later than we originally calculated. After discussions with the PLA over the river closure, they insisted that the original Notice To Mariners could not be changed. We shifted the start to be as late as that window allowed.

Additionally, after the cancellation of yesterday’s HoRR, we could not risk the safety of our competitors and officials by holding marshalling crews any longer before we actually started the race.

The end result is that the later you started the more assistance you got from a very strong flood tide. All the categories raced together so the category positions are meaningful. The overall positions are not as trustworthy as we would have liked.

A couple of boating locations misplaced some competitors’ numbers, these crews raced with spare numbers and this has had an effect on one or two categories (notably Men’s Masters C) where a crew raced significantly out of position.

We appreciate that these results do not look great, but in the interests of openness and transparency we present them as recorded by our timing teams.

A category ordered set will be published in due course, which we’re sure will look more reasonable than reading the overall results in isolation.

– Chris Harrison, Chairman, Vesta Open Events Committee


Click here for results:   PDF   spreadsheet   (with sequence information )

VETS HEAD: new start time is 11:30

CHANGE OF START TIME – the start is now at 11:30 BST.  All other race details remain unchanged.  This is in response to feedback that 10:30 is too close to the turn of the tide for fair and equal racing

Vets Head draw now available

The Vets Head draw is now online and can be viewed here.

Crews shown as unpaid will not be issued with race numbers – any queries should be directed to

Categories shown in italics have not attracted sufficient entries to qualify for prizes.

The adjusted and foreign prizes are open to all indicated crews and will be awarded based on adjusted times as calculated according to the tables in the Rules of Racing

Vesta’s senior men get some crucial racing under their belts at Hammersmith Head

Tim Helliwell reports…

Sunday March 9 saw Vesta taking to the Tideway alongside hundreds of other crews for the Hammersmith Head. The unseasonably warm and sunny weather was a welcome change from the conditions that have rendered the Thames largely un-rowable for weeks. With everyone eager to make the most of the 18 degree temperatures sunglasses and bare arms were the order of the day, and all minds were drifting to thoughts of summer racing.

the 2nd VIII: "suns out guns out" (credit: Mark Ruscoe)

the 2nd VIII: “suns out guns out” (credit: Mark Ruscoe)


The senior men’s squad fielded two VIIIs in the IM2 category which both returned solid performances. The 1st VIII suffered a significant setback prior to the race when it emerged that strokeman Harry Bond had been struck down by illness. However, following a substitution and crew reshuffle, they managed a strong 3rd place finish in Im2, coming 22nd overall. The 2nd VIII, invigorated by recent training battles with their 1st boat counterparts, chased down and rowed through a Cygnet RC VIII and went on to record a respectable 12th place finish in IM2 and 54th overall. The race provided an important opportunity for benchmarking both crews and identifying areas for development in the final few crucial weeks of training leading up to the Head of the River.

Scullers’ Head celebrates 60th anniversary – extended Rowing & Regatta magazine article

Please find an extended version of an article about the 2013 Scullers’ Head below. An abridged version of this article appeared in the January/February edition of Rowing & Regatta magazine. Enjoy!


Scullers’ Head celebrates 60th anniversary

The weather was kind to the autumn scullers’ head – perhaps the ultimate test in boat moving on the Tideway. Vesta’s Alastair McCormick reports

Harry scullers head








This year’s Vesta Scullers’ Head was the 60th edition of this unique and historic event. Held on Saturday 16th November, on a lovely autumnal afternoon, 378 hardy souls lined up in Mortlake to race their single sculls over the world famous championship course from Mortlake to Putney. First held in 1954, Vesta is proud to continue organising a race which is rooted firmly in the club’s history. Captain, Aga Siemiginowska, explains that “it is about bringing the club together to run a fun, competitive, large scale event.”

The Scullers’ Head is normally the largest single division race for singles in the world, however, this year – due to a cap on entries – this accolade was claimed by the Silver Sculls in Turin, Italy. The event is for all single scullers and has been previously been won by Olympic and world champions. Vesta’s Honorary Steward, Dick Welch, sums up why the Scullers’ Head holds a unique place in the rowing calendar: “Competing in the Sculler’s Head is a rite of passage for all scullers, if someone has taken the trouble to teach you that art you really ought to do it at least once.”

There is a special camaraderie between single scullers’ which casts a warm glow over this special event. Vesta Veteran, Jock McKerrell , describes how “the race to me is the ultimate test of an individual’s ability as a boat mover.” Others talk of the Scullers’ Head as “the race of truth” with nowhere to hide and no one else to blame. Not only does the Scullers’ Head test competitors physical and mental strength, being held on the tideway also makes it a test of watermanship, ensuring that to win, competitors need to combine all these skills.

Vesta had always been an organising club when, in 1953, the Vest Open Events Committee (VOEC) discussed the possibility of a head race for single scullers. The great and the good of rowing were asked to contribute their thoughts – a novel suggestion came from W D Kinnear of Kingston RC who suggested that the race should be Putney to Mortlake and back! The first race took place on 10th April 1954, attracted 56 Entries and was won by Vesta’s A J Marsden.

The race has seen some change since 1954 – most notably the inclusion of women and a hugely increased junior entry – but many old hands say not a lot changes, although timing is definitely more accurate. Dick Welch added that “we probably raced it in much worse conditions than would be permitted by the health and safety elves today.”

Most of the major heads have morphed into committee led events, but Vesta is proud to have kept the Scullers’ and the Vets Eights heads in-house. Vesta is not widely known as a sculling club, but it must not be forgotten that the club’s most famous member, Harry Blackstaffe, was Olympic gold medallist in the single scull at the 1908 London Olympics. Blackstaffe is still a great inspiration to the club, with ‘Blackstaffe day’ held by the club every August to commemorate the achievements of the club’s most famous son. Aga added that “even though we’re not known as a sculling club now, our older members and retired senior squad members often make the crossover to sculling and continue to be engaged with the sport well after leaving the competitive senior squads.”

The Vesta membership take the race to heart every year, with 21 club scullers completing the race this year and over 60 members volunteering their time to make sure the event ran like clockwork. The Scullers’ Head reflects the special atmosphere of the club, with the event ensuring that Vesta is known throughout the rowing world as a generous and organised club, with arguably the friendliest bar on the Tideway. Chris Harrison, Chairman of the VOEC, said “when our members volunteers in such numbers as they did, it is a quietly effective advert for the community of the club.” As far as Vesta is concerned, organising races is fun and when they go well – like this year – the feedback from those involved is great to hear.

This year’s race passed as smoothly as any in recent history, helped by a bright day in West London. It was also aided by a slightly smaller entry than normal, due to a quirk of the calendar that caused Scullers’ and Fours’ Heads to swap around this year. Entries were about 20% lower than normal, but will be back to full strength next year. Chris was pleased to receive positive feedback on twitter about his quick turnaround on the results, although he says “we operate a relatively low tech solution, but it’s one that we’ve used for years with minor tweaking each year.”

The overall winner this year was Sigmund Verstraete from France who finished in 21:06.99 and represented Walton – a fantastic result for the club. Sigmund said, “I was really surprised when they told me that I had won. I did not set a goal before the race. I just came to have fun.” His shock was in plain view at the prizegiving as he took in the illustrious names on the trophy, including Sir Steve Redgrave and Alan Campbell.

Louisa Reeve was the overall women’s winner and 41st-placed finisher in 22:14.41, who opted to miss the GB Rowing Team 1st Assessment to compete. She said that she had wanted to compete in the Scullers’ Head for a few years.

The 29-year-old Olympian competed in the Wingfield Sculls in October but admitted that it “didn’t go amazingly”, so was pleased that this race “was a definite step on.” She added, “I really enjoyed the race. The weather was some of the best I’ve seen on the Tideway and seeing that many singles out at the same time is very impressive! I’m really pleased with my result and the trophy is one of the best around!”

Other results of note included fifth-placed junior Sam Meijer from Westminster School who took home the J18 pennant after finishing in 21:21.66.

Another winner who deserves a mention is Guy Pooley who finished 21st in 21:58.29 and won the MasC pennant. Guy is one of the most prolific winners in the race’s history and has won the MasC pennant six years in a row.

Vesta’s hard work to host this famous event, was rewarded in style this year as Harry Bond brought home the IM1 pennant, finishing in 15th place. It is particular poetic to see another Harry B following in the footsteps of Harry Blackstaffe in winning in club colours on the Tideway in a single scull. Harry previously won the old Sen2 Lwt pennant in 2006, but since then in his own words has “done very little sculling or racing (in a single).” Harry concedes that, due to missing GB trialists, “I undoubtedly finished a little higher than I could have otherwise expected to.” Harry’s achievement has brought a lot of pride to the club and it builds nicely on his win in Sen 2- at Pairs’ Head with Si Woodfine. As he puts it: “winning can be a nice habit.”

Along with the 60 or more volunteers, another unsung Vesta hero is Jock McKerrell who has taken part in Scullers’ Head more than 20 times and was at 73, the second oldest competitor this year – the oldest was Frank Webb from Quintin, aged 75. Jock says sculling is “easier on the back” and at his age “there is nobody else who wants to continue with a view to racing.”

Let’s look forward to another 60 years of the Scullers’ Head, run in a unique and special way by Vesta.

Check out the full results here.

Tales from the riverbank – Vesta’s women take on Fours Head

In this article, Vesta’s Women talk us through their Fours Head experiences in their own words. Read on if you dare…

W. IM1 4+ : Team Minnie Mouse (J. SMITH, W. HILTON, C. DUFFY, N. POCOCK, cox: J. STREET)

Kit, more kit and a picnic basket?

The W.IM1.4+ of Nicola Pocock, Jess Smith, Wendy Hilton, Christina Duffy and cox Jo Street (or Team Minnie Mouse as later transpired) pushed off from base camp Vesta armed with plastic bags full of kit, more kit, food, kit, hand warmers and some more kit. Rocking a starting place of 423 – the last Vesta boat of the day – the crew were braced for the elements. A picnic basket was considered, but was deemed logistically impractical at the last moment.

Sacrificing a finger…

A solid paddle towards the marshalling point had the crew quickly up to Hammersmith Bridge at which point cox Jo Street was heard muttering “Oooooh sh*t”. Upon investigation of the cause of the swearing (so very untypical from Street), it was apparent that the steering wire had sheared apart. With just bow informed of the potential disaster, Street decided to sacrifice her finger (so overrated as a digit) by looping the wire around it for grip and steering with the two pieces of wire in each hand. Marshalling was a barrel of laughs until about a hundred boats had passed, at which point there were no friends left to cheer for. Aw.

Marshalling for 40 days and 40 nights…

Forty days and forty nights later the crew finally spun, and with icicles to melt the crew took off like a bat of hell under Chiswick Bridge. It was an uneventful race in the end with nobody to overtake and nobody behind in sight, but all were pleased to have feeling back in their bodies by the end (except Jo whose finger may or not have functionality anymore – but hey rowing is worth it!).

W. Elite 4- : In a league (category) of their own (K. HEDGES, A. BROWN, L. BROCK, E. DORMAN)

Blessed by bird poo…

Heading out for their 5th outing together as a crew, the W Elite 4- boat of Ellie, Kat, Anna and Lara (setting off at the dizzy heights of No 62) were in good spirits (being injury free on race day was terribly exciting) and had even been blessed with a direct hit bird poo during the pre race outing – surely a sign of good luck?! Despite the fact that their only opposition (GB) had earlier pulled out, the girls were gunning for it and ready to go.

Foiled by muppetry…

Choppy and windy conditions during the first half of the race threw the crew a bit, with heavier crews around them advancing. Catching up to the Lightweight womens quads who set off ahead of the intrepid four gave them a boost and the girls whizzed passed an IC quad, only to get tangled in an Oxford / Tethys quad who had hit a buoy. Foiled by muppetry; the crew restarted aggressively before Hammersmith Bridge, where the water had flattened out. A full out sprint home ensued, fighting off an overtake manoeuvre from a strong Thames four. Forced out of the stream along the boats by the embankment by another lightweight quad, the four nevertheless wound for the finish, falling flat on their faces over the finish line. A pleasing (but slightly frustrating) race for all, which was celebrated in true Vesta style later that evening in the bar.

Elite 4-_HOR4s 2013








W. IM1 4- : Screwdrivers, vaseline and ski jackets (S. WOOD, E. INGRAM, M. GRANT, J. FROBESE)

Pre-race vaseline… (don’t ask)

8:15: Meeting time for four small IM 1 girls excited to get their boat out for a paddle, but first some homework … the oars need readjusting to get ready to race! 9:30: Having tried every possible screwdiver in the club, these small screws seem to be fighting against us with minimal movement! Coach to the rescue and the girls are able to go out for a little paddle to Harrods and back and get the nerves out! 11:15: Coach chat done, squeaky gate fixed (vaseline always comes to the rescue!), pre race chill time, getting our number sorted (423!!!! Jeez!!) and now its time for the last toilet trip … how many layers can we possibly store in our boat? Final decicion made: the skijacket is going to accompany Jana!

Smashing the warm up…

11:50: Ready to push off? Wahoo!  13:30: Smashing the warm up, getting in some rapid bursts (past some wobbly mens crews!) and weaving our way through the non-tideway crews … we are now in marshalling position convenienctly by Barnes steps and now watching the crews come through the start … now for the elite 4- and the senior 4- to come through … GO VESTA! 13:40: The skijacket is out for Jana!

A cheeky time penalty…

14:05: De-kit time … no sun in sight but we shine in crimson and black, proud to be showing off our club colors, paddling down to the start line. 14:09: Onto race pace and smashing it just before Chiswick bridge … were on top of the Wallingford 4- already despite giving them room therefore a minor “collision” (and a cheeky time penalty!) storming off and attacking the field hard! 14:15: One length ahead of Wallingford under Barnes bridge … no clear water yet but working on it and we are starting to feel the legs with the arms not quite defrosted yet. 14:20: Why is the race course always ten times longer then in training … we could have sworn we rowed past the crossing point 10 minutes ago and we still did not reach chiswick island yet … time to focus back on our swagger and rythm

Heavy breathing…

14:27: Finally under Hammersmith Bridge and here’s the time to go for it…  battling the upcoming Wallingford crew… everything is tired! How can it be so?… VESTA, VESTA, COME ON VESTA is all which keeps us going under Hammersmith bridge… great cheering… great motivation… time to sit up and finish this one off! 14:35: All we can hear around Fulham Football club is heavy breathing from somewhere … its each and every member of the crew each with the minor concern if we are going to collapse before the finish line… 14:38: Its over… finally… unfortunately not as much flying as we had been doing in training and as we had hoped (due to two pretty poorly girls (but with the benefit of a nice amount of weight loss – never a bad thing for a female … however, potentially not the best race prep!), one dodgy ticker and heavy workloads!!) however nothing was going to stop us… we gave all we had and tried to throw the kitchen sink at them!