Senior Women’s Kick Off Meeting – Thursday 12/9, 7:30pm

Vesta womenThe Vesta Senior Women’s squad will be kicking off the 2013/2014 season with a meeting at the Vesta Bar, this Thursday, 12 September at 7:30pm.  All are welcome. If you are interested, but cannot attend, please email Aga at captain@vestarowing.co.uk. Training will begin on Saturday morning.

This year’s women’s squad will be led by Ray Sullivan, and supported by Matt Gilliver, Dave Clinton and Peter Williams.

Vesta Senior Women Win at Met Regatta 2013. (Photo thanks to Rachel Dixon)

VPs Host Athletes’ Reception

A fantastic Vesta tradition continued this year with the Vice Presidents of the club hosting a drinks reception for the Henley Royal Regatta and the Henley Women’s Regatta athletes.

On Wednesday the 4th of July, the members of Vesta turned their dry cleaning post Henley of club blazers around quickly to ensure they were looking sharp for the annul VP drinks. There was a great turn out of both athletes and VP’s, all there to enjoy an evening of bubbles, canapés, mingling, speeches and of course all that Vesta Bar can provide.

The evening, which has continued since 2009 was created to give the VP’s a chance to mingle with the current athletes in the squad and ensure that Vesta Club spirit is passed on through the generations of Vesta. We were lucky enough to enjoy a beautiful dry evening which meant utilising the balcony and also giving the opportunity for our in house photographer Richard Bryan a chance to capture some great club images.

It was also an excellent occasion for the coaches to give a celebratory reflection of their seasons and the athlete to thank them for all their hard work. Nick Ireland represented the men’s coaching group with a recap of all things related male rowing during the 2011/12 season and thanked all that has helped to create it. Matt Gilliver, the Women’s head coach also gave an entertaining recap of the season that was, thanking his team of coaches and took the opportunity to “officially” retire from coaching. Matt has been involved in the Women’s squad since 2008 and has lead the group to it’s most successful years of Women’s rowing at Vesta. He has helped the squad obtain a Senior Henley Women’s 8+ medal in 2010, the same year the squad represented Vesta on the Saturday at Henley Royal Regatta in the Remenham Challenge. These fantastic results were followed by victories in the Club 8+ category in both 2011 and 2012. Along with very successful years at both Royal Henley Regatta and Women’s Henley, the squad under Matt has had it’s most successful years at The Head of River and have brought home swags of medals every time they loaded up the trailer and ventured to another race. Matt- Thank you for all your hard work! We hope you have enjoyed it as much as we have.

A very large thank you must go out to the VP’s for being so generous and hosting the evening. The VP’s bring a huge amount of spirit and knowledge to the Club and it is always great being able to get all the members of the club together to celebrate and raise a glass to our fantastic club.

– Ailsa

Bittersweet HRR

Henley Royal Regatta means different things to different people. For some it is a social event involving nice hats and daytime drinking with people in boats in the background. For others it is an annual opportunity to catch up with old crew mates and support friends and family who are racing.

For us it is the pinnacle of a year’s training and preparation.

Just to qualify to race is a challenge in itself, one that many crews fail to achieve despite hours slogging on ergos and many cold mornings down on the river. This year, the achievements of the Vesta men throughout the year were recognised by the Stewards, who pre-qualified both the Wyfold 4- and the Thames Cup 8+ crews.

The phrase “luck of the draw” has never rung so true as it did in the Henley Town Hall this year. Both the Wyfold coxless four and the Thames Cup eight were drawn against seeded crews. It is a huge knock to a squad’s morale to know that you will not face one of the many crews in the event that you have comfortably beaten all year, or even those with whom you’ve had close races. Instead you must race a crew who has all the statistics on their side. Despite this, both crews continued to train hard down the Henley course in the days preceding the first day of racing, ready to put up one hell of a fight on race day.

At 9am on Wednesday, the eight faced Upper Thames, one of the four seeded crews in the 32 strong Thames Cup. The Vesta boys went off the start with fire in their legs, giving Upper Thames a fright and taking a small lead in the first 20 strokes. Unfortunately as the two crews hit their race pace, the Upper Thames boys moved through and took a comfortable lead. Nonetheless, Vesta fought to the line, with a powerful push in response to the “Remenham Roar.” They came across the line, gracious losers to an elite crew.

A few hours later, the coxless four faced London A in the Wyfolds, again one of the four seeds in the event. They put their foot to the floor and gave everything to try and get themselves a race on Thursday. The London boys took the lead, but like the eight, the Vesta four fought to the line, never ones to back down easily.

Both crews commiserated the results together, a united squad, but also celebrated the successes of the year. Many of the squad will be returning in the autumn, ready to do it all again, hungry for the results they deserve.

– Morgan

Blackstaffe Day!

Annual Blackstaffe Day, in honor of Harry Blackstaffe, one of the most successful members of of Vesta, will be held on August 18th this year. All participants must wear a mustache! Racing will be followed by a Disney themed party hosted by the Dev Girls. More info to follow, so stay posted!

Dev Girls take HWR by Storm

As the Int4+ woke up on Friday morning to “Eye of the Tiger” pumping through the speakers Vanessa Ibbett, Sam Bowman, Briony Martin, Niamh Murphy O’Connor and Celeste Boruvka all felt the understandable nerves of a development squad going to their very first Henley experience.

The slightly stressful journey to Henley in rush hour traffic did little to ease the nerves even with Bob Marley’s “Don’t worry about a Thing” blaring. On arrival at Remenham, with only 20 minutes to rig our boat and change, our plan to take our time rigging and getting ready went out the window.

With heart rates running faster than mice, we got out on the water and were hit with gusts of wind and a very fast stream. A failed attempt to enter the umpire zone to have our boat checked and a sticky situation with an Empacher 8 later, we were on our way to the start line. Due to the bad weather only the top 8 boats were to qualify which put even more pressure on us, but a pre race pep talk with James, Bevan and Verity assured us they had every faith we could do it and our row up to the start gave us the chance to shut off and get in the zone.

After a shaky start we fell in to a strong rhythm and dug deep – with no other boats in sight we had no way of telling how well we were doing but we worked together with Celeste expertly taking us down the course to qualify in the top 8!! The news brought tears, hugging and massive smiles all round. Not only had we qualified but our quarter final put us against Thames’ IM2 boat – what a race that would be!

We spent the few hours we had eating, napping and inevitably going to the toilet a million times! – But this was it, we were officially qualifiers in Women’s Henley and there was only Thames in our way to the semis.

Our pep talk with the coaches reminded us that we were in our element – “the conditions are perfect for ‘bigger’ girls” (…lucky we aren’t sensitive!) We were hit with what can only be described as gale force winds and rain as we got on the water and realised this was going to be a tough one. We just had to remember we’d done it once that day, we could do it again.

We nervously attached on to the stake boat with surprising ease (anyone whose seen us at the start of other regattas would know this isn’t our strongest manoeuvre!) After the traditional re-enactment of the “True Blue” touching of shoulders, we were called to attention and were off. As we anticipated, they were faster off the start, but we didn’t let it phase us and got in to our rhythm quickly. The wind was halting us at each stroke, but we kept pushing and working together. At 500m a quick glance across saw our stroke sitting equal with Thames’ bow – we were rowing through them! Celeste’s call for clear water was answered and by 1000m we had a clear lead. The last 500m were arguably the hardest any of us has rowed – it felt like the wind was pushing us back up the course! We maintained our steady rhythm and gained a 5 length lead on Thames and were rewarded with an “easily” verdict when we FINALLY crossed the finish line. As we came in to land, James and Bevan were smiling like proud Dads – we were in the semi finals!

A much needed day off was had on Saturday and on Sunday we were back in Henley and ready to race again. We had achieved more than we ever imagined, but we now wanted to prove we could go all the way. With weather conditions considerably improved, we got on the water and paddled up to the start with Mortlake (our opposition) closely following. We managed yet again to get on to the start relatively pain free and came to attention. They took us off the start as again was anticipated, but we managed to get in to our strong rhythm. Unfortunately every call Celeste made to take them was matched by them and they held us off by a length. We fought hard, but they eventually crossed the line with a 2 length lead. Although it would have been great to make it to the final, we are really proud of what we achieved and had an amazing experience. Roll on next year!

– Vanessa

Vesta Women’s Elite 8+ vs the Americans

Buoyed by the success at Reading, the stage was set for Vesta vs. Bucknell 2 – the sequel.

Conditions were tough but the Elite 8+ was strengthened by the return of the super-sub Ailsa “Tremendous” Tremayne and we were raring to go. Brock Snr had another shot at the illusive rate 50….

The row up to the start was over in a flash, due to the strong wind and even stronger stream. And after the customary banter with the marshal on the bank about the awesomeness of the Vesta Bar, including said marshal telling our opposition we were a bunch of alcoholics (“hic”) we were on to the stake boats.

Bucks was tough, a strong stream was pulling us onto the Island and there was some excellent tapping on from bowside to stay straight. The umpire seemed to be in a hurry and despite my hand still being up we were off.

It soon became clear that Bucknell had spent the last week practicing their starts and took 2 seats early on, moving out to ½ a length by the end of the Island. We recovered from our shaky start and regrouped. The barrier push was taken early in an effort to get back level. The gap closed to 1/4 length, we were moving now. Past the boating area it was great to hear the Vesta roar from our team mates but the American’s were strong and again pulled away another few seats to get about 1 length ahead. By this point I could see we could get it back, there was a big call for the legs but as we learnt at Reading our friends from across the pond had a fast finish. I took the decision to try and outwit them by starting our finish sequence early and we went for the line with great gusto. Sadly, despite pulling back some distance the verdict was a win for Bucknell University by ¾ of a length.

– Ro

If ever a crew needed to peak at the right time…

Prior to the actual race report I just wanted to put this race into context as perhaps on paper the verdicts in the run up to the final don’t best reflect the true efforts of what was actually achieved by the Vesta Intermediate 8+ winners of Henley Womens’ Regatta this year.

As Murray goes into the Wimbledon final this afternoon, with a secure route through and the knowledge he has beaten his opponent in the past, we were unfortunately not so lucky.  The mighty Lea RC had beaten us at every stage this season through Wallingford to Met Regatta and only looked even stronger coming into this event. Lea were the clear favourites to win the Club 8+ and deservedly so.

Race Morning:

If you have competed in a final at any level of competition you will know what it feels like to have the emotions, the fears and the doubts that creep into your head and that Sunday was no exception. We’d had a tough season, dogged by fatigue, illness and performance inconsistencies which at times led me to have doubts as to whether our performance on the day could be solid enough to win the competition.

Aside from the physical training an athlete endures, I truly believe this sport is by far one of the toughest and I sincerely take my hat off to all the athletes at Vesta and anyone at any level who commits themselves physically and mentally to an entire season of ergs, high mileage on the water and the torture of selection. I often get asked by my NRF (non rowing friends) WHY?? and sometimes question this myself, but ask any athlete, coxswain or coach and the answer will still be the same, “to win.”

 After beating City of Cambridge and Thames RC against the horrendous conditions in the quarters and semi finals  we knew the final meant we had to end ourselves, making sure we all physically knew what “rowing on the edge” felt like. Mentally it was a difference story…

No matter how prepared you are there could be one thing, just one small thing beyond your control that can change your outlook, mindset, alter your performance and ultimately change the outcome of your season entirely. This “one thing” for me came in the form of a conversation with an upriver coach that morning, he was frank but truthful; “I just don’t know, I’m going to be honest with you,  you really are going to need the race of your life to beat them.”

My doubts turned to determination to MTFU and give me belief that our training programme had given us every tool we needed to win.

The Final:

An absolute blinding start jumped us a quarter of a length ahead by the island, the key focus being to sustain the lead and do enough at the beginning of the race to dispose of our opposition from the outset. Lea were not going away. Undeterred by our quick lead they ploughed on to draw level. Vesta support in place at the Barn Bar, we sharpened up to get a canvas ahead to lead us into the enclosures.

Lea had dashed Thames RC’s hopes of a win in the Semi-final which meant that the mighty “Remenham Roar” was there in full force, just for us.

Level at the enclosures and spurred on by the most amazing wall of inter-club support, Lea managed to pull level and lead by quarter of a length.

I still get shivers as I recall the closing stages of the race. Everyone just about knows that one of the hardest parts of the Henley Womens’ Regatta course is coming out of the enclosures and into “no man’s land.” The support dies down and you’re on your own, just two logs; dead level and an extra battle of the mind to fight to make your log the fastest.

Still level, I will never forget this moment as I looked into the bows of our opposition, their huge enclosure push and semi-final dog fight with Thames had taken its toll. Fatally they had begun to forget about their legs and started to pull. I then knew then that we could win this.

200 metres to go it was do or lose: the call at UTR:  “girls, their heads are down, ours are NOT” “sit up and push, you can do this, NOW” our log moved through to take the canvas a last kick of adrenalin to push through, crossing the line victorious at 1/4 of a length.

– Rachael

Two Wins for Italy!

Preceding England’s loss on penalties to the Azzurri, English rowers had to first face a loss to Italy as one of Vesta’s several Italians, Stefano, crushed some rowing dream by winning IM3 1X at Richmond Regatta.
With a burgeoning reputation, Vesta’s Sardinian sculler took to the water for his heat and despite the rain and being drawn on the outside of the bend paddled down the course at a leisurely rate 28 winning easily. The final was run on a turned tide but made little difference to the result. A quick start meant Stefano was ahead comfortably by the bend….making a point he moved further inside to take the shortest line round the bend but then continued on a straight course towards the bank and tree. A quick re-adjustment in direction and he crossed the line to secure another pot and 2 points. Next stop Kinsgton!

Vesta Prepares for Henley Royal

With Henley week finally upon us, most of us are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather, while the rowers undertake their final preparations. The Vesta men pre-qualified two boats, one for the Thames Cup (8+) and one for the Wyfold (4-), thereby not having to endure Friday’s qualifiers which were held in conditions not dissimilar to last week’s HWR. Jamie Halliday joined forces with Harry Bond (of Thames!!!) to row the appropriately named Vodka in an attempt to qualify for the Double Sculls. Unfortunately, the not so lightweight lightweights were at a disadvantage in the strong gusty winds and heavy stream and were the fastest non-qualifying boat. The senior women joined the ranks of the 10 other qualifying boats for 3 available places, in what looks like the toughest Remenham Cup in a long time. The girls had a stonking race battling tough conditions and resulting in some amazing ‘pain face’ photos, but narrowly missing out on a qualifying spot.

The timetable for Wednesday’s racing has been released and is available by clicking here. The Vesta Thames 8+ will race Upper Thames in race 6 at 9:00. The Wyfold 4 will race London in race 34 at 11:45. Hope to see a good Vesta contingency providing the Remenham Roar for the boys!!

Elite 4- Lobby for GB U33 Squad

It was with some trepidation that the E4- of Lara Brock, Nell Pascall, Aga Siemiginowska and Kat Hedges arrived in Henley on Sunday morning for their race against ARSA Skadi. Internet trawling and the usual cyber stalking had yielded little in the way of information about the opposition due to it being in a foreign language.

Luckily the weather had improved significantly from the misery-wind that was Saturday’s weather, and some sunshine was even spotted. The crew even went as far as agreeing to race in skins, with the exception of bow, because it’s always colder in the bows

A chance casual bit of eavesdropping by the boating area saw the opposition’s coach pointing out to the steers where the finish was. We were in luck! They had no idea.

The pre-race chat given by Matt to the crew gave Brock elder free rein to go “radio rental” off the start, and Lara’s eyes lit up – finally, she could attempt the elusive rate 50! The final 3 loo stops completed, the crew set off to the boating pontoons and up to the start. Being fairly early in the morning, the row to the start was uneventful and no buoys were disturbed in the process. The warm up area above the island had been significantly shortened, leaving only 200m or so as warm up before a spin was required. After about 4 laps, the crew got bored of spinning after motion sickness set in and sat at the start to wait for the race.

As we sat close to the start watching other crews warm up it became increasingly obvious that we were in a holding pen with 98% U23, World Class Starts and Trialists. We were the 2% average Joes. The down side of racing elite <sigh>. Bow suggested again that British Rowing be petitioned to set up an Under 33’s Squad before she got too old for that too.

Finally, it was time to get onto the start line. After the stress of the previous day and not being ready off the start in the E8, bow was determined that a perfect start position would be achieved. With the shelter of the island, attachment and lining up was spot on and we were ready to lay the smack down.

True to form, Brock went mental off the start, and the crew held the start together well heading off the island. Stroke 6-7 of the Vesta crew’s start saw the Skadi boat’s stern disappear from view as they surged on ahead. Never ones to give up, Brock, Pascall, Siemiginowska and Hedges ploughed on in the Skadi boat’s wake. The worries of steering disappeared when it became obvious that the Skadi crew were not so much along side, as way ahead, and so the Vesta boat opted for the middle course.

The prescribed pushes were executed and extra calls were put in for pushes for the Senior 8 (after the cruel events of Saturday) and bizarrely, for some “teeth” to be shown. The rate crept up 2 pips as we edged into the finish sequence, Remenham not appearing soon enough. Skadi had crossed the line some 5 lengths ahead of the Vesta crew.

After the race was over, it was discovered that the Skadi boat also contained U23 / trialist types as well, and they went on to give Sport Imperial / Leander a good final race. A valiant attempt by the Vesta crew in a very tough field of competition.

– Kat