Race Review – Wallingford Regatta

Strong start to the summer at Wallingford

Women’s Eight at Wallingford Regatta

Wallingford regatta saw a strong statement of intent from Vesta crews, with promising early season results to build on through the summer. This included a win in Women’s Challenge Coxless Fours, which will earn the crew members a prestigious Vesta Red Cap for winning in the highest category. The women followed this up with a second place finish in the Women’s Challenge Eights, finishing as the top club eight. On the men’s side, the coxed four also established themselves as contenders for the rest of the season with a third place finish in the Challenge event.

In total Vesta had 14 crews racing, showing the strength and depth in both the Men’s and Women’s squads, with many athletes making their first appearance in a multi-lane regatta.

The top women’s coxless four set the tone for the day by registering the fastest heat time by almost ten seconds. The other two Vesta crews also showed the strength in depth of the squad, registering competitive times with the B crew just missing out on reaching the final with a third place finish in the repechage. In the final the A crew dominated from the start, reaching a lead of 3 seconds by the 500m mark before going on to take the event in impressive fashion, 8 seconds ahead of the pack. As winners of the Lorcha Challenge Cup, Robyn McGreggor-Ritchie, Ruther McKellar, Lousia Emkes, and Jamie-Rose Larkin will earn the prestigious Vesta Red Cap for winning in the highest category.

The victorious Womens Coxless Four

On the men’s side, the draw was not kind to the Challenge Coxed Four, who were up against the all-conquering St Paul’s School in the heat. They were unfortunate to be pipped at the line by less than a second in a tough race, meaning the extra toil of a repechage in the searing afternoon heat. Whilst they came through this test, they were not able to push St Paul’s quite as hard in the final, finishing in 3rd place behind Tideway Scullers School. None the less, they showed exceptional promise for a crew that will no doubt be competitive towards the business end of the season.

Riding high on their earlier success, the Women’s squad embarked on their eights heat in a similarly impressive manner to the four, overcoming a challenge from near neighbours Thames to win by two seconds. They did an exceptional job of holding off the Thames crew in the final, ensuring they were the fastest club eight by just 0.25 seconds, despite this being the fourth race of the day for many in the crew. Unfortunately they came up against an exceptionally well drilled and fresh Lady Eleanor Holles School in the final, finishing second overall.

Only 2 of the 14 crews racing finished in the bottom two in their heat, emphasising the strength in depth across the club. Of these the Development Men will have taken great experience from their first multi-lane regatta, whilst the other was due to illness in the crew. There was also a final appearance of the Women’s Club Double, finishing a credible 5th and a repechage appearance for the Men’s Club Coxed Four.

Full results are available here

The start of the Mens Eights

Race Review – HORR – Novice Pennant Win

By Carl Esdaile

Gruelling training, illness, injury, and the bite of a cold winter culminated on an arguably average and cloudy March Sunday morning, when the 2018 Novice Men’s squad tackled the championship course in the Head of the River Race. After the WeHoRR, our sisters in the Novice Women’s squad advised us it would be anything but easy… little did we know.

Fuelled by chilli, all of the carbs, and a delightful apple crumble at the Coach’s the evening before, the squad arrived to a hive of activity; oblivious to everything except individual preparation. Bidding our Intermediate brothers in Blackstaffe good luck, Vesta E walked ‘Derek the Indestructible’ out of the shed to a heart-warming round of applause from the Club.

Slotting into our position as crew 231, we set in for a long wait. Never fear… encyclopaedic knowledge regarding the differences between ‘purple’ and ‘palatinate’ or between ‘pink’ and ‘cerise’ poured out of the cox box, keeping us sharp. The bags (plural) of jelly babies kept us alert.

Novice Men Marshalling

Shedding to our club and luminous squad colours, other crews shied back (more over concern for their vision than fear) as we built up speed and flew past the start.

Beyond this point, the all-encompassing vortex descended. How many bridges did we go under? Probably two… Was it raining? Who cares!

Writing this two days after the event, only two things can be clearly recalled. First is we responded very very well to the call “Bend and SNAP!” at the black buoy; a reference to the movie Legally Blonde and a squad member’s very elegant squatting technique. Secondly, the roar as we passed Vesta… by far and away the loudest and most rousing support on the river that day.

One additional thing we do know for absolute certain is that we gave it our all… the faces in the photographs emerging are not pretty.

Back in the bar, battered hands soothed by a chilled beer, the preliminary results suggested we did very respectably. At 22:51.4, we were the fastest Tideway Club Beginner entrant, and fourth in the Club Beginner Pennant. An excellent achievement, and worth the ropey head in work on the Monday morning.

In a plot twist over the ensuing days, it emerged questionable administration by other clubs meant Vesta E were actually the fastest of six actual Club Beginner entries, and overall Club Beginner Pennant winner by 0.4 seconds! We’re hugely proud of ourselves and our cox Wendy; we just powered the boat, she raced it. Indeed, we owe a huge debt to all of our coaches and coxes… it is they who forged us anew through the winter.

Here’s to building on the weekend, moving forward, and beers in the summer sun… for the boys, for Vesta and (most importantly) for Wendy!

Novice Men post-race

Race Review – HORR – Development Men

By Paul Corby

A few of us had been here before. More had not. HORR: the culmination of a tough winter’s work, of countless thousands of metres on ergos, of seemingly endless paddling up and down the Tideway. The biggest race of the season. To a man, the Development Squad had given their everything in the months leading up to this race. Recently buoyed by some PBs in the previous weekend’s 5K tests, the crew was quietly excited in anticipation of a hard-fought race.

The morning started slowly; no pre-race paddle, no huge psyche-up in the gym with loud music, no thundering war-cries. Just a bit of innuendo and some special porridge today. Then, after boating, the paddle up. Finally, a chance to see those who would be racing around us. Sighting crews with similar numbers to ours, we warmed up with a few bursts, appreciating the sun and flat conditions the rowing Gods had gifted us this day.

Development men – post race

As we mustered with the hundreds of other crews, watching the Elite category fly past, the sun faded and the wind began to return; first the Gods giveth, then they taketh away. Jack the Cox kept spirits high, before the moment came to turn and face down those crews around us. Familiar with some of the clubs, we knew we were in good company and would have to earn every inch in this race. Winding up, the usual Power Tens were called. The Powerhouse of middle four was called forward to give 10, immediately followed by bow four being called for the same, immediately followed by three and four internally crying “WHAT!? WHY US?!” We were chasing 208 and 209, with both crews seemingly forever half-a-length ahead, before our bowman finally caught a glimpse of white in his starboard peripherals. Simultaneously we were being pushed from behind by a strong Christchurch crew, who were holding us tight along the seemingly unending length of river. This was the driver we needed as we raced three-abreast past Hammersmith Bridge and all the way through to the Black Buoy, helping to push us onward through the final third of the race.

Coming away from the water, there was a feeling of a good job well done, with room for improvement as we head into the shorter, and warmer, summer races. Congratulations were passed between crews and coaches. Only when we saw the times were we truly made-up. 20.20.4. We had defied expectations and come in as a respectable third Vesta crew. Wendy, squad coach, was potentially seconds away from erupting, before her joy was controlled back down to a happy boil with a well-timed gin & tonic. At this point, the clarity fades as the afternoon became evening and the Vesta bar churned out seemingly endless pints of various liquids.

Now we have all been there, the notorious HORR, and all will hopefully return to do so once more in the infamous Crimson & Black.

Race Review – Remenham Challenge

The Remenham Challenge offered the first opportunity for all the Vesta squads to test themselves in eights this season, with ten boats representing the club. For some this meant a first ever race, while others it was a checking point for the year ahead. There were some solid results all round against strong opposition from the other Remenham clubs and, for the first time Wadham College.

Competitors at Remenham Challenge 2017

The Senior Women particularly impressed, with the first boat winning the Intermediate category, and less than two seconds from taking the scalp of Thames Elite eight. There was no doubt of the club with the best support at the prize giving ceremony, with the roar as their win was announced in Thames Rowing Club by far the loudest of the day.  Catherine Long, four seat in the first boat reflected:

“We had a strong race where the main aim was to keep the Molesey and Thames boats off. With the noise and support from Vesta cheers we had a huge push off Hammersmith Bridge. It was a well earnt win for our top boat and our results secure our place as one of the top women’s squads on the tideway and the new ‘ones to watch’”

Winners of the intermediate women’s category

The Second Boat was equally chasing down fellow tideway crews, shining bright in their pink base layers, and were rewarded with fourth place finish in the Women’s Intermediate category. We hear the pink may well see a revival for the Vets Head.

The Men’s squad, hit slightly by absence and illness, still recorded some credible results, with the first boat finishing in fourth place in the Intermediate category. Having chased down the London RC boat in front of them, they were unfortunately unable to turn the screw, overtake and push on, something they will look to put right in the coming head races. The second crew hit a solid row to finish within 20 seconds of the first crew, a margin they will be looking to maintain and reduce as both crews move forwards in 2018.

There were two crews representing the Novice Women, an impressive achievement in itself, and they will no doubt be proud of their achievements. The first crew finished in second place in the Novice Women’s category, just behind Thames Rowing Club, and also triumphing over a Staines Masters Women’s crew. Whilst they may have recorded the slowest time of the day, the second crew will take pride in completing their first race despite the majority only taking up the sport two months previous.

Remenham flag flying from Vesta marking the finish line

The Novice Men have written their own account of the race, which you can find here. They had two boats racing, one development boat in the Intermediate category, and the other in Novice. The Development crew finished just three seconds of the winners in the Novice Men’s category and 15 off the Senior Men’s second boat.

Vesta also had two masters’ boats competing. The “Young Vets” finished in a very respectable time to achieve a time adjusted 6th place in the category. They were just pipped by the slightly older vets competing in a composite boat with Thames, who finished in 5th place, three seconds ahead of the younger boat after time adjustment.

Race Review – Novice Men – Remenham Challenge

Rowing cherries were popped, corks were popped soon after, and throughout, many eyes popped at the sight of the Novice Men at this year’s Remenham Challenge. This year, the Novice men were fortunate enough to be able to enter two eights into the fray, one classed as the ‘actual’ Novice boat, and the other as the ‘not really novices, are they?’ Intermediate Boat, due to sharing seven points between four members of the crew.

Novice (Novice) Men’s Eight

The Novices prepared as every true athlete does; with a full English Breakfast, two hours before they were due to boat. During the breakfast, the novice secret weapon was unveiled. With fingers covering eyes, what can only be described as retina-searing luminous yellow base layers were distributed, to only be revealed once at the start-line.

The ‘not’ Novice crew had been assigned 10th in the draw and were determined to hold the position as long as possible, very aware that much more experienced boats would be chasing them down. The crew learnt that though she be little, our cox be fierce, and she isn’t afraid to hold the best water throughout a race. A valiant effort was put forth, with certain members getting audibly excited as the boat held off the London Crew and Vesta Senior Men as best as possible in a three-way as they passed the Vesta Flagpole. The three seat was checked and cleaned once alongside, following all the excitement.

The ‘novice’ Novices had similarly ‘audible’ moments of excitement, starting at 51 with two crews to chase in their category. For many, their first experience of a Head Race (or any race, for that matter) was a proud moment and, wide-brimmed bottle in hand, they were eager to get the race underway.  They gave their all, putting on a solid performance, which is good as they were impossible to miss in the aforementioned day-glo lycra. There was a moment of concern as the Vesta women appeared to be gaining, but with steely determination they dug deep and managed to hold them off ’til the finish.

The Novice (Intermediate) Men’s Eight

Finishing 27th (‘ringers’) and 46th (‘fresh meat’) overall, with times of 12:02 and 13:45 respectively, a line has been drawn in the sand and all will be looking ahead to the spring Heads. Whilst there were no wins today, both crews came away happy with the overall results, and few can argue that there is all to play for this year. With the depth in numbers this year, seats will be hard-fought throughout, and both boats will be eyeing various scalps in the future…

Race Preview – Remenham Challenge

Following a strong start to the year, this Saturday’s Remenham Challenge will see all Vesta squads first test of the year in eights, including debuts in the Crimson and Black for a number of our Novice’s.

In total Vesta have 10 crews entered for the race from Chiswick Pier to the Vesta flagpole, showing the depth of the club at all levels at the moment. The 55 boat race has been expanded beyond the founding members this year, to also include Wadham College Boat Club, who have ably provided the bar staff for Remenham at Henley Royal Regatta for a number of years. A well-earned and overdue inclusion I am sure you agree.

Senior Women Preparing for Remenham

The Senior Women’s and Men’s squads will be looking to build on promising Fours Head results with each having two eights entered. Competition for places is fierce in both squads at the moment, and they will be looking to set down a marker for the rest of the season.

The Novice/Development squads also have two eights entered each, offering the first taste of competitive action for a number of squad members. With a number of members racing that had not stepped in a boat before September, progress has been swift and the race will offer an valuable and (hopefully) enjoyable experience. No doubt the first boats will also be looking to be competitive against strong opposition provided by our nearest neighbours.

We will also see some familiar faces back in a boat with the “young” vets in action. With undoubted pedigree, no doubt they will be looking for an exceptional start, whether fitness will allow this to be maintained remains to be seen…

At the more experienced end of the scale, we also have a composite entered into Masters (F) with Thames Rowing Club.

 

10 – Novice (Intermediate) Men bow Christopher Cauchi
2 Oscar Oliveros
3 David Bottomly
4 Fred Chesher
5 Paul Corby
6 Liam O’Brian
7 William Tooth
stroke Colin Brown
cox Catherine Bailey
51 – Novice Men bow Christopher Ruddick
2 Matthew Vaux
3 Filip Zielinski
4 Harry Davies
5 Adam Laird
6 Shin Bahk
7 George Thomas
stroke Steven Gietzen
cox Jack Canning
52 – Novice Women bow Helen Mallaby
2 Cathryn McCarthy
3 Angela Oates
4 Kayla Chrysler
5 Kerry Price
6 Sarah Campbell
7 Ella Lawrence
stroke Alexandra Hudspith
cox Loray Marshall
54 – Novice Women bow Megan Daly
2 Neha Patel
3 Kinneri Saha
4 Mara Makoni
5 Kura Solon
6 Mira Childerhouse
7 Florencia Huart
stroke Lucy Cartwright
cox Vanessa Preuss
22 – Masters B bow Ali Campbell
2 Nick Nevelling
3 Beven Goulden
4 Michael Cannon
5 Harry Bond
6 James Wetherstone
7 Michael Hughes
stroke James Hawkins
cox Helen Arbutnot (Cox)
36 – Senior Women bow Kirsty McGregor-Ritchie
2 Ruth McKellar
3 Jamie-Rose Larkin
4 Catherine Long
5 Megan Halsted
6 Louisa Emkes
7 Chloe Symmonds
stroke Robyn McGregor-Ritchie
cox Yvonne Owens
42 – Senior Women bow Rosie Klymow
2 Cameo Choquer
3 Rebecca Kelly
4 Alice Hoskins
5 Mikaela Blowing
6 Clare Wood
7 Sarah Thompson
stroke Charlotte Lennox
cox Kate Keough
14 – Senior Men bow Joseph Casey
2 Rory Baggott
3 Edward Roe
4 Henry Primarolo
5 Gianni Galavotti
6 Adrian Turner
7 Chris Clements
stroke Oliver Lumley
cox Julia Franckh
20 – Senior Men bow Robert Alexander
2 Garrett Speers
3 Wojciech Markowski
4 Mike Benson
5 Chris Goodfellow
6 Alan Hunton
7 Alexander Kung
stroke Oliver Chapman
cox Robert Hamilton

In Memory – Nigel Knight

By Jock McKerrell

 

It is with great sadness we report the death of Nigel Knight at the age of 72. Nigel had a brain tumour for some years, so we only saw him occasionally, but he was always cheerful, convivial, and the complete gentleman.

He will however, be best remembered, and very fondly, for his eccentricity. A former regular Army officer, he flew helicopters, and was notable for bringing down some power lines during an exercise and plunging a considerable area of West Germany into darkness. He is reported to have said “Oh gosh, did I ? I’m awfully sorry”.

He joined Vesta as a veteran (now called Masters) in the 90’s, and won a number of sculling races in his single and also in crews. At this time, mainly for Henley, he built a river craft. It consisted of an area of decking, supported by two oil drums. He attached an outboard engine which was steered by an old tennis racket, and fixed to the decking was his deckchair. Donned in his panama hat, blazer and whites he would then tootle up and down the Henley course. Needless to say, photos were published in the press.

Nigel was also a qualified umpire, and for a time was in charge of the Veterans’ Head. He once wrote a very funny letter in reply to a competitor complaining about unfair conditions, explaining that until we had more comprehensive rainfall records for the Thames Valley and Chilterns, and could better interpret Moon fazes, then for head races, conditions could be unfair – also published.

To complete his service to Vesta, for a time he was a faithful secretary to the Club.

He was a complete one-off and will be very sorely missed. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Denise and their family.

The funeral will be on December 20th at the church of St Mary the Virgin at Mortlake at 12.00. And afterwards at the Bull’s Head in Barnes

Race Review – Vesta Scullers Head

Saturday 2nd December saw yet another successful running of the Vesta Scullers Head, with over 450 scullers braving the freezing conditions. In total 13 Vesta scullers completed the course and notably also the row back, given this year’s race was run the “wrong” way.

The Senior Women’s squad had near complete domination of the Women’s Club category, occupying 4 of the top 5 placings. Kirsten Adams was the category winner, by seven seconds from Ruth McKellar in second, with Jamie-Rose Larkin in 4th and Megan Halsted in 5th place.

On the men’s side there were a number of strong results. These included a second place for Si Woodfine in the Men’s Senior category, just five seconds off the winner. There was also a second place for Adrian Turner in Masters A-C Fresher’s category and a 4th place for Gianni Galavotti in Master’s C.

There was also a number of strong results from Vesta masters squads, including a 3rd place for Paul Mew in Masters G, and 3rd place for Isabelle Laliberte in Women’s Masters Freshers.

 

Race Review – Fours Head

The first major test of the season saw a record 10 Vesta boats producing some strong results, indicating both the men’s and women’s squads are looking to pick up where they left off in the summer.

With the new British Rowing Competition Framework and RPI coming into effect, there were new categories to contend with. Despite some interesting groupings, with the top ranked Vesta crews being categorised with crews that would normally be put in the elite category, the strong results showed an ability to rise to this challenge.

The Senior Women showed some strong early season form, with the Band 1 4- finishing in 7th place in their category and as the 9th fastest women’s coxless four overall. Given Band 1 was won by Leander and contained 2 Cambridge University crews, this strong result showed that last summer’s final at Women’s Henley was only the start. The women also showed exceptional strength in depth, with the coxed four placing 3rd out of 16 in Band 2, and the second coxed four finishing a strong 7th in Band 3.

The Senior Men’s A Crew also had some challenges presented by the new ranking index, with the start order meaning they had overtaken 6 and been overtaken by 2 crews by Hammersmith. At one point this meant rowing almost 4 a breast, with cox Julie Franckh doing an exceptional job of holding the racing line whilst being screamed at to move over from both sides. A promising finish of 7th out of 25 in Band 2, despite the traffic, represented a strong result for the crew. The men also showed exceptional depth, with 3 boats, including 2 coxed, finishing in the top 200 overall.

The Men’s A Crew – Photo – Mark Ruscoe

We also unfortunately had the dubious honour of posting the slowest time in the competition, with one of the Senior Women’s quads finishing 440th out of 440. Unfortunately this was due to a technical malfunction meaning they had no steering and so paddled over the course. No doubt without this they would have added to an exceptional set of results.

Race Review – Pairs Head

Tight racing under Hammersmith Bridge

Pairs Head marks the first race of the new season, with Vesta looking to give strong performances across the board on our home water. The tideway is known for its often brutal conditions, but the day of the race saw perfect weather to put in a good time.

The Women’s Squad had four entries. Ruth McKellar and Louisa Emkes (2- Champ) built on their summer racing in a pair putting in a strong performance finishing as 6th fastest women’s pair overall in a tight field. So tight in fact that they rowed three abreast over the finish line.

Another familiar combination of Kirsty McGregor-Ritchie and Robyn McGregor-Ritchie (2x Lwt) and the newer 2- Inter of Catherine Long and Jamie Larkin both rowed strong races to finish 3rd in their categories.

A pennant win came in the 2x Fresher category rowed by Clare Wood and Chloe Symmonds. “Being at the lower end of the crew list, we began our 2 hour wait giving a cheer to the Vesta crews of the first division as we marshalled by the start line. It was great to eventually get going, and with a large gap to make up between us and the crew infront as we wound up under Chiswick bridge, the holler’s for Vesta from the bank spurred us on as we stormed down the course.”

Women’s Fresher Doubles Winners Chloe and Claire

The Men also had four crews entered (and half a composite). Harry Bond and Si Woodfine finished 10th overall in their double, less than 20 seconds off the lead time. In the pairs Ols Lumley and Chris Clements, competing in and steering their first races in a pair respectively, finished 7th of 16 in their category. Our Masters were also represented in the Open Masters D/E 2x, facing some tough opposition finishing 10th out of 14 in their category.

 

Chris and Ols approach the start line

It was a great start to the season, and accompanied by our annual Vesta pub crawl, was a fun day for all.