It seems strange to think that almost a year has passed since this season’s senior women assembled at Vesta for the first session of the year, blissfully unaware of the successes they would soon be achieving both on and off the water.
With an influx of new faces and some existing Vesta athletes returning for another season, the squad boasted both depth and experience. With Dan Safdari, the new Director of Rowing’s training programme in place, it wasn’t long before significant gains were being made under the watchful eyes of the women’s coaching team made up of Leigh Curtis Green and Paul Lorenzato.
The winter Head season kicked off in October with three crews entered into the Pairs Head of the River race. Promising results were seen here, with a particular mention to the McGregor-Ritchie sisters who took home second in the Women’s IM3 Lightweight Double Sculls. Throughout November we saw the women successfully represent Vesta at Kingston Small Boats Head (W.IM2.1x C. Lennox), Fours Head (W.IM1.4x R. McGregor-Ritchie, V. Carroll, K. McGregor-Ritchie, C. Lennox)( W.IM1.4x I. Rigoulet, H. Futter, C. Pywell, A. Watson) and Scullers Head (W.IM2.1x C. Lennox).
Despite the evenings descending into darkness, temperatures dropping and the Christmas wind-down on the periphery, the women’s training intensified in preparation for the remaining Head races. First in the line-up was the Remenham Challenge where two eights were entered in the Intermediate category. Good races were seen by both crews with the ‘A’ boat securing a comfortable second place behind the Thames eight. The first race for 2017 was Quintin Head where our ‘A’ boat achieved yet another second place, this time behind King’s College London, and our ‘B’ boat securing themselves firmly at tenth. Without wanting to break tradition, Hammersmith Head told a similar story with the ‘A’ boat just missing out on a pennant by 2 seconds. Fortunately the solid streak of second places came to an end at Henley Four and Eights Head where our W.IMI. 4- (R. McGregor-Ritchie, R.McKellar, J. Larkin, K. McGregor-Ritchie) came up trumps with first place and the eight and coxed four finishing well in a strong field.
March arrived and so too did the culmination of the head season with Women’s Head. Going up against some of the best eight’s crews in the country was never an easy task, but the Vesta women were not fazed achieving 37th (Cox L. Hardcastle, R. McGregor-Ritchie, J. Larkin, R. McKellar, V. Carroll, L. Emkes, C. Fermor, C. Long, K. McGregor-Ritchie) and 100th (H. Futter, A. Watson, F. Robinson, C. Wood, F. Palamarczuk, A. Pickthall, I. Rigoulet, E. Robinson) against over 300 crews, a phenomenal achievement and perfect finish to the winter season. However, all was still to play for as summer sprint season was just around the corner.
After a spot of seat racing and a week’s intense summer training camp in Seville it was time to get back on British water and show off our hard work. This seemed to come easily with wins at both Wallingford and Nottingham City regattas and some solid racing at Metropolitan Regatta and Reading. However, these events were just the warm up for the hotly anticipated Henley Women’s Regatta in June where we had a fantastic depth of entries with single sculls, an eight and a coxed four competing. After some tough qualification rounds the four (Cox – L. Owens, R. McGregor-Ritchie, R. McKellar, L. Emkes J. Larkin), the eight (Cox – L. Hardcastle, K. McGregor-Ritchie, C. Choquer, V. Carroll, C. Long, C. Fermor, F. Robinson, C.Wood, H. Futter) and Kirsten Adams were through to the draw. Unfortunately for the eight this was the end of their Henley campaign after being drawn against the eventual winners, and was sadly the end of the road for Kirsten after a great fight. However not letting this phase them, the four were full steam ahead making the Henley women’s coxed fours final before heartbreakingly being knocked out by the Lea by barely a canvas (we love a second place..!).
As I’m sure you can appreciate, the Vesta Women’s Senior Squad have had an extraordinary season highlighted by some fantastic results across the board. However, none of this could have been achieved without the dedication and talent of the coaches the squad works with as well as all the people behind the scenes at Vesta. With this in mind we’d like to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to all those involved with getting us so far and a reminder to all other clubs to watch out, as Vesta Senior Women are officially back on the map.