{Squad Update} Senior Men’s Season in Review

We started from nothing now we’re here… Senior Men’s Squad – End of Season Review

By Chris Clements

“Rebuild”, “development” and “long term project” were all words used at the start of the 2016/17 season, more palatable wording for “we’re starting again from scratch”. With a massive turnover in the summer, new coaching team and about a quarter of the squad having rowed the year before (at any club), it really was starting with a blank sheet of paper.

It ended up being a fantastic year, meaning our starting position for next year could not be more different than a year ago. The season is probably best summed up by a few key achievements.

  • Not giving in – We set ambitious goals at the start of the year, at times they looked a long way off, but it came together in the end, qualifying an eight (and a double) for Henley. We picked up wins at Reading, Marlow, Kingston, Putney Town and Molesey, with 75% of the squad picking up a win at some point in the season.
  • We ended the year with a bigger squad than we started – Spurred on by squad rules including “Don’t be a dick” and “The squad comes first” we did the unheard of and actually grew the size of the squad through the winter. The positive training environment meant as the season went on commitment increased, there were more ergs completed and we were pushing to fit in more water sessions wherever we could.
  • We all improved (dramatically). With the support of a fantastic and committed coaching team, the technical standards of the squad moved on significantly throughout the year. Old bad habits were crushed and boats moved faster as a result.
  • It was actually enjoyable – The squad embraced the Vesta way, taking our training seriously but also having a good time. Occasionally this included more beverages than it perhaps should, but if your rowing club will have the best, cheapest and friendliest bar on the tideway…

All in all it was a fantastic year, one which was challenging, rewarding but most of all enjoyable. We’ve set up for the new season to take on the next challenge, with virtually all of the squad returning, and ready to step on. Talk is of pre-qualification for Henley as a minimum next year, and if the improvement this year is replicated, it’s hard to believe that we won’t at least achieve that and maybe more…

If you’re interested in joining us you can register your interest here, or pop down to the club for a chat.

{Squad Update} Novice Men’s Squad End of Season Review

By Garrett Speers

Of the original 24 men who turned up to the first training session, only 17 withstood to form the core squad, of whom seven had rowed before in one form or another, either at school, university, or on the Vesta Learn-to-Row course. Under the watchful eye of our coaches Wendy and Deckchair, we were broken down to basics and rebuilt as what would become one of Vesta’s most successful novice squads in recent years.

Why? Why were we doing this to ourselves? Subjecting ourselves to this willingly? This, and many more expletive-laden thoughts, would cross our minds when confronted with a 5K erg, or long steady state rows on the Tideway, seeing snow settle on the shoulders of the man in front of you…

The answer would come at the first head race, when in an VIII at the Remenham Challenge we would chase down crews in the thick fog, pipping Twickenham at the cusp of the finish line. We would take them in front of the other proven Vesta crews at the last second. It was then that we were truly hooked; we had all caught the bug. Out of the window go your NRFs (non-rowing friends) and in come your crewmates – a band of brothers. United by the same love of racing, propping up the Vesta bar, and avoiding death at the hands of the Putney Pier (all survived, minus one blade…) you’re hooked! This is why we row.

With many strong performances of the Head season behind us, we embarked on a tough training camp in Totnes – where our proficiency in drinking, rowing, and capsizing boats of all sizes increased drastically. Our time training down on the Dart gave us the crucial experience and fighting spirit for the Nov. VIII, stroked by Tom ‘Champion’ Wormold, to promptly win and collect the first Vesta silverware of the season at Hammersmith Regatta.

Throughout the regatta season, the number of water sessions increased in an attempt to rid us of ‘the rush’, bed down some decent technique, and build upon our early success. Many of us would be competing at IM3 level. Across the regattas we entered, strong performances ensued (in the VIIIs, IVs, 2x, and 1-), with us chasing down and putting the fear into the senior crews on a couple of occasions – with experience only just paying off – maybe we weren’t as bad as we told each other?

We finished up the summer season with a spectacular win in the Novice 2x by Matt K & our Saffa Leo at Putney Town Regatta, and with the IM3 VIII at Kingston Regatta. It has been a truly rewarding and satisfying year for us all, not just in the silverware department, but in the great experiences had and lasting friendships forged. None of this would have been possible without motivation from our coxes Jack and Cat, guest-coaches Uncle Nick and Uncle Ben, Coach Deckchair, and ultimately – Coach Wendy. The 2017/18 novice squad certainly have a lot to live up to, on and off the water.

Next year will see many of us return to Vesta to bolster the Senior squads, to train hard and play harder. But even for those not returning, whether in Australia or closer to home, we shall all remain a crew for life – brothers in arms (then body and legs).

For Wendy!

{Squad Update} Putting Vesta Senior Women back on the map – 2017 Season round up

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.

{Squad Update} Masters Squad Review of the Season

Another season is nearly over and we thought the small but committed masters squad should review its achievements of the past year..
The focus of the season was on the Vet Fours Head, the Vesta Veterans Head and summer regattas including Henley Masters. With the use of Villain in the autumn we thoroughly enjoyed the run up to the Vet Fours Head; we had some satisfying outing and time-trials in the run up and had a good result on the day. There were also several notable performances in the Pairs Head and Scullers Head.  The spring saw a good run of eights heads including the Remenham, Quintin and Vesta Veterans Heads which were ably coxed by Glyn and then Janet.
Summer racing at local regatta resulted in a win at Twickenham and near misses at several other regattas. We made a return to Henley Masters in two crews and we hope to build on this next year. We particularly enjoy joining other squads for summer racing so please let us know when you plan a regatta or head.
The core training is individual sculling in singles during the week and quads or doubles at the weekends. We continue to join with Thames and London vets for early morning sculling under the auspices of the Putney Embankment Sculling Club and we are found on the water most days, always including some of our committed women’s group.
Land training has been carefully focused on optimising the relationship between marginal effort and the marginal gains and hopefully we have not done so much training as to reach the point of diminishing returns. 
We have integrated a few new members including Jiri Rasek and Kim Williams and have seen the notable return to crew rowing of long term member Tom Moisley. We are able to take a few new experienced members each year but unfortunately we have limited coaching to teach sculling and steering.
Thanks to the Captain for his support and the allocation of some quality boats and to coaches, including Andy Carson, Leigh Curtis Green and Wendy Armstrong, for letting us join their squads for training pieces,  and to Judith Howell for helping scullers with certification.
Mike Furgueson will relocate back to the US at the end of the summer and take his beautiful new Carl Douglas with him. We thank him for his contribution to club life over the past few years and hope that we can row with him in North America in the future.
Any review of the season would be incomplete without thanking Bryan Williams for organising crews and keeping us on the straight and narrow. Without his enthusiasm we wouldn’t have got to the start line for many races and without his calls maybe not to the finish line either.
Next year we would like to add more focus to the water sessions with more timed pieces and side by side work and hopefully some more outings in an eight.

{Off the water} Quiz, Burns Night and Annual Dinner – your social life sorted

Vesta members, did you resolve to have more fun in 2017? We’re here to help with a trio of social events to brighten the dark winter nights.

1. The return of the Vesta Quiz, Thursday 12th January 2017

Thursday 12th January sees the return of the Vesta Quiz. It will be in the bar and run from 20:30 to 21:30ish. Teams of 5, £1 entry, winning team gets bar tokens.

No need to sign up in advance. Simply turn up, form a team, and do your best to prove that rowers have both brawn AND brains.

2. Burns Night Supper, Wednesday 25th January 2017, SOLD OUT

We will be holding a traditional Burns Night supper on Wednesday 25th January.

Enjoy a glass of fizz followed by haggis*, neaps & tatties, a pudding and some Scottish cheeses. Also included is a tasting of the finest Scotch whisky following the meal.
*Veggie alternative available.

Date: Wednesday 25th January
Time: 7.30 for 8.00
Cost: £23 per person
Dress code: Smart casual, although kilts and other Highland dress are encouraged!

Tickets are now SOLD OUT.

3. Vesta Annual Dinner, Friday 3rd February 2017

Swap sweaty kit for swanky togs and join us on Friday 3rd February for the Vesta Annual Dinner at Chartered Accountants Hall. 

Dinner ticket: £65

Your ticket includes a drinks reception, 4 course dinner and transport back to VRC.

Dinner & raffle bundle: £80

Upgrade to a raffle bundle for the chance to win an all inclusive ski holiday for two to Megève, afternoon tea for two at the Langham, and more.

Book your tickets NOW before ticket sales close on Friday 27th January or sooner if they sell out. Don’t miss out!

{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} The view from a Scullers’ Head novice

by Oli Chapman

For this year’s Scullers’ Head the weather conditions could only improve on the North Sea storm like waves which had led to the race being cancelled last year. This year was anything but. Not only was it dry, but also there were blue skies, it wasn’t too cold and the tideway was in the rarely seen state of flat water. Perfect conditions for small boats generally, let alone racing!

This would be a race of many firsts for me; my first of the season, first since winning my novice regatta and my first head race in a single. In short, I didn’t know what to expect and all I knew was that 6.8km may feel like a long way in a 4+ as Neil Fraser wrote in his 4s Head race report, but it was sure going to feel a lot longer a in a 1x…

(Editor’s opinion: The head course does not feel longer in a 1x than a 4+. A 4+ is the heaviest and slowest and generally absolute worst boat in which to race the head course and only complete masochists attempt this.)

Boating was a fairly uneventful affair, though a flotilla of several hundred singles all working their way up to marshalling was a pretty cool sight and before long I found myself at the marshalling area with a long wait inching slowly to Chiswick Bridge from the crossing point.

The race started well, with a quick overtake before Barnes Bridge providing an unexpected and most welcome ego boost and I was quickly chasing down the next sculler. The seasoned members of the vet’s squad had given me a simple race plan to follow which they told me has been passed down from generations of Vesta rowers. It was the simple instruction to; “Go hard to Barnes Bridge, and then keep going hard until Putney”. Inspiring stuff.

From the crossing point to Hammersmith everything felt calm, the rate controlled yet quick and I felt like I was eating up the meters despite a little head wind along the island (which apparently was worse earlier on in the day – or so Gianni was telling everyone).

It was at Hammersmith Bridge where the going began to get tough and there was the sinking realisation that this was only half way and everything was now starting to hurt. The pace dropped a little and the scullers behind me who I had been pushing off were now gaining on me. With a lot of clear water ahead of me, my race had suddenly changed to being on the defensive and the goal being now to holding them off with little under 3km to go.

The cheers from the Vesta balcony weren’t enough to unfortunately prevent being over taken in the last few meters of the race but I was soon over the finish line and looking forward to a well-earned drink!

{Race Report} How many crews can one quad overtake?

by Victoria Carroll

This year for 4’s Head, the senior women were all in sculling boats, a change for Vesta! We had a good few weeks practicing in our crews and made the most of some hard battle paddling sessions with the other quad to prepare for the race.

All being experienced at head racing, we were well aware of the potential for frostbite while waiting for the start so we layered up with our warmest kit, waterproofs and of course banana cake courtesy of Andy Carson. As Vesta hadn’t entered a women’s quad for quite some time we were starting off number 333…the last Vesta boat! This meant we were able to cheer on the other crews before getting started but it also meant we had the crews ahead of us in our sights from the start.

We had a good rolling start coming through Chiswick bridge with Kirsty pushing us to sharpen our catches as we built up our speed going through the start. Some awesome steering from Charlotte right from the start line meant that we overtook our first two crews before Barnes Bridge – this gave us a great boost and pushed us to aim for the next boat! We heard lots of support from Vesta members past and present all along the course which we used to coincide with our pushes as we made our way down the course. Not long after Barnes we overtook our third and fourth boats and the long lonely row down the island was made all the better as we overtook two more crews.

As we approached Hammersmith we reset and prepared to row tall and proud for the Vesta supporters we knew would be waiting for us as we popped out the other side. The roar as we came under the bridge was loud and clear and set us up to tick off the bouys down past Harrods, another long stretch that can be hard to overcome mentally. We knew the other Vesta women’s quad was ahead of us and that kept us going through that tough stretch to the black buoy. Our plan was to start winding up from here and give it everything until the finish – this was helped by a shout from Charlotte telling us we had three further crews close ahead. Time to really punish those legs! Robyn led us along the embankment line of boats with a huge push bringing us level with the other women’s quad through the finish.

We were exhausted and delighted in equal measure – we all agreed it was one of the best races we had all done. We were aiming for a top 10 finish in our division which we all felt was punchy considering we were racing W.IM1 but ended up achieving our goal, finishing 9th out of 36 in our division. Overall we started off number 333 and finished 216. A great race and we are all looking forward to racing at Teddington and beyond!