{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} 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!

{Race Report} Veteran Fours Head of the River 2016

by Peter Simpson
The day after the wet and cold Fours Head we woke to beautiful conditions for the Veteran Fours Head which raced upstream from the  Mile Post to just short of UL. 
The club was represented by a Mas.D 4x quad of Peter Simpson (stroke), Michael Ferguson, Bryan Williams and Michael Maynard (steers) in the first race for this new combination. The training paid off and we had a strong start and steered a good course. Eventually we opened the door for some crews to get past but in the end we were happy with how we raced. 
The result showed where we were and what we need to do to be competitive in the future. At this stage of the season the process has been more important than the outcome; rowing together, doing  ergs and weights, joining the club time trial and doing pieces with Vesta crews has all been part of the experience and we will build on this over the winter.
Thanks to all the coaches who have given comments, the other crews that we have rowed with, the Captain for the boat allocation and to Bryan for organising all the outings.

{Race Report} The head course is a long way in a 4+ . . .

by Neil Fraser

Preparation for the race hadn’t gone to plan with us only being able to get out into the boat together 3-4 times, but our last paddle together went smoothly and gave us a bit of confidence going into the race.

For all of us this was our first time racing Fours Head so we didn’t have much to lose and went into the race hoping to execute the race plan and come through knowing that we’d given it our best shot.

The paddle up to Chiswick was a bit nervy, but Mario did a great job manoeuvring us around the other boats. Fortunately the weather was improving and the water conditions were better than expected – we just had to keep ourselves warm before we could strip down to race kit and get started.

We went under Chiswick Bridge starting to build and get the hands spinning – the rate went up and we were quickly up to race speed as we crossed the start line. Working towards Barnes Bridge was a reminder of how long this first stretch of the race is, but the shouts from the White Hart were soon heard and we pushed on around the bend.

We seemed to hit a bad patch along the island, but tried our best to keep the rhythm and hold onto the crews just ahead of us. Going under Hammersmith Bridge was a big boost – the Vesta shouts kicked us on to the stretch of the course we know best. Going into the last 500 meters we were battling hard to hold off a crew from Kingston RC and just about managed it.

We were pleased to see the finish line, spin and get off the water – it’s a long way in a 4+. Looking at the results we weren’t as competitive as we would have liked, but we took away a lot of experience from the race which we’ll be looking to build quickly upon as the season progresses.

We’ve all got a lot to work on, but look forward to moving into the 8 as the head season progresses.

First time taking on the Fours Head

Crew: N. Sani (Cox), A. Kung, M. Walsh, L. Turner, N. Fraser

{Race Report} Senior men’s top boat takes on the Fours Head of the River

by Joe Casey

On Saturday 12th November four men (and one cox!) formed one of the two crews representing the Vesta RC Senior Men’s Squad in the Fours Head of the River Race. We had trained hard over the previous two months in the gym, on the ergs and in gruelling water sessions in everything from small boats to eights – and in whatever weather the Tideway could throw at us! In the final weekend before the race we were put through our paces alongside the other VRC coxed four and a crew from the University of Southampton. But we came out of it feeling fit and confident.

But our run up to the big day wasn’t perfect. More than once ankle and knee injuries threatened the race. And even sickness tried to spoil our day, with two members of our crew becoming seriously ill in the week before the race. After a brief suggestions of substitutions it was decided that we stick together, row hard and represent VRC as best we can.

On the day we settled our nerves with a warm up paddle and plenty of stretching. Then, after rousing speeches from Captain Harry, our coach Ross and our cox Helen, we pulled on our whites and got hands on our boat. Despite our setbacks, we pushed off from the embankment feeling eager and ready to represent VRC at the first big Head of the season.

The row up was typically frantic with over 450 crews on the water. But our cox Helen showed trademark coolness and got us to our marshal point without a hitch.

Then it was time…

Outside Putney Town RC we pointed our bow into the stream and Helen lined up Chiswick Bridge in her sights. First with pressure through the water, and then on the rate, we built up to that stinging rhythm Ross had asked for. We burst out of Chiswick Bridge at rate 32 and the race was on.

The first stretch was a Remenham affair with us hunting down Twickenham while holding off Kingston. Despite settling into our stride quickly KRC got the better of us just as we approached Barnes Bridge. But we came past the band stand feeling good and the ‘100 stroke charge’ to the island began. We didn’t have many other crews around us so had to rely on Helen’s commands to keep our heads in the game but the boat felt good and the wash was easy to handle.

At r30 now we sped towards Dove Pier. While Twickenham were still within striking distance, we had allowed a strong Warwick BC crew to slowly creep up on us. But just as fatigue threatened to creep in Hammersmith Bridge appeared round the corner. We flew underneath, powered on by cheers from the crowd overhead. But we now had a battle on our hands. Warwick were trying to get past and Twickenham were stubbornly maintaining clear water on us (just).

But this was the home stretch. Our home stretch. With a rate change from Helen we increased the intensity and battled alongside the other crews. We powered past Craven Cottage with renewed force and started to wind up for the big finish. By this time my legs felt like jelly and my arms like lead but as we heard the roar from the VRC clubhouse a new strength found us and we crossed the line with our chins held high.

Unfortunately the final results didn’t reflect the work we had put in in the months leading up to the race – a modest 14 out of 16 (at IM1 mind!). But we rowed well and given the injuries and sickness that had plagued us so recently prior to the race we hit the bar feeling proud of our paddle.

The top boat puts on the whites

Still looking good in the whites after a tough race!