By Vincent McGovern
So. What seemed like a bright idea a couple of weeks before didn’t seem such a bright idea as we placed ‘Villain’ on the water 50 minutes before the start of the 2015 Vets Fours Head Race…
In true Vesta fashion preparation on race day started exceptionally well with three of the four crew members being kicked out of Vesta at the conclusion of the rather good Fours head party.
Bleary eyed, still slightly drunk, and not in the slightest bit regretting signing up to do it we reconvened at Vesta later that morning to race a composite VRC/LRC Masters B quad.
As with the Fours head of the river the day before conditions were a mixture of excellent and challenging. While the first part of the race was relatively flat with a tail wind it became quite clear that the stretch from Hammersmith bridge home would be an altogether different matter.
The first part of the race proceeded according to plan with a steady 32/34 rate in decent conditions. We gradually reeled in the boat that started in front of us and put distance on the crews behind us.
Things however got complicated from about the Bandstand onwards… it was here that the first of us, a senior squad member at his club for the past seven years with numerous Henley appearances under his belt, realised… that you can’t go off super hard at the start of a head race like a senior squad member… when you ain’t a senior squad member and haven’t done the training. The rest of the crew were whacked hard by this fact at various points from there to Hammersmith Bridge.
Should this crew ever take to the water again we know now who our nemesis is. Its name is Monmouth and will not be forgotten. From the top of the island right through to Harrods the Monmouth crew that started ahead of us blocked, obstructed and really quite annoyed us as they repeatedly weaved into our path as we tried to pass sometimes on the inside sometimes on the outside.
The Gods of Luck were with us though… firstly as we came through Hammersmith Bridge in ensuring that the marshal stationed on the Surrey side was a London RC stalwart who… somehow managed not to hear the colourful cries of frustration emanating from all four seats in the boat.
And secondly when our ‘friends’ in the Monmouth quad caught a monumental boat stopper of a crab as we both, rowing side by side, hit the rough water just before Harrods… (see also Highlights of the race bullet point four for the third reason the Gods of Luck were with us…)
Vesta / London were ahead and it was coastal rowing from there on to the Black Buoy and down the line of boats to the finish.
Highlights of the race were:
- the white horses between the Black Buoy and Harrods (on the way to the start and again during the race)
- both the LRC members of the crew mildly objecting to being called Vesta by marshalling umpires
the rhythmic thud of the four cans of Kronenberg in the watertight compartments as they banged against the hull in time with each stroke
- the “aw sh***” as one member of the crew momentarily lost control (but importantly didn’t crab!) of a blade as we entered the rough water side by side with Monmouth
- the impressive range of race faces caught on camera
and last, but not least,
- collapsing across the finish line in a time of 19:52.07 beaten only by a veteran Imperial College crew (containing three children and one ex Dutch Olympian) and a Wallingford crew which sported a suspiciously large amount of Xchanging kit in the boat, to an overall placing of third and the Masters B pennant.
The crew: Ash Maitland (LRC) [bow], Vincent McGovern , Harry Bond  and Dom Wilson (LRC) [Stk]