Wallingford Head Success!


IM18+ Pennant Winners (s - Kat Astley, Lara Brock, Caroline Newbury, Aga Siemiginowska, Emma Dyson, Kitty Lowings, Kathryn Clover, Kat Hedges, cox Jamie Wooler)

The Vesta senior squads were out in force at a sunny Wallingford Head on Sunday 27th November, with two men’s VIIIs, four women’s VIIIs and four women’s IVs in action. With an exciting set of bends halfway down the course, all coxes and steers did a great job to bring home all equipment intact, albeit occasionally decorated with small amounts of shrubbery. The squads gained quality race experience, with all finding better pace by the second division, having enjoyed rather more sedate rhythms in division one. The women’s squad recorded two wins in the afternoon, in IM1 VIII and Sen 4-. The W.IM1 VIII enjoyed overtaking their competitors so much with their new-found race pace that they took a detour into the bushes through that infamous bend, enabling the rest of the category to catch up; before storming through the field again to bringing home the pennant. In the W.Sen 4- event, the race was on between two Vesta crews. Having despatched Reading University early on, it was up to the mighty lighties to maintain the leading position to the finish line. The final verdict was a win to the lighties with a margin of half a second – thank heavens for Wallingford’s precision timing, eh?! We’ll call that a very well-matched set of performances.

Fours Head of the River

Happily for all competitors, the weather forecasts were wrong and the 5th of November offered excellent racing conditions for the Fours Head of the River Race.  The weather was dry and mild (handy when you’re marshalling in the 400s) with a gentle breeze, and the water conditions as good as you’ll find on the tideway. Following the sprinkling of GB squad members racing in the pairs head, there was a large contingent of the current GB squad out competing for their respective clubs and picking up more silverware for their groaning trophy cabinets. (Unlike in training outings I believe they all made it home in one piece as well.)  The Hor4s twitter account disclosed that the race committee run a sweepstake on the number of crews in the top 100 who hit the buoy at Chiswick Pier – and true to form, the crews marshalling in that area enjoyed the sight of crew after non-tideway crew beat up the Chiswick pier buoy.

Fortunately this isn’t a “key target” race for the club, so we had a mere ten crews from Vesta competing across men’s and women’s, scull and sweep, among the 455 crews that completed the course. With some sub-tastic entries, three of the Vesta crews raced for time only. The event saw the usual mixed experiences whereby some crews had an open fairway for about 4 miles – a steering experience never enjoyed during training! – while others fought for space with competitors either side.

There were no wins for the club but good racing throughout, and some notable performances. The men’s IM1 4- finished eighth out of 36, including as it did the winning IM2 pair combination from the pairs head (Richard Lear and Simon Woodfine). The women’s IM1 4x came third in a large, and at the top end very pacy, field of 38 boats. Meanwhile there were two second places, for the women’s senior 4- and the women’s IM1 4-, the latter fighting off a fellow Vesta crew in the same category. Their pace must have had something to do with coach Jamie Low’s advice that as lightweights they should keep it “fast and loose” – probably not the first time such advice has been successful. (Ahem.)

Given the shortage of boats for the vast (in number) senior women’s squad, both the senior and IM2 women’s boats had to be returned to Hammersmith post-race, meaning their crews had a Putney-Chiswick warm up, followed by a Putney-Hammersmith warm down followed by a long walk back to the club. All crews had limited training time in their racing formats, with the luckier crews getting more than one outing before Saturday. The IM2 crew tried to fit in some last minute practise, and so gathered at 5.45am on Friday morning amid heavy rain, thunder and lightning,  only to find that some especially secure locking of the boatshed (Captain, please note) meant a quick borrow of incorrectly geared blades from KCS. Getting up early is such a good idea in theory…

All crews enjoyed taking local scalps, in addition to visitors who may not be so familiar with the stream. However, perhaps the greatest achievement of the day was that of our Communications Officer Aga Siemiginowska (IM1 4+). If anyone deserves a medal, it’s her, for managing to complete the race for the first time out of four (yes, four) attempts, having been defeated in previous years by crew injury, weather and broken steering. Well done Aga!

Well done also and thank you to the efforts in the bar and the kitchen, as marshalled by Ailsa Tremayne, for providing bacon baguettes, cakes, hot drinks and the odd pint or two to many a competitor and spectator over the course of the day.

– Martha K

Senior Men Win at Pairs Head!

The senior men had a storming start to the season with an IM2 2- win by Richard Lear and Simon Woodfine. The winning time was 12:53.05, setting a strong benchmark for the year ahead. Congrats and keep up the good work!

Vesta Women Show Strong Start in Pairs Head

With clement weather conditions to no doubt appease the assortment of GB rowing gods taking part, the 2011 pairs head saw the Vesta Senior Women squad represented by six fine crews across a range of categories. All crews enjoyed relatively incident free races, returning home dry and safe – unlike some of the other boats on the river.

With big competition in the senior and elite categories from competitors that (sometimes literally) eclipsed the Vesta crews, all three boats finished with respectable times, even if they were placed (let’s be honest!) last in their categories. The elite pair of Kat Hedges and Martha Kelly finished 6th out of all the women’s pairs, in a close race (at one point four boats abreast) that was won by crew members of the GB under 23 women’s VIII. The senior pair of Sarah Wood and Alex Johnson were beaten by a strong City of Oxford crew, while the senior double of Kitty Lowings and Emma Dyson were beaten by the rather curious Leander combination of Debbie Flood (of GB fame) and a cox (sculling as opposed to coxing) – who themselves were beaten by a speedy London RC crew. As Kitty and Emma had only very recently come together as a crew, and were impeded during the race by a men’s double (chivalry, much?), their time was commendable.

The IM3 doubles event was, as usual, the largest women’s category and had two Vesta crews – sibling duo Lara / Vicky Brock and Athene McGregor-Macdonald / Natalie Demblon. The Brockmobile cranked out the fastest squad time of the day, finishing in an excellent fifth place in the category. Meanwhile another new combination, Hayley Beer and Anna Ven Den Berg in the IM2 pair, enjoyed their first race in a pair despite seasonal sniffles.

In Matt’s words this was a “voluntary, fun” head race, and at a mere 4k was a good afternoon out. The (presumably mandatory, not fun?) Fours’ Head is the next race for the squad, on the 5th November.

– Martha Kelly

Tour du Lac licked

Vesta Rowing Club returned to Geneva on Saturday 24th September to compete in the longest inland rowing race in the world.  Emily Trant, Kitty Lowings, Alex Johnson, Freya Johnstone and Cheryl Gilliver sculled 160km in a coxed quad around the circumference of Lac Léman, finishing in a heroic time of 17 hours and 42 minutes at 2:42am on Sunday morning.

The girls will be writing a full race report next week, so look forward to tales of bravery, extremes and utter mentalness.

Summer 2011 Regatta Summary

With the three big Henleys out of the way, members of various Vesta squads have been busy enjoying the delights of the Great British Summer regatta circuit. The following are the Vesta wins recorded this summer.

  • The women’s development squad followed up a fantastic season with a win at Richmond Regatta in W.IM3 8+ (crew:  A. van Den Berg, S. Schorm, S. Barton, S. Head, S. Schlosser, V. Harvey, R. Withers, T. Hudson, V. Taylor (cox)).
  • CORRECTION: Kingston Regatta passed with a few entries and at least TWO wins:
  • o    Mas C 4- Peter Simpson, James Weatherstone, Fred Beaud, Bryan Williams beat Kingston GS Associates
  • o    Nov 2x James Ulner and Nico Russman
  • … Fortunately we were back on winning form at a rainy Molesey Regatta, with no less than four wins – all in sculling:
  • o   Gianni Galavotti finally popped his novice sculling cherry in style, with wins at both Nov 1x and IM3 1x
  • o   Athene McGregor-Macdonald and Natalie “Red” Demblon also lost their novice status, in the W.Nov 2x
  • o   Martha Kelly notched up a win in W.IM3 1x
  • Back in Henley-on-Thames (for Henley Town and Vistitors) Vesta claimed more silverware, this time with some help from our friends:
  • o   Emi Furuhata lost her novice status in the W.Nov 4+ in conjunction with HSBC RC
  • o   Kat Hedges defended her quad title in the W.IM2 4x with alma mater club Eton Excelsior.
  • And last but not least, in the Barnes and Mortlake Regatta, Mas C 2x was won by Peter Simpson and Frederic Beaud who beat Putney Town in the semi-final and Cygnet in the Final to win.

Well done Vesta! Now back to the ergos to prep for the new season ahead!!

Martha and Aga

Blackstaffe Club Regatta 2011


On Saturday 20th August Vesta held its annual club regatta, with all members welcomed to join in the fun. With a good crowd of supporters on the Vesta balcony the club took to the Tideway in mixed scratch eights and the hotly contested mixed double sculls (AKA the love doubles).
Racing from the Black Buoy to Putney Pier (a whopping, lung-burning 500 metres!), the crews showed an awesome display of brute strength and unstoppable competition. It was a really good turn out with four mixed eights and eight double sculls. Plus an entourage of umpires and organisers.
Winning the mixed eights in Derek the White (yes it does still float), coxed by Ro, from bow, Sarah, Sarah, Stewart, Sabine, Si, Sam, Cheryl and Luke. Competition was fierce in the doubles, but Harry and Ailsa, the Bond and the Blonde, despite not being on top form (again), narrowly defeated, Kitty and Richard (I won’t say what their crew was called).  Both crews were awarded smart, shiny, VRC pots, which were christened later on in the evening.
We welcomed a photographer from English Heritage, who was introduced to the Vesta spirit and bar. Everyone enjoyed the fabulous BBQ put on by Dick, ably assisted by Annette and others. A big thank you to them, the organisers, umpires, bar staff and spectators. We look for to the 2012 showdown (which will be in the middle of the Olympics, so we may well be men down).

By Aga and Cheryl

Parliamentary Boat Race report

Vesta RC’s senior women’s squad were invited to race again in this year’s Parliamentary Boat Races on July 13th, an annual event sponsored by Siemens to raise awareness of our sport and raise money among MPs for charity.  A women’s VIII (formed primarily from the HWR winning crew) attempted to make it four wins in a row for the squad. On a windy afternoon, the crew set about rigging “Tommy” in the slightly insalubrious surroundings of a broken glass-strewn layby behind the arches at Vauxhall, with only the close vicinity to a Majestic Wine Warehouse helping us to feel more at home. The safety briefing brought news of a revised race course and cancellation of the youth crews’ events; given the high water and wind against tide, the conditions were choppy even by usual Tideway standards. With a carefully marshalled crossing of the Albert Embankment to the London Duck Tours slipway (or, “next to MI6” as we prefer), and with just time enough for at least half of us to bury flip-flops in the deceptively deep, sticky mud on the shoreline, the crew boated, ready to face the opposition – Mortlake Anglian & Alpha.

Spies in the enemy camp hadn’t been wrong about how stacked the crew was, as the 8th-placed crew from WeHoRR reformed for the occasion, including as it did three Olympians, including Sarah Winckless (bronze, Athens) and a couple of Beijing silver medallists, and individuals who attended GB trials this year. Of course this wasn’t enough to deter the intrepid Vesta women, and we got stuck straight into our total race preparation – three 7-stroke starts – as we made our way to the start line.  With our usual strong start, we kept in touch with the oppo throughout the sprint course and when the “wind down!” call came we were a mere half-length down – not too shabby considering the competition!

With that, we performed our “row past” for the spectators and were off to the reception held on the terrace of the Houses of Parliament, with the honour of entering Parliament from the river via the Black Rod Steps, and the slightly more dubious honour of parading around the high offices of government in mud-slicked lycra. The women’s race was followed by a men’s race between London RC and Thames RC (won by London), and the finale was a race between the House of Commons and the House of Lords with a decisive win for the Commons – helped along no doubt by the superb coxing of our own Helen Arbuthnot.

The reception was attended by MPs, Lords, and a number of representatives from the world of rowing – Di Ellis, David Tanner, and some members of the GB squad, to list a few. As well as being a great day out, it was as usual a great opportunity to show the club in a positive light. And with that, all that was left was the return journey, including an unchaperoned crossing by Tommy of the Albert Embankment during rush hour – well done Vicky Taylor for demonstrating excellent lollipop lady skills!

Crew: (cox to bow) Vicky Taylor, Hilary Blandy, Holly de Gay, Stine Keys, Liane Higgins, Nell Pascal, Vicky Brock, Natalie “Red” Demblon, Martha Kelly (yes, that’s 6 strokesiders…)

Henley Masters Regatta 2011

Vesta had an extremely successful weekend of racing at Henley Masters Regatta.  George Fieldhouse and Barry Clarke won Masters B 2- and then doubled up with Helen Gray, Jamie Halliday and Michael Hughes to win the Masters B 4+.

Photo copyright BigBlade Photography: http://www.bigblade-photos.com

In the 2- George and Barry overcame the current National Masters Champions, 2010 Pairs Head divisional winners (who finished 46th overall in a Masters 2-) ex-GB internationals and Henley Royal medal winners en route to an eventful final against a strong Oporto University crew. The final was extremely close, with Vesta recovering from a slightly wayward start to begin draw ahead of Oporto before the Oporto crew clashed with the booms mid-way down the course. Distances of Easily, 2.5 Lengths and 2.5 Lengths gave the pair immense satisfaction and have made all the season long 5.30am outings and endless bench-pulls worthwhile.

The 4+ has just come together over the last couple weeks but the experienced individuals adapted well and surprised all the competitors (and themselves) by being extremely dominant in all races.  Inch perfect steering by Helen set the scratch crew up for strong performances in their semi and final.  Jamie swapped his Elite single for the stroke seat where he set a fantastic pace and rhythm.  Michael literally jumped out of the Thames Cup 8o and provided a massive amount of power and strength in the bow seat.

There were many comments from officials and competitors that it was great to see Vesta back on a Henley Masters presentation pontoon.

Henley Masters is an extremely well run event over an abridged Henley Royal course.  Competition is of the highest standard with a large number of international crews, Henley Royal medal winners, Olympians and ex-Internationals competing.  Both the Vesta crews can pay testament to the quality of entry but also the manner in which the opposition carried themselves.  The opposition were extremely magnanimous in defeat with the threat to be training even harder to try to keep up.  No doubt the 2- and 4+ will be back next year to defend their titles and hope to be bringing more Vesta crews along with them.  In the meantime, roll on the Winter Head season!