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