{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!

{Race Report} Summer round up: Novice boys find success both on and off the water

By Neil Fraser

On the whole it’s been a successful regatta season for the squad. In our usual manner though, it took us a while to get going.

Having heard how special winning your novice pot is we went into the opening regattas based up around Chiswick with a lot of hope. We kept getting left on the start line though – our competition would be half a length up as we were mid-wind. Needless to say, our races ended with a long row straight back to Putney.

We didn’t have any success in the eight and with availability for training becoming an issue we decided to switch to the 4+. Twickenham Regatta was the first breakthrough for the squad with a win coming for Alex B, Luca T, Neil F, Mike W and Cat (cox) in the 4+. It was scrappy and nervy, but after a few clashes with the Kingston boat we crossed the line first. Celebrations were heard.

Up next came Henley qualifiers. We didn’t have the numbers to enter our own boat, but a couple of the squad teamed up with the remaining Seniors and entered the VRC Amalgam 8. We learnt a huge amount from the lead up to qualifiers and the event itself. We fell short, but it was a humbling and memorable experience which we took a lot from.

novice-boys-1a

Novice wins came at Molesey Regatta for Andrew C, Felix X-L, Nick H, Jerry K and Coach Wendy (cox) in the 4+. The win was bitter sweet though when the guys were presented with medals instead of pots…seriously, Molesey? It was a successful day for the squad with the IM3 4+ boys taking a win in the morning session. Beers were drunk back at Vesta.

Special mention to Oli Chapman (C2) who has been referring to himself as ‘quite the sculler’ for the last few months. He’s been through more races than all of us and found a win at HT&V, his last race of the season – very well deserved. Oli didn’t stop there though and continued all the way to Blackstaffe Day with a win in the Love Double.

Congrats to the Novice girls for a successful season. Your first win came well before ours, thanks for celebrating so modestly. Our biggest joint success though must be the mingling of squads and for introducing Felix to his Little Pixie. Cute.

An enormous thanks to Wendy for supporting us throughout the summer season. The new intake of novices are very lucky to have you. Special thanks as well to co-Coaches Ben and Zara plus Cat and Jack for coxing us throughout the year. Lastly, to our late Italian signing, Mario, who took us through our last races and fed us spaghetti bolognese.

We’ve had a memorable first year at Vesta with many of us looking forward to continuing when the new season starts and keeping the Vesta bar profits healthy (see 2015-2016 accounts).

See you in September.

novice-boys-2

{Race Report} Summer round up: Novice girls transform into Dev women

Was summer only a few short weeks ago? It sure feels like a distant memory. . . Here’s our round up covering a summer of racing.

by Lauren Hardcastle

Novice girls complete the metamorphosis to transform into the development women….well almost all of them!

With training camp completed (survived) the novice girls started the summer full of nervous energy fighting for an elusive seat in that Henley 8. Training was stepped up a gear and with the squad whittled down to 9 with two of us proficiently turning a natural hand to coxing! The race was on – so to speak, not only to find that perfect, knee length, dress for Henley Royal (somewhat of a challenge for these tall girls amongst us!) but to get a respectable time in the 2k vomit inducing test and a seat in the boat for Henley women’s!

A few weeks later and there we were on a beautiful balmy Thursday evening paddling down the Henley course with not one head in the boat, I’m not sure any one of us (including James and Chris!) thought we’d be sat there looking into an incredible sunset making all the blood, sweat and tears worth every second! Although our Henley 8 did not make it through the time trial we had the best race of our season and were massively punching about our weight in the big leagues, the experience alone was incredible and it just made us more determined to keep our seats in the intermediates next year!

So – with Henley women’s over for 2016 we put down the AIO and pulled out the dresses for Henley Royal! Not too shabby to be part of the Remenham Club and definitely the way to do Henley Royal, the weather was kind and the champagne very friendly and unbelievably no one missed the bus home. A great few days and a slightly painful liver later it was back to reality and the fun of summer regattas.

We decided to tackle Kingston, Molesey and to finish our season at Henley Town and Visitors Regatta. For some of us the drive to win that shiny first pot made us like magpies flocking to the river. Kingston went well with a nail biting heat and winning by a canvas! We were over the moon until we realised it was the Cambridge Development Squad who were our competitors for the final, we gave it our best and gave them a good race but sadly they pipped us to the post. We drowned our sorrows in a post-race bbq on the Vesta balcony! Not to worry, onwards and upwards to Molesey regatta…where let’s just say it didn’t quite go to plan! We made the rookie error of taking the wrong rigger and as we are all aware one cannot rig a boat with 5 stroke side riggers, we were somewhat screwed until a lovely man from Molesey lent us a boat and the race was on – we located our cox (who had been borrowed by 8 London boys who were intent on keeping her forever – that is a fight they would never win!) we made it to the start with no time to spare in our borrowed boat – alas it was not to be but we sure did learn our lesson!! – Our cox won her pot with the London boys and took a swim in the river for the privilege!!!

And so, all of a sudden it was back to Henley Town and Visitors with a scratch IM3 4+ and a wildcard entry.. We smashed the heat winning by a comfortable 4 lengths and the wait was on to see if we could end the season on a high, once again just being beaten to the pot by a meagre half a length but we were satisfied nonetheless, the glimpse of good things to come ensured we went home happy and contented we couldn’t have tried any harder.

novice-girls-2a

I can honestly say joining Vesta has been one of the hardest, most challenging things we have ever done, there have been friends made for life, everyone has relocated to within a 1 mile radius of Vesta and we have callouses in places we never knew were possible, rowing is not just a sport but a way of life and I think that one that none of us are willing to give up. We are looking forward to embracing the Intermediates, Blackstaffe Day and a few well-earned weeks off.

September is just around the corner and we are not the Novices anymore – one might think we should know better now and can avoid those horrific hangovers and hand blisters but it is Vesta after all, it would be rude not to have a drink in the bar after training and from what I’ve seen so far the learn to row course are already giving us a run for our money with the biggest bar takings Vesta have ever seen last year! It’s a great place to be and with a new Captain and a new influx who knows what might happen next year, one thing for sure the Development Girls aren’t going anywhere….

 

novice-girls-1

The 2016/17 season starts week of 5th September – dates for your diary

It’s nearly time to get the new season underway. Both returning and new members are invited to attend our season kick off meetings which will be held upstairs in the Vesta Bar. The Captain will outline plans for Vesta for the coming season and how we’ll be running the club, and each coach will give an overview of training and racing goals for their squads.

Novice Squad kick off meeting: Tuesday 6th September 2016 at 8pm. Bar open from 7pm:)

Senior Squad kick off meeting: Thursday 8th September 2016 at 7:30pm

RSVP here if you’ll be coming along to one of our season kick off meetings. New members are welcome and there is no obligation to join.

 

First session: Saturday 10th September 2016, 7:30am

Current members: don’t forget the Vesta AGM on Wednesday 7th September 2016 at 8pm!