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…)