In Memory – Nigel Knight

By Jock McKerrell


It is with great sadness we report the death of Nigel Knight at the age of 72. Nigel had a brain tumour for some years, so we only saw him occasionally, but he was always cheerful, convivial, and the complete gentleman.

He will however, be best remembered, and very fondly, for his eccentricity. A former regular Army officer, he flew helicopters, and was notable for bringing down some power lines during an exercise and plunging a considerable area of West Germany into darkness. He is reported to have said “Oh gosh, did I ? I’m awfully sorry”.

He joined Vesta as a veteran (now called Masters) in the 90’s, and won a number of sculling races in his single and also in crews. At this time, mainly for Henley, he built a river craft. It consisted of an area of decking, supported by two oil drums. He attached an outboard engine which was steered by an old tennis racket, and fixed to the decking was his deckchair. Donned in his panama hat, blazer and whites he would then tootle up and down the Henley course. Needless to say, photos were published in the press.

Nigel was also a qualified umpire, and for a time was in charge of the Veterans’ Head. He once wrote a very funny letter in reply to a competitor complaining about unfair conditions, explaining that until we had more comprehensive rainfall records for the Thames Valley and Chilterns, and could better interpret Moon fazes, then for head races, conditions could be unfair – also published.

To complete his service to Vesta, for a time he was a faithful secretary to the Club.

He was a complete one-off and will be very sorely missed. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Denise and their family.

The funeral will be on December 20th at the church of St Mary the Virgin at Mortlake at 12.00. And afterwards at the Bull’s Head in Barnes

Race Review – Vesta Scullers Head

Saturday 2nd December saw yet another successful running of the Vesta Scullers Head, with over 450 scullers braving the freezing conditions. In total 13 Vesta scullers completed the course and notably also the row back, given this year’s race was run the “wrong” way.

The Senior Women’s squad had near complete domination of the Women’s Club category, occupying 4 of the top 5 placings. Kirsten Adams was the category winner, by seven seconds from Ruth McKellar in second, with Jamie-Rose Larkin in 4th and Megan Halsted in 5th place.

On the men’s side there were a number of strong results. These included a second place for Si Woodfine in the Men’s Senior category, just five seconds off the winner. There was also a second place for Adrian Turner in Masters A-C Fresher’s category and a 4th place for Gianni Galavotti in Master’s C.

There was also a number of strong results from Vesta masters squads, including a 3rd place for Paul Mew in Masters G, and 3rd place for Isabelle Laliberte in Women’s Masters Freshers.


Race Review – Fours Head

The first major test of the season saw a record 10 Vesta boats producing some strong results, indicating both the men’s and women’s squads are looking to pick up where they left off in the summer.

With the new British Rowing Competition Framework and RPI coming into effect, there were new categories to contend with. Despite some interesting groupings, with the top ranked Vesta crews being categorised with crews that would normally be put in the elite category, the strong results showed an ability to rise to this challenge.

The Senior Women showed some strong early season form, with the Band 1 4- finishing in 7th place in their category and as the 9th fastest women’s coxless four overall. Given Band 1 was won by Leander and contained 2 Cambridge University crews, this strong result showed that last summer’s final at Women’s Henley was only the start. The women also showed exceptional strength in depth, with the coxed four placing 3rd out of 16 in Band 2, and the second coxed four finishing a strong 7th in Band 3.

The Senior Men’s A Crew also had some challenges presented by the new ranking index, with the start order meaning they had overtaken 6 and been overtaken by 2 crews by Hammersmith. At one point this meant rowing almost 4 a breast, with cox Julie Franckh doing an exceptional job of holding the racing line whilst being screamed at to move over from both sides. A promising finish of 7th out of 25 in Band 2, despite the traffic, represented a strong result for the crew. The men also showed exceptional depth, with 3 boats, including 2 coxed, finishing in the top 200 overall.

The Men’s A Crew – Photo – Mark Ruscoe

We also unfortunately had the dubious honour of posting the slowest time in the competition, with one of the Senior Women’s quads finishing 440th out of 440. Unfortunately this was due to a technical malfunction meaning they had no steering and so paddled over the course. No doubt without this they would have added to an exceptional set of results.

Race Review – Pairs Head

Tight racing under Hammersmith Bridge

Pairs Head marks the first race of the new season, with Vesta looking to give strong performances across the board on our home water. The tideway is known for its often brutal conditions, but the day of the race saw perfect weather to put in a good time.

The Women’s Squad had four entries. Ruth McKellar and Louisa Emkes (2- Champ) built on their summer racing in a pair putting in a strong performance finishing as 6th fastest women’s pair overall in a tight field. So tight in fact that they rowed three abreast over the finish line.

Another familiar combination of Kirsty McGregor-Ritchie and Robyn McGregor-Ritchie (2x Lwt) and the newer 2- Inter of Catherine Long and Jamie Larkin both rowed strong races to finish 3rd in their categories.

A pennant win came in the 2x Fresher category rowed by Clare Wood and Chloe Symmonds. “Being at the lower end of the crew list, we began our 2 hour wait giving a cheer to the Vesta crews of the first division as we marshalled by the start line. It was great to eventually get going, and with a large gap to make up between us and the crew infront as we wound up under Chiswick bridge, the holler’s for Vesta from the bank spurred us on as we stormed down the course.”

Women’s Fresher Doubles Winners Chloe and Claire

The Men also had four crews entered (and half a composite). Harry Bond and Si Woodfine finished 10th overall in their double, less than 20 seconds off the lead time. In the pairs Ols Lumley and Chris Clements, competing in and steering their first races in a pair respectively, finished 7th of 16 in their category. Our Masters were also represented in the Open Masters D/E 2x, facing some tough opposition finishing 10th out of 14 in their category.


Chris and Ols approach the start line

It was a great start to the season, and accompanied by our annual Vesta pub crawl, was a fun day for all.

Captain’s Race Preview – Fours Head

Captain Harry Bond previews the first major race of the season, Fours Head:

In only four days time we will see the first of the major events of the racing calendar. On the 11th and 12th of November we have both the Veteran Fours and Fours Heads. I’m delighted to say that Vesta will be represented by a number of crews racing across the whole of the weekend and to celebrate this I have asked for all members, especially the racing athletes to make the club dinner on Thursday the 9th a priority.

When a Vesta member puts on our ‘jersey’ and goes out to race they do so representing, in order of importance; themselves, their crew, their squad and their Club. They are part of a vitally important whole that stretches back many generations. A whole that includes everyone from Olympic and European Champions, through Henley winners, to people have have won their novice pot. No matter how great or humble their previous success, all of our members share one thing in common; the sense of pride and community associated with putting on the Vesta all-in-one.

Thursday the 9th will be the first opportunity for the club as a whole to meet the athletes representing Vesta in a major event this season. After training has been completed and whilst dinner is being served, I have asked that a member of each boat stands and gives a brief introduction to their crew members, previous racing experience and aims for the current race, along with the category they are competing in and their crew number. It will also be announced which two crews will be “Pulling on the White;” and representing the top end of both the Senior Men’s and Women’s Squads. The differentiation between the two top crews, marked by white short/long sleeves, and the rest of the club serves to highlight the aspiration all racing crews should have; to be in the top boat.

The Masters Squad will be ably represented on Saturday at 10:00 by:

Masters E 4x

(No. 47)

Peter Simpson
Bryan Williams
Michael Maynard
Tom Moisley

Both Senior Squads have crews racing on the Sunday at 12:20

From the Senior Men, we have a record five crews:

4+ Band 2

(No. 338)

4+ Band 1

(No. 309)

4+ Band 2

(No. 345)

4- Band 2

(No. 238)

4- Band 2

(No. 257)

Rob Donald Ed Roe Seb Wachholz Joe Casey Rob Alexander
Adrian Turner Rory Baggot Garrett Speers Henry Primaolo Oliver Chapman
Chris Clements Gianni Galavotti Chris Goodfellow Nicholas Roll Alex Küng
Oliver Lumley Will Pearson Alan Huton Matt Webb Mike Benson
Julia Franckh Rob Hamilton Lauren Hardcastle

From the Senior Women, we also have a record of five crews

W4- Band 1

(No. 278)

W4+ Band 2

(No. 426)

W4x Band 1


W4+ Band 3

(No. 453)

W4x Band 1

(No. 140)

Robyn McGregor-Ritchie Cathy Long Kirsty McGregor-Ritchie Hannah Futter Isella Rigoulet
Ruth McKellar Sarah Thompson Megan Halsted Alice Hoskins Jenni Pearson
Louisa Emkes Cameo Choquer Clare Wood Cherry Fermor Claudia Afeltra
Chloe Symonds Paula Rozenlauka Charlotte Lennox Shelley Rowlett Emily Robinson
Lauren Owens Kate Keough

I hope to see as many of you as possible on Thursday, and over the weekend cheering on our crews.

Masters take on America

The masters crew of Mew,  Maynard, Williams and Furgueson

A Vesta Masters 4x recently competed in the Head of the Schuykill Regatta, Philadelphia, one of the U.S major regattas alongside the Head of the Charles.

Michael Maynard, Paul Mew and Bryan Williams flew into Newark the Thursday before to meet Mike Furgueson who recently returned to his native US. Two hours after landing they were on the water at the Nereid Boat Club, Rutherford N.J doing a solid 10k on the Passaic River. Friday morning saw more practice time with a 12k workout.

On Saturday, the group drove two hours to Philadelphia and were hosted by University Barge Club.

Thankfully, the dire weather predictions proved to be wrong and the quad had good conditions for their mid afternoon race. UBC loaned a new Fillippi to the crew for the 2.5 mile long course. The boat was stroked by Mew, powered by Maynard in 3 & Williams in 2 and steered by Furgueson.

They rowed at a strong and controlled pace throughout the race and crossed the line finishing a respectable third in their category.

{Squad Update} Senior Men’s Season in Review

We started from nothing now we’re here… Senior Men’s Squad – End of Season Review

By Chris Clements

“Rebuild”, “development” and “long term project” were all words used at the start of the 2016/17 season, more palatable wording for “we’re starting again from scratch”. With a massive turnover in the summer, new coaching team and about a quarter of the squad having rowed the year before (at any club), it really was starting with a blank sheet of paper.

It ended up being a fantastic year, meaning our starting position for next year could not be more different than a year ago. The season is probably best summed up by a few key achievements.

  • Not giving in – We set ambitious goals at the start of the year, at times they looked a long way off, but it came together in the end, qualifying an eight (and a double) for Henley. We picked up wins at Reading, Marlow, Kingston, Putney Town and Molesey, with 75% of the squad picking up a win at some point in the season.
  • We ended the year with a bigger squad than we started – Spurred on by squad rules including “Don’t be a dick” and “The squad comes first” we did the unheard of and actually grew the size of the squad through the winter. The positive training environment meant as the season went on commitment increased, there were more ergs completed and we were pushing to fit in more water sessions wherever we could.
  • We all improved (dramatically). With the support of a fantastic and committed coaching team, the technical standards of the squad moved on significantly throughout the year. Old bad habits were crushed and boats moved faster as a result.
  • It was actually enjoyable – The squad embraced the Vesta way, taking our training seriously but also having a good time. Occasionally this included more beverages than it perhaps should, but if your rowing club will have the best, cheapest and friendliest bar on the tideway…

All in all it was a fantastic year, one which was challenging, rewarding but most of all enjoyable. We’ve set up for the new season to take on the next challenge, with virtually all of the squad returning, and ready to step on. Talk is of pre-qualification for Henley as a minimum next year, and if the improvement this year is replicated, it’s hard to believe that we won’t at least achieve that and maybe more…

If you’re interested in joining us you can register your interest here, or pop down to the club for a chat.

{Squad Update} Novice Men’s Squad End of Season Review

By Garrett Speers

Of the original 24 men who turned up to the first training session, only 17 withstood to form the core squad, of whom seven had rowed before in one form or another, either at school, university, or on the Vesta Learn-to-Row course. Under the watchful eye of our coaches Wendy and Deckchair, we were broken down to basics and rebuilt as what would become one of Vesta’s most successful novice squads in recent years.

Why? Why were we doing this to ourselves? Subjecting ourselves to this willingly? This, and many more expletive-laden thoughts, would cross our minds when confronted with a 5K erg, or long steady state rows on the Tideway, seeing snow settle on the shoulders of the man in front of you…

The answer would come at the first head race, when in an VIII at the Remenham Challenge we would chase down crews in the thick fog, pipping Twickenham at the cusp of the finish line. We would take them in front of the other proven Vesta crews at the last second. It was then that we were truly hooked; we had all caught the bug. Out of the window go your NRFs (non-rowing friends) and in come your crewmates – a band of brothers. United by the same love of racing, propping up the Vesta bar, and avoiding death at the hands of the Putney Pier (all survived, minus one blade…) you’re hooked! This is why we row.

With many strong performances of the Head season behind us, we embarked on a tough training camp in Totnes – where our proficiency in drinking, rowing, and capsizing boats of all sizes increased drastically. Our time training down on the Dart gave us the crucial experience and fighting spirit for the Nov. VIII, stroked by Tom ‘Champion’ Wormold, to promptly win and collect the first Vesta silverware of the season at Hammersmith Regatta.

Throughout the regatta season, the number of water sessions increased in an attempt to rid us of ‘the rush’, bed down some decent technique, and build upon our early success. Many of us would be competing at IM3 level. Across the regattas we entered, strong performances ensued (in the VIIIs, IVs, 2x, and 1-), with us chasing down and putting the fear into the senior crews on a couple of occasions – with experience only just paying off – maybe we weren’t as bad as we told each other?

We finished up the summer season with a spectacular win in the Novice 2x by Matt K & our Saffa Leo at Putney Town Regatta, and with the IM3 VIII at Kingston Regatta. It has been a truly rewarding and satisfying year for us all, not just in the silverware department, but in the great experiences had and lasting friendships forged. None of this would have been possible without motivation from our coxes Jack and Cat, guest-coaches Uncle Nick and Uncle Ben, Coach Deckchair, and ultimately – Coach Wendy. The 2017/18 novice squad certainly have a lot to live up to, on and off the water.

Next year will see many of us return to Vesta to bolster the Senior squads, to train hard and play harder. But even for those not returning, whether in Australia or closer to home, we shall all remain a crew for life – brothers in arms (then body and legs).

For Wendy!

{Squad Update} Putting Vesta Senior Women back on the map – 2017 Season round up

It seems strange to think that almost a year has passed since this season’s senior women assembled at Vesta for the first session of the year, blissfully unaware of the successes they would soon be achieving both on and off the water.

With an influx of new faces and some existing Vesta athletes returning for another season, the squad boasted both depth and experience. With Dan Safdari, the new Director of Rowing’s training programme in place, it wasn’t long before significant gains were being made under the watchful eyes of the women’s coaching team made up of Leigh Curtis Green and Paul Lorenzato.

The winter Head season kicked off in October with three crews entered into the Pairs Head of the River race. Promising results were seen here, with a particular mention to the McGregor-Ritchie sisters who took home second in the Women’s IM3 Lightweight Double Sculls. Throughout November we saw the women successfully represent Vesta at Kingston Small Boats Head (W.IM2.1x C. Lennox), Fours Head (W.IM1.4x R. McGregor-Ritchie, V. Carroll, K. McGregor-Ritchie, C. Lennox)( W.IM1.4x I. Rigoulet, H. Futter, C. Pywell, A. Watson) and Scullers Head (W.IM2.1x C. Lennox).

Despite the evenings descending into darkness, temperatures dropping and the Christmas wind-down on the periphery, the women’s training intensified in preparation for the remaining Head races. First in the line-up was the Remenham Challenge where two eights were entered in the Intermediate category. Good races were seen by both crews with the ‘A’ boat securing a comfortable second place behind the Thames eight. The first race for 2017 was Quintin Head where our ‘A’ boat achieved yet another second place, this time behind King’s College London, and our ‘B’ boat securing themselves firmly at tenth. Without wanting to break tradition, Hammersmith Head told a similar story with the ‘A’ boat just missing out on a pennant by 2 seconds. Fortunately the solid streak of second places came to an end at Henley Four and Eights Head where our W.IMI. 4- (R. McGregor-Ritchie, R.McKellar, J. Larkin, K. McGregor-Ritchie) came up trumps with first place and the eight and coxed four finishing well in a strong field.

March arrived and so too did the culmination of the head season with Women’s Head. Going up against some of the best eight’s crews in the country was never an easy task, but the Vesta women were not fazed achieving 37th (Cox L. Hardcastle, R. McGregor-Ritchie, J. Larkin, R. McKellar, V. Carroll, L. Emkes, C. Fermor, C. Long, K. McGregor-Ritchie) and 100th (H. Futter, A. Watson, F. Robinson, C. Wood, F. Palamarczuk, A. Pickthall, I. Rigoulet, E. Robinson) against over 300 crews, a phenomenal achievement and perfect finish to the winter season. However, all was still to play for as summer sprint season was just around the corner.

After a spot of seat racing and a week’s intense summer training camp in Seville it was time to get back on British water and show off our hard work. This seemed to come easily with wins at both Wallingford and Nottingham City regattas and some solid racing at Metropolitan Regatta and Reading. However, these events were just the warm up for the hotly anticipated Henley Women’s Regatta in June where we had a fantastic depth of entries with single sculls, an eight and a coxed four competing. After some tough qualification rounds the four (Cox – L. Owens, R. McGregor-Ritchie, R. McKellar, L. Emkes J. Larkin), the eight (Cox – L. Hardcastle, K. McGregor-Ritchie, C. Choquer, V. Carroll, C. Long, C. Fermor, F. Robinson, C.Wood, H. Futter) and Kirsten Adams were through to the draw. Unfortunately for the eight this was the end of their Henley campaign after being drawn against the eventual winners, and was sadly the end of the road for Kirsten after a great fight. However not letting this phase them, the four were full steam ahead making the Henley women’s coxed fours final before heartbreakingly being knocked out by the Lea by barely a canvas (we love a second place..!).

As I’m sure you can appreciate, the Vesta Women’s Senior Squad have had an extraordinary season highlighted by some fantastic results across the board. However, none of this could have been achieved without the dedication and talent of the coaches the squad works with as well as all the people behind the scenes at Vesta. With this in mind we’d like to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to all those involved with getting us so far and a reminder to all other clubs to watch out, as Vesta Senior Women are officially back on the map.

{Squad Update} Masters Squad Review of the Season

Another season is nearly over and we thought the small but committed masters squad should review its achievements of the past year..
The focus of the season was on the Vet Fours Head, the Vesta Veterans Head and summer regattas including Henley Masters. With the use of Villain in the autumn we thoroughly enjoyed the run up to the Vet Fours Head; we had some satisfying outing and time-trials in the run up and had a good result on the day. There were also several notable performances in the Pairs Head and Scullers Head.  The spring saw a good run of eights heads including the Remenham, Quintin and Vesta Veterans Heads which were ably coxed by Glyn and then Janet.
Summer racing at local regatta resulted in a win at Twickenham and near misses at several other regattas. We made a return to Henley Masters in two crews and we hope to build on this next year. We particularly enjoy joining other squads for summer racing so please let us know when you plan a regatta or head.
The core training is individual sculling in singles during the week and quads or doubles at the weekends. We continue to join with Thames and London vets for early morning sculling under the auspices of the Putney Embankment Sculling Club and we are found on the water most days, always including some of our committed women’s group.
Land training has been carefully focused on optimising the relationship between marginal effort and the marginal gains and hopefully we have not done so much training as to reach the point of diminishing returns. 
We have integrated a few new members including Jiri Rasek and Kim Williams and have seen the notable return to crew rowing of long term member Tom Moisley. We are able to take a few new experienced members each year but unfortunately we have limited coaching to teach sculling and steering.
Thanks to the Captain for his support and the allocation of some quality boats and to coaches, including Andy Carson, Leigh Curtis Green and Wendy Armstrong, for letting us join their squads for training pieces,  and to Judith Howell for helping scullers with certification.
Mike Furgueson will relocate back to the US at the end of the summer and take his beautiful new Carl Douglas with him. We thank him for his contribution to club life over the past few years and hope that we can row with him in North America in the future.
Any review of the season would be incomplete without thanking Bryan Williams for organising crews and keeping us on the straight and narrow. Without his enthusiasm we wouldn’t have got to the start line for many races and without his calls maybe not to the finish line either.
Next year we would like to add more focus to the water sessions with more timed pieces and side by side work and hopefully some more outings in an eight.