We hope you bought your Annual Dinner tickets on time as the booking window is now closed. You can still snap up raffle tickets on the night and be in with the chance of winning a week’s holiday in Cyprus. (And who wouldn’t want to swap this incessant rain for a few rays of Paphos sunshine?)
Make sure you don’t miss any important details, check the Frequently Asked Questions for info about table plans, transportation or the after-party, and, most of all, have a good time!
Please find an extended version of an article about the 2013 Scullers’ Head below. An abridged version of this article appeared in the January/February edition of Rowing & Regatta magazine. Enjoy!
Scullers’ Head celebrates 60th anniversary
The weather was kind to the autumn scullers’ head – perhaps the ultimate test in boat moving on the Tideway. Vesta’s Alastair McCormick reports
This year’s Vesta Scullers’ Head was the 60th edition of this unique and historic event. Held on Saturday 16th November, on a lovely autumnal afternoon, 378 hardy souls lined up in Mortlake to race their single sculls over the world famous championship course from Mortlake to Putney. First held in 1954, Vesta is proud to continue organising a race which is rooted firmly in the club’s history. Captain, Aga Siemiginowska, explains that “it is about bringing the club together to run a fun, competitive, large scale event.”
The Scullers’ Head is normally the largest single division race for singles in the world, however, this year – due to a cap on entries – this accolade was claimed by the Silver Sculls in Turin, Italy. The event is for all single scullers and has been previously been won by Olympic and world champions. Vesta’s Honorary Steward, Dick Welch, sums up why the Scullers’ Head holds a unique place in the rowing calendar: “Competing in the Sculler’s Head is a rite of passage for all scullers, if someone has taken the trouble to teach you that art you really ought to do it at least once.”
There is a special camaraderie between single scullers’ which casts a warm glow over this special event. Vesta Veteran, Jock McKerrell , describes how “the race to me is the ultimate test of an individual’s ability as a boat mover.” Others talk of the Scullers’ Head as “the race of truth” with nowhere to hide and no one else to blame. Not only does the Scullers’ Head test competitors physical and mental strength, being held on the tideway also makes it a test of watermanship, ensuring that to win, competitors need to combine all these skills.
Vesta had always been an organising club when, in 1953, the Vest Open Events Committee (VOEC) discussed the possibility of a head race for single scullers. The great and the good of rowing were asked to contribute their thoughts – a novel suggestion came from W D Kinnear of Kingston RC who suggested that the race should be Putney to Mortlake and back! The first race took place on 10th April 1954, attracted 56 Entries and was won by Vesta’s A J Marsden.
The race has seen some change since 1954 – most notably the inclusion of women and a hugely increased junior entry – but many old hands say not a lot changes, although timing is definitely more accurate. Dick Welch added that “we probably raced it in much worse conditions than would be permitted by the health and safety elves today.”
Most of the major heads have morphed into committee led events, but Vesta is proud to have kept the Scullers’ and the Vets Eights heads in-house. Vesta is not widely known as a sculling club, but it must not be forgotten that the club’s most famous member, Harry Blackstaffe, was Olympic gold medallist in the single scull at the 1908 London Olympics. Blackstaffe is still a great inspiration to the club, with ‘Blackstaffe day’ held by the club every August to commemorate the achievements of the club’s most famous son. Aga added that “even though we’re not known as a sculling club now, our older members and retired senior squad members often make the crossover to sculling and continue to be engaged with the sport well after leaving the competitive senior squads.”
The Vesta membership take the race to heart every year, with 21 club scullers completing the race this year and over 60 members volunteering their time to make sure the event ran like clockwork. The Scullers’ Head reflects the special atmosphere of the club, with the event ensuring that Vesta is known throughout the rowing world as a generous and organised club, with arguably the friendliest bar on the Tideway. Chris Harrison, Chairman of the VOEC, said “when our members volunteers in such numbers as they did, it is a quietly effective advert for the community of the club.” As far as Vesta is concerned, organising races is fun and when they go well – like this year – the feedback from those involved is great to hear.
This year’s race passed as smoothly as any in recent history, helped by a bright day in West London. It was also aided by a slightly smaller entry than normal, due to a quirk of the calendar that caused Scullers’ and Fours’ Heads to swap around this year. Entries were about 20% lower than normal, but will be back to full strength next year. Chris was pleased to receive positive feedback on twitter about his quick turnaround on the results, although he says “we operate a relatively low tech solution, but it’s one that we’ve used for years with minor tweaking each year.”
The overall winner this year was Sigmund Verstraete from France who finished in 21:06.99 and represented Walton – a fantastic result for the club. Sigmund said, “I was really surprised when they told me that I had won. I did not set a goal before the race. I just came to have fun.” His shock was in plain view at the prizegiving as he took in the illustrious names on the trophy, including Sir Steve Redgrave and Alan Campbell.
Louisa Reeve was the overall women’s winner and 41st-placed finisher in 22:14.41, who opted to miss the GB Rowing Team 1st Assessment to compete. She said that she had wanted to compete in the Scullers’ Head for a few years.
The 29-year-old Olympian competed in the Wingfield Sculls in October but admitted that it “didn’t go amazingly”, so was pleased that this race “was a definite step on.” She added, “I really enjoyed the race. The weather was some of the best I’ve seen on the Tideway and seeing that many singles out at the same time is very impressive! I’m really pleased with my result and the trophy is one of the best around!”
Other results of note included fifth-placed junior Sam Meijer from Westminster School who took home the J18 pennant after finishing in 21:21.66.
Another winner who deserves a mention is Guy Pooley who finished 21st in 21:58.29 and won the MasC pennant. Guy is one of the most prolific winners in the race’s history and has won the MasC pennant six years in a row.
Vesta’s hard work to host this famous event, was rewarded in style this year as Harry Bond brought home the IM1 pennant, finishing in 15th place. It is particular poetic to see another Harry B following in the footsteps of Harry Blackstaffe in winning in club colours on the Tideway in a single scull. Harry previously won the old Sen2 Lwt pennant in 2006, but since then in his own words has “done very little sculling or racing (in a single).” Harry concedes that, due to missing GB trialists, “I undoubtedly finished a little higher than I could have otherwise expected to.” Harry’s achievement has brought a lot of pride to the club and it builds nicely on his win in Sen 2- at Pairs’ Head with Si Woodfine. As he puts it: “winning can be a nice habit.”
Along with the 60 or more volunteers, another unsung Vesta hero is Jock McKerrell who has taken part in Scullers’ Head more than 20 times and was at 73, the second oldest competitor this year – the oldest was Frank Webb from Quintin, aged 75. Jock says sculling is “easier on the back” and at his age “there is nobody else who wants to continue with a view to racing.”
Let’s look forward to another 60 years of the Scullers’ Head, run in a unique and special way by Vesta.
Check out the full results here.
In this article, Vesta’s Women talk us through their Fours Head experiences in their own words. Read on if you dare…
W. IM1 4+ : Team Minnie Mouse (J. SMITH, W. HILTON, C. DUFFY, N. POCOCK, cox: J. STREET)
Kit, more kit and a picnic basket?
The W.IM1.4+ of Nicola Pocock, Jess Smith, Wendy Hilton, Christina Duffy and cox Jo Street (or Team Minnie Mouse as later transpired) pushed off from base camp Vesta armed with plastic bags full of kit, more kit, food, kit, hand warmers and some more kit. Rocking a starting place of 423 – the last Vesta boat of the day – the crew were braced for the elements. A picnic basket was considered, but was deemed logistically impractical at the last moment.
Sacrificing a finger…
A solid paddle towards the marshalling point had the crew quickly up to Hammersmith Bridge at which point cox Jo Street was heard muttering “Oooooh sh*t”. Upon investigation of the cause of the swearing (so very untypical from Street), it was apparent that the steering wire had sheared apart. With just bow informed of the potential disaster, Street decided to sacrifice her finger (so overrated as a digit) by looping the wire around it for grip and steering with the two pieces of wire in each hand. Marshalling was a barrel of laughs until about a hundred boats had passed, at which point there were no friends left to cheer for. Aw.
Marshalling for 40 days and 40 nights…
Forty days and forty nights later the crew finally spun, and with icicles to melt the crew took off like a bat of hell under Chiswick Bridge. It was an uneventful race in the end with nobody to overtake and nobody behind in sight, but all were pleased to have feeling back in their bodies by the end (except Jo whose finger may or not have functionality anymore – but hey rowing is worth it!).
W. Elite 4- : In a league (category) of their own (K. HEDGES, A. BROWN, L. BROCK, E. DORMAN)
Blessed by bird poo…
Heading out for their 5th outing together as a crew, the W Elite 4- boat of Ellie, Kat, Anna and Lara (setting off at the dizzy heights of No 62) were in good spirits (being injury free on race day was terribly exciting) and had even been blessed with a direct hit bird poo during the pre race outing – surely a sign of good luck?! Despite the fact that their only opposition (GB) had earlier pulled out, the girls were gunning for it and ready to go.
Foiled by muppetry…
Choppy and windy conditions during the first half of the race threw the crew a bit, with heavier crews around them advancing. Catching up to the Lightweight womens quads who set off ahead of the intrepid four gave them a boost and the girls whizzed passed an IC quad, only to get tangled in an Oxford / Tethys quad who had hit a buoy. Foiled by muppetry; the crew restarted aggressively before Hammersmith Bridge, where the water had flattened out. A full out sprint home ensued, fighting off an overtake manoeuvre from a strong Thames four. Forced out of the stream along the boats by the embankment by another lightweight quad, the four nevertheless wound for the finish, falling flat on their faces over the finish line. A pleasing (but slightly frustrating) race for all, which was celebrated in true Vesta style later that evening in the bar.
W. IM1 4- : Screwdrivers, vaseline and ski jackets (S. WOOD, E. INGRAM, M. GRANT, J. FROBESE)
Pre-race vaseline… (don’t ask)
8:15: Meeting time for four small IM 1 girls excited to get their boat out for a paddle, but first some homework … the oars need readjusting to get ready to race! 9:30: Having tried every possible screwdiver in the club, these small screws seem to be fighting against us with minimal movement! Coach to the rescue and the girls are able to go out for a little paddle to Harrods and back and get the nerves out! 11:15: Coach chat done, squeaky gate fixed (vaseline always comes to the rescue!), pre race chill time, getting our number sorted (423!!!! Jeez!!) and now its time for the last toilet trip … how many layers can we possibly store in our boat? Final decicion made: the skijacket is going to accompany Jana!
Smashing the warm up…
11:50: Ready to push off? Wahoo! 13:30: Smashing the warm up, getting in some rapid bursts (past some wobbly mens crews!) and weaving our way through the non-tideway crews … we are now in marshalling position convenienctly by Barnes steps and now watching the crews come through the start … now for the elite 4- and the senior 4- to come through … GO VESTA! 13:40: The skijacket is out for Jana!
A cheeky time penalty…
14:05: De-kit time … no sun in sight but we shine in crimson and black, proud to be showing off our club colors, paddling down to the start line. 14:09: Onto race pace and smashing it just before Chiswick bridge … were on top of the Wallingford 4- already despite giving them room therefore a minor “collision” (and a cheeky time penalty!) storming off and attacking the field hard! 14:15: One length ahead of Wallingford under Barnes bridge … no clear water yet but working on it and we are starting to feel the legs with the arms not quite defrosted yet. 14:20: Why is the race course always ten times longer then in training … we could have sworn we rowed past the crossing point 10 minutes ago and we still did not reach chiswick island yet … time to focus back on our swagger and rythm
14:27: Finally under Hammersmith Bridge and here’s the time to go for it… battling the upcoming Wallingford crew… everything is tired! How can it be so?… VESTA, VESTA, COME ON VESTA is all which keeps us going under Hammersmith bridge… great cheering… great motivation… time to sit up and finish this one off! 14:35: All we can hear around Fulham Football club is heavy breathing from somewhere … its each and every member of the crew each with the minor concern if we are going to collapse before the finish line… 14:38: Its over… finally… unfortunately not as much flying as we had been doing in training and as we had hoped (due to two pretty poorly girls (but with the benefit of a nice amount of weight loss – never a bad thing for a female … however, potentially not the best race prep!), one dodgy ticker and heavy workloads!!) however nothing was going to stop us… we gave all we had and tried to throw the kitchen sink at them!
Lots of fun was had by all at the annual Remenham Challenge head race yesterday. Hosted by Vesta, it was good to see a solid 44 entries, with all seven Remenham clubs sending a strong contingent of crews. It was especially good to see 10 novice crews entered in what was for many their first racing experience. The Vesta novice men have shown some real dedication recently and were unlucky to come up against some more experienced crews. Vesta’s senior women were 3rd and 5th in a strong Elite Women’s category won by Thames. The senior men achieved some positive results in Men’s Intermediate, the busiest category, with the first two ‘matched’ crews finishing 2nd and 3rd in the category and 5th and 7th overall. It must be said that Thames had a day to remember, taking the spoils in 5 out of the seven categories. It was quite a pill to swallow to hear such hearty Thames cheers within our own clubhouse and has certainly given Vesta’s athletes the motivation to ensure they come out on top next time. The image containing the full results is below.
It’s the news that you have all been waiting for…
Mo-Brothas and Mo-Sistas,
As Movember draws to a close and in celebration of this and the 4’s head weekend, it’s time to wring out your soggy all-in-ones, chuck Modesty out of the window and Model your Most ingenious and Most glaMorous costume to commeMorate the …
What is a ‘Mo’ party? Simple really – anything to do with ‘Mo’.
Eg. Mona Lisa, BackgamMon, ChroMosome, Moulin Rouge, HoMosexual, Moron – you get the idea…
… all the usual Mohem (sorry) that goes with a Vesta Party!
7pm till late
Please get in touch with Thea to volunteer for a bar shift: email@example.com
Now that the dust has settled from a busy weekend – for racers, organisers and volunteers, it seems a good time to reflect on the fantastic results that were achieved by our scullers.
Vesta is not known as a sculling club so it was a really good to see 21 brave souls take to the water to fight for the prizes at our home event. Some were competing in Scullers’ Head for the first time, whereas others had already competed in the race 30 times. Notable results were achieved by many, including 5 in the top 100.
As the 60th running of the Vesta Scullers’ Head, it was only right that a little bit of history was made, with Harry Bond winning IM1 and following in the footsteps of another famous Harry B. in winning in club colours on the Tideway in a single scull. Harry has kindly provided his thoughts on the race, which are well worth a read – please see below.
Here are the Vesta results in full:
|15||133||H Bond||IM1||21:37.02||1||15||IM1 winner.|
Q&A with Harry Bond – IM1 Winner
Q. Have you taken part in this event before?
Yes I’ve taken part in Scullers’ Head before, winning the old Sen.2 Lwt pennant in 2006. Since then I have done very little sculling or racing.
Q. Overall, how did the race go?
As in all Head races there were good patches and poor, but overall the race went well and I achieved my aim of maintaining an even split throughout the middle half of the race. After very few outings I was hoping to be able to rate 28 for the course and I mainly achieved that (only seeing 26 sporadically).
Q. Was it a strong field / big entry?
The entry this year was rather small for my category, this, coupled with the fact that the GB trialists were away at trials, meant that I undoubtedly finished a little higher than I could have otherwise expected to.
Q. How did you rate your chances on the start line?
I knew I was capable of racing well; Nick Ireland our coach has been working hard to ensure that we are all very fit at the moment and the excellent weather conditions meant that I was full of confidence up at the start line even though I have spent very little time sculling recently.
Q. How significant a result was it for you?
Because of the lack of trialists and the small numbers within my event, the result itself isn’t particularly significant. However, as a stepping stone towards the rest of the season it has provided a huge boost of confidence; the training programme is obviously paying off and winning can be a nice habit (I was fortunate enough to be part of the winning Sen 2- at Pairs’ Head with Si Woodfine). This part of the season sees the start of the more miserable ‘winter training’ and it will be very nice to have started so positively as the weather closes in. With Fours’ Head just two short weeks away I will be looking to build on this result and others from the beginning of the year as our four from HRR last summer race in the Sen 4- category.
We are proud to announce that Vesta has, for the second time, won the overall prize in the annual PLA Rowing Safety Awards. As far as the committee are aware, this prize has been awarded twice to only one other club, so this is a huge achievement.
We could not have achieved this award without the dedication and hard work put in by Peter Simpson, our safety officer, over the past two plus years. A huge well done and thank you to Peter, who will, very sadly, be stepping down from his role over the next few months. I hope that he gets a few well deserved pints in the bar!
This award is also a testament to the members and coaches of Vesta who demonstrate their commitment to safety – Thank you! We would be remiss to not include a little note to remind everyone to continue practicing good safety behaviour, on and off the water. Now, with winter at our heals, is not a time to let things slip. Let’s continue striving for a good safety record, and perhaps we can win the award again next year!