Vesta Women’s Elite 8+ vs the Americans

Buoyed by the success at Reading, the stage was set for Vesta vs. Bucknell 2 – the sequel.

Conditions were tough but the Elite 8+ was strengthened by the return of the super-sub Ailsa “Tremendous” Tremayne and we were raring to go. Brock Snr had another shot at the illusive rate 50….

The row up to the start was over in a flash, due to the strong wind and even stronger stream. And after the customary banter with the marshal on the bank about the awesomeness of the Vesta Bar, including said marshal telling our opposition we were a bunch of alcoholics (“hic”) we were on to the stake boats.

Bucks was tough, a strong stream was pulling us onto the Island and there was some excellent tapping on from bowside to stay straight. The umpire seemed to be in a hurry and despite my hand still being up we were off.

It soon became clear that Bucknell had spent the last week practicing their starts and took 2 seats early on, moving out to ½ a length by the end of the Island. We recovered from our shaky start and regrouped. The barrier push was taken early in an effort to get back level. The gap closed to 1/4 length, we were moving now. Past the boating area it was great to hear the Vesta roar from our team mates but the American’s were strong and again pulled away another few seats to get about 1 length ahead. By this point I could see we could get it back, there was a big call for the legs but as we learnt at Reading our friends from across the pond had a fast finish. I took the decision to try and outwit them by starting our finish sequence early and we went for the line with great gusto. Sadly, despite pulling back some distance the verdict was a win for Bucknell University by ¾ of a length.

– Ro

If ever a crew needed to peak at the right time…

Prior to the actual race report I just wanted to put this race into context as perhaps on paper the verdicts in the run up to the final don’t best reflect the true efforts of what was actually achieved by the Vesta Intermediate 8+ winners of Henley Womens’ Regatta this year.

As Murray goes into the Wimbledon final this afternoon, with a secure route through and the knowledge he has beaten his opponent in the past, we were unfortunately not so lucky.  The mighty Lea RC had beaten us at every stage this season through Wallingford to Met Regatta and only looked even stronger coming into this event. Lea were the clear favourites to win the Club 8+ and deservedly so.

Race Morning:

If you have competed in a final at any level of competition you will know what it feels like to have the emotions, the fears and the doubts that creep into your head and that Sunday was no exception. We’d had a tough season, dogged by fatigue, illness and performance inconsistencies which at times led me to have doubts as to whether our performance on the day could be solid enough to win the competition.

Aside from the physical training an athlete endures, I truly believe this sport is by far one of the toughest and I sincerely take my hat off to all the athletes at Vesta and anyone at any level who commits themselves physically and mentally to an entire season of ergs, high mileage on the water and the torture of selection. I often get asked by my NRF (non rowing friends) WHY?? and sometimes question this myself, but ask any athlete, coxswain or coach and the answer will still be the same, “to win.”

 After beating City of Cambridge and Thames RC against the horrendous conditions in the quarters and semi finals  we knew the final meant we had to end ourselves, making sure we all physically knew what “rowing on the edge” felt like. Mentally it was a difference story…

No matter how prepared you are there could be one thing, just one small thing beyond your control that can change your outlook, mindset, alter your performance and ultimately change the outcome of your season entirely. This “one thing” for me came in the form of a conversation with an upriver coach that morning, he was frank but truthful; “I just don’t know, I’m going to be honest with you,  you really are going to need the race of your life to beat them.”

My doubts turned to determination to MTFU and give me belief that our training programme had given us every tool we needed to win.

The Final:

An absolute blinding start jumped us a quarter of a length ahead by the island, the key focus being to sustain the lead and do enough at the beginning of the race to dispose of our opposition from the outset. Lea were not going away. Undeterred by our quick lead they ploughed on to draw level. Vesta support in place at the Barn Bar, we sharpened up to get a canvas ahead to lead us into the enclosures.

Lea had dashed Thames RC’s hopes of a win in the Semi-final which meant that the mighty “Remenham Roar” was there in full force, just for us.

Level at the enclosures and spurred on by the most amazing wall of inter-club support, Lea managed to pull level and lead by quarter of a length.

I still get shivers as I recall the closing stages of the race. Everyone just about knows that one of the hardest parts of the Henley Womens’ Regatta course is coming out of the enclosures and into “no man’s land.” The support dies down and you’re on your own, just two logs; dead level and an extra battle of the mind to fight to make your log the fastest.

Still level, I will never forget this moment as I looked into the bows of our opposition, their huge enclosure push and semi-final dog fight with Thames had taken its toll. Fatally they had begun to forget about their legs and started to pull. I then knew then that we could win this.

200 metres to go it was do or lose: the call at UTR:  “girls, their heads are down, ours are NOT” “sit up and push, you can do this, NOW” our log moved through to take the canvas a last kick of adrenalin to push through, crossing the line victorious at 1/4 of a length.

– Rachael

Two Wins for Italy!

Preceding England’s loss on penalties to the Azzurri, English rowers had to first face a loss to Italy as one of Vesta’s several Italians, Stefano, crushed some rowing dream by winning IM3 1X at Richmond Regatta.
With a burgeoning reputation, Vesta’s Sardinian sculler took to the water for his heat and despite the rain and being drawn on the outside of the bend paddled down the course at a leisurely rate 28 winning easily. The final was run on a turned tide but made little difference to the result. A quick start meant Stefano was ahead comfortably by the bend….making a point he moved further inside to take the shortest line round the bend but then continued on a straight course towards the bank and tree. A quick re-adjustment in direction and he crossed the line to secure another pot and 2 points. Next stop Kinsgton!

Vesta Prepares for Henley Royal

With Henley week finally upon us, most of us are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather, while the rowers undertake their final preparations. The Vesta men pre-qualified two boats, one for the Thames Cup (8+) and one for the Wyfold (4-), thereby not having to endure Friday’s qualifiers which were held in conditions not dissimilar to last week’s HWR. Jamie Halliday joined forces with Harry Bond (of Thames!!!) to row the appropriately named Vodka in an attempt to qualify for the Double Sculls. Unfortunately, the not so lightweight lightweights were at a disadvantage in the strong gusty winds and heavy stream and were the fastest non-qualifying boat. The senior women joined the ranks of the 10 other qualifying boats for 3 available places, in what looks like the toughest Remenham Cup in a long time. The girls had a stonking race battling tough conditions and resulting in some amazing ‘pain face’ photos, but narrowly missing out on a qualifying spot.

The timetable for Wednesday’s racing has been released and is available by clicking here. The Vesta Thames 8+ will race Upper Thames in race 6 at 9:00. The Wyfold 4 will race London in race 34 at 11:45. Hope to see a good Vesta contingency providing the Remenham Roar for the boys!!

Elite 4- Lobby for GB U33 Squad

It was with some trepidation that the E4- of Lara Brock, Nell Pascall, Aga Siemiginowska and Kat Hedges arrived in Henley on Sunday morning for their race against ARSA Skadi. Internet trawling and the usual cyber stalking had yielded little in the way of information about the opposition due to it being in a foreign language.

Luckily the weather had improved significantly from the misery-wind that was Saturday’s weather, and some sunshine was even spotted. The crew even went as far as agreeing to race in skins, with the exception of bow, because it’s always colder in the bows

A chance casual bit of eavesdropping by the boating area saw the opposition’s coach pointing out to the steers where the finish was. We were in luck! They had no idea.

The pre-race chat given by Matt to the crew gave Brock elder free rein to go “radio rental” off the start, and Lara’s eyes lit up – finally, she could attempt the elusive rate 50! The final 3 loo stops completed, the crew set off to the boating pontoons and up to the start. Being fairly early in the morning, the row to the start was uneventful and no buoys were disturbed in the process. The warm up area above the island had been significantly shortened, leaving only 200m or so as warm up before a spin was required. After about 4 laps, the crew got bored of spinning after motion sickness set in and sat at the start to wait for the race.

As we sat close to the start watching other crews warm up it became increasingly obvious that we were in a holding pen with 98% U23, World Class Starts and Trialists. We were the 2% average Joes. The down side of racing elite <sigh>. Bow suggested again that British Rowing be petitioned to set up an Under 33’s Squad before she got too old for that too.

Finally, it was time to get onto the start line. After the stress of the previous day and not being ready off the start in the E8, bow was determined that a perfect start position would be achieved. With the shelter of the island, attachment and lining up was spot on and we were ready to lay the smack down.

True to form, Brock went mental off the start, and the crew held the start together well heading off the island. Stroke 6-7 of the Vesta crew’s start saw the Skadi boat’s stern disappear from view as they surged on ahead. Never ones to give up, Brock, Pascall, Siemiginowska and Hedges ploughed on in the Skadi boat’s wake. The worries of steering disappeared when it became obvious that the Skadi crew were not so much along side, as way ahead, and so the Vesta boat opted for the middle course.

The prescribed pushes were executed and extra calls were put in for pushes for the Senior 8 (after the cruel events of Saturday) and bizarrely, for some “teeth” to be shown. The rate crept up 2 pips as we edged into the finish sequence, Remenham not appearing soon enough. Skadi had crossed the line some 5 lengths ahead of the Vesta crew.

After the race was over, it was discovered that the Skadi boat also contained U23 / trialist types as well, and they went on to give Sport Imperial / Leander a good final race. A valiant attempt by the Vesta crew in a very tough field of competition.

– Kat

Club 4+ at HWR

It was a valiant effort from the senior squad’s IM3 coxed IV, comprising Alana Holloway, Athene McGregor-MacDonald, Jenny Cann, Laura Goulding (s) and coxed by Jamie Wooller, a crew which had spent a total of 1.5 weeks together prior to HWR. Thanks go out to the brave Laura Goulding for stepping in and stroking the boat despite chest infections and asthma diagnosis galore! It was in a bracing wind and “dangerously” strong stream that we sat nervously as the rain tumbled down at the start line of qualifiers on the Friday. An announcement the previous day that it would no longer be the top 16/24 crews qualifying but the top 8/24 only had done little to calm us! It was an aggressive and heartfelt effort from everyone involved and beating several other non-qualifying crews did lessen the pain of not making it through to the knock-out stages. If nothing else, our appetites are now whetted for Henley medals in 2013! See you next year!

– Jenny

HWR Senior 8+

Comprising Helen Ellison (s), Natalie Prew, Kat Astley, Gemma Etherington, Stine Keys, Vicky Brock, Emma Dyson, Kitty Lowings and Julia Hedley as cox, the senior eight went out strong in their first race against Holy Cross USA, winning with an easily verdict despite winding down from the enclosures and crossing the line at rate 23. The conditions were far more suited to a Tideway crew than a lightweight American crew with a strong headwind and even stronger stream to row into, but Holy Cross were very sporting and congratulated us on a great race and wished us the best for future rounds.

Sadly, whilst racing Newcastle University in the quarter final an equipment failure on the third stroke of the race had devastating consequences for the senior crew, who were one of the favourites to win the event. This equipment failure combined with strong gusts of wind and very difficult racing conditions forced the crew to stop before the end of the island. The umpire rejected a request of a re-row; the 100m rule no longer applies under FISA or ARA regulations, and this was a hard blow to take given we had been half a length up with just seven oars going. The crew would like to pass our sincere congratulations to Newcastle University who went onto win the event, however no doubt they remain curious as to what the outcome would have been of what was destined to be a thrilling race, had the circumstances been different.

– Julia

Elite LW 4- at HWR

Photo courtesy of Richard Byran

The “Mighty Lighties”, a crew formed during training camp in Seville, were eagerly awaiting HWR following a dismal lack of opportunities to race earlier in the season. The crew of Alex (b), Sybille, Martha and Holly had previously raced only at Met and Reading regattas; coming second to a heavy-weight crew in Senior 4s at Met (Sunday), and denied an opportunity to race the final at Reading by an unfortunate steering wire failure on the water (although having raced and beaten Oxford University Lightweights in the semi-final to get there was encouraging). The Mighty Lighties were therefore hungry to race, as well as being generally hungry, and saw off Oxford again in the semi-final (verdict: easily), leaving us then to face Mortlake in the final. With the scoresheet vs. Mortlake standing at 2:1 following Met, both crews went out fighting. Despite a tricky start on the Berks bank, the stream drawing the bows into the middle of the course in the seemingly interminable period between “attention” and “go”, steer Alex kept her cool and past the island both crews were level. A close-fought race followed, aided by the tremendous Vesta roar along the enclosure (thank you all – it is much appreciated), but as the stream moved in favour of Bucks around Old Blades, Mortlake pushed ahead to win by a margin of 1.75 lengths.

The crew was last seen in Byron SW15, diving face-first into a pile of deep-fried carbohydrates.

Thank you coach Jeremy for your dedication to our cause!

– Martha

Men Post Solid Showing at Marlow Regatta

Despite the numerous disruptions to Marlow’s “International” Regatta caused by preparations for the Olympics, the Vesta Senior Men put in a fantastic performance. In the heats of the IM1 race the Vesta boys hit it hard off the start, sticking with the pack. The two schoolboy crews pushed ahead leaving Southampton Uni battling with Vesta for a place in the final. The winter training shone through as the Vesta mid-race pace pushed them through to a comfortable third place. Coming into the last 500m, Bristol, Newark, Eton and Brunswick were left in their wake and the Vesta boys decided not to settle for third. They took a length off Southampton, putting them in second place and only half a length off St Edward’s School, the winners of the heat.

This was followed by the Senior 8 heat, by which point the conditions had really picked up (providing the coaching team with much entertainment as the J14 octuples attempted to line up at the stake boats in a perpendicular gale force cross wind…) Vesta finished fourth, missing out on a place in the final to Durham, Queen’s Belfast and Newcastle’s top eights, and top crews at BUCS this year). However, the Vesta men were still a good length or so up on the other Thames Cup eligible crews in the division.

The Im1 final was the last race of the day, where they came in fourth to the (never to be underestimated) schoolboys. They battled through the rough conditions, still head and shoulders ahead of the other Thames Cup eligible crews, thus securing their well deserved place in the list of pre-qualified crews at Henley Royal Regatta next week. Bring it on!

– Morgan

Love and hate Henley rowing

It’s hard to imagine how difficult running and racing in Henley Women’s Regatta (and Marlow Regatta) has been today. The wind has been appalling and has brought out the best and worst in our sport. Credit must go the organisers for keeping the events going and to crews and coaches for making the best of it. A special mention to Sinéad who was named ‘Volunteer of the day’ at HWR for her efforts keeping crews straight on the pontoon amongst other duties. On the downside, today also accentuated the cruel inequity of rowing racing as crews struggled to race fairly when the wind, water and strong river current all conspired against them. Attaching to the stake-boats, getting a clean, fair start, starting and keeping a straight line away from the fearsome booms, and racing upstream into a mighty headwind all become wicked challenges in this weather.

This morning Bucknell University USA beat Vesta in the Elite 8 category by 3/4 length in a time of 5:57. (Bear in mind that’s over a minute slower than a usual elite eights race, which illustrates the conditions. NB the slowest time of the day was 10:12 in J1x. For once it’s pleasing HWR is only 1500m rather than the full Henley course!)

Vesta Senior 8 won their first race against Holy Cross USA easily in a time of 7:02. Unfortunately they lost their next  race against Newcastle University easily in time of 7:17 after the Vesta crew experienced equipment failure by the end of the island. The umpire did not restart and it is certainly a bitter outcome given that the girls had a really good chance of winning a medal. The Elite 2- also lost their race against Molesey by 4 lengths in a time of 7:59. Sincere commiserations to the Vesta crews and coaches who worked so hard and lost today. Bring on HRR!

Vesta Club 8

Vesta Club 8

Vesta Club 8 had better fortune beating Thames easily in 6:59 and so we look forward to them racing tomorrow at 12:50 against Cambridge City. Well done ladies.

Also racing tomorrow are: the Elite 4- at 10:05 against ARSR Skardi; the Lwt 4- at 11:00 versus Oxford University Women’s Lightweights; and the Club 4+ racing at 14:00 approx (the HWR website is missing the exact time and opponents for our development women’s semi-final).

Let’s pray tomorrow brings fairer conditions (in both senses of the word).