The masses gathered at Henley on Saturday for the "other" boat races, and masses there were, both universities clearly doing a very good job at stirring up interest in the event and upping the spectator numbers.

The crews boated at their normal locations – Oxford from Upper Thames and Cambridge from Leander - but this year the centre of operations moved from Remenham club to the Barn Bar area at Remenham Farm. This gave a better spread of spectators to cheer on crews over the whole course and meant there was some cover available when the weather turned nasty.

The afternoon started off bright and sunny but with a stonking tail wind blowing straight down the course. As well as the wind, the stream was running very fast following heavy rain to the west; conditions which offered the prospect of record times, but which brought problems of their own.

First off were the Men’s lwt reserves. The crews had real problems attaching to the stake boats and kept being pulled off by the wind and stream. When the race eventually got underway, Nephthys shot into the lead, rowing shorter but rating a lot higher than Granta. From the bank, Granta looked the smoother crew in the rough conditions but they appeared to lack the strength and fitness of the Oxford crew who kept the rate up and the power on, and motored off to win by 5 lengths.

Blondie / Osiris were up next. Both crews made sure they were attached at the start with plenty of time to spare – which gave their coxn's a good view of the Oxford women’s lwt boat crashing into the returning Granta crew, while warming up.

Oxford again took an early lead and never looked back, winning by 2 ½ lengths.

The best race of the day was between the women’s lightweight crews. Cambridge were the favourites after getting a considerably better performance than OUWLRC at the WeHORR, however rumour had it that the Oxford girls had made a significant improvement in their boat speed over the last three weeks, so the race promised to be good.

Off the start, Oxford took a slight lead, coping better with the rough water than the light blues but Cambridge soon found their rhythm and by Old Blades had drawn level and were moving through. The crews continued to battle it out the whole way down the course (there was plenty of flag waving from the umpire). Cambridge just held it at the line to win by a Canvas.

The start of the Women’s Blue boat race was greeted with a heavy hail shower and gusting south west winds. Oxford were favourites to revenge their defeat in 2005, after putting in an impressive row at the WeHORR. The bad conditions just after the start almost caused the dark blues to crab, but they got it back very quickly and held a ½ length lead over Cambridge.

Oxford pushed their lead out to 3/4l but, as the race headed into the second half, the light blues found more speed and started to close the gap, repeatedly getting up to within 1/4 l only to have Oxford push it back out to 1/2 l. The light blues put in a very gutsy performance and although they couldn’t manage to break Oxford, they never stopped trying. In the end it was a win of ½ l to Oxford but I suspect it was a much closer result than they would have liked.

The final race of the day, the lwt men, gave Oxford their forth win of the day. The start was marked by thunder and lightening and as the crews passed Remenham farm the horizontal rain started and the spectators scattered. Both crews rowed well, but Oxford looked to be that bit sharper and stronger, winning by 2 ¼ lengths.

Unsurprisingly giving the conditions, all five races produced new course records – the Oxford women’s blue boat completing the 2K course in 5 mins 22 sec - breaking the 1999 record by 17 seconds.

Cambridge dominated the Henley races in the 1990s but with four wins to one under their belt this year, the current Oxford streak continues – they’ve won all but three of the 25 races at Henley from 2002.

Full results and crew lists at

For some rather interesting viewing, check out the hundred or so Head of the River Clips which are now available for streaming or download from:

Or go straight to your crew:

(The command "This Video / Search" locates each crew in a batch if left blank, or just your club selection. There are skip forward/backward and full screen buttons)

If you turn the volume up, a helpful disembodied voice will tell you which crews you're watching and where they finished.

The clips are bundled together into groups of 40 or so. Currently crews 10 to 124 are available but there should be more up by the end of the week.

The Tideway demonstrated the "Tide" part of its name to the best of its ability, as the eclipse and the new moon resulted in 7.5m tides on Wednesday afternoon.

With the murky waters lapping at the doors of the boathouses at Putney, the all too common sight of wet cars was in evidence along the embankment. The main victims being a group at a conference at London Rowing club, who had parked on the sloped hard near the club. As the waters rose, three of the cars started to float off bumping into each other as they moved about. (The slug suspects that LRC may not get much in the way of repeat business from these particular customers.)

Chas Newens, who was driving one of his launches at the time managed to nudge two of them back onto the embankment – a small silver car which was showing the signs of fried electrics: lights on, windscreen wipers going and electric windows down, and a black BMW which had floated down as far as IC, and some members of the Oxford Blue boat crew who happened to be passing then helpfully stood on the cars until they took on enough water to stay put. Alas Chas didn’t quite manage to get to a red Peugeot before it had floated past the end of the embankment.

The Peugeot was pushed to the side of the river, to stop it heading any further up stream, where it sank slowly to the bottom of the river. So not only is the unfortunate owner faced with a car which is a write off and probably no insurance cover (damage put down to negligence) they are also going to have to foot the 600 quid recovery bill from the PLA, who’s boat was last seen manoeuvring into place next to the car.

Meanwhile the two other floating cars had been secured with ropes to stop them heading off yet again as the waters continued to rise. The black BMW practically covered with water apart from the boot was also sporting several scrapes and dents from its ordeal and had lost one of the rear door handles.

Further down past IC, another BMW driver surveyed the pool of water in the dip in the road in front of him, made an attempt to drive through it and succeeded in stopping his car dead... maybe not the best idea.

Of course all this happened in full view of the Boat race media centre, which is based at Thames, so the slug expects there will be plenty of photos in Thursday’s papers, especially as photographer Peter Spurrier also got caught out. He was on a launch following one of the crews at the time and only realised that his car (parked in front of TRC) had got a little soggy when they returned.

Time to stock up on Fabreeze...

Last weekend a crew from the Balkans, in need of a boat for the Vet's Head, managed to rent a boat and a set of oars on the evening of the Eights' Head from a boatman they MET IN THE PUB. Equipment which er.... might not actually have been his to lend.

It is alleged that the rental fee was paid in beer (well, London Pride to be exact).

Said boatman suddenly went very quiet and sheepish on Sunday when confronted (over drinks in the Ship) with an exclamation of "Aren't those our blades...?" half way through the Vet's Head.

Although there is photographic evidence in existance, certain parties are reportedly being paid by the culprit** not to send it in.
Is that not right, ...Bob?

**Names removed to protect the Guilty B@stard.

Next time you're inclined to suggest that your 57kg cox should go on a diet, think of the poor suffering Molesey Veteran Woman's eight, which competed in the Vets head on Sunday

For their coach, Nick "Gingsters" Wilde weighed in at svelte 105kgs on Sunday morning after deciding he would cox the crew for the race.

Now bearing in mind that the heaviest rowing member of the crew is 62kgs ( and that all but 3 of them are under 60kgs) you've got to admit that it's not often that the cox outweighs every member of the crew...nearly twice. Indeed, one has to wonder how the bow girl managed to get her blade in the water!

As for Nick's view on the proceedings, he simply tells them that small coxes are for wimps.

The only possible plus side for the girls is that the sight did put loads of other crews off.. even a men's Crabtree crew on the way to the start felt compelled to stop and comment, much to their embarassment.

The crew is now searching for anyone who knows how to calculate what their time would have been with a 48kg cox?

A reader writes
"I'd have thought that Adam Rennie would be used to being hit by york university people. As an ex UYBC member I have to hold my hand up and say that I was the one who chopped his scull in half while driving a launch, back in about 1996.

Pre-slug, thank god. Could have happened to anyone..."

Captain's of regional clubs, please be careful when allowing your athletes to attend "big events in London" unchaperoned. Otherwise your club's lycra could be featuring in photos such as these, which depict the antics of the dubc freshers crew while they were up in London for the recent HORR...

You have been warned.

Saturday morning dawned with a promise of clear, mild and relatively wind free conditons for the 74th annual Head of the river race, a promise which fortunately held out for the 11:30 race start.

The high tide was relatively low on Saturday but the water was still a bit "lumpy", especially near Barnes, whipped up by the light winds, so no record times, but not bad conditions for racing all in all - and markedly warmer than those at the women's head.

The 420 available places were well oversubscribed again this year. Rather than taking a simple first come first served approach - like the HOR4s - organisers attempt to share the available places across more clubs by "pruning" crews off the bottom of the larger entries from the bigger clubs. The potential downside of this (a rise in 'ghost entries') is probably best illustrated by the views of one Tideway coach: "that's the third time in a row they've cut our novices, so we may just have to play the game next year".

The story of the race however belongs to the hard core crew that is the Upper Thames second eight. Whilst marshalling for the start near Quintin our heros got into a spot of bother courtesy of some muppets from the University of York, who clearly had read the marshalling instructions upside down, as they were in the wrong place when they careered into the UTRC boat and their unfortunate bowman, Andy Thomas at speed.

When asked what had happened, a source in the UTRC crew likened the collision to a Volvo being hit by a Fiat
"our Empacher has a broken rigger and Shoulder, whereas the York University Sims is in a very bad way..."

You can see from the attached photo just how bad the damage to bow's rigger on the Empacher was (that's how it came off the boat) - though Andy isn't expecting to be able to show the full glory of his bruises for a few days to come.

Now, though this may all seem like jolly bad luck, the slug has a suspicion that the gods had already destined this VIII to be a VII the day before, when one of the crew self ejected from the race in a fit of pique after one pie too many (well, the extra momentum could have proved fatal) and they had to find a last minute replacement.

Anyway... picture the scene, it's just before the race, your boat has a buggered bow rigger and your bow man has just been stretchered into an Ambulance - what do you do? Well if you're UTRC II you race as a coxed seven of course - what else?

For those of a less 'hard' consitution, racing 4.25 miles with seven men, may seem like a futile exercise but we've got to ask -- what exactly does that say for the 262 crews that they beat? Yes faithful reader, our "magificent seven" not only finished 144th - they OVERTOOK THREE CREWS while they were at it!

Lets face it, you're going to feel pretty shit when you realise the crew that just passed you only had seven people in it...

Elsewhere on the river things were decidely more normal. Leander I retained head with a powerful, if not too pretty crew made up of GB lovelies - though they almost incurred a penalty before the race even started when they repeatedly ignored TRRC instructions to move to the correct side of the Fairway during their morning outing - it's amazing how the threat of a time penalty can suddenly cure deafness... (ho hum)

The Italians moved from 3rd to Second, while the black death moved up from 4th to third.

The London lightweights stomped on their pink oppo by a full minute, to take a very respectable 6th place overall and the lwt pennant.

Some of the officials were concerned about the presence of suspected "women", rowing in a couple of the crews (not allowed under HORR local rules). In the case of crew 419 (Univ of Bristol IV) the additional X chromosome was confirmed after Fred Smallbone was sent to investigate above the start and decided that, although the individual concerned was indeed a woman, the safest course open was to let the crew row over (they were DQ'd later). One other suspect was aquitted after the PLA showed their superior gender recognition skills, announcing over the radio that "that crew member who you suspected was a woman, is definitely a man"...

For some reason which isn't entirely clear the starter allowed one crew (rumoured to be UEA) to start - despite the fact they were missing their bowball and six inches of their boat. By the time the mistake had been spotted the crew were well under way, so marshalls were instructed to keep a close eye on them down the course.

There were the usual number of crabs in evidence during the race and several boat stopping collisions between crews approaching the finish but although there was some low performance rowing on show in the lower divisions, as with the WEHORR, there was notably less dross around than there has been in previous years.

coxing quote of the day:
"get over you tit"

Finally, after the race some of the trailers trying to leave Putney embankment were delayed for a while courtesy of the London Borough of Wandsworth's head honcho -- who was looking rather sheepish after accidentally trying to use his wife's car keys in the council lorry... As a result, the lorry was stuck on the corner of Festing Road, thus effectively blocking in all the trailers by Leaders gardens.

Oh well...

Full results are available at

The slug can report that the Thames 4th VIII had a bit of a run in last week - with that familiar large object visible from space which is permanently moored outside of their clubhouse - the black buoy.

Now if a Thames crew can manage to forget about this particular obstruction, what chance do non-Tideway crews have? Especially when you take into account that the crew were accompanied by a coaching launch at the time.

And driving the launch?

Regional Water Safety Advisor - Chris George.


The slug trotted down to Mortlake for the WEHoRR Prize Giving on Thursday evening.

Kate Hoey did a fine job giving out the prizes to the tall masses, and the Twickenham novice burds (currently on training camp) won the Breast Cancer Haven raffle for the free ergo.