The Oxford / Cambridge spare pair race takes place on Wednesday morning and the crews were out having some last minute practice on Tuesday while the rest of their squads were at the weigh in across the river at the Hurlingham club.
We can only assume that the Oxford pair were obviously lamenting missing the whole HORR experince on Saturday as they made a good attempt to re-create it by flipping their boat just after they'd pushed off from the hard - much to the amusement of the watching Cambridge coach.
Lets hope they didn't swallow any water.
Taken outside Upper Thames at Sunday's Henley boat races, this can ONLY have been the Oxford hwt women's kit...
|OXFORD 4, CAMBRIDGE 1
The 'other' Oxford / Cambridge races (women and lightweights) took place at Henley on Sunday afternoon. The conditions on the day were not good – a massive headwind against the stream producing really rough conditions and white horses which forced a shortening of the course to less than 1500m as the start was moved downstream to Upper Thames and there was a definite advantage for crews on the Bucks station who could tuck in towards the bank.
The dark blues just missed a clean sweep, loosing out in only the women’s hwt blue boat race, though interestingly with the exception of the Nephthys/Granta race where OUBC rowed over (Cambridge didn’t field a 2nd lwt eight this year, claiming lack of funds), none of the winning margins were greater than a length.
Alas it looks like the Oxford hwt women may have helped to sabotage themselves, as after boating they had a collision with Blondie during their warm up and managed to put a massive scar along the bottom of their boat (caused by a Cambridge blade). They then changed to the 2nd crew’s boat, re-rigged it, got on water and set off only for one of the rudder strings to break.
The race was stopped, both crews came back in while Oxford fixed their rudder, they then boated again, raced and lost by half a length.
This was the heaviest Oxford crew every but despite assurances that the boat they switched into was for the same crew weight as their own, they looked seriously under-boated on the water. Still, Oxford's bad luck shouldn't detract from a good strong performance by the Cambridge women.
|OLDER AND CALMER
It was like 2004 in reverse, as the 25th Vet Eight’s head on Sunday was thankfully lacking the sort of incidents that made Saturday’s aborted HORR such a nightmare.
Running on a flood tide the course was always planned to run over a short course (pair’s head in reverse – i.e. Hammersmith to Chiswick) as organisers learnt from the events of 3 years ago – the last time it was run on the flood.
The promised wind did materialise,and though not as strong as the day before, organisers were pretty adamant that the only reason the race would be going ahead was because it would be wind with tide rather than against.
In the end the weather and conditions were pretty good and 185 crews made their way safely down the course and home again. The only reported issues were in the marshalling area, probably to be expected as this is the only race I can ever remember which has required crews to marshal downstream of Harrods and when you introduce something new it always takes a while to find the optimal way of managing it. Still, proves the short course option can be a workable alternative.
The Vet A Taurus crew (ox brookes old boys), ably coxed by one Ms Rachel Quarrell, retained their headship beating 2nd placed UL Tyrian by 17 seconds. The third and forth places were both taken by TSS/Occoquan composites. Occoquan rowers have been coming over from the US for the event for several years, but this time round they were joined by several other US clubs, including University Barge club and Saugatuck RC. The race always gets a good spread of foreign crews, and the shorter course certainly didn’t put them off – there was even a crew from Dubai rowing!
The Agecroft/Bedford/Medway Towns/Henley/Molesey/Star/City of Sheffield/York City Composite was the fastest women's crew at the Vet's head on Sunday, coming a remarkable 14th overall.
Racing at Vet C status and with an average crew age of 45, the crew contained one Liz McVeigh who, unlike other members of the crew, was familiar with racing the short course on the incoming tide from Hammersmith to Chiswick... having done so with the GB 8 in the late 70s which she rowed in at the Moscow Olympics.
Interestingly, her crew's time yesterday of 12.11 was actually FASTER than her time nearly 30 years earlier, when she won the Women's Head.
Quite some "senior moment"...
Full results on the Vesta website at www.vrc.org.uk/vets_head/results.phtml
|SINK, SWAMP OR SWIM
Last week’s will they, won’t they weather watching by those due to compete in the HORR on Saturday indicated that things might not go as smoothly as usual on the day, but improved weather forecasts in the 48 hrs before the race made it look feasible and crews boated on the day as normal.
That was still the situation at 4pm Saturday afternoon when the chief umpire and safety advisor eventually gave the go ahead for racing to start, but although the river was rowable at that point and PLA had assured them that the wind was due to die down as the race went on, mother nature had other ideas...
Not long afterwards, the wind took a turn for the worse and as Leander, going off at number 1, crossed the start line, it became evident that there were increasing problems with crews marshalling in the rough conditions. The first to sink were the Italian crew at number two, who went down by Chiswick Steps, followed shortly by 10th starting Oxford Brookes, who sank by Chiswick Pier. At that point the decision was made to stop the race, and all crews who had not yet crossed the start line, were held back. The decision to cancel came shortly afterwards and the long painful process of getting 370 crews back to their boathouses in one piece started (but more on that later).
start of sequence of photos showing Fiamme Gialle (crew 2) sinking
Meanwhile the 45 or so crews who crossed the start line, weren’t having much fun on the course. Hugging the bank looking for calm water, there were numerous reports of crews being unable to overtake safely and also risking hitting marshalling crews as the racing lane quickly became a recovery lane for crews getting into problems marshalling.
At this stage I should probably point out the subtle difference between sinking and swamping, for I have a feeling you’re going to hear the term 'swamp' coming out of ARA HQ, much more than the four letter S word in the coming days...
When a boat swamps, it fills with water, but still supports the weight of the crew, giving them some ability to keep rowing (though what I saw on Saturday would indicate that some boat types allow for more manoeuvrability than others when full of water). If the boat fill up with enough water so that you can’t remain sitting in it unless you have gills (i.e. staying in the boat is no longer an option) that’s when you can call it a sinking.
For a visible indication of the difference: SUNK,as opposed to FULLY SWAMPED.
Those in boats with enough boat buoyancy stopped at the swamped stage, but there were definitely quite a few sinkings on the day – then there was poor Leander 5, who’s boat sank on the way to start then broke in two, presumably due to the stress on the hull.
Of the 45 crews who started, only 29 received times, the rest being rescued or limping back to their boating locations after stopping to bail out on the way. It wasn’t the warmest of days, and the ambulances along the course were kept busy dealing with hypothermia cases until they stood down at 6pm.
Of the crews that finished, CUBC proved that the collective power of talkshite.co.uk to predict the future is somewhat lacking, by turning up to race and managing to get the fastest time.
The coaching team has obviously learnt from last year's boat race, and although there is some debate over whether they had pumps in the boat (Duncan Holland reportedly swears blind they didn’t), they were definitely in a large shell and were using wing riggers. Anyway, whatever the reason, they were much higher in the water that Leander, Molesey and Tideway scullers at the finish and it paid off to their advantage.
Elsewhere, the Army seemed to think they were in a bumping race, and rowed over the top of Durham by Hammersmith. In true bumps-stylee, they ran over DUBC’s stern canvas, and the Durham 8 ended up swinging round. By the time the Army got off them, they were at a 90 degree angle to the course. Durham were being warned at the time, as they moved into the more sheltered water where the Army was trying to overtake them, still, perhaps someone should have told the Army cox he wasn't driving a Sherman tank...
Leander 2 (no 14) went through Hammersmith as they watched the five crews behind them sink/swamp, alas it wasn’t long before they swamped too, and had to stop rowing to bail out.
For some unknown reason, AK finished the race despite being full of water – they finally sank under Putney bridge, though questions really should be asked as to why they weren’t taken into Barn Elms (or indeed their own boathouse), as the water was very bad below Putney and Wandsworth bridges – not helped by the RNLI and various other inflatables zooming around producing large washes. Also of concern was that one RNLI crew sat attached to Putney pier (taking photos of each other) until shouted at to move by a marshal – by which stage 10 crews had gone through the finish – a large number of whom were in need of assistance.
The crews below the start were held for up to 90 minutes, before being allowed to go back to their boathouses and their return downstream hugging the surrey bank was not helped by crews who had raced heading upstream in the same place – I'm sure you can imagine the effect even if you were lucky enough not to experience it.
To make a bad situation worse, the watermanship of many of the coxes was appalling, showing a complete lack of understanding of the effects of stream, tide and wind on their boat position.
Quote of the day:
"Cox, just take off your fucking wellies and start bailing"
I could go on writing about individual incidents I’ve been told about for pages and pages but this article is long enough. To summarise, it was a traumatic, but ultimately educational day and if anything good has come out of it, hopefully it’ll be a greater awareness that safety issues effect all of us and that race officials don’t just cancel events for fun when the water is really rowable after all.
Finally, if your crew was involved in either a sinking or swamping, or an incident when marshalling please make sure you have completed an incident form. As it happened in the Thames region you can use their on-line system at.
(really doesn't matter if they get more than one from a crew, too many is better than too few)
If you can, please include detailed information about the make /age of boat, whether it had sealed underseat compartments and the extent to which you sank / swamped, as it will enable the region to gather some very useful statistics.
You may also need to send forms to your own region and the ARA - full details of what's required (depends on scale of damage etc) are available HERE
Oh, and the results (what there were of them) are available (for interest only) at
No you're not imagining things, that is a wooden submarine causing traffic chaos in Richmond!
For more info on the sub's history click HERE
|EXTREME HEAD RACING?
After Hammersmith head was cancelled earlier this month (Sunday 18th), a few crews took to the water to race over the course in an un-official version organised mainly by people from Thames Tradesmen.
The wisdom of this move should probably be questioned from the angle of insurance if nothing else, but happily nothing untoward happened and the change of tide direction meant the water, though still rough (as can be seen in some of the photos below), was marginally better than it had been on the stretch when officials had to cancel the original legit race.
- Henley A 11.58
- Agecroft 12.00
- Worcester 12.06
- Henley B 12.07
- TSS A 12.07
- UWE 12.13
- TTRC 12.13
- TSS B
Conditions: A somewhat blustery tailwind
|THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WET
A record line up of 275 crews started in the women’s eights head of the river race on Saturday afternoon in fairly good conditions (well, compared to the weather on Sunday which saw the Hammersmith Head cancelled due to high winds and rough water).
The Thames crew which started head must have thought they had it in the bag after pulling swiftly away from Leander at the start. They had increased their lead to around 10 lengths at Hammersmith, before Leander started to mount an attack back.
The Leander crew, which had Guin Batten and Laura Gater, subbing in for the ill / injured Jane Hall and Lou Rowbotham, clawed back some of the difference but Thames were still well up as they motored towards the finish line.
However, in the end the Thames crew had to satisfy themselves with the club pennant, after the surprise results showed that the head crew was, in fact, a 'mates-eight' Marlow/Rebecca/Tideway Scullers/Thames composite crew of experienced squad and ex-squad types.
Starting at 191 the composite may well have benefited from an increased stream due to the land water coming down from up river, which appears to have given some of the later starters a helping hand, however to be fair they would probably have won anyway and were seen – "going like a train" down the line of boats at Putney. 2
The fourth placed crew also started down the order (212), and even more surprisingly was a Senior 3 crew – surprising that is until you take into account that the Imp Col/Jesus Col(Cam)/London/Wallingford/Westminster School composite was actually full of lightweight national squad members and trialists (i.e scullers with low sweep points).
Also making it into the top ten, a strong performance from the Cambridge blue boat put the frighteners on Oxford, the light blues passing UL along Putney embankment and finishing only four seconds behind their dark blue rivals.
There was plenty of comedy rowing on show in the lower orders, though noticeably less than there has been in previous years. Even so, this was more than made up for by the incompetent marshalling ability of many crews which caused all sorts of problems. Tales of coxn’s allowing their bows to be caught by the stream, pulling them perpendicular to the bank and forcing other crews up the shore were rife, and one novice Liverpool University crew reportedly managed to snap the stern off their boat on Barnes bridge before they got anywhere near the start.
The Upper Thames B crew attempted to live up to their men's efforts in 2006, with their own version of the magnificent seven – one of the crew caught a massive crab near Hammersmith, bending her rigger and popping the gate open. Her oar then made a successful bid for freedom and they finished the race with 8 rowers and 7 blades. Luckily the errant item was later rescued from the water by an official near Hammersmith and returned to them.
The most notable event of the day, however, must go down to Pembroke College Oxford (awh - just like the good old days... Ed) Their cox decided (for some unknown reason) to attempt to take their boat behind the marshal’s launch situated between the finish and Putney bridge, despite the fact the marshal was directing everyone to go in front of him and through the centre arch of the bridge and was shouting at them to do the same.
Once behind him they realised that they didn’t really have a very good line on the centre arch – but tried to go through it anyway – this manoeuvre, with the aid of a timely gust of cross wind resulted in the boat being blown onto the buttress. Cox and stroke got out dry, but the rest of the crew ended up swimming and were plucked from the water and taken to Putney embankment by the safety boat. Their boat stayed pinned to the bridge for the remainder of the race and I’m told that it's now in several pieces.
Once at Vesta (the designated drop off point for crews involved in these sort of incidents) the crew got showered, and after being given some dry kit started to ponder just how they were going to get back to Furnivall where they’d boated from and asked one of the Vesta members – the conversation went something like this:VRC member: "Well you could either walk along the towpath or get a taxi"Head of the River:- (Marlow / Rebecca / Tideway Scullers / Thames)
Student "Oh... last time, we got a lift in a launch
VRC member: "LAST TIME? What do you mean last time?"
Student "We capsized a four in the four’s head 18 months ago..."
VRC member: "..." (speechless)
Olivia cook (cox); Kath Grainger; Annie Vernon; Lindsey Maguire; Cath Bishop; Natasha Howard; Elise Laverick; Rebbeca Rowe; Kate MacKenzie
Club pennant:- (Thames)
Caroline O’Connor (cox); Alison Knowles; Beth Rodford; Carla Ashford; Vicki Etiebet; Kate Ironside; Florence Temple; Jess Matthews; Baz moffat
Full results can be seen at
|THE BLACK ART OF CREW SELECTION
Overheard at a squad briefing following crew announcements for the women's head:Coach: "... but what you must remember is that ergo's don't float"Ahem.
Rower: "Yes, well seat racing obviously doesn't float either..."
|THOSE OXFORD BLUES
The Tideway was being slightly better behaved for the OUBC fixtures on Saturday than it was for Cambridge’s offerings last weekend, but there was still a notable absence of stream, even though the Thames barrier remained open during the races.
With sun and minimum wind, Isis went off first against a nifty IC crew which included a certain ex-MBC member last seen in the vicinity of Bristol, and which was coxed by Seb Pearce, last year’s winning blue boat cox.
Having cut his teeth on the tideway, it didn’t take Mini long to twig there was no benefit sticking to the usual route and, after being dropped on the start by Isis, IC snuck back over a length thanks to some tactical cutting of the first corner.
Once Isis eventually twigged what was going on, they moved over -- just as IC were coming back onto station, and the two crews clashed, the Isis 7 man losing his oar over his head.
Despite all the excitement, to their credit, Isis got it back together pretty quickly, and race umpire Richard “I’ve got a flag and I’m going to use it” Phelps, decided to let the crews continue on their way -- but then spent the rest of the course warning IC, and repeatedly telling Seb that this was his last chance and he was definitely going to DQ them if he didn’t move...
Isis came through to win in the end, so happily no DQ’ing was deemed necessary and the result was repeated for the second piece.
Next up was the Oxford blue boat against a USA crew, which was an odd mixture of experience and youth.
Stroked by the lovely Jason Read (Athens gold medallist), the crew also contained: Paul Daniels (2006 OUBC – not the one married to Debbie McGee); Giuseppe Lanzone (USA 8 in 2006); Alex Hearne (Princeton 8 last year and possibly US u23?); the Winklevoss twins (in Harvard eights until 2 years ago, don't believe they made the US team last year) & Kyle Larson (US 4+ 2006). They were coxed (again) by the highly entertaining Mr Marcus McElhenney (acting responsible adult).
A visibly smoother OUBC crew shot off the start into a short lead, but by the end of the embankment the Americans had started to put some serious power down and moved through -- going on to win the first piece, though Oxford retaliated to take the second.
Compared to the CUBC vs Germany pieces last weekend, Cambridge probably still have a slight advantage in my prejudiced view, as the USA crew wasn’t quite as polished as the Germans...BUT.. (and it’s always a but with the boatrace) the conditions weren’t really comparable and I’ve gotta say, I’m erring towards Isis over Goldie...
Some random pics from the bank