Not to be outdone by their senior squads, the Thames novices headed to Wimbleball lake in Exmoor last week, for their spring training camp.

The camp started off with several fairly hard outings, not surprising as the coaches had explained that their intention over the course of the week was to "pretty much kill you"... However, this was taken to a whole new level when, on the Friday, it was announced that rather than do technical drills during an outing, the crews were, as a squad, going to do "safety drills" - specifically, capsize drills.

It was explained that as the lake is cleaner than the Thames (and has no stream), it was an ideal place to practice capsizing (i.e. just too good an opportunity to miss). The rowers were then told that they would not just be using small boats, but the drills would also include turning over their VIIIs and IVs... just to ensure that everyone got a chance to practice, and after all "you never know when you might go in".

The full capsize drill procedure was carefully explained by one of the Thames coaches, then the safety advisor from the centre being used by the club, stood up and explained that the water in the middle of the lake (where they would do the drill) was much colder than elsewhere.

Concerns about what would happen to the cox boxes were allayed by the coaches, who explained that they would collect these before the actual capsize. So with only a few sobs and grumbles, the crews dutifully got ready to go on the water and complete their task, leaving their non-waterproof watches and wellies behind.

The two VIIIs, IV and handful of scullers were accordingly lined up in the middle of the lake and the procedure re-explained. The rowers, resigned to their fate and ready to turn their boats, had braced themselves for the sudden cold of the water when one of the coaches asked whether anyone knew what date it was........

Whilst the rowers, to their credit, all took the April fool's gag in fairly good spirit, the coaches weren't sure whether to be immensely pleased with themselves for the success of their prank, or rather worried about the levels of sadism which their crews clearly considered them capable of...

Saturday afternoon's Tideway Scullers head marks the end of the head season as it's only a couple of weeks until the Thames region regattas start with Hammersmith Amateur on 23rd April, though some clubs are getting some early racing in by heading over to Belgium for Ghent Spring (also this weekend).

The changes to the rules of racing, which came into effect on 1st April, are fairly minor this year, with quite a bit of tweaking of wording to clarify things and ensure that the various bits of documentation produced by the ARA tell the same story.

buoyancy aidThe main points crews need to be aware of are as follows:

  1. Coxn's in Bowloaders MUST ONLY wear manual inflation lifejackets - they MUST NOT wear auto inflation life jackets - OR BUOYANCY AIDS - ie, the type pictured on the right is no longer acceptable for either racing or training outings. (so get shopping).

  2. Clarification on lightweight weigh-ins - CREWS MUST ALL WEIGHT IN, AND MAKE WEIGHT TOGETHER - this means that if one of your lwt 8 doesn't make weight and has to go on a sweat run - YOU ALL have to weigh in again - together. i.e. you must be seen to make weight as a CREW.

  3. More on lwt weigh-ins: crews must weigh in between 1 and 2 hours before the first race of the event they are racing in - WHETHER THEY ARE IN THAT HEAT OR NOT - so if the first round is at 8am but you have a bye to the second round at 11 you've still got to weigh in between 6 and 7am.

Over the last couple of years coaches seem to have focused their crews towards racing on certain weekends at what are thought of as "quality" multi-lane regattas, aided in no small part by the development of Dorney as a venue. This year is not likely to be an exception, though the world cup means that Metropolitan is no longer the same weekend at Nat Schools, which should ease some of the trailer trauma for clubs with big junior sections.

The 2005 racing calendar is a lot kinder to Docklands regatta, which moves to one day (sat)- sharing the 3rd weekend in May at the Docks with Poplar Spring regatta (sun).

The busy weekends are likely to be:

and Henley Royal is early this year - from 29th June until the 3rd July, With Nat Champs (Nottingham) the weekend of 15th July.

Of course there are also lots of local regattas to head to where you can get some good quality racing without needing to beat 31 other crews to get a pot...

cheekyAhhh, it's good to know that one Oxford Boat Race tradition - the inter-crew, semi-naked good luck message, is still alive and well hidden...

but fear not faithful readers, for the slug's feelers are not only twitchy but long reaching, and have managed to acquire the attached photo for your um, enjoyment(?)...

The gentlemen so openly expressing their hearty message of good luck, are rumoured to be the Oxford University lightweight men's reserve crew - Nephthys, and we must say - those socks certainly look familiar

The slug was having a spot of light refreshment in Quintin after the boat race on Sunday, when the lifeboat and the big black police death boat shot down towards Kew at speed, kicking up so much wash, that a couple of the 2 men canoes doing the devises to westminster race were overturned.

The poor canoeists managed to scrabble across to the steps but 10 minutes later (once the back wash had finally calmed down enough) they were just getting back in to their boats again, when a large barge ran into Hammersmith bridge and the lifeboat went hooning past in the other direction, nearly knocking them back in again...

Must be a bit of a bugger to have managed 90 or so miles down the thames, only to find yourself unceremoniously dumped in the river courtesy of the "rescue" services...

The Large Dutch Barge that caused the alert, had suffered a catastophic steering failure whilst travelling up stream from its mooring at Putney on the rising tide -- Unfortunately it got wedged under Hammersmith Bridge, and the bridge has been closed since. crunchThose of you who, following the Boat Race, were wondering just what a Dutch Barge wedged under Hammersmith bridge looks like, need look no further... as there are some choice pics on the Chiswick Lifeboat website


Two crews raced on the Tideway on Sunday afternoon. They were both quite good, but one went slightly faster than the other.

After the race they were all very tired, and the crew that won was very happy.

In Hindsight, the decision to hold the Henley races on the bank Holiday weekend, the day before the main men's races was possibly not the best one. A steady stream of canoeists taking part in the annual Devises to Westminster caone race were makng their way through Henley throughout the day but they weren't the cause of the problems...

bargesThose familiar with spring bank holiday weekends on the river Thames will be aware that the amount of river traffic is always unusually high, as those with more money than sense take to the waters of the upper thames in their deep sea fishing boats, happpily oblivious to the needs of other water users and with their fenders hanging out, providing a visual guide to their watermanship in much the same way that male novice rowers insist on wearing rugby shorts over their lycra-all-in-ones...

With no river closure available, the inevitable result was lots of muppets heading upstream in the worst possible place as racing crews steamed towards them. Happily there were no incidents - mainly thanks to the frantic efforts of the on-water marshalls who were getting cruisers to move over in good time.

The weather was much better than last year's gale force winds, and a good crowd was in evidence, including a surprise visit from Mary McAleese, the Irish President, who had come to watch her daughter Sara race in the Oxford University women's lightweight crew.

Their race had a bit of a hiccup at the start when the Cambridge 2 woman came off her seat soon after the start, but, as the 100m equipment rule still stands for the Henley races, the umpire called a re-row which Oxford won by length in what turned out to be the closest race of the day.

The quality of rowing at the other boatraces is always variable and this year was no exception. The crews, understandably, fail to attract the same level of international interest that the men's Blue Boat does and are therefore much more representitive of the quality of Oxbridge student rowing. That said, there were some notable performances from the Cambridge women's Blue boat and the Oxford men's lightweight crew which show that good quality combinations, with a bit of oomph, are more than possible.

The Cambridge woman's Blue Boat had a storming race and, fullfilling the potential they showed with their WEHORR result, came home with a 2 and 1/3 length win. Oxford, stroked by 4th time blue Hilary Powell shot out of the start with a mission but were unable to maintain their high rate, and the light blues clicked into gear around the 500m mark, reeled them in and had moved into the lead shortly past Remenham Club.

The win will no doubt be gracefully received by the Cambridge coaching team - Ron Needs (with his indestructible cranium), Pete Convey and the indefatigible Roger Silk.

Roger's son Andy lost his battle with cancer just over two weeks ago, he will be sadly missed by all of us who knew him, and the slug was pleased to see that the Blondie girls had named their boat after him.

The Cambridge girlies' win was also the first light blue victory in 9 races for race umpire Mike Baldwin ( we had started to think he was cursed, but it looks like it's down to the rowers after all...)

Oxford picked up all the other available wins, which left Cambridge to do more than their fair share of the traditional post race looser blubbing... the level of emotion that competiors stake in these races never fails to amaze, though unfortunately, somebody's got to lose...

umpire and commentry journos Granta vs Nephthys blondie women's lightweights women's blue boats women's blue boats the prize giving new turf at Remenham club the next generation


Nephthys 6:07 beat Granta 6:27 by 4 1/2 lengths
Osiris 6:41 beat Blondie 6:48 by 1 3/4 lengths
OUWLRC 6:55 beat CUWBC lightweights 6:57 by 1/2 length
CUWBC 6:27 beat OUWBC 6:36 by 2 1/3 lengths
OULRC 5:51 beat CULRC 6:03 by 3 lengths

Saturday's HORR saw some interesting behaviour from our provincial friends... most notably crew number 216, Norwich II.

By all accounts stroke is married to the bow man, who's brother was rowing at 7 whilst 7's son was rowing at 2!

(Rumours of crew selction being soley based on neptotism are as yet unconfirmed - but we have our suspicions)

It's always a good idea to pay close attention to marshalling instructions rather than assume you know what's going on in a race, as one Putney Town RC crew found out to their cost during the Vets Head last weekend.

Assuming the race was being rowed from Putney to Chiswick (as per last year) off they set from their boathouse in Chiswick and merrily rowed up to Putney to where they thought the start was.

Alas, on arrival at Putney they discovered that a slight faux-pas had been made, as the race was, in fact, being run the other way round - from Chiswick to Putney.

They then proceeded to row the four miles back to Chiswick to the real start - Completed the race and then had to row all the way back home to Chiswick again. That's a full four times over the length of the Tideway course...


22-03-05 I'M OK, VOYEUR OK
Crews marshalling opposite the Civil Service Boathouse for the HORR on Saturday were 'treated' to a somewhat more memorable riverside view than they were expecting when, from one of the river front houses, a man of advancing years and certainly eligible to draw his pension, was spotted, binoculars in hand, viewing the assembled rowing throng.

"What's so odd about that?" I hear you cry, well, nothing really, except that he was standing in the window of his house for all to see, and was, well,.... completely naked.

Having noticed the presence of the voyeur, some of the rowers started waving at him and, after scanning around the crews before him, he spotted them and waved back... then, in a small gesture towards decency, pulled the curtain across to cover his nether regions, leaving him free to carry on his survey. Indeed,he was still there as they left some 30 to 45 minutes later.

One rower who witnessed these curious events told the slug "that the only thing that baffled us completely, and was the cause of much ribald discussion, was just exactly how was he holding the curtain in place?

We decided he was just a clever dick."

p.s. just on a whim we Googled "rowing and voyeur" to see what came back... and um, apparently a prime venue for dogging is "the Holme Pierrepont car-park near the Rowing Centre." ???!!!!

Oh well, with all this focus on 'legacy' at the moment, I suppose it's good to know the facilities are being utilised by the local community...


The slug was interested to hear from a member of a certain Tideway club who took part in the Vets head on Sunday. After the race, their coxswain, who is well known for being rather chatty, got a nasty attack of the old verbal diarrhoea.

Her relentless chatter soon started to grate, so her increasingly exasperated crew, decided something had to be done.

In their own words:

"... And as for vets head... we had to (and I really shouldn't say this to a cox, even one at another club...) unplug her coxbox from the speakers in the middle and bows of the boat, as she wouldn't stop talking... and talking... and talking...

By Hammersmith on the way back we'd had enough, so after we unplugged her, bow 6 at least had a nice pleasant row back! Though there did have to be a bit of Morse code happening to relay her (important) commands, and bow was having to keep an eye out in case of emergency stops!

Unplugging... not very professional I know, but I think that it was when she told us that we weren't sitting the boat up correctly at the finish because it was due to the fact that our hands were moving away at different speeds without a mention of the fact that we were all blatantly drawing in to different heights as well which got us...

Put it this way - we rowed a lot better back from Hammersmith without her than we did before Hammersmith with her - I rest my case!"

While the slug has certainly rowed in crews that have considered it, this is the first time I've heard of anyone actually taking direct action.