Words by Jamie Sutherland
Like when the latest Clean Bandit single passes us all by until it is in an M&S ad, so for the fours head the vets turn up a day later than the young’uns and act like we meant to be late.
Curlew fielded five crews in the Vets Fours Head this year: two from the masters squad, and three from the club’s development squad. Perhaps we are all assured in our rowing skills, or perhaps we are lazy, but we certainly had no intention of doing a warm up like the other crews boating around us.
Experience of rowing on the tideway, or perhaps just the fact that vets boats move just that little bit slower than the kids, means that marshalling was a much more pleasant experience than I remember from previous tideway races. “Feel free to go for a warm-up spin and then slot in by those willows at the top of the wall over there” from the marshal rather than “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! IN ALL MY TIME ON THE TIDEWAY THAT IS THE MOST STUPID THING I HAVE EVER SEEN” from a marshal who sees you doing exactly what the marshal downstream just told you to do.
Experience of the course also brings memories about which stage you realise this is much longer than a spin on the docks. For some it is going through Hammersmith Bridge, for others the pull past the bandstand and down Chiswick Eyot. For me it’s when you pass the brewery and think you must be nearly there, only to realise there’s really quite a long way left to go.
After surviving the relatively chilled marshalling we spun and got ready to set off. City of Cambridge behind us seemed determined to start the race with overlap as they charged after us towards Chiswick Bridge. Of course, as experienced old hands (/really lazy rowers) we were determined to take it up only when we got through the bridge so we didn’t waste any of the energy in our aged limbs. Once through the start we settled into a remarkably good rhythm guided by Matt neatly down the course. We were set off behind a coxless four from Warsaw and Masters A quads. Our rhythm and course must have been doing something right as we scythed through five crews in the race and pushed away from the City of Cambridge crew who had seemed so keen to be next to us off the start.
I’m not sure if it was experience or lack of experience that led us to miss the finish line, but either way we completely failed to wind for the finish. Normally I’m the sort of rower who takes a cox calling a wind for the finish as an advisory notice rather than something to actually react to. However, this time I felt a bit short changed. Either we were moving much quicker than expected or we just didn’t know that end of the course, but the polite invitation to spin by the moored launch wasn’t quite what I expected when I was ready to give my final ten best strokes.
Boating from Tideway Scullers limits your warmup, but it does mean you get a really good warmdown on the row back. I’ll be honest: if I had been forced to row that distance to the start of the race I’m not sure I’d have had much left to give. But as it was we managed to keep an eye out for the other three curlew crews past the moored boats and we had caught our breath enough to give a proper shout to the novice women’s boat as they raced past.
By the time we finally – finally – got back to Scullers the results were dripping through and by gum Curlew had done well. We won the pennant for Masters A Coxless fours and came second in W Masters A, along with 5th in Masters A, and 9th and 15th in Masters C.
With the boats de-rigged and back on the trailer we treated ourselves to a couple of tinnies from the Scullers bar. Comparing times to the senior squad could give me plenty of trash talk ahead of the Docks Head, but I’m looking forward to seeing the results on the water. And then trash talking the senior squad.