Curlew Rowing Club finishes the head season in style with the Master’s crew continuing the success story finishing a credible 16th overall, with our Dev’ Squad VIII finishing in a highly respectable 112th overall. 

Within the Category of Master’s B, Curlew finished 3rd – behind a Molesey Crew featuring James Cracknell and a Tideway Scullers School crew featuring rowing’s new superstar addition Sir Bradley Wiggins. Considering the Curlew VIII had no Olympians to speak of, this was Curlew’s best place finish position, with 37th being the previous best back in 2011.

Andy Herald, Curlew Dev’ Squad, sums up the day:

The Dev’ Squad has blossomed during the winter months, with great coaching and coxing from Nick, Maxine, and Zoe. A rapport has built at the post session ‘hot chocolate club.’

 We entered the Vet’s Head, with seven of the crew who raced the Head of the River a couple of weeks before. We made a couple of schoolboy errors ahead of the race, by severing the communication connection to the cox box, and losing a footplate between the docks and Chiswick Bridge (note to squad – re-tighten foot plate after loosening to split the boat for the trailer). In true Dev’ Squad style, we were patching the boat up, a la Cool Running’s, under the gentile Sunday morning mutterings from the Club Chair, who was on hand to advise and console(!)

 To the race…

 We were drawn a ludicrously high number (9) and took to the water, ahead of our own Curlew ex-Seniors/Vets (13). This meant that we sat in our 8 for 30 minutes at the start alongside Sir Bradley Wiggins and James Cracknell. It’s hard to look slim in a lycra onesie, but the general vibe was that Wiggo is not at his King of the Mountains training weight. We passed the asthma inhaler over to the Tideway Scullers Boat (Wiggo’s team) and never saw them again, after the start! 

Our team talk was all about beating our Head of the River time, rowing our own race, and making sure the other Curlew boat didn’t catch us by Barnes Bridge.

The conditions were favorable, and we were soon into our stride, led by our stroke, the flying Frenchman, Charles Petit. We warmly received the cheers from Curlew club supporters on Barnes Bridge, and pushed on for the long stretch to Hammersmith Bridge. The crew was relaxed in the boat, and Zoe, our cox did an excellent job throughout the race to keep us focused, calm and engaged, whilst navigating the waters and steering our course.

 We made it to the finish, knocking thirty seconds off our previous time, with no major errors. We didn’t disgrace ourselves, and post-race analysis from the photographs concludes that we need to work on our finishes, posture and length. One of the benefits of having an early draw is watching the other boats race past, and a bit of sight seeing as we endured the long paddle back to our host club.

 The Vet’s Head is a great race, and has a very relaxed, jovial atmosphere. We caught up over a beer with some of the old boys in their 70s, who we met in the changing rooms. Rowing is a fantastic sport, especially when you are sharing the water with some of the fittest seventy year olds in the country, and Olympic champions.

Start Club SequenceStart SequenceFinish Elapsed Adjusted Adjustment Category CategoryPos Notes
1 6 Molesey Boat Club 6 3 17:58.4 17:47.4 00:11 MasB.8+ 1
3 7 Tideway Scullers School 7 5 18:37.2 18:26.2 00:11 MasB.8+ 2
16 13 Curlew Rowing Club 12 10 19:19.0 19:08.0 00:11 MasB.8+ 3
17 11 Monmouth Rowing Club 10 8 19:20.9 19:09.9 00:11 MasB.8+ 4
25 8 Lymington Amateur Rowing Club 8 7 19:44.4 19:33.4 00:11 MasB.8+ 5
36 12 Vesta Rowing Club 11 11 20:02.5 19:51.5 00:11 MasB.8+ 6
82 5 Aviron Toulousain (FR) 5 9 20:55.9 20:34.9 00:11 MasB.8+ 7
112 9 Curlew Rowing Club 9 15 21:44.2 21:33.2 00:11 MasB.8+ 8

Vet’s Squad rower, Sean Delaney:

Sunday, 25th March. An hour earlier than it should be thanks to daylight saving and much like the weather, the Tideway Scullers’ boat house – our home for the day – seemed sullen, presumably in the wake of the relative glamour of the University boat races the day before. Even the event banners – still clinging to the railings that line the footpath – and the clatter of scaffolds being disassembled, gave the distinct feeling we’d turned up to a party twelve hours too late. This was the Vet’s Head of the River race after all – the poor relative to the main event two weeks earlier and a mere afterthought to the University boat races.

Eventually though, as the sky brightened and a steady stream of trailers gingerly snaked around the impossibly narrow dirt track past the boat house, the spirit lifted. By now, a trickle of crews were making their way upstream and conversation soon turned from “it’s a shame it had to be on a Sunday because I wouldn’t have minded a few pints later…” to race tactics and an equally unique feature of this year’s race: Sir Bradley Wiggins. Was he really in the ‘Scullers’ boat going-off just ahead of us?

The answer to that question was answered not long after boating, where we (going off 13th) pulled-up alongside said Sculler’s crew (going off 7th and also in Master’s B). Maybe not wanting to draw attention to himself, Wiggins’ “disguise” – a black beanie hat, pulled firmly down over his chops, was suitably undone by a conspicuous choice of garish eyewear. A poor attempt at anonymity perhaps, but the Wiggins/Sculler’s composite turned out to be stuffed full of ex-internationals. Notwithstanding, as we eyeballed the rest of the rest of the field, it became clear the Vet’s Head isn’t a race for old duffers! Matt ‘Welshy’ Richardson’s initial prediction of a top 5 finish (latterly revised to top 20) suddenly seemed ruthlessly ambitious. Luckily though, as is always the case with head races, any doubt was left in the marshalling area and after the umpire’s megaphone boomed under Chiswick bridge, the next eighteen or so minutes became a bit of a blur…

Our first strokes, rating 36, eventually settled to a conservative but chunky 31, which saw us dispatch several crews down the course – the most notable of which resulting in a brief tussle with a solid-looking Vesta crew, somewhere between Barnes and Hammersmith. The expert line carved by Nicola in the cox’s seat meant we were never far from the main stream and as we passed through Putney bridge, it felt like we’d had a good row. But with head races, you never really know how ‘good’ a good row is until hours after the race. Judging by the silence in the boat on that never ending row back against the ebb, it was clear we were wondering if we’d done enough to meet the lofty expectations. Even Jamie – the squad jester – seemed unusually quiet.

The results though, posted several hours later, indicated an overall finish of 16th (3rd in Masters B) – just one category position behind the Scullers/Team Wiggins composite (2nd in Masters B) and two behind the category (and overall) winners from Mosley. Incidentally, we later learned that the Mosley boat was also stuffed full of ex-internationals including James Cracknell and recent GB 8+ stroke man/Olympic gold medal winner, Will Satch, which perhaps justifies to some extent us falling shy of a top 5 finish. Regardless, this was another strong performance amongst a top field of boats, adding to a string of recent successes, including a very admirable 134th at the HORR, two weeks earlier. Bring on Henley (vets)!  

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