Sunday, 29 April 2012

Head of the Cam - results and round-up

The original Head of the Cam post got treated as a live document and updated as we went along. So this is a new post for the wrap-up.

Thanks to all our competitors, support, marshalls and umpires for making it a successful and fun day. We had a total of 860 rowing seats in 136 crews. The fastest crew was... 100-Caius-snap1 by Andy Southgate

...yes, you guessed it, Caius. Congratulations. Fastest womens crew was, rather less expectedly, also Caius. They beat Downing by 14 seconds.

Full results are available from here (a number of people were kind enough to thank us for the speed of the results; its all thanks to googly docs). Video of the event is just going up as I speak at spannerspotter though it will be a while before its all up. For those of you who prefer the security and solidity of a PDF, this is the final results, sorted into time order.

Oh, and someone lost a pair of glasses in a kangol case on the towpath. If they are yours, do let me know [now reunited with their owner].


138-sculler We didn't really have any serious issues - at least, we thought not. Hopefully you agree. Even the weather, whilst grey and occasionally a bit damp, spared us from downpours.

Turning boats back

We had to turn one, or perhaps two, boats back who were late for their division. Sorry about that, we don't do it lightly, and where possible we'll give you a chance to race in a later division. In at least one of the cases the boat was late because it had failed safety inspection: the heel restraints weren't in place and had to be put in place. Moral: check your boat is all in order in good time.

The Cow that could Swim

Half way through the race we were informed of a prodigy - a cow that could swim, on Stourbridge Common. We thought it best not to trouble you with that.


We hope to make things even better next year - please feel free to email ( with any suggestions. One thing I do want to do is to seed the draw better, probably by asking people to submit a recent head course time, or their own best guess.


Everything went well with the timing except the problem with boats 117 and 118, which was only resolved right at the end. Unfortunately it turned out to matter for the prizes for the W2 Mays. So let me bore you with the tedious details. Before I do that, the timesheets are available for div 1, div 2, div 3 and div 4. Feel free to look, but you won't learn much.

115-rowback So, the sequence began with boat 115, Xpress MasB IV, which broke their rudder (they eventually and boldly started, and here is a nice pic of them trying to take Grassy with an improvised rudder, but they had to retire in the end). Their dropping out caused a hole in the start order, which got filled by Kings W1 (118) going off out of order ahead of Cantabs W IM3 (117). Not in itself a problem, but the start times and finish times as we got them looked like:

114 CCRC, CRA MasD 0:24:53 0:34:51 0:09:58
117 Cantabs, W2 IM3 0:23:31 0:37:57 0:14:26
118 Kings, W1       0:26:02 0:36:39 0:10:37
120 Cantabs, Mas E  0:26:54 0:38:38 0:11:44

You see the problem. Kings (it became clear) had started before Cantabs, indeed just before Cantabs, so 23:31 isn't a believeable start time; and Cantabs total time is implausibly slow. Eventually, after a considerable amount of indecision and hearing from both crews, we decided to go with Least Modification, and resolved the conflict by assuming the Cantabs 23 was really a 26. That fits with what the timings Kings coach gave us; and it also fits some times we got belatedly from video on Grassy: Kings had gained 18 secs on Cantabs by then. ps: Champs head vindicates us. Kings W1 did well there, too.



Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The DIWLF boat does Oxford

elite-squid DSCN2489-w1-r1 After our extended training outing it was time for the Elite Squid to show the Oxford City bumps what we could do. And after many a roundabout we all met at City of Oxford RC boathouse down by Donnington bridge. For those who don't know, I rowed at Oxford for SEH from 1983-1989 (indeed, most of the reason for doing my D. Phil. there was to continue rowing, how silly I was when young). But either there were no City bumps then, or we didn't know about them - not unlikely, the Town and Gown rowing is far less mixed in the Other Place. So this was my first visit to CORC, but I digress... I was pleased to see that ANU is still God, though... oh come on, get on with it man...

The Oxford City bumps are rowed in IV's (including bowloaders!), with two men's and two women's divisions each rowed four times, all in one day. Because it is IV's, and only 13 boats to a division, the half hour spacing between divisions works fine. They are rowed to "Torpids rules" which we (we?!?) in Cambridge know nothing of: the boat bumped keeps going. These are the same rules used in the Torpids (== Lent) bumps; the university summer eights are rowed to "the usual" rules. As it fell out, these rules worked well for us, in the sense of making the racing more interesting. Oh, and the bumps are non-contact: if there is overlap, the umpire on the bank whistles and the bump is given. This works.

Round 1

We started 3rd in division 2. Start order Tabs 2, CORC Heavyweight developement, Us, Tabs 3, etc. As it happened, Tabs 3 were mostly the good half of their second summer VIII, which is well ahead of our first VIII. And so they caught us fairly soon (just on the exit from the gut) and very definitely. But due to the Torpids rules, we had our chance to row on and try to bump CORC. Which we stuffed up - one of our number de-seated when we were a canvas down and gaining rapidly. But otherwise, it was a pretty good row.

In the course of waiting for the start - Mike P-J was our poleman - I remembered why Oxford bumps don't do the push-off-at-20-secs that Cambridge do: its because the banks are too high to allow you to get your blades on them. That means (as I remember well) lots of tapping on and nerves before the start if there is wind or stream. Fortunately today there was little of either.

Round 2

From the bowcam.

We started 4th except, confusingly, the sandwich boat wasn't there as boat 1, so we were the 3rd physical boat on the river. Never mind, we're off. As expected Tabs 3 caught CORC in the gut. With a bit of experience of this kind of thing under our belt we realised that (a) CORC had a start but would fade rapidly after the gut and (b) rowing in puddles is hard (perhaps especially in a IV?). So the cunning plan, on leaving the gut, was to pick whichever side of the reach CORC didn't and get them. And so it was; I think we got them half way up the reach. Abingdon had held station behind us and even looked threatening once but (to our surprise) didn't go on to catch CORC.

Incidentally, if we had managed to catch CORC in round 1, all that would have happened in this division was that we'd have rowed over behind Tabs. So, Will, all is forgiven.

Round 3

From the bowcam.

This is the one that (in retrospect) we really stuffed up. It turned out that the missing sandwich boat from round 2 was Claire's Court School who (perhaps not used to bumps sandwich boats) hadn't realised they were now in div 2. So they got bumped down to 4th. So the start order is now: sandwich boat, us, CORC, Claire's, etc. And the sandwich boat was Jesus. I've always wanted to bump Jesus. We knew nowt about them, except that they were slower than Tabs, but that wasn't saying much.

To cut to the chase: we rowed well and got to perhaps a half length at the top of the reach (look at the video, its great). But when they crossed over and we were again in their puddles we were unable to close the gap. And (to give them credit) they held up well under pressure and kept us at bay. So (having pondered this) what I'm now sure of is that we should have pushed much harder and pretty well thrown everything at them down the reach when we had the chance to get overlap in clean water.

Round 4

Claire's Court caught CORC, and Jesus didn't bump up, so we were chasing them again but now with a fast boat behind us. And they proved fast enough to get us. But, the glories of Torpids rules meant we didn't have to worry about that: we could continue with our grudge match against Jesus. But despite our rowing at least as well, and probably better than, last round; and them having been sandwich boat in between; Jesus held us off again.

[Oh, and looking at the results, I remember: the some-what disappointment of this, over and above the not-bump, was that Jesus rowed as sandwich boat and caught Press; and since we were faster than Jesus, we'd have done that too, if we'd got Jesus in either round 3 or 4. Ah well, that's the bumps.]

Round up

DSCN2514-the-elite-squid And so we ended up with one real bump up, one technical bump up, and two down, for a net gain of zero. But no! We gained a great day out and a lot of fun and entirely new rowing. We'll be back next year.

Oh, did I introduce the crew? We were:

  1. Mr Wykeham, the Cantab Calamari
  2. Mr Holland, the Tentacled Sucker. Then follows the better educated stern:
  3. Dr Howard, the Legendary Kraken
  4. Dr Connolley, all Conquering Cephalopod. Then the quality drops right off:
  5. Mr Tidy, Tetrapussy
Also thanks to the invaluable assistance of Mike P-J, our poleman; and to Simon Emmings who was our Judge. Oh, and did I forget Emma, and indeed George, the finest squid of all?


Monday, 2 April 2012

To Ely and back

We were going to enter Boston - indeed, we did enter. But come the draw and we still hadn't found a trailer, and the reason became clear: there were no other crews going from Cambridge (other than Katherine and Anna-Rosa, who won their class; but they were in a double, and didn't need a trailer). It rather looks like the organisers hadn't publicised the change-of-date widely, and only had 1/3 the normal number of entries.

And so we thought: rather than all the faff of trailering there, why not "just" row to Ely and back, which is about the same distance (actually 51.5 km, starting from Queens's boathouse, over Boston's 50). And so we did:


That is our route, annotated, from the GPS trace. You'll see we stopped a bit: Baits Bite (5k) and Bottisham (10k) locks were necessary, as was the pint at the Cutter Inn at Ely. Upware (5 miles from anywhere pub; 15 k) was a lovely sprawled-in-the-grass-with-drinks stop on the way back, and I think we happened to stop to adjust footplates there on the way up. And then the formerly-Fish-n-Duck at the junction of the Old West river was another landmark, 20 k. Note that at some points where we had long stops (Ely, Upware on the way back) I stopped the watch, so you don't see the full gap.


Our proof that we really did get to Ely :-). and if that isn't proof enough, here is more:

My hands - taped to match my nail varnish. When oh when oh when will I learn to tape up my hands properly before getting blisters?Paul's hands - worse than it looks from a distance. And he was taped up like an extra from The Mummy.James Howard's mighty Blister of Doom. I added the arrow in case you missed it.

There is no picture of Will's hands - apparently, as a result of some odd formative experiences at Eton, he doesn't get blisters ;-).

DSCN2453-beer-from-pippin DSCN2455-tea-and-biccies John-from-Pippin was kind enough to let us through Bottisham lock both ways (side note: if you had no friend but you had the key, you could probably do it by letting the cox out at the landing stage, though the Cambridge side is awkward. It almost looked possible to get out on the bank before the stage, which (if possible) would be much quicker than waiting for the lock gates to move). And on the way back, he even more kindly lifted over a few cans of Old Speckled Hen in a net, and then mugs of tea for James and Will (not in a net).


Here we are in the lock, on the way up. James H has a somewhat worried expression, because I've insisted that James T stand up to take the picture, and (as you can see) we don't really have our blades out very far. I've cropped the picture to spare you the worst of my pallid chest - I rowed up Topless, though actually it wasn't warm despite the blazing sunshine, so I rowed back Topped.

The very last adventure of the day was discovering, half way down the reach, that we'd lost our rudder. Watching James's face was quite funny, as it slowly dawned on him that pulling the strings was doing nothing. But he then did an excellent job of coxing us back just with extra pulls from either side as required.


At the end, we could still smile (L to R: Paul Holland; William Connolley; James Howard; Will Wykeham. Front: James Tidy). Because we knew we were headed for the Fort. But how was it, overall? Fun, yes. An interesting excursion and definitely something different and something to remember. Hard work - we didn't just pootle along, or even back (the GPS says avg ~13 km/h on the way out, which is 2:18. And a bit lower on the way back - perhaps 12.5, which is 2:24. Tiredness, or difference in rover flow? Those GPS splits are about 5 pips worse than the impeller splits we were getting at the time). Would it have made a decent time if we'd been doing Boston? Hard to know - we wouldn't have got all the rests, so the split would probably have sagged somewhat from what we have here. We'll find out next time!

[Update: oh, and I forgot to mention: we got off to an appallingly bad start: as we passed under the Fort footbridge, having taken about 20 strokes, James H said "are we nearly there yet?" in a perfectly deadpan voice; I could hardly row for laughing for a minute.]


* GPS track