Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas head

Um well there you go. Superheroes all. My vote for best fancy dress went to Dr Manhattan, who bent over to show us that he'd drawn a tiny arsehole in the right place. The giant cock he'd drawn on the front was easy to see. However the true winner - as decided by official judge Luca - was Jon for his hand-stitched Superman costume.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Vet Fours Head: 1st December

We weren't leet enough to get into the real Fours Head (you need 8 points in the boat, imagine!) but the Vet Fours on the Sunday was an acceptable substitute. The women, as I understand it, had a rigourous process of crew seleection and training; we menfolk had a somewhat more haphazard "OK, who's available then?" approach. But we were in tip-top condition after Ely.

Simon the E was kind enough to trailer, so he got the leaving-at-6am-short-straw; I got to luxuriate in leaving-at-7. Bring back Ely! We all met up at Tideway Scullers (last there for Hammersmith Head in March 2010?). All the rigging stuff as ever, then we trundle off down the course - TSS is near the finish, which is good.

And here we are during the race: me, Ian, Will, Paul, and that nice Mr Tidy. Photo credit Steven Andrews, who shouted what I assume was encouragement from Hammersmith Bridge. Notice decent separation at the catch. I don't recall all that much about the race: we went off at about 30 and stayed there; we went past 2 crews and one came past us - oh yes, with a little blade clash along the way, James doing an admirable job of shouting at the overtaking crew to get out of our way, with the confident tone with which he very nearly got away with "Caius! Which side of the river do you think you're on!" when he was on like totally the wrong side himself.


And here are the ladies: Anne, Meg, Lorraine, Juliet, ably coxed by Robert:


vet-fours-head-mens-crew-IMG_3521 Afterwards, it was time for a trip to the Ship on the far bank for a pint or two and sos-and-mashed-pots, where we met up with SA and Sarah, and rather noticeably didn't meet up with Katherine. Ahem. And here we all are with TSS and Chiswick bridge in the background.

There are zillions of other photos on the facebook page. Should I link to them? Oh go on then, for posterity: ladies men men.

Oh, results. You wanted results? Well. We fine manly chaps came 2nd of 4 in our class: 19:53.2, only 8 seconds behind York, who won. Hey ho, so it goes, though it would have been lovely to win on the Tideway. The ladies were 7th of 11 in their category in 23:35.4 .

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Isle of Ely small boats head

'twas a gloriously sunny early winter's day, and we headed off to Ely for the Small Boats Head, which for us meant IVs. It was wonderful to be able to get up at a civilised hour - we met at Queens at 9:30, having de-rigged yesterday - and set off for Ely with Quadcoque and Spare Rib on Queens' trailer, accompanied by some quite interesting fungus.

Our division was 12, but the start was at the end of a 5 km course, plus 1.5 km to the finish line, so we were supposed to be ready to boat by 11. Which proved to be no great trouble.

We can't quite remember why we've never done this race before. Perhaps its new.

I recall the Ely rigging-grounds from the Great Ouse Half Marathon, its a somewhat bizarre place: "Death Race 2000 meets Wind in the Willows" as a certain Mr P. Holland put it. Here he is supervising the riggers as they get down to work.

Ely only has a couple of landing stages, and only one for IVs really, so there's a bit of a queue, but they do try to manage your boating times. From there its 6.5 km downstream (but today, against the wind) to the start at Littleport. And its nearly but not quite dead straight. We mostly just "settled", not having rowed in this crew for a while, but threw in a couple of tolerable bursts of high rating  - it takes us a while to stabalise. James pointed out a few landmarks along the way, but really the only one is the Lark at 2 km into the race. But, as it turned out, they also provided km signs (and somewhat unhelpfully a marshall at about 700 m from the finish who shouted "you've got a km to go").

At Littleport we sat around waiting for the start, and failed to pull into the landing stages, so I couldn't turn my GoPro on (motto: turn the thing on before you push off; still, one of the reasons for bringing it was to learn lessons like that). Some crews had clearly failed to boat on time, and the division was about 15 mins late.

We were a little nervous over the start line, and thinking it was at the bridge when actually it was someone earlier didn't help; but pretty soon we settled down and things were going well. With a tailwind we were hovering a little over 2:00 splits, but pleasingly they were stable, as was the rating at ~29. It felt a a bit fragile: hovering on the verge of not being sat enough to row well, needing attention from most of us to keep it stable, not leaving us quite enough free to really put oomph down. And it stayed like that for 5 km, which is quite good really. Through the race I was watching the sculler behind us: he gained on us off the start, then we held place, then he slowly slipped back after 3 km. In the end, we beat him by a second. But for a scull, it was impressive.

The full results are available from IOERC: we got 20:40, third in our division and eighth overall (my PB running time for 5 km is 20:38). The ladies came 42nd in 23:45.

Here we all are, afterwards, in the Ely club car park:
  IMG_9170[Ian Foster, James Tidy, William Connolley, Dave Richards (Paul Holland underneath), Annie West, Meg Richards, Simon Emmings, Bailee Stratton and Anne Roberts.]

There was tea and there was cakes. And then we trundled back to Cambridge, for a drink in the last of the sunshine outside the Fort.

 Update: us on the course:

from!i=2898477497&k=gHkTbtD, which is I think

And the ladies:

ladies from

Monday, 23 September 2013

Boston: the ladies IV

Four crazy rowers from the women’s squad decided to row the Boston Marathon.  Me [Anne], Joss, Bailee and Annie.  The initial enthusiasm dwindled a bit and after nearly having an VIII, in the end it was just a IV.  The plan took on more seriousness once Robert had agreed to cox it – and even though he had asserted he would only cox an VIII, he was not surprised to find a IV.

We were enormously relieved to get a place on the Emma trailer towed by Ian with Champs W1.  This spared us the logistical nightmare of towing our own boat and needing to leave the boat in Lincoln, the trailer in Boston and get the trailer driver back to Lincoln.

1234055_10202159711898515_580716194_n When the draw came out we were boat number 6 going off at 9.06am.  This meant a very early start from Cambridge.  So early in fact that we decided to stay in a hotel on Saturday night and spare ourselves a 5am start.  We found ourselves a 2 bedroom cottage right in the centre of Lincoln which was very comfortable.  Bailee and Annie shared one room and me and Robert the other.  We got Robert a Z bed.  Apart from drying out damp coxing kit from his many outings with City (there’s not accounting for taste) which began to smell of wet nappies he was a very well behaved roommate.  The smart amongst you will realise we were missing one crew member.  Joss.  She had been having the week from hell at a conference in Manchester that only ended on Saturday – the day before the race.  In fact, as four of us drove to Boston, Joss was still in a coach travelling from Manchester to Cambridge.   Fortunately, Mel agreed to drive Joss up on Sunday morning and we were very pleased to see her arrive.

The early start proved to be a cloud with a silver lining as at 9am it was dry, calm and a sensible temperature for rowing.  There is a very steep bank down to the start, where the officials from Boston RC cheerily told us ‘it’s very slippery!’  (Hey, why don’t you put some grit or sand on the bank edge).  It was.  There are lots of Masters’ scullers in this event who could easily have ended up needing a hip replacement.

We had set ourselves a target of 5 hours to row the event.  We started at a comfortable rating of 22spm.  Every kilometre is marked along the course and we began ticking them off at a good rate.  We had a ‘push for 5’ at every kilometre mark which stopped us slipping back on the power and rating.  We pushed Lincoln Cathedral good bye, and made Bardney Lock in good time.  I have to say we made a brutally efficient transfer through the lock.  Shoes on; back packs on; just picked up the boat with blades still attached; and hand bagged Spare Rib over – to another slippery landing dock.  And we were off again.  The weather was still quite reasonable at this point.  Clearish skies, cool but comfortable, but clouds were forming.  We reached the halfway mark at about 2 and a half hours.  All good.  A slice of malt loaf every 10 kilometres – worked well for me.

1175602_10202165915733607_1590515034_n And then the wind started blowing from the south.  In fact it came straight at us.  Poor Annie in the bows took the brunt of it.  You could feel the wind on the square blades blowing us back to Lincoln.  The time between the kilometre marks began to increase.  I could also tell that something wasn’t right with Joss – and when she asked for ibuprofen, I got worried.  It turned our afterwards that she had a very painful hip.  She started leaning away from her rigger to ease the pain.  Sitting at 2 there was not much I or any of us could do to help her.  Robert later confessed that this was also his ‘dark’ moment in the race probably as weren’t rowing very well.  Our timing slipped so that bow pair and stern pair were not quite together.  Ooops.  And we all realised in our own little bubbles that were not going to make our 5 hour target.

However, as committed rowers, we were going to make the best of it.  We kept pushing through the wind and now waves.  We set ourselves targets of catching certain boats ahead and holding off boats behind as they came into sight for a certain amount of time.  The temperature dropped and I was rowing in my splash top – something I almost never do even in an outing.  It was cold.  It drizzled too which was not good for my purple glasses.  We used our weed hook 3 times.  Thanks to Andy S for advising us to take one.

For me the worst bit was 30 – 40 km.  From 40km we could sense the end and the tempo picked up again.   At 45 km Robert visualised an outing from Baits Bite back to Queens’ boathouse which we all appreciated.  I was not impressed when the tannoy announced our arrival with ‘and this crew set off at 9am so they have been rowing a very long time’ – well actually for a novice coxed IV the course record was 5.02 hours, so coming in at 5 hours 33 was pretty decent given the howling gale.  We rowed in strongly and tidily.  Ian and Mel met us.  Thank you.  Our bums were numb.  I had a bit of damage to my stroke side hard skin, but nothing to complain about.  Desperate for a pee.  Delicious bacon roll, tea and cake.  Cheeks glowing (both kinds).

Yes I would do it again.

Monday, 16 September 2013

End of an era

1272534_10151853347897350_1221604156_o Alternative but rather lengthy title: I should have listened to my old father when he said to me "Son, if I ever catch you trying to organise a crew for the Boston marathon, I'll nail your head to the floor".

Ahem. But it all worked out brilliantly in the end, so doubtless we'll have another go next year. If there's one thing I'm really good at, its not learning from experience.

As you can probably guess from the picture here of us all smiling, we won! Our category, not the fastest time overall, but we did win at IM2 despite being humble IM3 folk; and we were the fastest sweep-oared boat this year, and 6th overall.

[Note, which I need to put somewhere near the top: this post is about the Men's Boston. Since we went off at 12, and the ladies at 9, and we didn't share a trailer, we didn't arrive till after they were off and they left before we got back, so we didn't see them all day.]

We came in 3:56 (2:21 split, including time at the lock. Our GPS track is here from Garmin connect though it shows up better on Strava - you might want to think about that, Garmin people). The overall winner was an 8x+ in 3:35, which was a fine effort in the conditions. Speaking of conditions (a tail wind to start off, though it didn't last all that long, followed by headwinds for much of the course): my rough and approximate calculation (based on looking at the ratio of Master's scullers across categories C-G, because there are lots of these and the winning times are quite consistent) is that the weather, and headwinds, this year was worth a 0.94 correction factor over last year (this turns out to be quite important later on :-). Which would have made us 3:42 last year, if anyone cares about that.

Who were those masked (wo)men?

Our fine crew was: James Tidy, cox. Kate Hurst, stroke; William Connolley, James Howard; Ian Foster; Ralph Hancock; Luca Simonelli; Ulrike Bauer and Paul Holland, bow. Therein hang several tales, and it is only fair to list our fallen comrades. The original intent was to enter the Great Eight that went up three to 9 in bumps and won IM3 at Peterborough. And that was what we sold to James Howard - with, perhaps, the possibility of one or two exceptions - when he agreed to come down from the Frozen North to reprise those events. But Mr Wykeham couldn't make it due to Hols, and Chris "old man" Wood couldn't make it due to creaking, and Dr Southgate needed to regenerate in his coffin, so we roped in Paul "slag" Holland, Luca Simonelli and Tom "legendary" Watt. That crew lasted about 5 seconds, or possibly an outing, when Dave had a family event, but happily Kate Hurst quite fancied it (or perhaps us :-) so we were a crew again. What could possibly go wrong now? The answer was Tom's creative ability to injure himself, though to be fair a half ironman is tough, and we were running out of insane rowers, but fortunately Ulrike "mad as a bucket of frogs" Bauer also fancied trying her hand at Boston, so we were on again.

DSC_3213 It's time for a picture of our "pots", which were rather fine cut-glass tumblers well suited to drinking whisky from; seen here in rather greater detail. But enough gloating; on towards the race.

However, no post about Boston would be complete without mention of transport, logistics, and trailering problems. In this case our chief problem was unusual, a choice of competing trailering possibilities, but we went for the cheap option of hiring and driving Queens' trailer and driving ourselves. This had the advantage of not depending on anyone else, but the disadvantage of needing to turn up two hours early, leave the boat (and some of the crew needed to be there early to put it together), drive the trailer to Boston, get picked up by someone else, and then drive back to Lincoln for the start. It all worked, though it made for a long day. And since we got lost in the Lincoln one-way system coming back for the start, we had a pretty harried rush-to-the-start.

Get on with it

On with the race. So, we're in the start queue, waiting for our chance to move down to the pontoon, careful of the wet grass. But contrary to the dire forecasts, it isn't actually raining at the moment, and for a mercy there's actually a tailwind blowing towards the start line. We boat, hurridly, and they're keen to push us out ASAP to get the last few crews off, so we're sitting in the stream making the last few adjustments. Newbie cox Mr T tries to take us over the start line before they're ready for us (they start at 1 min intervals, its not like a head race when they start you when you're ready) so we back down and try again. We're off!

Almost immeadiately there's a problem: the cox-box isn't working in the bows (such a shame there wasn't 1.5 hours to put the boat together and check everything before the off :-). Dropping out a pair enables Ralph at 4 to fix this moderately quickly, but I see the next crew - Liverpool Victoria, the other IM2 8+, coming up on us. Happily as soon as we get back to rowing all eight we drop them quite rapidly. At least, I was pretty sure they were LV which if true was great news - they were the only other crew in our category (we entered as IM3, which is what we were, but they bumped us up to make a cat).

But more interesting than that was our probable time. I'd estimated before the race that 5 mins at the lock and a 2:15 split would get us 3:45; James Howard and Kate, more optimistic than me, had told the Boston commentator that we would do 3:30. My GPS was showing some pretty promising splits - up to 9.5 km, we were averaging 2:00 or better, with a tailwind (incidentally, we'd taken off the impeller for that tiny-extra-speed for bumps, and hadn't put it back on since, and didn't put it on for Boston due to Weed (not that there was much this year) so James T was relying on Kate's GPS rowcoach, which he'd never used before. And all its splits were vastly optimistic, by 5-10 pips. No idea why. I didn't say anything during the race). But after that we hit moderate-to-strong headwinds, and those persisted, and our splits correspondingly dropped. Looking, now, I see that 9k is where the river turns from due East to SE. At 42 k, where the river turns East again, our speed picks up, then drops at 46 k as it heads SE again, until our final spurt over the line. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Time at the lock is time wasted

Bardney comes up quicker than you think. And I always forget the "shape", so here's a pic of my GPS track. The "offical" split times for the course are calculated assuming 5 mins to get over. I thought, this time, that we'd done pretty well, but it turns out we took 6:30. That breaks down into (something like, its hard to reconstruct exactly from the trace): 50 secs coming into the stage (partly due to City, partly due to a scull so James took a slightly non-optimal glide-path and we need to stretch and be pulled in); about 1:20 getting out of the boat; about 2 mins going from one side to the other (we were handbagging it to save faffing with blades; this is Correct); about 2 mins pushing off, reassembling ourselves on-water, and getting ready to go. Our thanks to the City eight who, clearly slower than us, allowed us to push past them for the re-boating stage.
To do it faster you need: a clear stage to come into, fast (which needs either luck, or someone on the other end of a mobile phone to clear it for you; or, perhaps, arrange a water/food break just before the lock rather than after, if there is no space); a crew well practiced and prepared to leap out and go; and a clear exit stage.

The next three quarters

And so, on to the next three quarters of the race. This passed surprisingly quickly. I distinctly recall in earlier times - admittedly, when I was in slower-moving boats - that the last 20 or 10 k crawled by. This time the higher rating (we started around 22, rose through 23 to 24 after perhaps 10 k, held that for most of the race and raised to 25 for the last 10 ish k, with a virtuoso sprint up to 31 over the line) gave far less time to gazing around, and I had to actually concentrate on staying in time and stuff like that. Actual rowing. Which was nice. I barely looked at any scenery at all - not that there is much of it.

We were going for a moderate-to-high rating for such a long distance, trying to keep the technique light and the pressure, if not light, wasn't too high. As with any such long-distance event it starts off feeling easy and ends up feeling terrible; with rowing there is always the problem of blisters, and we ended up with a fair crop. The boat had a variety of precautions: some had gloves of various sorts, some had used various forms of tape, others were just Hard. I (I'm writing this for my own information next year, you understand) found that fabric-type tape around the middle bit of two fingers on the pulling hand and one on the feathering worked well, combined with lightweight running gloves to ease friction and stop the plasters from rubbing off. My worst blister was one inside the thumb on the pulling hand. Or claw, as it became for the last 10 k. But that's the ideal, isn't it ;-? I used a gel seat pad, and I had no "bottom" problems at all.

By about, say, 30 k it was clear that we weren't going to hit our 3:45 (let alone 3:30) unless the headwind eased off, which it didn't. By 40 k it was more a matter of wanting to get in under 4 hours; but I'm moderately sure I was the only one of the crew staring at a GPS and calculating probable finish times given certain splits as we went along. At 40 k we needed a 2:30 average split from then on to get under 4 hours, which was pretty likely, and as time went by and we kept hitting 2:20 ish it became more and more certain.

This time, we had the pleasure of overtaking boats. Lots of them. That's a nice feeling, and also something to break up the monotony, and something to give you a chance for a slight lift to keep up the pace. And it definitely beats being overtaken a lot. Fairly soon after the lock a double appeared in the distance behind us. Slowly slowly slowly it crept up on us; I think we pushed a little to hold them off, and once or twice they got a bad corner whereas James T's coxing got us good lines. But then they caught us and came past, again slowly. But that was the only crew to pass us, and they ended up fourth overall.

And then, all of a sudden, we'd finished. Suddenly you transition from full-on race mode to sit-quietly-on-the-water for a bit, then come-on-get-the-boat-out, where to put the blades, find some trestles (we'd left ours at the start, of course, and had forgotten we out to have left a second pair at the finish), section the boat, put it on the trailer, go get some tea and...

Is there anyone here from Chesterton Rowing Club?

Yes indeed there is! And yes we'll happily take some of those rather nice pots off you. Technically I think we were a Chesterton / Cantabs  composite (for Ulrike). But never mind the fussy details.

After that, well, it's time to go home. And this really did feel like the End of the Affair. We'd stretched our the eight to Peterborough and (just!) to Boston, but now the season is over. We say goodbye with regret to James Howard and wend our way back to Cambridge to put away "Octo" in the rain and a final pint in the Waterman. The End.

Secrets and Lies

Or, vaguely useful advice. See also last's years thoughts.

* It isn't 50 k; its 49.1. Don't be fooled by the distance markers, because while it ends at 50 it starts at 1 (work it out :).
* I've been advised that driving yourself / your trailer back afterwards is dangerous / a bad idea: well, your mileage may well vary, but we didn't find any problem, after an hour's rest.
* Having now tried it, I advise mostly energy gels for food if you're in a hurry, with perhaps a banana or two to be eaten if you happen to have a bit more time for whatever reason. I didn't finish my litre of water.
ps: did I ever mention how much I loathe the awful auto-formatting that blogger does?

Monday, 12 August 2013

We win!

To crown our successful bumps results Chesterton put in an excellent performance at Peterborough regatta. The highlight was our bumps M1 winning IM3 VIII's over 1000m on the Saturday. By all of 0.3 seconds. Other crews did well too; the Ladies IV narrowly missed their pots twice.
[Note: this post requires updates from the various crews for their versions of events; do send me updates.]

we_win_im3 Overall, our results were:

Saturday (1km)

IM3 8+ (M1): Won heat in 3:10.6. Final 1st 3:08.1. Also fastest time of the day.
Nov 4+ (M2): Second in heat with 3:45.8. Reached semi finals.
W Nov 4+: Won heat by a margin of 5 seconds. In the final, very close 2nd: 4:10.6 against Leeds' 4:09.4.

Sunday (500m)

IM3 4+: lost in heat (fastest heat of 4).
Nov 4+: reached repechage.
IM3 2-: reached repechage.
W Nov 4+: Final, close 2nd (1:55.0, 2.7 secs behind First and Third).

Stories from the crews


W Nov 4+

Very close finals for the ladies, who narrowly missed out on taking home novice pots. Next time they're yours!

Nov 4+

Ah, they struggled mightily, but a point at novice is hard to come by.


The mighty Chesterton M1 crew, fresh from their 3 up in bumps, came together for one last hurrah before scattering to the winds like thistledown. We even managed some practice outings, one with the full crew - and they felt good. And we had a pre-heat paddle on the Nene. Heat one was against Peterborough and CORC. CORC had two IM3 VIII's in the regatta, and as a big club could quite possibly have at least one good crew. As it happened we got the better one but they weren't good enough: we were clearly up by 500m and we kept clear water to the line (yes: I did sneak peeks occasionally; its good for my concentration and anti-nervousness: after 10 strokes it was clear we were pulling ahead of the closest crew, and at 250m we were clearly in the lead). We were also the fastest heat.

The heat was just before 2, the final just after 7. The interval was spent dossing in the sunshine, watching races, drinking tea and reading. Now we had three opponents instead of two: CORC from our heat weren't going to touch us, York were second in their heat; so the danger was the Twk-men who (despite their fetching pink-n-purple flowery one-pieces) were only 3 secs behind our heat time; and they looked young and fit and bigger than us mostly. I was sufficiently nervous on the start line to forget to set my GPS off (sorry). We started well; James called us a seat or so up after 250m and I think he was on their 3-man at 500m. But after that they began to pull back oh-so-slowly and we all had to dig deep. James called our push at 750m and we started to hold them; going over the finish line was agonising and the result was too close for anyone to call; we and the Twk-men sat on the water, exhausted, and wondering who had won. Then there were cheers from the bank and! It was us! Woooooooo! A point, and at IM3! I started rowing in 1983 (before Young Wykeham was born, I suspect) so could be considered to have waited 30 years for this. Hmm, thinking of that, the crew mostly divides into young / old based on extent-of-hair-coverage; only the boyish Ralph bucks the Hand of Time. 1082323_10153098248250537_1645716041_o

[Crew: James Howard (stroke); William Connolley (7); Andy Southgate (6); Chris Wood (5); Will Wykeham (4); Ian Foster (3); Ralph Hancock (2); Dave Richards (1). Cox: James Tidy.]

From AS: Awesome moment today. 1000m (3-and-a-bit minutes-ish) rowing race in the final at Peterborough Regatta where there were inches between us at the finish. In the haze of post-race death I heard the oppo's cox say "I don't think we got it...".

Aside: the Nov VIII was won in 3:13.0 in a straight final. We beat that by 5 seconds, but they weren't pushed, being 15 secs ahead of their closest competitors. So very likely we'd have won novice (had we been able to enter; James Howard and Andy Southgate already had points) but it would have been close. This illustrates (sez I) how hard it is to get a point: it took the best M1 crew we've had for quite a few years to do it.

There's video of our heat here.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Bumps, day 4: 0 / 0 / +1 / +1

W2, M2 row over. W1 and M1 bump up. We win the John Jenner trophy and M1 are now 9th on the river, our best result for years. Details to follow, but for the moment:



Um well last day and a real opponent, Xpress. They are normally a good crew but this year they were weakened by loss of their stroke, who didn't technically fit within bumps rules, and for whom they'd failed to apply for a dispensation. So far they were down 2, yesterday to Champs 1. I'd've preferred a shot at Champs, but James H was keen for Xpress due to some history from the Olde Dayes.

The pre-race talk was (again) about how they would be a proper challenge this time, and we'd get them on the reach if anywhere. And once again I believed it. Once again we were earlyish to Stourbridge, sat around chatting, nodded to St Neots who would be behind us and had pulled up next to us (wearing "Entries close Saturday 6pm" on their tops, since their regatta is next weekend), admired the fine weather and waited. W1 passed us with willow - well done them - which (coupled with W2 and M2 rowing over) meant we were well-placed for the JJ and would almost certainly win it if we bumped up. The row-up was as usual, with a rolling start under the Railway bridge and a standing start at the Plough. All well. Up, spin, wait.

The GPS trace shows that our start was OK without being outstanding; but we got our first whistle after 10-15 strokes (from memory. Having now re-watched Press's rigger-cam it sounds to me like we got it on their tenth stroke). That was encouraging but (just like yesterday) I didn't take it too seriously. But then the rest of the race did turn into an eerie repeat of yesterday, and we got them pretty well where we got St Neots, in the gut.

We close down to 2 whistles on FP reach, then 3, then continuous / overlap as we come around the corner and you see the tents on the meadow in the video. Then just as we pass "beached boat" the video abruptly cuts off - whether this is due to the tape running out, or is discretely drawing a veil over someone's crab, I don't know. But there's nothing in the video very obviously wrong with them; we were just faster. They have so-last-century wooden handle blades; we wouldn't be seen dead with such any more. By my count they take 15 secs for the first 10 stokes (that's 40), and the next 10, and the next; 16 for the next 10 (that's 38) and the next. So they weren't under rating us.

Elation; again. Its a wonderful feeling. We pulled over to those two boathouses with landings and, very cutely, some young children there enthusiastically tore willow off their trees for us; once they'd started it was hard to stop them.

This time we got to stop at the beer tree on the way back. And then the traditional row-home with cox in stroke's seat, and me in the cox's seat. We managed "cutting the cake" all the way up to the catch. And so home. Andy S supplied tinned Gin-n-tonic, then after that it all starts to blur. It certainly involved celebrations in the Waterman for the whole club as the John Jenner trophy was brought in triumphantly; there was drinking on the hard outside City and a modicum of naked rowing. For me it ended up with a walk home at 4:30 as the sky was lightening towards dawn.


The final night and we were already up two places. We had Nines 2 behind who we'd Bumped easily the night before and were chasing Champs 1, who were on for spoons and had been bumped by their second crew earlier in the week. So we felt quite relaxed. We got a good start and the boat was running well. There was no danger from behind and we started to gain ground. After a big cheer from our supporters in the Gut we were less than a length off them, a good corner round grassy by Bow and 3 and we'd Bumped. We were all ecstatic. Up 3! Fantastic result!



Row over: details to follow.


Chasing Cantabs V once again. Ali the W1 cox was subbing for Kate out with a shoulder injury. Tonight's strategy was for a more controlled start and to gradually build to grind them down. They went off strong and were on their tail but both crews were fairly evenly matched and by the finish at Ditton the gap was just less than station. Another gutsy row over. And up two places on the week.

A collection of great videos and pix

Well, the beginning of one.


* From Press's rigger-cam, friday


* Simon's, from the bank, first half of course only * The bump start about 2:50 * Alison Binney proudly presents...


* On the Reach, friday

Friday, 19 July 2013

Bumps, day 3: 0 / 0 / +1 / +1

Another gorgeous day with little wind.

M1: up (St Neots)

For all of you who wish to study our final-day opposition, the Champs-Press bumps is almost on this vid; and for those who want to see what St Neots were really like, they appear here too on the row back.

Thursday turned into our make-or-break day: having escaped Sharks on day 1, and got Nines 2 easily on day 2, we needed to get St Neots or face Sharks again on Friday; and whilst I wouldn't object to giving them another go, on the whole I'd say once was enough. We were one of the first boats to Stourbridge and waited around for W1 which was delayed by Something (always nice to see the old traditions maintained). We lolled around under cloudless blue skies joking about the marshalling. James H revealed that he had a cunning frustrate-the-Sharks plan: start badly, or not start at all, and let ourselves get bumped by Nines! Which would have given us an easy day on Friday bumping Nines back. Ingenious, and not something that would have occurred to me, but naturally we didn't seriously consider it, tempting as it was.

No, we rowed for glory instead. John pushed us out on 45 (with no stream and no wind that made perfect sense, and he'd done it on Tues and Weds too) and Emma counted us down (I really should slip in some thanks to those two for bank-partying us, so here it is) and we set off perfectly aligned. The race plan was that St Neots would be a good deal harder than Nines, and we couldn't really expect to get them before the Plough, or possibly on the Reach, but that we should go off hard and try to break them. Last year they were shockingly fast, but we knew that this year we had a faster start than them.

Although looking at the GPS trace I can see that our actual start wasn't desperately impressive - peak 1:27 - we've hit 1:20 on other days.

We got one whistle fairly soon - after perhaps 15 strokes. We (well, I) regarded this as ours by right and, as planned, we really paid little attention to it - just keep it hard. Vague shouting from the bank not long after the A14 bridge suggested we'd closed to 3/4 length, which was welcome but not very important - we knew we weren't going to close just yet. Then somewhere in the fog of going round FP things started changing as we closed in to 2 whistles, and then rapidly 3; this was unexpected but quite welcome (at that point I was going through my usual mental fight with myself, which this year took the form of: "yes this hurts, but its going to hurt a lot more if you let Sharks chase you down the Reach tomorrow, so lets not let that happen"). It got somewhat choppy but we kept it up (the trace shows that, as usual, we slowed a little round FP but then we picked it back up to 1:38 / 1:39 and held that) until the bump. Which came rather suddenly in the gut.

Actually there is some (poor quality but welcome) video that establishes the sequence: we're half a length down round FP, within at most 10 strokes that closes to overlap, and within a couple more strokes we bump / they acknowledge, about at the "change sides here" sign.

Hurray for us. Next stop: Champs? Or Press? We didn't know at that point. It turned out to be Press. Bring on Friday.

W1: up (Nines 2)

Tonight a different race. Nines 2 on their way down in front and the Champs Junior Girls chasing rather than being chased. We'd seen Nines 2 out training a lot but knew they's be feeling under pressure having been Bumped on the previous two nights and that they had some inexperienced rowers and they'd been Bumped fairly early the previous two nights. So we felt confident. We had a better start, Champs Girls did gain on us but we rowed calmly and started to gain ground on Nines, soon there were calls for a length, half a length, a final push and yes "Hold it up" we'd got them just coming into First Post. All very surreal after the previous two nights long hauls. Champs behind steered to avoid us only to go careering up the bank on the other side.


M2: row-over

To be filled in. But its lunchtime now.

W2: row-over

With two Bumps under their belt tension was rising. Tonight they had Cantabs 5 to chase but knowing they'd Bumped the crew we'd Bumped on the previous night at a similar place we knew it would be a longer row tonight. Taking full advantage of the bend at the start the crew went out fast hoping to catch them early but it wasn't to be. Coming out of Grassy the bank party were erging [I think you mean "egging"; though the idea of a bank party on wheelie-mounted ergs instead of bikes is quite appealling - ed.] them on knowing they only had until Ditton to the finish. A very gutsy row over. And another chance to catch them tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Bumps, day 2: +1 / 0 / +1 / +1

M1: up

A glorious bump up against Nines 2. Actually it wasn't really that glorious, more in the nature of Inevitable, Nines 2 having the misfortune of being a rather poor crew this year and we're pretty good.

After yesterday, today's race plan was obvious: us to get Nines 2 quite early, about where St Neots got them or perhaps a little earlier: before the end of First Post reach. But behind us, ah, the Sharks, who would surely know we had a slow crew ahead of us, and be out for blood, and therefore come up like a rocket.


The first part worked fine: we got a decent start, peak 1:20, and had only faded to 1:37 when we hit Nines. It got pretty choppy under the A14 bridge and closing in on them, but that doesn't seem to have affected our speed much. The second part didn't happen: City 3 didn't gain at all off the start, and indeed when we last saw them they were being hard pressed by Tabs 3 (who blew up not much later). What we hadn't thought of was that the Sharks knew we'd get Nines, and saw no reason to put themselves out pushing the start hard for no possible gain. Its nice that they were so confident of us.

Afterwards, to Queens for some club beer, tactfully leaving Nines (who were also boating from Peterhouse) to weep in peace.

There's a video of the M1 division on the reach which gives the lie to the Sharks' "Yours is the Reach and everything that’s in it (St Neots. Just not quite close enough for the overbump)" though perhaps they were allowing themselves poetic license.


W1: up

So the same sandwich as yesterday, Champs Juniors in front and Cantabs Juniors chasing, but with a little more knowledge. It wasn't going to be easy. We had a shaky start with a few recovered crabs caused by the weeds. Cantabs gained ground but we remained calm, we'd seen them off the night before and could do it again. Coming out of Grassy we started to gain on Champs in front, a length, half a length, at the Plough we had overlap, we could do it our cox said, there were whistles from the bank and cheers from the Plough. Just 5 more strokes we had a good line round Ditton but had to take a good corner, another 5 strokes and "Hold it up" we'd done it.

As can be seen by all the willow in the picture.

Small note: the picture is a re-uploaded version of this but with the colour balance "fixed", i.e. jiggered in Gimp.

The first half of W1 is nicely captured on video here; highlight is the COWS on City.

M2: row-over

M2 improved on their result of yesterday by rowing over. You can re-live the last few exciting seconds as they push to the line here. Ahead of them, Nine 4 have knocked Tabs 7 (Poachers) down, so they have a fair chance on Thursday.

Here they are coming round Grassy (about 2 mins in).

In their own words

This year, M2 are building a brand new, two storey "Bump House".


Plans drawn up, management team assembled... Architect -KW...Project manager -SE...Site forewoman-VG. Regs consultants..Wykeham Connolley & co. Crew hired..fired..head hunted..and retired. Start date 16th July 2013. Let work commence... Tuesday. In a great flurry of smoke and whistles, our old bungalow of fear and uncertainty was demolished by the great wrecking ball of 99's M4. Site(and sight) all clear. Wednesday, Sleeves rolled up, builders bum glistening, in the evening sun. We pushed, we heaved, we dug deep and laid those foundations good and strong. Thanks to our forewoman Vicky, for great leadership and direction throughout, staying very cool under pressure and ensuring we prevented a late collapse (oh...and for not eating all the pies).

Good job well done. Foundations laid.

W2: up

Today W2 had Champs to chase. After a slower start than yesterday they started to gain ground by the A14, but Champs were gaining on Cantabs in front. Cantabs caught a crab and slowed right down and it looked like Champs might get them first. This was the time for a Bumps 10 and yes they got them shortly after the A14. Well done W2. Up two!

Unfortunately W2 had the poor taste to bump out early again, but you get to see them in the distance towards the tail end of this video. Amy, Emmsie and Roy are in there too.

Other views

* Amy about City.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Bumps, day 1: +1 / -1 / 0 / 0

So much to say, so little time. I may expand this later. After all our preparations, the time has finally come to race (aside: vignette from oh so many years ago, when I was but a noob at Oxford, so long ago that the word "noob" didn't even exist: another coach, talking to his crew, on their last practice outing: "Pay careful attention to your rowing now, judge yourself, this is how it feels. During bumps, you'll judge yourselves just by how well you do; this is your last chance to know how good you really are").

So to spare the drama the result was: W2 up, M2 down, W1 and M1 row-over. But how much wild excitement is compressed into those few words!

M1: row over (but a good one, you understand)

chesterton-m1-day1 (photo credit:

Aren't we lovely? It felt good too. Other pix from Lorenzo for M1 are here, so you can intercompare. There's video from opposite the railings but that's only boats 1-6.

Brief race description: we'd expected the Sharks (City 3, behind us) to be fast but blow up after 500m. We'd expected St Neots to be OK, but not as good as last year. That latter turned out to be true: we got a whistle on them soon after the start. What we'd omitted to think of was how slow Nines 2 were; St Neots got them around the top of First Post Reach. Happily James (helped by John on the bank) saw them well in time to steer round with minimal loss of speed. That left us with plan B: row past FP and wait for the Sharks to blow up. Alas, they failed to comply, and after dropping back to maybe 2 lengths they began to gain ground around Grassy, to perhaps a length down at the top of the Reach. Still, its not far down the Reach (oh yeah) and they'd only closed to within 3-6 feet by the time we were safe and sound.

We were all very happy with the row: we felt we'd done well, and "defeated" (if we hadn't been faster than them over the whole course, we'd done well enough to avoid the bump) a powerful opponent (you can read what they say about themselves at they're hot).

W1: row over

Chasing Champs 3, being chased by Tabs 3. Within a length, I'm told.

1073166_4936937713915_725886973_o (photo credit:

They say: We were in a Junior Girls sandwich. Champs Girls in front Cantabs Girls behind. Our Time Race result was faster than Champs by 15 secs, but we weren't sure where over the course that would be. Junior girls often have a fast start but not the stamina for the whole course and we'd been told by Cantabs 6 that the G-oar-gous weren't only that but fast too.

So for the race, well as always it passed in a blur and we were totally focussed on Ali's voice. The row felt good, with good pushes. Comments from the crew "Chased them all the way, the crew behind gave up trying to catch us at the 2K point. I think my throat and lungs were possibly bleeding after that. Still coughing up shite now!!" Holy Guacamole that was a lung burstingly epic row over! We'll get them tomorrow night though ! And yes a Row Over - but a good one.

Video of the Reach.

M2: down

Down to Nines 4, alas. Still, better luck next time.


W2: up

Probably best seen from Robert's cox-cam - they bumped just after the A14 bridge.

They say: Radegund 2 in front and Nines IV chasing. The crews fear that the Nines IV had been training lots and looked tidy proved unfounded; they pulled away quickly and gained on the Radegund 2 crew bumping just after the A14 as can be seen by all the willow.

1008782_4937121358506_281583887_o (photo credit:

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Press head

979955_10151508273745787_2066774575_o We put in two mens and two womens crews into the Xpress head on June 3rd, and the W1 crew, pictured, won the W Nov category, so well done to them!

The race is over the "bumps course" which they interpret as "just past the motorway bridge" to Peter's posts (ie, the two iron posts that mark the start of the towpath, just after the bay by the Piek and Eel). You could do a standing or a rolling start. Press claim its a 2100m course, but my GPS tells me its more like 2250m. The average splits given below are based on the assumption that the course is 2250m. As usual I have GPS traces: M1 and M2.

Full results from, but in brief:

W1: 00:09:42 (1/4: 2:08)
W2: 00:10:26 (4/4: 2:18)
M1: 00:08:04 (3/7: 1:46)
M2: 00:09:24 (5/6: 2:04)
M1 were in the MasA/B category (winning time 00:07:36) due to the presence of Dr James "I've got a point" Howard; M2 were in the M Nov (winning time 00:08:27) which M1 might well have won, had we s/Dr H/Someone else/. Although he does tend to make us go faster so is well worth including. The "two" crews ahead of M1 were the same Robs crew, racing twice. Fastest overall were Downing (7:10); Caius didn't deign to enter. Aside: I coxed the M2 crew, an exciting experience. My calls are getting much better, and my lines were OK except for Grassy, where I avoided a Jesus-style handbrake turn, but only just. Top-tip for self-aware crews: bowside need to pull a bit harder, and strokeside can afford to slacken off a little, as you go round Grassy.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The bumps, at Oxford, in IVs!

TL;DR: down 2 in round 1, then 3 row-overs.

Saturday, 20th April, 2013

After last year we very much intended to come back for 2013. We'd done little practice this year, and thrown away the winning team of Tidy; Connolley, Howard, Holland and Wykeham and replaced it with Tidy; Howard, Wykeham, Connolley and Richards. The lack of practice rather showed: we got a lot faster during the four rounds, and indeed pretty well held station on Univ ahead of us in round 4, although they'd overbumped us in round 1. "Selecting" a boat entirely comprised of bowsiders was also possibly non-optimal.

No Cam trailers were going this year, so we were obliged to town Queens' small trailer ourselves. And since I'd just acquired a car with a tow-bar, I got the short straw. But it was fine, once we were out of Queens' lane.

Round 1: Auriol Kensington B got picked to replace Tabs 2 as the "crew behind us who were much faster than us" and duly bumped us within 500 m; within the gut, I think. James properly put his hand up, but (despite their boat being a bowloader) their cox failed to see this and errm came back and bumped us again. Anyway eventually they got the message. That, we hoped, was it for that round but no, Univ were coming up. James cut the corner around the boathouses, as you'd expect, and despite that Univ had (I thought) overlap at the finish although we were on different sides of the river; but the umpire didn't call it. But then they ended up giving the bump against us because, apparently, you aren't allowed to cut the corner.

Round 2: AK B had pushed down CORC Alumni to head our division, but that didn't make them slow - there was some disaster on the start line. And so it proved: Univ didn't get them, we didn't get close to Univ. Magd school 2 had a fast start and got to within a canvas after the gut before blowing up and getting caught by Linacre; we were starting to row together.

Round 3: No change ahead of us, but a faster crew behind us. Linacre came up well but were decent enough to crab just after the gut; that cost them about 4 strokes rather than the entire race, but it was enough and we were clear.

Round 4: Jesus now head of div 2, and they were caught by Univ. We held Univ, but didn't really close Jesus; that would have been asking a lot. Linacre came up again, but we rowed better and they were kind enough to clip the exit to the gut (local advantage :-) thus losing a couple of strokes.

So there we were: 2 down, 3 hard row-overs. A good day, and we improved significantly as we went along, as you'll see from the GPS traces. But those same traces will show you that we were slower than last year - I think last year's crew would have bumped this year's.

Thanks for Simon E for being our Umpire, and to Mike P-J for being our Pole-Man. And for inviting us round afterwards to his new pad and feeding us fish and chips. And to Lorraine and Meg for supporting, and Emma for entries and young George too.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Head of the Cam - results and round-up

Instructions, etc., are available from the main HoC page.

FINAL Results

The FINAL results are now up at

Thanks to all the volunteers from Chesterton club who helped organise and marshall the event, our umpires, and of course to the competitors. We congratulate the fastest overall crew, Caius M1 (8:28); and fastest women, Downing W1 (10:13).


Those who won pots but were too cool to be at the prize ceremony are invited to contact me.

Timings: the grimy details

The provisional results have been checked and are now promoted to final. Obscurity swirled around crews 439-445 but this is now resolved and it did not affect any category winners. Attempting, and failing, to unravel this explains the half hour delay of the prizes, if you were wondering. The Press X-Men novice VIII had to pull in a pointed sub at the last minute, and so are really IM3. They had the poor taste to win Novice VIIIs, and so the new winner is 99's Brown. Let me tell you about crews 439-445. Its really exciting (no, don't turn off) and burnt up an hour of my life trying to fix. So: we had start/finish sheets that looked like:
439 2x- PB&D T/F    W MasC          00:46:04
440 1x  Broxbourne  M MasD 00:32:54 00:46:01
441 1x  City Colm   M Nov  00:33:15 00:46:07
442 1x  City Thomas M Nov  00:33:47 00:46:17
443 1x  PB&D CM     M IM3  00:34:10 00:46:46
444 1x  PB&D NB     M IM3  00:34:26 00:46:10
445 1x  PB&D SC     M IM3  00:34:41  

You see the problem - no start time for 439, no finish time for 445. We could invent a start time for 439 fairly readily - there was only 20 secs between 438 and 440 - but the finish times were tricky, as the sculls were wildly out of order at the end of the course. Alternatively, we could decide that 439 had never started, and the finish folk had written down a batch of numbers out of order. Or perhaps 445 had never started and the start times were off-by-one instead.

In the heat of the moment I went for inventing start a start time for 439, and a finish time for 445, partly swayed by the general balance of opinion around me that a whole block being written off-by-one was unlikely. However... to cut many conversations short, PB&D have confirmed now that 439 didn't row, so the One True Answer is that the finish folk were off-by-one for a block. I will give them a stern talking-to, you may be sure.

Happily, this doesn't affect any category winners. It does change the order of the PB&D sculls.

Old stuff

The final draw is:

The draft draw was:


  • My start marshalls asked me to group the VIIIs more at the top - because of the way we stake out the marshalling positions, its a pain to have 1x and 2x's mixed up in the VIIIs. So I've moved a number of small boats down. Don't be offended. You can have a gap if you need it.
  • The start marshalls are friendly people. They are amenable to "please can I have a large gap" type requests, and to the sculls sorting themselves into order if required (or, put another way, don't trouble me with trivial change requests). The VIIIs, however, we'd really like to get off in order.
  • Despite my pleas, many people provided no estimated time, and perhaps they were wise because I think to detect incompatibilities in the volunteered times. The order is based on your estimates, my limited skill, judgement and prejudices, and a bias towards sorting the VIIIs to the top and the sculls to the bottom.

Useful notes

  • Race control is at Queens boathouse, upstairs. We're open from 7:45 for numbers.
  • To ensure a prompt start, it will help if the crews can make some attempt to come up the reach in reverse order.
  • The overtaking rule is, as last year, "cede the racing line to the faster crew". This is in the race instructions, which you've read.

Sunday, 17 March 2013


wehorr-chesterton-2013 [By Alison]

The Women’s Head of the River Race is, for many of us, the highlight of the rowing year. Although less immediately dramatic than the Bumps, it offers a much greater challenge: 20+ minutes of full-on racing on the Thames, against opposition from all corners of the UK and beyond. Just knowing that you’re taking part in a race alongside Olympians and along the same stretch of river as the Boat Race is pretty exciting!

This year, despite a terrible forecast, we were blessed with ideal conditions: no rain and best of all little wind. The crew were well-prepared, having made the best of limited water time together by committing to a programme of long and gruelling ergs which really paid off in terms of fitness over the long course.

We boated from Putney, right on the finish, which meant a good warm-up along the full length of the course and a chance to spot the landmarks that we would use later on to break the race into chunks. There followed about an hour of marshalling, tapping the boat in pairs to keep in position before we finally edged towards the start and spun. The race was on!

It was my first time coxing on the Thames, and although I’d watched the helpful ‘Coxing the Tideway’ video (on youtube) several times, coxing on such a wide river with such a strong stream has to be experienced before you can really understand how different it is from the humble Cam. We got off to a good start, with our stroke Lorraine establishing a great rhythm and the rest of the crew backing her up and really committing to every stroke.

Not such a great start for me, however, as I found myself too far over to the Middlesex side with an unexpected buoy looming and a marshal looking the other way from his boat just in front of it! Fortunately he saw us just in time and moved out of the way, although I had no choice but to go the wrong side of the buoy.

overtaking-caius After that I found the stream again, and remembered the most important piece of advice from the video: the fastest stream is usually in the middle of the river, so there’s no point trying to cut the corners. Maybe I’m not the only cox used to the twisty Cam who found it hard to resist the impulse to take the inside of every bend!

Anyway, as we approached Hammersmith we really settled into our stride, and found ourselves bearing down on a Caius College crew. The overtake was really satisfying, with us shooting out of Hammersmith ahead of them with clear water between us, and with our supporters really lifting us with their shouts from the bridge.

The crew really had to dig deep during the last third of the race, with each landmark seeming to take ages to come. But here the long ergs paid off, giving us confidence that we had the strength and stamina to stay strong to the end. In our crew chat before the race Anne had urged everyone to give everything, so that no one got to the end thinking they could have worked a bit harder. I think I can safely say that that finish line didn’t come a moment too soon for any of us. We were so glad that we only had a short distance to row to get back to our landing point.

We came 247th out of 303 with a time of 22:20, a really satisfying result given that our previous placing was 272nd, and that we were within a minute of some very much more experienced Cambridge crews.


8: Lorraine 7: Joss 6: Anne 5: Jo 4: Annie 3: Juliet 2: Meg 1: Alex

Cox: Alison

Many thanks also to our brilliant supporters and bank party: Emily, Janice, Mel, Simon, Dave, Abby, Nick and Freya.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Dropping the outside shoulder at the catch?

Part I in a series of, quite likely, one, posts about rowing technique. This particular one is a bit of a theme of mine. I sometimes wonder if people know what I'm talking about. The answer, or perhaps more accurately the question, is something like this:

That's Caius M1 from Grassy, Thursday Lents 2013. What you see is bowside (they've sensibly bow-rigged the boat, so bowside is stroke's side, so to speak) lunging out of the boat at you. You might possibly argue that they are doing this to excess, and indeed the comment on that pic is "oh god we're all so not in our range". However, they're racing to defend their headship. And as I was taught ages ago when I used to play Go: "anything you can see the best doing, you're allowed to do yourself, even if it looks like poor style". The unspoken caveat of course was "as long as you understand what's going on".

In a way this one:

is more interesting, because Kings have bumped and are just cruising home.

Before we go on, pause to notice the nice compression: vertical shins, chests touching the knee. And of course the separation (note that separation, at the catch, means the way the two sides of the boat part (as viewed from the coxes seat) leaving a lane between their heads (here is an excellent pic of Downing that shows this well); this is completely different to separation, at the finish, which means separating out and doing in sequence hands-then-body-then-slide).

Dropping the outside shoulder

However, that wasn't what I actually wanted to talk about. What I wanted to say followed from a perspicacious comment by Simon E when I praised the first photo. He asked "Interesting that everyone's outside shoulders are dropped, I always thought it should be the other way around?" And now he says that, indeed, yes that is what everyone is always taught, though I can't say I like doing it myself: the "Caius way" comes more naturally; and if you look, only about half of Kings are doing the "right thing", even though I'm sure that nice Mr Smith has been coaching them well.

And the "right thing" is? Well, the "right thing" as taught is to keep the shoulders roughly parallel to the blade, which implies the outer shoulder is higher than the inner. I can't find much detail about this online; this little thread about summarises it: the argument against dropping the shoulder is given as "With high school kids (ie, often with less experience than college rowers), those who drop the outside shoulder tend to also press down on the oar handle before the catch, and sky their oar, leading to a lousy catch." That would apply to our novices too, of course. Holding the blade to stiffly, and leaning at the catch, can easily lead to dropping the hands and skying the blade too.

In which case, its an answer you can discard, as long as you know the reasons for it (which is to say, teach people not to "drop their hands into the shell and sky the blade"; don't teach them "don't drop the outside shoulder"). I think I have no problem, in my own rowing, with simultaneously dropping the outside shoulder and raising my hands into the catch (what I find very hard to do is to do this whilst staring forwards, as Caius are doing so nicely; I far prefer to look at my hands, which really annoys coaches).

Another possible downside is that it can lead to over-extension and weakness at the catch: if you've leant too far out your back will be weak; this can either damage you or weaken your stroke; but again, this is a matter of care rather than prohibition.

Comments on this, particularly by people who know better than me, are welcome.

Other pic

* Boat race crew, training.
* Kiwi Pair (e.g. 4:49)

Monday, 4 March 2013

Winter league 2013, legs 2 and 3.

2013-03-03 12.19.57 See-also leg 1.

Somehow, I didn't get round to writing up leg 2, and no-one beat me to it. Press have the results for all three legs up.

How did we do, overall? (And at this point, "we" = the crews I was in. Someone else can write up the other crews :-). As an IM3 crew, poorly; as a novice crew, excellently. So, that's our problems solved then: we drop Dr Southgate. Or we drag our other points back in (paging Dr Howard...). We were nearly a minute (overall) faster than the best Nov 8 (and still 30 secs faster on the first leg, when we didn't have Dr S).

Oh, and did I mention that the third leg was an exceptionally wet row? Outstandingly so, despite being clearly our fastest.

But we were about a minute (overall) slower than the next 3 IM3's, and 2 minutes behind Champs M1/M2 squad composite - but then again, we know both their M1 and M2 are "about as fast" as our M1, and we're not yet close to our M1.

And me, as a single sculler: I got faster by ~30 secs each leg, but it was mostly a reminder to me that I need to get some more practice in and up my technique.


* Squamata WL3 courtesy of Simon E. * Squamata WL2 ditto.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Winter league 2013, leg 1

This year we have two men's VIIIs, a ladies VIII, and a lone scull (your humble author). See-also 2012.

Of the men (for I am a man, and can only really speak of manly matters) the one in division 1 was entered as Nov and was intended for the novices and newer folk. The one in division 3 was entered as IM3, but as it happened this leg it was full of pointless people. Also, due to shortages, several people rowed twice, and may have been a bit tired for the second race, despite a hearty breakfast in the Tivoli in between. Of the sculling, well, I haven't been practicing recently and got stuffed by Morley - say no more.

Weather: cold and grey, thin broken ice on the flooded fields by the start. Just to rub it in, the sun came out when it was all over. So we went for another coffee.

Full results are available from the CRA, or perhaps more conveniently via google docs here.

401 Cantabs Men     IM1 8             09:18 1
101 City Men        IM1 8  Dolman     09:33 2
404 99RC Men        IM3 8  Rolin      09:43 3
402 X-Press Men     IM2 8  fastx      09:57 4
308 ChestertonMen   IM3 8  Squamata   11:08 22
118 ChestertonMen   Nov 8  Crocodilia 12:09 56=
440 Cantabs         Nov 1X Morley     13:21 134=
124 ChestertonWomen Nov 8  Richards   13:02 122=
138 ChestertonMen   MasC1X Connolley  14:36 174=

Oh - what was the rowing like, and who did it?

Nov (Div 1): C - JT; S - Dave B; Will W; John H; Ian F; Paul B; Luca; John R; Simon E.
IM3 (Div3): C - JT; S - William C; Will W; Luca; Dave R; Dave B; Chris W; Simon E; Simon G.
W Nov 8+ (div1): C - Dave R; S - Lorraine; Joss; Sarah CH; Anne; Bev; Jo; Sarah D; Meg.

Apparently the "novice" mens crew was quite decent and rowable. The "IM3" one was surprisingly so (am I sounding patronising? I hope not, I don't mean to be), and was enjoyable at 30.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Head of the Cam: Saturday 27th April 2013

hoc-shield[Hi folks! Anyone coming here interested in the HoC 2014: Welcome. Please go to: here for the 2014 event.]

The Head of the Cam Race is to be held on SATURDAY 27th APRIL 2013
Last-minute notes and updates, and results in due course, are available from the race results page.


Course of 2,600m upstream on the river Cam. 4 divisions, VIII's, IV's, smaller boats. BR, CRA, College classes.

Deadline for entries: Tuesday, April the 23rd.
Prizes of tastefully engraved shot glasses for category winners.
Enquiries and entries:

please contact the Race Secretary, William Connolley, at / 07985 935400.
For entries, please state your crew details: club, boat type (VIII, 4+, 4-, 4x, 2, 2x, 1x, etc), crew status (CRA / BR / College 1st Mays, 2nd, etc.), preferred division, and any constraints with crews in other divisions.

4 divisions, times:
Division 10900
Division 21040
Division 31220
Division 41400

It would be greatly appreciated if you would provide an estimate of your expected time, to be used for seeding purposes. If you don't provide one, I'll guess. Please attempt to be accurate rather than optimistic or pessimistic. An accurate estimate is most important for crews hoping to race without overtaking or being overtaking, either of which can slow you down.
Divisions tend to fill up for the VIII's, for which we have a rough limit of 25 per division. But (within reason) we can accommodate as many sculls and small boats as you like.

Entry: £6.50 per rowing seat. Cheques payable to CRA, sent to W M Connolley, 28 Silverdale Avenue, Coton, CB23 7PP (or direct transfer, details on request). Put your crew name(s) clearly on the back or on an enclosure.

Entry deadline: everyone wants to know what the entry deadline is, so that they can submit their entry 5 minutes before it, or more likely a day afterwards. Don't make me come and kill you. The deadline is the Tuesday before the race.

head-of-the-cam-course-map The course is 2,600 m. Click on the map for a larger version, or explore via google maps.


Previous years

2011 2012

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Winter ergo league, phase 2

The pre-Christmas leg of the Total Distance League was won by David Byrne with an impressive total of 319244. The "top 5" (I had to go to 5 to include me) were:
1. Dave B       319244
2. Simon E      116138
3. Anne R       102089
4. Chris W       82929
5. William C     82856
Now its time to change the rules to stop Dave winning again. So the post-Christmas league (not sure when it will end; we might perhaps have a monthly winner) will allow you to add distances for
  • erging
  • rowing
  • running
  • cycling
Cycling is easier, per km, than rowing or running. So cycling distances count as 1/3 of erging. Erging, rowing and running are counted at parity (I'm not sure that's entirely fair, but its close enough).

There is a spreadsheet to track this. Its here. Viewing is public, editing is by-invite-from-me; just ask (actually I think those I've invited can also add others, via the "share" button. Please do). I've pre-invited some usual suspects, my apologies to anyone I've missed who I should have asked.


Its a google doc, so you just fill it in online. Its a spreadsheet, so you follow the usual spreadsheet rules. Fill it in per-week. The current week should be nicely colourised in green. There is no "save" button, it just auto-saves. Don't worry about fouling it up, it also keeps history.

The total is auto-generated. If you do something (rowing, say) more than once (say, 10km and then 12 km) you have two choices:

  • add the distances yourself (careful!) and enter them in the column
  • in the column, write "=10+12" and it will work out 22 for you
OK, that seems pretty damm obvious to me, but people find creative ways to screw up even the obvious so do feel free to email me questions. Since we're aiming for total distance, I can't see any point in filling in ergs to the nearest meter. I'd go for 10ths of km at most, though its up to you.

Not the PB sheet

This isn't the mechanism for recording notable 2k or 30min ergo times - for those, email me as ever. Don't bother tell me about every erg you do, I don't care - only good ones, as in best-of-the-year or new PBs or suchlike.