Womens' Head of the River Race 2014

The road to WeHORR 2014 started in September with a few changes in the coaching team. Two of the coaches that helped us win our Novice pots had to take a step back, with Paul being swamped with work and Cat having baby Emma, a future cox! Luckily for us, Allen decided to coach at Sons again, assisted by Jan and Craig.

Soon, we were enduring our erg sessions – I’d call them necessary torture – and the early weekend double water sessions with plenty of layers of clothing that made us look like the female versions of Bibendum. But as they say, you do your winter training to prepare for summer racing

.Early on, the goal for the winter season was set – improve our 2013 result, where the fastest WNOV 8+ had finished 159; and finish in the Top 150. We followed Allen’s training plan, listened to his instructions (yes, with some moaning and complaining involved at times…). Eventually, we started to notice that the boat was moving differently, faster, even and we were getting positive feedback from our coaching team and even from coaches from other clubs.

The crew was selected to race but the whole squad kept training because you never know if someone needs to be replaced, due to injury or lack of performance…

15th March 2014 was our main goal and we were all looking forward to it. The day came and we met in the Boardroom to keep ourselves away from the madness of having 16 visiting crews boating from Sons. The spirits were high and we were all buzzing, looking forward to rowing amongst Olympians. This was an experience of a lifetime: to be able to see rowers like Katherine Grainger or Helen Grover racing past us while we awaited our turn to do the same.

We had our instructions – push bl**dy hard, keep in your bubble and do your own race. We knew the Thames was going to be very busy, with 249 crews marshalling and racing. But our cox Sandra kept us away from trouble while mayhem was going around us. We spotted Allen on his bike and cracked a few jokes at his expense because during the last 2 Head Races (Fours Head and Quintin) he either barely kept up with us or lost us completely. We told him to start cycling 10 minutes ahead of our start to try to keep up… 

When our turn to start got closer, we were told to remove any spare kit and get ready to spin and race. Personally, when rowing in a crew, I always need to make sure that the whole boat knows we’re in it together so I ‘pass it round’ from the cox to the bow and that’s what we did. It reassures me and even calms my nerves.

The race was one of our best; we did our own thing, replaying Allen’s words of ‘fire in the belly, ice in the mind’ found our rhythm and kept it for 6.8K, each stroke baking up the previous one. We overtook 2 crews along the way and came even with a 3rd boat by the finish line. We were ecstatic and when the ‘winding down’ call came from Sandra, we there was a mixture of pain, need for oxygen and exhilaration that the Head Season had come to an end. “Bring on summer racing” came through the speakers and, oh boy, are we looking forward to side by side racing!

We finished 98th overall, which, for a boat that includes 2 people that have never done the Championship course, 3 people that only started to row last season, 1 that has 2 seasons of rowing and a couple of more experienced rowers, it’s a fantastic result. I’m definitely looking forward to regatta season with this squad!

We would like to thank our coaches, past and present, our supporters on the bank that cheered us on and helped us along the way and the rest of the squad, who, although there can only be 8 rowers in an 8+, were there with us along the way. It’s a team effort and every one of us matters.

Our crew was: Cox – Sandra; Stroke – Babs; 7 – Jess; 6 – Jen P.; 5 – Colleen; 4 – Daisy; 3 – Jen B.; 2 – Clare; Bow – Susi

P.S – Are you wondering about Allen? Wel… we lost him by Barnes Bridge and he started WAYYYYYY ahead of us. He’s now started his summer training with us to try to keep up…

Bruce Maclachlan