On Saturday, a long awaited event finally took place: I completed my first The Fullers Hours Head of the River Race 2011 (HOR4s or Fours from this point forward). For several years I have tried to race that event only to be thwarted at for one reason or another. In 2009, we trained and trained and arrived at Furnivall ready to race, despite howling winds and sporadic rain. However, after much waiting, the race was cancelled. I refer you to my blog post from the time to get a full understanding of what happened at that time. Then last year, we had a great crew line-up only to discover that we were all away on conflicting weeks, so it was not to be. However, this year, we trained and we trained. We turned-up at Furnivall and rigged. We boated and then, after much waiting around (and Olympic rower spotting!), we started the race and, most importantly, we finished it!
I have raced the Women’s Eights Head of the River Rade (WeHoRR) 4 times so I am fairly au fait with tideway racing, but this was the first time I have done it in a four and it has been a long-standing ambition. After last weekend’s unfortunate car incident (refer to my previous blog post), I had spent most of last week paranoid that something would go wrong. So, as the race approached, my pre-race nerves were eclipsed somewhat my other things:
- Would the car break down?
- Would we get lost? (despite having lived near Hammersmith and knowing the roads very well)
- What if there was no parking?
- What if something happened to the boats or a crew member?
- Would the weather hold?
- What if we had a collision and could not finish?
I am certain there were more but since you are all already think “Gees!”, I am going to stop. As it happened, none of that came to pass and we went on to race. Not only that, but it was a pretty good race too. We were 5th out of 8 in the WIM1.4- category but only 2.2 seconds off Vesta in fourth: 2.2 seconds over 22 minutes is not much. We were chasing them down the whole way and almost came alongside on many occasions so it was most disappointing to be beaten by that margin. To make matters, due to some cunning steering on their part (they did not concede the water) and some iffy marshalling, we did have to pull our blades in to avoid decapitating a marshall. Perhaps if that hadn’t happened…? Who knows!
Our other Broxbourne crew were 6th but had a boat stopping crab by the crew in front force them to a halt. They got back-up again, but as with our incident, it is impossible to know what the impact was. Also, they were given a penalty (unfairly in my view but I am biased). They are appealing but it doesn’t change much now. In fact, of 5 Broxbourne crews, 4 had near misses or collisions which could have been avoided by marshalls. I wasn’t impressed by the marshalling to be honest – I know it is a voluntary job but if they had paid as much attention in the race as they did above the start then we may have seen improved results. But regardless, I have done the race and I enjoyed every minute. Bring on 2012!!