On Saturday 11th March at 3.30pm, the 77th Women’s Eights Head of the River took take place from Mortlake to Putney, London, attracting over 300 competing crews from all across the UK and beyond, including Olympic Champions to the very best beginners.
One of the crews to take part in this prestigious race over the Championship Course on the River Thames was a composite 8 made up of; four experienced senior rowers from Burton Leander Rowing Club (Samantha Allsop, Kat Delaney, Barbara Delaney, Katie Walker) and a further four experienced Senior Rowers from Loughborough Rowing Club (Zoe Hudson, Erica Gummery, Annie Beaumont, Cathy Beaumont), steered and coached along the course by knowledgeable Burton Leander Cox, Adam Brown.
The race saw the crew take on the challenge of racing along the 6.8km course with the ultimate aim to get the fastest time on the clock compared to the other crews competing in their event category to win the Masters Pennant.
Boating from Barn Elms RC the crew rowed the 6km upstream to the start area, where they were to start number 61 in the field. Conditions for the day were good with the weather staying dry and overcast. The more open areas of the course saw some cross winds and choppy waters.
Obstacles on the course on the way up, and down, included heavy boating traffic, due to the sheer number of competitors heading up to the start from various rowing clubs along the course, and ultimately racing back down, however this did not faze the crew, which had only been rowing together for the previous 3 months.
Once at the start of the course, it was just a matter of waiting for the marshal to signal the start of the division and set the crews off. Due to the high volume of crews racing, starting crews only saw 10 seconds between them and the next one off.
Before long the crew were given the instruction: “GO!”, and that’s exactly what they did. Under the instructions of Cox Brown the crew set off winding up the tempo to a rate of 34 strokes per a minute and hitting the Chiswick bridge at race pace.
Led by Stroke Allsop and backed by Hudson at 7 the crew had a strong first 1km, keeping the chasing crews at bay.
By the 3km mark the crew had been successfully chased down by 3 of the other competing crews from their category, however the ladies were not going to let them pass without a fight. While Cox Brown ensured that the boat kept a good racing line he shouted: “PUSH FOR 10!”. The power house of the boat; Gummery at 6, Delaney at 5, Beaumont at 4 and Beaumont at 3 did exactly that, with the rest of the crew following suit. The crew managed to hold onto the passing crews, making them work hard before they could finally edge past into the clear water.
As they approached the 5km mark with only 1.8km left, all were rowing at 110% determined to make this their own race. Even though they now could not win, they wanted to achieve the best time possible, placing as high as they could overall in their category and final race position. Delaney at 1 and Walker at 2 pushed on with the other ladies to keep the rate at race pace and ensuring that every stroke taken stayed long, strong and clean to send the boat to the finish line in the fastest time possible.
The kms ticked by and as the crew passed Craven Cottage there was less than 1km remaining; another shout from Cox Brown and Stroke Allsop took the rate up a further 2 pips with Hudson at 7 ensuring this was backed up. Gummery at 6, Delaney at 5, Beaumonts at 4 and 3 dug deep, followed by Walker at 2 and Delaney at 1.
As the crew mustered up all they had left in the tank with a last surge of energy, the boat passed through the finish line.
Results show that the crew managed to finish the course in a very respectable time of 21 mins 17 secs.
This placed them 10th in their category (Masters) out of 20 based on raw times. The winners a Masters C composite with a raw time of 19 mins 57 secs.
Overall the crew was placed 142nd out of the 295 crews which completed the race. The event winners, Leander RC (Elite category winners) with a time of 18 mins 13 secs.
The crew would like to take this opportunity to thank both Rowing Clubs (Burton Leander RC and Loughborough RC), their coaching staff (special mention to Bob Laver of Burton Leander RC) and club members for their support.