Loughborough Boat Club has hosted 16 other rowing clubs in its annual race to discover which crew will be crowned as ‘Head of the Soar’. The event takes the format of a time-trial with three divisions, as 71 boats set off at 20 second intervals along a 3,000 metre upstream course, starting on the outskirts of Kegworth and finishing just short of the Club’s boathouse at Zouch. Additional prizes are awarded for the winners in each boat category, ranging from Single Sculls to Coxed Fours and in various age bands from 14 to 70 years old for both sexes. The scenic but narrow and winding stretch of the River Soar provides a significant challenge to visiting crews more used to rowing on wider and straighter rivers, such as the Trent or the Severn, and overtaking can be difficult in sections such as the Soar’s notorious ‘Devil’s Elbow’ bend at Sutton Bonington. The race certainly earns its more colloquial title of ‘The Soar Head’.
The first five places were all won by Mens’ Coxless Quadruple Sculls, generally considered the fastest boat category, with Burton based Trent Rowing Club’s Masters C crew (age 45 to 50) coming home first in a time of 11 minutes 27 seconds and claiming the overall title, a full 18 seconds in front of the same club’s younger Open Quad. Derwent Rowing Club, from Derby, finished third, just ahead of crews from Stourport and Nottingham Rowing Club. Loughborough’s own Masters D Coxless Four was the fastest sweep-oar boat of the day, finishing in a very respectable 7th place overall as one of three boats to record a time of 12 minutes 14 seconds, being separated by mere hundredths of a second. Rowing once again in their preferred Eton-built wooden shell, ‘Woody’, which has just returned from repairs and a refit at Brown’s Boatyard, Durham, the Loughborough crew under the leadership of Club Captain Keith Hudson showed once again that a wooden boat handbuilt using classic craftsmanship can still hold its own against today’s plastic moulded hulls.
Ten other crews from the home club also competed, with Thomasin Storey and Tara Johnson once again winning their Womens Junior 16 Double Scull category ahead of crews from Burton Leander, Leicester and Derwent. Thomasin also had the satisfaction of beating both her parents: her father, Allen, who has recently taken up the sport, was rowing in his first ever race in the Club’s Development Mens Coxed Four, and her mother Nadine was the cox in that same boat! Meanwhile, former Club member Linda Nielson travelled all the way from her home in Denmark to catch up with old friends and to compete in the Club’s single scull ‘Ruby Red’, finishing the course in a time of just 16 minutes.
With all Club members having contributed to the smooth running of the event, regardless of whether they were rowing or not, the famously friendly atmosphere of Loughborough Boat Club drew many comments of appreciation from the visitors. Free tea and coffee in the clubhouse and a wide variety of home-baked cakes complemented the endless supply of bacon baps and chips served up by the Club’s kitchens, prior to the prizegiving ceremony when fine bone china tankards were awarded to the winners by Club President Stewart Ward.
Visiting Clubs: Nottingham Rowing Club, Peterborough City RC, Trent RC, Leicester RC, Derwent RC, Stourport Boat Club, Stratford-Upon-Avon BC, Nottingham Girls High School, Becket RC, Pengwern BC (Shrewsbury), Burton leander BC, Devil’s Elbow RC, Grosvenor RC (Chester) Northwich RC, Welbeck College BC, Warwick BC