Saturday, 10 December 2011

Christmas Head


Not to be confused with last year's Christmas Head, where we were cops and robbers. This year the emphasis was on fun; in the spirit of which we entered three crews as Elite mixed, secure in the knowledge that there was unlikely to be another Elite mixed crew out and so one of us must win. And indeed there wasn't. And with three crews there was enough for a category, though since we were all from the same club it sort-of didn't count, though I gather the fastest crew got pots anyway, doubtless some dubious behind-the-scenes skullduggery going on.

The ladies also entered an VIII, and I heroically entered my first proper sculling race (the previous one was time-only); results for all are at

[This post written well after the event and back-dated, so I may as well say: Happy New Year to all!]


* More pix than you really want to see.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Winter head

The Winter Head is when all the world comes to Cambridge. Or so it seems, from the crush at the start on our little provincial river.


Here is the crowd milling around before division 2 [Note: the pic is 800 px wide, so isn't all visible on a small screen. In which case, you can click on the pic for a full view]. It was a gorgeous day - fortunately we had an odd number so were on the towpath side so got to get out, stretch, relax, have a nice wee, and sit on the convenient bench in the glorious sunshine and watch the poor folk on the far side in the shade.

Notice how some of the boats on the banks are facing the Wrong Way. This is because - we can only assume - Cantabs have Tideway envy. However what they forgot is that the Tideway is really very wide, and there is lots of spare room to spin. The Cam is rally very narrow, and there is just room to squeak an VIII round, when there is a boat on the bank on both sides. Anyway, I should not cavil, because it was a jolly nice day.

winter-head-speed Those are the speeds from my GPS watch, for the "M1" crew in division 2 and the "M2" crew in division 3. Conditions were very good, and similar, for both divisions. M1 probably averaged, by eye, about 16 kph (perhaps a fraction slower) which is 1:52.5 (if it were 15.5, it would be 1:56. If you thought the course was 2500m (I do) and believed our 9:32 time, its 1:54.5). M2 averaged perhaps 14 kph which is 2:08.6 (giving no allowance at all for the Cam's sluggish flow). Note that the trough-then-peak about 4/5 of the way in, on both traces, is associated with the railway bridge: I think the trace gets thrown off there. There is clearly an offset on the rowcoach (well, of the impeller really) of perhaps :10, it would be nice to do some exact tests with that sometime.

Err, so, how did we do? OK I think - nothing too spectacular, but it was a decent row for M1. I never know what to say about the actual races: we're big boys now, no-one catches crabs and its a head race, so nothing interesting happens. And also for M2, though a few pips lower and the fitness started to tell past Ditton corner. Oh yes, and we had the excitement of being passed by CUWBC (featuring, I think, Anna) on Ditton corner. I really should have kept to the Plough side of Plough reach and let them come through that way, but we'd (we'd? I'd) taken a wide line around Grassy so I stayed on that side, sort-of hoping they might take the outside line on Ditton, but if course they didn't. In the end, all that happened was we went a bit wide on Ditton, too.


The finish of division 2 was a bit chaotic, too. All went well initially - boats came through, some stopped on Stourbridge - but then eventually they started to back up, until by the end there was barely space for boats to get over the line, as here (the finish line is from about where the most distant banked VIII). At one point there was the terrible crunching noise of honeycomb breaking, as someone backed their VIII perpendicularly into the side of one on the bank. Oops.


M1 and M2 had decided to swap over on Stourbridge common, because we were in successive divisions and feared getting stuck. In retrospect, and because M1 was 215 - ie, close to the head of the division amongst competent boats - we'd have been better off changing over at Peterhouse. Landing space on Stourbridge is at something of a premium, and the second crew gets a short warmup, and there is the hassle of not starting and finishing at the same place. However, it did mean we could visit the cake stall.


Link to the results.

M1 (9:32, 70th overall, 3rd in IM3 class): Cox: Simon. Str: Kate (welcome back for a special guest appearance), James H, Andy S (taking a brief break from the olympics), Will W, Chris W, William D, Paul "loves the cock" Holland, Bow: William C.

M2 (10:35, 4th in Nov class): Cox: William C. Str: Steve Gull, Ralph, Eben Upton, Brian McGuinness, Dave R, Dave B, Paul H, Simon.

W4+ (11:55, 3rd in Nov class): Cox: Meg. Str: Joss, Mel, Sarah, Anne.

W8 (11:41, 3rd in Nov class): Cox: Cox Alison. Str: Laura, Janice, Lorraine, Annie, Bev, Jo, Meg, Amy.

(Amy also rowed with her UCL crew).

More pix at flickr.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The MILF boat [*] goes to town

The Ladies had a crew (Joss, Mel, Sarah and Anne) all trained up for the Tideway, but no cox (because Meg, who had trained with them, wasn't available for the day). Hearing of my l33t coxing abilities [+] they enlisted me; and after one outing to weld crew and cox into one seamless unit, we were ready. The race was at 12:30 (the exact timing year to year is dictated by the state of the tide) so there was no ridiculous getting up and off before dawn as the men had to for the 2010 VIII's Vets head. Mel skillfully directed us down the North Circular to Tideway scullers where we had to pick our numbers up (a bit annoying that you have to go to the finish to pick up the numbers, because most people, like us, boat from near the start, because it makes far more sense to have a nice warm-up beforehand than a long tedious row back after the race).

DSCN2334-de-trailering And so we arrived at the embankment near London Rowing Club, where we were to boat. For those who haven't done this before, the first step is to find your trailer (Sunday is the Vets head, with 230 entries. Saturday was the larger Fours head, with about twice as many entries, and we were sharing space with the likes of Robs and Tabs as well as college crews on the Downing trailer, ably driven by Gripper (and I do mean ably: we watched him get down the lanes back to Emma and though its gate afterwards, and he was getting through with inches to spare). So Spare Rib had sat on the trailer all Saturday). The next step is to get the boat off, fairly tricky when it is on the tip-top rack and none of us are giants. After that comes re-rigging but at least, since this is a IV and not split, we didn't have to put the hull together.

DSCN2339-spot-the-mistake Then we had a fairly easy time of boating off the concrete hard - since this is the Vets head, and thus a smaller race, there isn't too much press for boating spaces. If you look at this photo carefully you'll spot the deliberate mistake. And I don't mean me having to rush off and dump the wellies back in the trailer while some helpful passerby holds the boat, because we didn't have a support crew. Anyway, we pulled in and fixed the mistake pretty quickly, and off we went, though with a little less margin for getting to the start than we'd intended.

This was the big moment for me, and I now appreciate the difference between sitting in a boat being merely required to row under orders, and feeling the responsibility of navigation on the big scary Tideway. However, it quickly became apparent that everything was going to work out OK, the flow was about expected (the race is run on the ebb tide, so you're rowing up against the tide), we could quite happily move against it, the chop was OK - of this more anon - and the wind wasn't pushing us about much. Being in division 4 our marshalling position was on the Surrey side, so I had no river crossing to worry about. After a while I realised I could spare my crew some effort by going up as close to the bank as possible to minimise the flow. And so we paddled up, going through exercises and then mixing light, steady state, and a few bursts. But there is plenty of room for that - its about 7 km to the start, compared to 5 km to the Baits Bite on the Cam. The race started at 12:30 (not quite promptly) and you're supposed to be in your marshalling position by 12:15 - we weren't, quite, nor were many others. We sat around for 1/2 hour while divisions 1 and most of 2 went off (I say sat around, but of course the crew has to constantly keep tapping the boat along to stay in position against the flow, about every 10 secs, so no-one gets any rest. I experimented with letting them decide then it was time to tap, to try saving my voice and making it easier for them, but it didn't work, as too often you need a manoeuvring stroke thrown in) then moved up above the bridge while the rest of 2 and then 3 went off, and then, excitement, division 4 was spinning (we were nearly the last boat), time to dekit, and we're now pointing the right way and heading for Chiswick bridge...

And so, the race itself! We were boat #229 out of 230, and so had been a bit afraid of getting left adrift. Marlowe, at #227, had pratted around so there was a huge gap between them and #226 off in the distance. We gained on #228 quite rapidly, and passed them on the first bend (they didn't move out of our way as they should have, my first course imperfection, but given the stress of the start I probably wouldn't have in their place either). Somewhere between Barnes railway bridge and the beginning of the Hammersmith bend #230 started moving up on us. We held them for a while with a few pushes, but they kept coming, and oh-so-gradually squeezed past us (I even got to do some Tidy-esque "I've got their 3-woman; now give me their 2"). We had a brief exciting blade clash when we moved back up on them once they thought they were safely past. On the Hammersmith bend the nice water at the start gave way to chop and some rather large waves like this . That threw us for a bit, and #230 began to pull away; with #228 dropped astern we were largely on our own after that, as far as the crew could see, though we were still in contact with #230 from my view.

If you're interested in how my track compares to a professional cox, I've done a mash-up of me-vs-Tidy.

From then, it is down to hard work from the crew combined with a bit of encouragement from the cox, until we got over the finish line, thank goodness (I find it hard to know what to say in the middle of a long piece other than rather unhelpful equivalents of "row harder you slackers". We got by on a mix of legs-10 as often as I thought realistic; various technical calls (finishes; hands; rhythm (gosh that is a hard word to spell, happily it is easy to say, though not easy to respond to); ratio) to recall them to their duty when they drifted into their own shell of pain; and general encouragemnt ("make it worth your coming here") and noting the milestones, and the times, as we went round. I flogged them a bit further than needed because I wasn't quite sure where the finish line was (it is upstream of Putney bridge, not down) - sorry about that. #230 were decent enough to give us three cheers once over the line, so we returned it. And so back to the start (with the river level now much lower we were in the gunk not the concrete) and de-boat, de-rig, and re-trailer (not aided by several boats needing to be re-arranged. As Gripper said "its always Robs" :-). A quick cup of tea in London Rowing Club gave us a chance to admire their glorious clubhouse and history, complete with enormous oil paintings of Chaps with Sideburns rowing at Henley. And so home (tediously, via TSS to return the numbers and reclaim our £6 deposit) and then the last boring bit - detrailering the boat, rowing it from Emma to home, and finally all stowed away safely. As Anne said, we really should have gone out for a drink to celebrate at that point, but we were all too knackered.

And our result? Somehow, compared to actually participating, that doesn't seem too important. But we had a time of 26:44 and an overall finsh position was 209/216 (1 dnf, 13 dns). Which was better than we'd expected - perhaps the organisers shouldn't put all the Women's novice boats at the end next time, but should mix up a few of the older Mens masters crews :-).

Top tips

* I didn't bother with wellies, just sandals, and not even those for the finish. If you have no support crew you're probably best off not bothering with wellies, and just going barefoot or flip-flops: the river really isn't that cold. [Struck; see the comments]
* Parking near LRC is easy enough on the Sunday.
* The race number that goes on the boat into the front holder is designed to be secured with a little nut and bolt. You can hold it on with tape, we did, but a nut-n-bolt would be neater.
* Make sure you know where your boat is supposed to go on the trailer. Ideally, get hold of the loading plan so you know where everyone else's is supposed to be too, so you can correct the inevitable mistakes.
* Take a couple of plastic cups, or perhaps better a sponge, in case you need to bail. Had the waves been only a little higher, we would have definitely needed to!
* Get one of the crew to write the post, then you won't get such a dreadfully cox-centric view :-)


* Anna had some problems that we didn't.
* More pix
* Vets Fours Head site.
* Everything you ever wanted to know about steering the course


[*] I'm not sure who coined this term but I'm fairly sure he is married to one of the crew members. So don't blame me.
[+] Yes yes I know: no-one else was available.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

My first sculling race

Image0047-the-scull-joy By William, aged Masters C.

Summer is over, the blades have been fresh painted, we've had our AGM (new committee post coming soon) and it is time to return to the river.

It was a lovely day, so after dutifully doing my Waitrose shopping I headed to the river for a little scull. Simon and Meg were out tubbing. But! I was turned back at the Green Dragon bridge, because the Robs small boats regatta was on, 11:30 division. Oh well I thought, shame: I could have entered instead. And then I though: so why not enter the 1 pm division? It is either that or go back home and cut the grass. And I did, for time only, since I was late. Fortunately Katherine and Anna-Rosa were at race control. I just had time for a coffee and baclava at Tishka's, and a nice chat about the financial situation with the old bloke at the table next door, before rushing back to embark and do the traditional rush-up-to-the-start-line-only-to-find-that-plenty-of-other-people-are-ten-minutes-late.

But it was a lovely day - too hot, really: after a bit I drifted over to the shady side; its nice being in a scull, you couldn't do that in a cumbersome VIII - so waiting at the start was fine. As I was a late entry I was at the back, with only a Robs novice girl behind me, who had the benefit of advice shouted from her bank party.

Sculling without having to worry about what might be coming the other way was a joy; I went rather wide around Grassy by accident, but this turned out to be a good thing because there was a narrowboat hugging the inner corner. I flagged a little down the reach, but ended up with an overall split of 2:31 and a time of 13:08 (a minute behind Katherine and Anna-Rosa). A time was what I really wanted: something to be a marker for future improvement, I hope. And to compare to others.

The full results are here (I'm 101, not alas spelt quite as I might desire). Trying to compare my time, I see I am the fastest and indeed the only CRA Open novice scull. So I won; err. But the fastest BR (British Rowing, as in can-row-off-Cam I think; though lots of clearly Cambridge crews entered as BR) time was 10:41; that was the novice time, beating the IM3 time, which in turn beat the IM2 time. How traditional. And those were by CULRC, so that doesn't help me much. Well never mind; there are plenty more regattas coming up.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


These are the minutes of the 2011 AGM, held on Thursday 22nd Septermber 2011 at 8:30pm, in The Punter.

1.1 Confirmation of Agenda
2.0 Proposed Amendments to the Constitution (Secretary)
2.1 Temporary Membership definition (3.1) – passed subject to a clarification that a temporary member does not need to fill in a membership form (3.2)
2.2 Removal of reference to ‘Chairman’ (9.4) - passed
2.3 Amendment/Correction of ‘Distribution’ clause (15.0) - passed
3.0 Annual Subscription Proposal (Treasurer)
3.1 It was agreed that the annual subscription should be increased to £192/year
4.0 Reports from the 2010/11 Committee
4.1 Club Captain(Chris Wood)
4.2 Treasurer & Membership Secretary (Sarah Coates-Holland)
4.3 Men’s Captain (James Tidy)
4.4 Women’s Captain (Amy Tillson)
4.5 Safety Advisor (Paul Holland)
4.6 Equipment Officer (Andy Southgate)
4.7 Social Secretary (Rebecca Scourse)
4.8 Thanks to Mike Prior Jones for his work in making cox boxes, to Emma Howard and
Emma Bonsall for their effort in making the Head of the Cam run smoothly, to Tom for co-
ordinating HoC Task Team, to Alison for her coxing school efforts, to Simon for his work
with the beginners and to Chris for his captaincy this year.
5.0 Formal Dissolution of the 2010/11 Committee (Secretary)
6.0 Election of 2011/12 Committee (Secretary)
6.1 Final Call for Candidates
6.2 Elections
6.2.1 Club Captain – Chris Wood re-elected
6.2.2 Treasurer &Membership Secretary – Sarah Coates-Holland re-elected
6.2.3 Men’s Captain – Steven Andrews elected
6.2.4 Women’s Captain – Net Mansfield elected
6.2.5 Equipment Officer – James Howard elected
6.2.6 Safety Advisor – Dave Richards elected
6.2.7 Social Secretary – Becca Scourse re-elected
6.2.8 Kit Secretary – Lorraine Turvill elected
6.2.9 Webmaster – William Connolley elected
6.2.10 Secretary – Amy Tillson re-elected
6.2.11 Funding Secretary – position unfilled
6.2.12 Head Coach – position unfilled
6.2.13 Race Secretary – Emma Howard elected
7.0 Any other Business
7.1 Trestles need fixing
7.2 Mens VIII needs a rigger jigger replaced under the coxes seat
7.3 Cox boxes – James Tidy is giving the club one cox box on loan, and giving another to the club. Mike Prior-Jones is happy to look into making more.
7.4 Sponsorship – Current sponsorship deal will end next year – people are looking into asking their companies if they are willing.

* This post was written in November. I've backdated it to the date of the meeting.
* I've redacted the attendees and apologies section, as I don't see why those need to be public.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Blades ready for the new season (and the ice filled darkness of winter rowing)

The gleaming new paint job on the men's IV and VIII blades (I hope that was the right order for the stripes!)
With the darkness drawing in and winter rowing beckoning it seemed like the perfect time to rejuvenate the clubs blades and with a whole club effort it seems to have been accomplished with relative ease.  Just seeing the blades looking so good certainly makes me want to get back in a boat even if we won't be able to see them in the dark.  Looking forward to seeing, or not, everyone back in the boats soon.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Bumps: day 4 and round-up

[Day 3 - Day 1, 2012]

bumps-results Well, its all over now. The last song has been sung, the last bottle drunk, the last burnt sausage consumed, the last nail painted, and the last naked quad rowed up to the lock.

How did we do, overall? Speaking as one of M1, I'd say "the boys dun good" - we had only one bump up, but we rowed well overall and had a really very exciting row-over on the last day, chased hard by Champs 2. Elsewhere, the picture was a less rosy. M2 went up on day 2, bumping the evil arch-villain Will Wyckham in the process, but alas it all went horribly wrong on the next 2 days when Tabs 7 upgraded both their rowing and their boat, and they ended one place down overall. M3 had keeness and determination going for them, but that wasn't reflected in their results, since they earned their spoons (which John had painted up for M1 two years ago, but which we fortunately didn't need then).

The ladies perhaps suffered from their success of last year. W2 rowed over 4 times, unable to catch up with City 7 ahead; W1 went down 3, but with a mighty row-over on day 3.

m1-friday-video-screenshot Video of M1 friday, a frame-grab from us going down Plough reach in a Champs sandwich (click for video). Its hard to see how close we are - alas the cameraman is focussing on the excitement of Tabs 3 bumping Tabs 2 in the far distance. However, I think we're probably closer than we thought we were. David Ponting took a nice pic at nearly the same time.

quad-1 Steven would like to make it clear that rumours of naked quadding have been greatly exaggerated.


* Day 3
* Day 2
* Day 1
* Amy on Day 4

* The bumps chart pic is semi-ripped from Vera analytics.
* Champs 2 bowcam.
* M1 friday from madprof77; W1 on thursday.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Bumps day 3

[Day 2 - Day 4]

DSC_7608-chesterton-m2 Less pizzazz and enthusiasm today, as the results are more muted. The pic is M2 having just done their practice start outside the Plough, rounding Grassy on the way to the start. Click for more.

M3: down again, poor chaps. M2: down, bad boys, to Will Wyckham and his gang of reprobates in their shiny new Stampfli. Get 'em tomorrow again, boys. M1: row over. Closed on Champs 1 but not enough.

W2: row over. W1: row over, but an exciting one. See Amy's blog, and video.


* Day 2
* Amy
* William
* Paul
* M1 at Jet Photographic
* M1 video by Rob Payne

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Bumps day 2

[Day 1 - Day 3]

And so it falls to me once again to chronicle our efforts. As it happens, this was a good night for M1 and M2, who both went up. Here we are, happy to have bumped City 3:


M1: L to R: Andy Southgate (4); Steven Andrews (5); Chris Wood (2); Ollie Crabb (S); James Tidy (Cox); Chris Metcalfe (3); William Connolley (B); James Howard (7; with George); Chris Smith (6; sub for Tom Watt who managed to injure himself at the last minute, aiee). Photo credit: Gytha (but I did my best to sabotage it by leaving my SLR on aperture priority). Full story in tedious detail here.


M2: Ralph, Paul (Captain), Andi, William, Emma (Cox), Dave (hiding), Katherine, Gary, Rob, who bumped Tabs 7 (CCL, featuring Will Wykeham, Chesterton renegade who gets his comeuppance).

Elsewhere the news was not so good: M3 down, W1 down (so we're now higher than them, so James may win his bottle of whiskey off Freya), and W2 rowed over.

Weather for the evening: cool, still, threatened rain, but didn't.


* Day 1
* William
* Amy
* Paul
* Rob Payne's video

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Bumps day 1

[Day 2]

Day 1 of the Cambridge City bumps, which we've been training for... well, since the end of last years's bumps.


In the pic: W2, who rowed over at #30. They get to chase City 7 again tomorrow, but now have City 8 bumped up behind them. M3 went down one to #53, just above the sandwich boat at the bottom of division 3. A thrilling race with an exciting conclusion round about the Plough, where they weren't quite saved by the InveterEight.

M2 rowed over at #32, with Leys Lysander (old boys, so probably pretty well the same crew as came though M2 last year) bumping out ahead of them, giving them a shot at Tabs 7 (CCL, boo hiss) tomorrow, if they can hold off Champs 5. W1 are down one to #13 to a very fast Xpress crew.

And M1: we had a good row. We quibbled about it a little afterwards, and in the pub, but it was good. However, it wasn't a useful test: behind us, Champs 2 got Nines 3 fairly quickly - before first post - and ahead of us Tabs 3 (Hills Road) got City 3 around about the Plough (irritatingly impeding us, forcing us to stop (for one glorious moment I thought we'd bumped them; but it didn't last, and we'd had no whistles) and restart). James then flogged us down the reach for some obscure reason, we stopped for some beer, and then went to the Waterman. Tomorrow will be the true test.

Oh, and did I mention that bloody Georgina held up M1 for 20 mins while they pratted around? Wazzocks.


* Amy
* William
* Paul
* M2 going round First Post (Jet) and M3
* Videos: M1; M2

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Xpress heads


The Xpress head was on the 20th of June. We put in a decent crew and won in 9:42; you can even see our track (the section from ~30 to ~40 mins is the race itself).

That is the big pot. The rather nice shot glass is from the Xpress "International" Head Race on the 25th of June; the word "International" is intended somewhat for fun; from what I gather the excuse for the event is an exchange between Circolo Canottieri Aniene of Rome and Xpress: every second year they visit each other, alternating Rome and Cambridge. Steven / Katherine organised a mixed mixed VIII coxed by Simon, middle four from M1 (Ollie, Steven, Chris, William), stroked by Anna Rosa from Robs, Sarah at 7; and Tanja and Katherine again from Robs in the bows. And the Robs folk came from us originally I gather. Of the race: there was a stiff head wind. We came in 11:02 which won us the mixed category; GPS track here. We even got a plaque, which has been on various exciting adventures around the world since. Chesterton also put in a second crew in the second division (Meg coxing; a welcome back to Ralph at stroke; Katherine again; William C (sitting oddly on strokeside), Will W, Andi R, Simon, and special guest appearance by Emma "never again" M.). So I have two shot glasses :-).

[Yes, this post is a bit late, but better than never]

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

CRA timed race 2011

DSC_7464-cra-timed-race-2011-results The CRA timed race is sort of the rowing-on race for the CRA bumps, except there are spare places, so it isn't. As I understand it. But it is a chance to row over, errm, not the actual course (because it is rowed from the railway bridge to Jesus boathouse, more or less, which bears precious little relation to the real course), a bit before the bumps, with something that may or may not be your actual crew.

Anyway, bugger all the caveats, here are the results, hot off the press, ripped off a boathouse wall by James Tiny (who he?) and presented to you here and now. The official version will be available sometime soon once the CRA website recovers from its DoS attack.

So, well, you can read the results for yourself. The only question is, can you interpret them correctly? We started 5 and came 4 which is fine. The Tabs crew that pushed us to the lock didn't deign to race, though. Nines look to be utterly f*ck*d, unless that is the 3rd crew or something - who knows.

Our M2 crew looks fairly handy for a boat close to the bottom of M2, and our ladies deserve congratulations for winning pots as fastest novice ladies - very promising. And after it all we repaired for a jolly evening in the Waterman which was excellent. That Chris Smith was there, and he didn't insult us particularly severely, which must be good, no?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Peterborough Regatta

Stormy weather made for some interesting conditions for the Peterborough Regatta.  The headwind, straight down the lake, not only caused problems for the organisers but also for some of the competitors with some boats not coping with the conditions and being blown across the lanes.
The Chesterton IV nearing victory in the Masters B/C 1000m final (Photo: William Connolly)
The regatta started well for Chesterton with the IV taking on a 6 second handicap against Oundel Town RC and Star RC to win the Masters B/C 1000m final, quadrupling the number of Chesterton points and winning a nice set of hip flasks in to the bargain.  The gusting winds and breaking waves made for an interesting and at times rather damp row but despite the soaking, the crew and a particularly wet cox were very happy with the win and losing their novice status.

The VIII again had to take on a handicap against Cambridge 99 and St Ives in the Masters B/C final but were unable to reel in the disadvantage despite making some gains.
The Chesterton VIII making gains on St Ives
Tethering the boats against the effects of the wind we headed back to Cambridge to dry off and refresh with some isotonic sports beer and replenish our energy and electrolite levels with a few pork based snacks.  Unfortunately there was no change in the weather over night and it was in to the teeth of the continuing gale that we would be aiming to chop through once more over the shorter 500m Sunday course.  Unfortunately it was a tale of poor starts with the VIII being stunned at the start of the IM3 heat by a lightening quick Clare College 1st boat and never quite finding our rythm to pull it back.  The IV also made a bad start in the Masters B final against Rob Roy RC who held on to their lead well despite Chesterton pushing the rating up in to the mid-forties in an effort to make back the deficit off the line. 

Over a 500m course a bad start is difficult to recover from as both crews demonstrated in the Sunday races.  However every race entered brings more experience to the crew and allows mistakes and weaknesses to be identified and worked on to improve our chances and competitivness for the next race.

Thanks to James T for organising the crews and trailering and thanks to those who helped rigging, driving,  de-rigging and providing a vocal support where possible.  
The winning Masters IV crew - James T (cox), Steven (stroke), James H (3), Tom (2) & Andy (bow)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Champs Eights Head

M3 rowing home

A very turbulent day's racing. Chesterton entered four eights- a near-full-strength M1, an M2-with-several-subs, and an M3-also-with-several-subs.

Conditions were particularly windy, gusting down the Reach and forming white horses at first, although the wind did die down throughout the day (relatively!) giving the first division the worst conditions, and the third division the best- proven by various colleges who raced the same crew more than once, and also Jesus M1 beating Caius M1 to overall first place. The latter were in the first division, the former in the third.

Times for Chesterton boats-

M1 (Vet B) got 5'48". This was the fastest raw time for a veteran eight, beating a City crew composed of experienced people- who were in the faster second division- by one second. However, being Vet C, they had a better adjustment and pipped us to the pots by 3 seconds. Nevertheless, a good, strong row.

M2 (CRA Novice) got 6'35", having had a strong performance. They came in second in the category (I believe) behind a City eight that got a fraction under 6 minutes, but still a good achievement.

M3 (Also CRA novice) got 6'55", despite some dubious rowing from the 3 seat, and beat a crew so they weren't last in the category- a good achievement for a completely scratch crew with no warm-up!

The women entered a scratch crew, and achieved 7'46". Despite an unfortunate wind gust that took them very wide around Ditton corner, and led them to graze the far bank, they reset out and rowed a reasonable race. They were third (I think) in their category.

Full results to follow, along with more photographs, when Champs release them.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Head of the Cam (aftermath)

And the result for the fastest Men's and Women's crews are:


Caius and


Downing. No great surprises there based on Lents. Full results are available from the Chesterton club website.

Stills are (or will be...) available from here. Video will be available from Spannerspotter.

Incidentally, if you think there are areas where we could improve on the running of the event, do please let us know ( We already have some thoughts about marshalling in a strong wind, but please let us have your feedback if you have any suggestions.


1994 Robs
1995 Robs
1996 Eton
1997 F&T
1998 F&T
1999 Caius
2000 ?
2001 ?
2002 Emma (?)
2003 Caius
2004 Broxbourne
2005 Caius
2006 Caius
2007 Downing
2008 Fitz
2009 Jesus
2010 Caius
2011 Caius (Men) and
Downing (Women)

(Results found from reading the shield, and various entrails found on the web)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Entries for Head of the Cam are now closed, thank you for your entries.

For any last minute entries please contact, we still have some spaces left.

Race control at Queens College Boathouse will be open from 9.30am on Saturday, we look forward to seeing you then!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Your ErgMeister Speaks

James T appointed me "Lord High Tsar of the Erg Table" but I'd rather be an ErgMeister so I'm grabbing my own title. We need some way of recording training, praising the valorous, shaming the wicked, encouraging the timid, and so on. And perhaps this blog is it. Lets try, anyway. Hopefully, every week I'll get a good crop of scores in, and will produce an updated post so we know who is hot and who is not.

I think I only have ultimate erg-authority over M1, but I don't see why M2 and M3 shouldn't share the pain join in the fun too, in the spirit of healthy competion. Hot women are also welcome to join.

This post is long and rambling because (a) I'm bad at organising things, (b) this will hopefully be a useful reference for the future and (c) I don't have any scores yet to talk about (OK, I do have two scores, Tom and me, but I want a few more than that).

Quite a few of us record our training on HeiaHeia ( on a daily basis - its a sort of Facebook for exercise. Go get a free account if you haven't already, friend people, and join the Chesterton Rowing Club group (although now I think about it, it says it is a closed group, so you might need an invite).

What we're looking for is for people to do ergs, and tell me (email is fine, wmconnolley(at) and I'll make up cute graphs and tables and stuff. We're going to pay attention to both "raw" and "weight-adjusted" scores, and I think this is a convenient place to tell you about them, so see the section below.

And one last word of intro: please don't be shy. The last thing we need is for everyone to not want to put up their scores because they aren't quite good enough to hang out in public.

Weight-adjusted scores

erg-adjustments All else being equal, a bigger person can pull a better erg. But, a bigger person will also weight a boat down more, increasing the drag. Therefore, some kind of weight adjustment is fair. The one we're going to use is from the Concept2 website, and is basically a 2/9 power law.

However, talk of a simple thing like a 2/9 power law makes the Arts Side folks heads explode, so I've drawn a pretty picture instead. Click to enlarge as usual. It is all very simple: all the curves are normalised to what I've asserted is a typical weight of 85 kg. So, suppose you weigh 80 kg and are aiming for a 7500m weight-adjusted score. Then you look at the deep-red dots at the 80 kg point, and see you need to do about 7400 m. Conversely, if you weighted 90 kg you'd need to pull ~7600m.

If even the picture makes your head explode, then don't worry: just get on the erg and do your best. Tell me your distance and your weight, and I'll work out the conversion.

Or just use the Concept2 weight adjustment calculator yourself.

Distances and settings

For now, do 30 minutes pieces. As the great James T said:

As we come closer to Bumps, I would like us to move onto 2ks and sprint work, but for now, the erg is a way of assessing and improving what your body can do. And you'll even see me on one of the torture machines at some point in the near future.

30 minutes is good for long-term fitness - there is still time to improve this in the next few months.

Settings: all settings give you the same amount of distance for your effort, so use whatever setting you like, but some will fill more comfortable than others. Wanging it up to 10 will make it heavy. Down at 1 you'll struggle to rate high enough to pull a decent distance because it will be too light. Most people use a setting around 3 or 4, or if you want to get fancy a drag factor of about 125. I use 4, if you care.

If you're not in the habit of doing ergs, or possibly have never done a 30-minute one before, then fear not. Just turn up to one of the <ahem> regular sessions (wednesdays at 7pm is looking good) and we'll introduce you.

Ergs and sessions

All ergs are the same, so feel free to use a home / gym one if you have it. The club ones are in Queens and hang near the back on the right. There are 4 of them, and (although there is a booking system somewhere if you're feeling bureaucratic) generally available.

Erg sessions will probably move around to avoid conflicts with outings etc etc, but 7 pm on wednesdays is looking good so far, on a sample of one out of one.

Information required

I need:

* your raw score
* your weight
* date done
* witness

The weight is necessary for calculating the weight-adjusted score (duh) if you want that done. The adjustment is moderately sensitive to the weight (see graph) so please make sure the weight is accurate and not deliberately flattering. "I'm sure I weighted only 75kg a month back" isn't really good enough. There is a set of scales at Queens which I believe are fairly accurate.

If you're going to do a mind-boggling oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-he-did-that sort of erg, then it would be prudent to have a reliable witness, not because we don't trust you (obviously) but just for that comforting feeling of security. On the other hand, for run-of-the-mill everyday about-the-same-as-last-week sort of times, you don't need a witness.

Weight-adjusted scores - the small print

Tom did some looking up scores on the web, and found that, considering world-record times, the lightweight record was (weight-adjusted) almost exactly the same as the heavyweight record. Which tells you that the adjustment is pretty well exact ignoring boat and cox weigt. So in the real world which features boats and coxes who both have non-zero weights, you'd expect the heavier rowers to have an advantage. And, as Tom also observed, if you look at world records on water, heavier crews go faster. Also, Andy observes that short pieces favouring heavier rowers (short term power => muscle size => cube of size) but not so much in longer pieces (long term power => lung surface area => square of size). He thinks. So maybe the Big Boys can pull things back when we drop down to 2k later on.

The point is, in the end, that neither a raw score nor a weight-adjusted score is a perfect measure of strength. Which is why we'll use both, as well as a healthy dose of prejudice.

Season's best scores

In adjusted-to-85kg-weight order.

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness Notes
Tom 8350 81 8441 William Week1
William 7933 71 8255 Tom Week1
Sipper 8023 83 8073 Ext Week4
Chris W 7906 79 8037 - Week4
Ollie 7850 81 7936 William Week2
Andy S 7896 85 7896 Photo Week3
Andi R 7623 76.5 7800[*] Wife Week6
Simon 7324 65 7771 - Week3
Dave R 7412 68 7710 - Week3
Lorraine 6550 60 7072 Ev Week1
James T 6530 65 6928 W+O Week2

[*] Approximate adjustment

Week 1 scores

I guess I may as well update this post with this weeks scores as I get them. So far we have (in weight-adjusted-to-85kg order):

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness
Tom 8350 81 8441 William
William 7933 71 8255 Tom
Simon 7306 65 7752
Lorraine 6550 60 7072 Ev

Week 2 scores

Note: my table can only cope with integral weights, so all recorded weights are adjusted to the nearest kg. This shouldn't matter too much.

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness Notes
William 7938 72 8233 Ollie
Ollie 7850 81 7936 William
James T 6530 65 6928 W+O
Chris W 7561 79 7686 -


Week 3 scores

Good to see people taking a creative approach to proving their erg scores in the absence of witnesses. A slightly thinner crop of scores this week, with the Easter break eating into availability, including mine.

We'll be back to full nagging mode next week.

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness Notes
Sipper 8013 83 8063 M1 and W1 of Anglia Ruskin
Andy S 7896 85 7896 Photo!
Chris W 7645 79 7770 -
Dave R 7412 68 7710 - Approx adjustment

Rumours exist that James H has been erging but is "not happy with his weight".

Week 4 scores

Just recording some incoming, not a full list yet. Please send in yours:

Who Raw weight Adjusted Witness Notes
Sipper 8023 83 ? Tom
Tom 8153 81 ? Sipper Casual
Chris W 7906 79 ? - Phoned in
Simon 7324 65 ? -

Rumours exist that James H has been erging but is "not happy with his weight".

Week 5 scores

No 30 mins so far (are we getting bored?) but I did a half marathon in 1:27:37. It made a change. My bum hurts.

Week 6

Or is it 7? I lose track. Andi R puts up 7623 on Sunday (followed by 7621 on Wednesday) and is 76.5 kg. I went running :-). Chris Wood offers "10m + (5x500m r3 @ 1.44 32 spm) +10m" (r3 = rest for 3 minutes).

Monday, 4 April 2011

Vesta Vets Head 2011

Sunday dawned bright and clear for the Vesta Vets Head 2011. Well, it did so after we'd been burning down the M11 for about an hour, since we'd had to get up well before dawn. Simon, Ralph and I went down together, having met up with James H, Andy and Ollie at Queens. The rest of our fine crew were to meet us in London. Before we left Queens, I counted the riggers and seats again in my boot, not wishing to "do a Press". The boat itself we'd waved off on Friday night, so it sat on a trailer all Saturday (ahem). Despite getting a teensy bit lost in London once we came off the M4 (a mixture of my driving and Ralph's "old school" navigating: no GPS, just bits of paper) we arrived in good time, easily found a parking spot, and the boat and the crew. Simon and Amy were to "bank party" us, doing stuff like taking away the wellies and helping with the blades. And cheering from the bridge :-).

As you see from Simon's pic (ripped from the copy on Amy's blog) it is a busy scene far removed from the quiet Cam, though not nearly as busy as the HORR the day before (see here for our 2010 entry). Also fortunately James T decided to hustle us into the water as about the second to boat, so we missed all the hurry and the crush.

We had time for a relaxed paddle up to the start, then a spin and paddle down with the stream a little, which was useful to get a feel for rowing-with-the-stream, since it is far stronger than we're used to. The wind was slight, conditions good. Spin and head back for the start, more crews around now. About half an hour of faff keeping on station as the crews around closed in; Press just near us.

And then the off; the thing embedded here (assuming it is working) is the GPS track from my watch. So we all get to see and carp at James's line, though it looks OK to me. If you know a way to compare it to the "one true line" do let me know. The splits, as measured by my watch, are awesome: around 3:05 per km to start with (i.e. just over 1:30 per 500m), falling to 3:10 then 3:15 at the end. However, those are speed-over-ground and include the stream, so they are meaningless, except insofar as they tell you how fast the stream was. James was reporting splits of 1:45 falling to 1:50 I think, so the stream was making a difference of about :15. So the stream was running at 0.64 m/s, if my maths has come out right. Does that sound right?

The row itself was quite uneventful. We were together, we were fit enough to stop getting ragged, we rowed solidly all the way at about 29 I think. We got overtaken twice: once by a bunch of Italians (but I like to think that if they had come all this way over, they were probably pretty good. We saw them in Vesta boathouse afterwards: they even had rucksacks made up specially for the occasion and had Nick Lee standard of kit), and once by someone else. It rather reminded me of a recent article in "Rowing and Regatta": with head racing, you've got no idea how well you've done during the race, or indeed afterwards, until much later when the results come out.

vets-head-xls DSCN1761-oops Which brings me on to the results: our time was 21:21 and our place was 67th (of 204). James T had taken a flying guess and aimed for "top 20" but clearly we were some way away from that. I got all nerdy and drew a pic in Excel (it took me ages to work out how to do selections) of time against finish position, colour coded by class. We're the big blue dot. It is the familair S-shaped curve, but apart from that I'm not really sure it says anything useful.

I won't overload this post with toooo many pix, because I'm ripping them off Amy, who has more and better. Go look at her post.

But I can't resist one last mystery pic, on the left: what it this, and what is missing ;-?

After the row, and de-rigging and splitting the boat, we retired to Vesta for a well earned bit of food and drink, and a stand on the balcony in the sun watching the world go by. Then home time: the drive back (in our case, via Hammersmith, to retrieve Simon's splendid banner) wasn't too painful (unless you were Andy stuck on the Sarth Circular). Re-rigging the boat at 6 finished off the day, leaving me free to collapse in a heap on the living room floor at about 9.

And lastly, here we all are (again, pic from Simon):

Left to Right: Mr L Bin; Tom Watt; William Dulyea; Mr Oliver Crabb, Esquire; Dr Andrew Southgate; James "Curvaceous" Tidy; Dr James Howard; Dr William "Please learn not to smile like that" Connolley; Chris Wood; Ralph "Distant" Hancock.

And just after lastly... a pic from BigBlade embedded here with permission:

[Update: we get a mention in "Regatta", which Amy spotted: "Sixty-seventh placed Chesterton RC may not have won [the Vets Head] but they were the technical wizards of the race, leaving a GPS track of the route they steered, their splits, and even working out the speed of the stream" - Rowing and Regatta magazine May 2011.]


* Amy's view
* My pix on flickr (or will be, when I upload them)
* Simon's pix on facebook
* Full results

Monday, 21 March 2011

Head of the Cam

Entries for this years Head of the Cam race are now open!

Saturday 30th April 2011

The Head Course - Cambridge, 2600m

3 divisions:

Division 1 10:45
Division 2 12:30
Division 3 14:15

VIIIs - IVs - Small Boats

BR, CRA and College Classes

£5 per rowing seat.

For further details on how to enter, please go to

Entries close 7pm, Thursday 21st April

Womens Eights Head of the River Race 2011

The crew: James, Ali (not well enough to row), Janice, Lorraine, Bev, Mel (lovely sub!), Claire, me, Jo, Anne PHOTO: Simon E

Saturday morning dawned bright sunny and warm, as promised by the Met Office. Our first task was to load the boat onto the trailer, and then wave it off to be driven down to London by another club. Then we all headed for cars and trains to make our way to London.

We were boating from Furnivall Gardens which has always been my favourite place to boat from on the Thames. It is close to Hammersmith Bridge which is about two thirds of the way down the course and is the best place for spectators to watch from. It also means that you get a warm up rowing to the start and not to onerous a row back from the finish. This year Furnivall only accepted 11 boats so there was a relaxed atmosphere as we rigged the boat ready to go, and we had inside space to store kit and wellies.

Rigging Dawntreader PHOTO: Ali B
Blades ready PHOTO: Ali B
Soon, our boating slot arrived and we carried our eight down onto the pontoon. We pushed off and that was when we realised something was wrong. Only the stern four of the boat could hear James's voice over the speakers connected to the cox-box amplifier. Our boat splits in two, and the wiring is connected at the join by a waterproof rubber connector. I was sitting in the 5 seat, just behind the join, and so I checked the connector. Two bare-ended (but insulated) wires came out of the connector in my hand. Ah. Problem. The solder had come loose inside the connector. If the connector is broken, the four girls in the bow can't hear the cox. So theat means they can't hear his instructions to manouver the boat, or his voice when the race begins, encouraging them on through 20+ minutes of pain. Last year, the cox box ran out of power halfway down the course and so I knew how awful it is to race without a cox. As I was closest to the broken connector, I took it upon myself to find a way to fix it. However, we had to get to our marshalling position first, and couldn't just sit there and fiddle with it. So we kept rowing, relaying calls down the boat until we reached our spot. Staying in one place on the Thames is tough - the stream flows about as fast as a pair of rowers can row, so you always have to have some people rowing. 

The offending component!

Once we were roughly stationary, I tried just sticking the bare wires back into the loose half of the connector. Voices from the bow confirmed that they were getting intermittent noise from the speakers so I knew all was not lost. After a while, I discarded the loose part of the connector and tried just sticking the wires into the half of the connector still attached to the bow end of the boat, losing the part which was broken. I also cleaned the little bits of wire that were sticking out of the insulation as best I could. Stripping the insulation off would have been advantageous but I didn't have a tool to do so. Stuffing the newly cleaned wires as far as I could into the connector, I learnt from the bows that they could hear James voice. The insulation on wires provided enough friction to hold the wires in the rubber of the remaining connector and so I just hoped beyond hope that it would hold. We had another 20 minutes of marshalling and then a 20+ minute race. It held through the marshalling, and then we were off. There was nothing more I could do but hope.

The race started well, and we got into a good rhythm. Rowing on the Thames is quite different to rowing on the Cam, as the water is much rougher, and rowing with the tide means that it feels strange when you place your blade in, as if you haven't really got enough connection with the water. Still, we maintained well, and James' coxing kept us going, Soon we could see Hammersmith Bridge, where we knew our supporters would be cheering for us. We could see our club flag and also a great sign made by Simon - 'ROW FASTER, CHESTERTON, THE BAR IS OPEN!' which made me smile through the pain!

PHOTO: Simon E
That's us in the middle, about to overtake Essex on the left PHOTO: Simon E

At this point, we began to overtake the crew in front (the University of Essex) which was great fun. James thrives on this kind of coxing - when there is a real competition on our hands, and we slowly but surely passed them by. At this point in the race, overtaking was just the encouragement we needed to keep pushing to the end. It seemed to go on for ever, but eventually there was the call to wind it down. I felt pretty wrecked at this point, and couldn't speak to ask the question to which I desperately wanted the answer: Did the connection hold? Eventually I managed to gasp out the question, and got the answer that it had held, which was the best part of the race for me!

We had a bit of a row back to Furnivall but it wasn't too bad, and the sun was still shining. Our supporters met us on the pontoon and we took the boat apart to put back on the trailer before heading for a meal at Pizza Express. While we were there we learned that we'd come 271 out of 302 boats (all results by division), with a time of 23 minutes 21 seconds which wasn't too bad considering that we were a 'scratch' crew - with a sub (thanks so much, Mel!) who was rowing for one of the girls who was too ill to join us. Thanks also to our supporters on the bank and to James for his coxing.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Norwich head

DSCN1736 [A belated post, but I've edited the post date to match the event]

Norwich head is what you get to if you turn right; if you turn left you get to the half marathon (and if you go by train you meet the foul-mouthed old ladies). But we turned the right way and (unlike Press) had remembered to bring our riggers and (unlike the nameless Quad) we remembered not to turn turtle. And I was unaffected by the rain while waiting for the start because I'd brought my collapsible umbrella, and even if everyone else mocked me I was dry.

However, after this comprehensive list of things we got right, I now have to come on the the rowing itself. We had a good strong steady row, nothing spectacular, but it didn't feel as though we weakened. The Essex Boys came up on us off the start, and were on our tail after ~1/3 the course. Then we pushed back a bit and maybe they tired and we had the corner and we held them for a bit, before finally they had the inside of a bend and got past us. That took us to about 2/3 of the course, which is nearly back; just under the motorway bridge and home. The course itself is pleasantly rural.

And the end result? 15:28 for us and we were 5th in Division 2 4th of IM3 VIII's. I suppose we might have hoped for better, but we are just one small town boat club and Essex are an entire university, and only beat us by 30 seconds.

In the evening afterwards, a crew curry in the Maharajah. Here we all are:


Photo credit: William D's camera, photographer: Emma? L to R: Tom Watt, Andy Southgate, Chris Wood, Simon Emmings, William Dulyea, James Howard, James Tidy, Ollie Crab, William Connolley, Ralph Hancock (yes I know we all know who we are but I write them out sometimes so the search engines will find us).

You see from this (and the top pic) that it was really fairly muddy or (as James T put it) "like the Somme".


* Norwich head
* Norwich Rowing Club
* William D's pix