British men return to home water for Head of the River

British Olympic gold medallists Peter Reed, Andy Triggs-Hodge and Tom James will be amongst those competing at this weekend’s Head of the River race, held on Saturday, 21 March from 11.15 am on the Tideway stretch of the River Thames in London.

Leading off the 420 crews entered in the four-and-a-quarter mile race from Mortlake to Putney will be Leander Club, victors at last year’s event. 

This year’s crew features no fewer than five 2008 Olympic medallists: gold medallist Peter Reed, silver medallists Ric Egington and Alex Partridge and bronze medallists Matthew Wells and Steve Rowbotham. Marcus Bateman, a graduate of the ARA’s World Class Start scheme, sponsored by Siemens and supported by the National Lottery, will also race in the crew. 

For Egington, the race presents a welcome chance to get back into an eight, as the GB winter training is predominantly in smaller boats: "It’s been nice to get back into a boat that is fast-moving, although it has been a bit strange too. The last eight I was in was pretty quick and we’d been together quite a long time. We’ve only had ten days to put together this crew", said the Warrington man. "But it’s been fun and it’s nice to train back in Henley at my club."

"I’m looking forward to racing on Saturday. We did not race the Head last year because we were on international duty, so for some of us it has been 18 months since we got to compete on the Tideway. It will be nice to hear the home supporters", he added.

Amongst those challenging Leander’s title will be a unique Tideway Scullers composite, with seven of the the top nine single scullers at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing on board. 

These include British sculler Alan Campbell and New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale, both of whom are long-time members of Tideway Scullers, as well as Olympic champion Norwegian Olaf Tufte and Czech Olympic silver medallist Ondrej Synek. This crew will start fifth, but have made no secret of their ambition to win the event.

For Campbell, it is a welcome return to the stretch of water he is most familiar with: "I like the Tideway", he said, " and my club is very much a part of the Tideway. For me, the race has a further incentive, because it gives me a opportunity to get a hat-trick of victories. Earlier this year I won the Sculler’s Head and the Four’s Head, so I’d like to win all three races."

The Northern Irishman accepts that bringing the crew together will be a challenge: "It’s a big undertaking. We only got in the boat together on Monday, and only Mahe [Drysdale] and I have English as our first language. But Mahe, Iztop [Cop] and I have raced the course together before, and everyone’s dealing with the water well."

Meanwhile Egington would not be drawn on his prediction for the finishing order. "There’s been a lot of talk about the Scullers’ eight and it will be good to see how fast they can be", he said. "We [Leander] are just positive about how we’re going."

Another possible title-challenger is Molesey, who’s first crew features British Olympic gold medallists Andy Triggs-Hodge and Tom James and former British under-23 rowers Mohamed Sbihi and Cameron Nichol. They will be coxed by Acer Nethercott, who steered the British men’s eight to an Olympic silver medal in Beijing. The rowers, who have been mourning the sudden and tragic death of one of their clubmates, will start eighth and will race with black ribbons on Saturday.

There are three university crews (Imperial College, Durham University and Oxford Brookes University) starting in the top ten. Durham’s crew will be stroked by 2007 Junior World Champion Kieren Emery, while Imperial’s crew features British 2008 senior world championships sculler Adam Freeman-Pask.

The race will also feature crews from several countries, including Germany, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Serbia and Australia.

The event is a time-trial, in which the crew with the fastest time overall wins.

 

More information and results can be found at www.horr.co.uk

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