Putney-based doubles shine at Pairs Head

Two Putney-based double sculls shone on the Tideway on Saturday as heavy rain hit the 475 crews competing in the Pairs Head for the second successive year.

A Westminster School BC combination of junior international Sam Meijer and the school’s Swiss boatman Dominik Howald overtook the three Elite doubles that started ahead of them, covering the new, slightly longer 4,500m course from Chiswick Bridge to Harrods Wharf in 13 minutes 30.5 seconds.

“We thought we had a shot at winning but we didn’t think we would do it emphatically like this,” said Meijer, who last year won a pennant and finished in the top five of each of the Pairs, Fours and Scullers Heads.

“The conditions were really bad on our row up to the start but it seemed to quieten down for the race. We had a really good row and felt really together.”

The fastest women’s crew came from Imperial College BC and featured Mel Wilson – a former Great Britain international making a comeback this year – and Polish sculler Julia Michalska-Plotkowiak, a London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist who now lives in London. 

The duo had to row for time only because of a double substitution in the line-up originally entered but that time – 14 min 25.5 sec – was 14 seconds ahead of the official Women’s Elite doubles winners, Debbie Flood and Francesca Rawlins of Leander Club. For the second year running, aspiring lightweight international Rawlins was part of a crew that won the Amy Gentry Trophy.

Quintin BC’s Alex Miller and Mike Ewing were the fastest pair, a second ahead of Sam Scrimgeour and Jonathan Clegg – Great Britain’s lightweight pair who won a World Championship bronze in August. It was one of four pennants for the Chiswick club, who also won Masters E pairs and doubles and a share of mixed Mas D doubles.

Thames RC crews finished first and second in women’s Elite pairs, winning a new trophy for fastest women’s pairs. The Anna Roots Trophy was introduced by the committee to remember a Mortlake A&A BC stalwart and regular competitor in the race who was killed in an accident during a charity cycle ride last month. Mortlake members raced in black armbands in Anna’s memory.

There was racing across 47 categories, with some results so close that organisers reviewed video overnight before confirming. Bunching of crews at the finish made it particularly tough for timers, who also had to battle the heavy rain and to process several crews who had lost numbers.

“It should be the law that any rower who wants to race has to volunteer at least once to be part of a timing team because it’s jolly hard,” said entries secretary Sarah Powell, who recruited colleagues from work to help with the job in the absence of sufficient rowers.

The closest result of the lot was the win for Genevieve Bailhache-Graham and David Read of Henley RC in mixed Elite doubles, beating a Molesey crew by 0.3 seconds in a time of 14 min 24.1 sec.

The largest category was again men’s J18 doubles, where Fergus Mitchell-Dwelly and Josh Davies of St Neots RC won by a resounding 23 seconds from the nearest of their 42 rivals.

For full from the 2014 Pairs Head, visit www.pairshead.co.uk/the-results.

By Martin Gough