Rowers set to take to the Thames in Sunday’s Pairs Head

Hosted by Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Club, the Pairs Head is run entirely by volunteers from all the local Thames clubs

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Getting ready to race (c) Ben Rodford

On Sunday at 10.30 the first crew will start racing at the 2019 Pairs Head of the River with over 450 crews following behind at timed intervals as they start the 4.5km time-trial.

The first of the major head races on the River Thames this season, the Pairs Head is run by Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Club – the only women’s rowing club on the Tideway. Chaired by Jo Broadhurst, the eight-person event committee began work in August with many more volunteers helping out from clubs along the Tideway on the day.

“We have a fantastic network of head race volunteers from all the Tideway clubs so not just from the club,” says Jo.

“They are amazing army of volunteers for which we’re very grateful.”

Over a hundred volunteers work hard to ensure that racing goes according to plan on the day including 25 people on the timing team and 40 in the marshalling team on the water. There are also safety boat volunteers, parking and boating assistants and not forgetting the tea stall – hosting the visiting crews with homemade cakes and hot food.

“This year we will be using a newly built application which integrates with BROE2 and will help the timing team deliver the results. The application has been built by the partner of one of our members.

“Every year we are looking to improve the way we do things and make the race run as smoothly as possible.”

As event chair, Jo’s role is similar to conducting an orchestra. Modestly, she says that everyone else does far more work while her job is bringing everything together.

“This is only my third or fourth year as chair so I’m a relative newbie. Most of the committee know the ropes much more than I do – I’m still learning!”

One of the main challenges to event planning is the weather with last year’s Pairs Head nearly called off because of potential gusty winds.

“It was a very close call whether or not to go ahead on the day, and this threw up some issues so we’ve reviewed that for this year’s event,” says Jo.

“We’re currently looking at the race forecast now to see, and consulting with several outside agencies who are also monitoring the weather closely for Sunday.”

While encouraging closer racing, the new points system has also led to extra consideration being needed to band the race categories to make sure that they are enabling fair competition.

Jo adds: “We’ve had a couple of calls with people who are not quite in the right categories but our entries secretary is very experienced and the new system is becoming easier.”

We’re keen to be inclusive and make sure that everyone has a fair race on the day

Overall, hosting the Pairs Head gives Barnes Bridge Ladies a higher profile within the rowing community – something that they are aiming to build on as they approach their 50th anniversary running the event in two years’ time.

“It’s an opportunity for us to show us at our best,” says Jo.

“It’s a very, very popular head. We pride ourselves on being friendly and not too officious and we’re keen to be inclusive and make sure that everyone has a fair race on the day.

After racing in the Pairs Head a few times herself, Jo can also empathise with the rowers as they launch their boats on the water.

“A lot of people do the race every year from across the spectrum and take real pride in entering these events. I’m so grateful to those who enter and those who help.

“There is something very special about clubs run by volunteers who step up to make these things happen.”

Find out the latest Pairs Head news on Twitter at @pairshead

 

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