Success for Tideway Scullers School at the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours
With weather better than feared, last weekend’s Fuller’s Head of the River Fours produced outstanding racing on the Tideway. Martin Gough reports
While crews continued to stream through the finish of the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours at Putney, the party was beginning up at the start in Chiswick on Saturday, where Tideway Scullers School celebrated winning seven of the 33 pennants on offer.
Last summer’s Great Britain Under-23 world champion quad, rowing as a composite of TSS, Nottingham RC and Edinburgh and Durham universities, beat the Swiss Rowing Federation by 3.2 seconds with a time of 18 minutes 2.2 seconds over the four-and-a-quarter-mile course for the overall headship.
“I’m over the moon for the quad,” said coach Kieran Clark of the win for the crew of Sam Meijer, Josh Armstrong, Matt Heywood, George Bourne. “We didn’t get out until Saturday morning. Josh is taking time off rowing and hasn’t been in a boat for seven weeks.
Scullers also provided the fastest women’s crew, their quad of Fran Rawlins, Saskia Budgett, Katie Wilkinson-Feller and last-minute substitute Kyra Edwards beating a Molesey composite made up mainly of GB Under-23s.
Third overall was a coxed four from Oxford Brookes University. Senior internationals Rory Gibbs, Matthew Tarrant and Josh Bugajski were joined by Oli Wilkes and cox Harry Brightmore to record the best overall performance by that boat type in 38 years.
I’m over the moon for the quad,” said coach Kieran Clark
Last year’s overall winners Leander Club were absent having failed to make the cut-off as entries filled up in just 15 days. The event was reduced by 100 crews to about 380 in the days leading up to the event because of fears over marshalling in a very strong stream and forecast high winds.
Forty crews withdrew voluntarily but a further 60 had to be cut on the basis of their SAS Ranking Points Index.
“Whichever way you do it there would always be someone disappointed,” said Camilla Hadland of the race committee, who dealt with complaints in the lead-up to the race.
“On explanation, most people understood. The SAS PRI is the only tangible measure we have. We can’t go around and ask every crew about their individual experience.”
Third overall was a coxed four from Oxford Brookes University, the best overall performance by that boat type in 38 years
On the day, weather fears were thankfully unfounded and Judith Packer was able to oversee her 14th and final race as chief umpire with few incidents.
A total of 21 crews received five-second penalties for not arriving in the start area on time and one of those was enough for a crucial pennant to change hand, Isis (Oxford University) beating Goldie (Cambridge) in Band 1 Academic Coxed Fours by three seconds. Oxford’s three clubs won four pennants in all, while Cambridge’s lone victory came in Women’s Band 1 Academic Coxless Fours.
Tideway Scullers also won Women’s Band 1 Coxless Fours, Women’s Band 2 Coxed Fours and three junior women’s categories.
Clark, the TSS head coach said: “We put together crews that we thought would work with the minimum of training. We were in eights last weekend for Basel Head so only got into fours on Tuesday.
“We said that none of the crews were going to look pretty but that it was about what they did in the water.”
Brookes look a similar approach as they aimed to finish as top coxed four, something they achieved by 12 seconds before Goldie were relegated to 10th overall.
“We thought it felt strong. It was a bit scrappy in parts but we got our physiology in the water,” said Brightmore. “As a club we are trying to push the boundaries of what we’re capable of and for those guys pushing for Olympic places next year this is really good.”
Brightmore and Brookes will next look to defend their eights’ Head of the River Race title in March and, he revealed, they have their sights on a debut in the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta in Olympic year.
Among other notable performances, Reading University filled the top two places in each of the Band 1 Academic Quad events, for both men and women, St Paul’s School won their seventh successive Junior Coxed Fours pennant and King’s College School, Wimbledon broke the Junior Coxless Fours record by 53 seconds.
On Sunday a Team Keane/TSS Masters A Quad was the fastest overall crew of the 215 who raced in the Veteran Fours Head, with a time of 17 minutes 57.8 seconds on the flood tide from the Mile Post to Chiswick Staithe. A composite quad from Walton, City of Bristol, Bedford and Upper Thames was the fastest women’s crew, finishing in 19 minutes 56.8 seconds.
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