Fuller’s Head of the River Fours – Review

Well, as far as I’m concerned the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours was a great day and a great race, but I was nice and warm at race HQ rather than out on the river in the cold!
This year was the first time I’ve been involved in the organisation of a big event like this. What it makes me realise is just how many people it takes to run an event like this, and all of them volunteers. My inbox has been full of correspondence about the race for weeks….it’s going to seem a bit quiet now!
Anyway, on to my review of the racing!

There are no two ways about it, Leander had a bit of a shocker yesterday. They were beset by injuries and illness so very few of the crews that raced were as they had originally been entered (see my previous blog for details). The Elite quad lost Pete Lambert, with Alex Gregory stepping in. But they were literally blown away by the Tideway Scullers “Super Quad” suffering the indignity of being overtaken just after Barnes Bridge (an experience I’m not sure too many of the Leander crew have experienced for a long time!)
Check out this great photo by Gilly Bennet ( @gillyben)
TSS v Leander
But the Tideway Scullers were a truly outstanding crew. In interviews with Martin Cross after the race (see http://www.thebloggingoarsman.com) Valent Sinkovic talks of the immense horsepower that the crew had, Synek spoke of the superb rhythm set by the Croatian and Alan Campbell speaks in detail about the space and time around the finish the crew had…better than the quad with Cop and Drysdale. Anyway, a 24 second victory is pretty comprehensive.
But, for me the performance of the day was from Westminster/Imperial composite racing in the IM1 category. Starting 113th they finished a stunning 3rd.
This crew included 2 juniors from Westminster School, Cam Kerr and Sam Meijer….remember these names I have a feeling we’ll be hearing them a lot in the years to come. As a 2X they were 4th at the Pairs Head. In the 1X Sam Meijer was 4th at the Sculler’s head and he won the U17 division at the 9km Armada Cup in Switzerland by an impressive 3 minutes (finishing 23rd overall) The “oldies” in this crew are pretty talented as well with Henley winners Henry Goodier and Ben Spencer-Jones.

If Leander had a shocker in the Elite Quad then the performance in the Elite 4+ can only be described as a disaster. Yes, they had a crew change with Dan Ritchie replacing Alex Gregory. But, they were still a full crew of world champions and, in the words of Pete Reed “Simply not good enough at the @HOR4s yesterday. We were stomped on by Oxford and kicked a bit by Cambridge too. Well done those crews.” Isis have an outstanding crew who would not look out of place at a World Cup. As with previous years, the top end of the Oxford squad looks outstanding but the performance of the 2nd 4+ from the dark Blues was a little disappointing if I’m honest, they were 32nd overall 45 seconds behind their top boat, and, crucially, 15 seconds behind Cambridge. For a crew containing Olympic medalist Storm Uru and experienced Varsity oarsman Sam O’Connor this is a bit below expectation.

In the Elite 4- Molesey got revenge for the defeat at the British Championships. They came an impressive 5th overall but even though Leander didn’t take the win their top 4- are all part of the GB lightweight squad so to only be 4 seconds behind the Molesey heavyweights is a strong performance. Oxford Brookes were 3rd although UL would have been if it weren’t for a 5 second penalty incurred for “Overtaking marshalling crews while returning after the finish”. I know UL are appealing against this penalty so there may yet be a change.
Leander may have been even closer but, from my vantage point at Chiswick Pier some of the steering from a lot of the crews of the Pink Palace left a lot to be desired. They were all far too close to the Surrey bank in the opinion of those of us watching (and it wasn’t just the 4-)
But, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Leander crews. There were pennants for the Lightweight men’s quad and the W4X. Although it has to be said it would have been quite a shock if they hadn’t won, especially the W4X.

Outside the elite events I’ve already mentioned the excellent performance of the Westminster/Imperial IM1 4X. The Junior’s of Sir William Borlase were clear winners by 30 seconds from Pangbourne. This is a strong performance from Pangbourne, a school not renowned for it’s experience in quads. Elsewhere in the Junior’s St Pauls are showing good early season form, following their strong performance at the Head of the Charles in October they produced a clear 20 second victory ahead of Radley. Although with Eton deciding to spend the weekend training rather than racing the front runners in the junior field this season is still very much open.
The University of East London have added their name to the winners list taking the women’s IM1 4+ their crew are all exchange students from the University of Texas and last year raced in the Texas Longhorn’s Varsity 8.Henley took the win in Junior women’s 4+ although the club incurred the wrath of the marshals when a member of their IM1 4X decide to “answer the call of nature” in full view of some junior women’s crews, earning themselves a 10 second penalty for “unsportsmanlike behaviour”…naughty, naughty.

So I hope everyone enjoyed the racing, certainly there’s been some positive comments on twitter and I had great fun playing my small part in proceedings….roll on next year!

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