Looking at the weather forecast on Friday night I was none too hopeful that the 61st Fuller’s Head of the River Fours was going to happen. The Met Office were predicting a storm to pass through West London at lunchtime bringing winds gusting up to 40mph. Even on my ride into London on Saturday morning I was thinking that a cancellation would be highly likely.
I spent the day at Race HQ at Chiswick Pier House (in my capacity as Press Officer and general entries assistant). There were some worried looks skyward during the morning, but the old Tideway hands were cautioning patience until the tide had turned. So, we waited….drank coffee, ate croissants and processed the subs and scratchings that came through.
At 11:15 the Chairman (Sarah Winckless) and Safety Officer (Jerry Mitchell) did a course inspection and word came back that we were on!
I then made my way down to Chiswick Pier to watch the first 150 or so crews race in conditions that didn’t look fun, but certainly were much, much better than mid-morning.
Leander I came through clear of Tideway Scullers. Leander had made one change to the crew that had originally entered with Charlie Cousins being replaced by Nick Middleton. This was three of the crew that took the headship and they certainly looked good to retain the title.
Tideway Scullers had also made one change to the original crew, with Nathan O’Reilly being replaced by Junior World Champion Chris Lawrie. They ended up pushing Leander far harder than I expected finishing just 2 seconds behind.
But, the big surprise when the results came out were that Leander 1 had won elite 4X but they weren’t overall winners. That accolade went to their lightweight clubmates. Starting 12th the crew of Richard Chambers, Jonno Clegg, Will Fletcher and Jamie Kirkwood finished 10 seconds ahead of their heavyweight crew. A superb achievement in tough conditions.
If the win by the lightweights was a surprise the performance of the winning Elite 4- was even more so. The composite crew of Molesey, University of London and Oxford Brookes University (starting 20th) blitzed the field and finished 2nd overall. The crew of Scott Durant, Paul Bennett, George Nash and Moe Sbihi finished just over 4 seconds behind the Leander Lightweights in a time of 18:28.3.
It’s only the 2nd time a 4- has finished in the top 2 of the Head of the River Fours (the previous being Leander in 1993)! It was a great result for the guys, especially as Moe was very wary of racing at all yesterday, he tweeted “Genuinely worried about racing @HOR4s this afternoon”. As it was they finished 19 seconds ahead of the next 4- from Leander with fellow internationals Will Satch, Alex Gregory, Alan Sinclair and Tom Ransley.
Leander continued to dominate the quad events withe their IM1 quad of Matt & George Rossiter, Harry Glenister and Barnaby Stentiford finishing an excellent 5th overall (starting 81st).
In the Elite 4+ it was a case of deja Vu for Leander club as they lost out to an Oxbridge crew. The Leander crew of Matt Langridge, Stan Louloudis, Pete Reed, Stewart Innes and Phelan Hill were beaten by a very slick Goldie crew (who, if you read my race preview I had picked for the win 😉 ) The deja vu for Leander was that in 2104 Reed’s crew were beaten by a very strong Isis boat (including Louloudis). it must have been particularly galling for Reed and Louloudis (both former Oxford Blues) to lose to the hated “tabs”. But, as Reed remarked (when I rubbed salt into the wound by reminding him of his 2014 defeat) the Cambridge students “I’m pretty sure non of those lads prioritised weights, ergo pieces and pairs rowing in recent weeks”.
Goldie (Luke Juckett, Henry Hoffstot, Ben Ruble, Lance Tredell & Ian Middleton) also had the immense satisfaction of overtaking the no.1 Isis coxed four as they passed Chiswick pier.
Overall it was a good day for the Light Blues who also won the IM1 4- pennant. But looking at the performances of the whole squads, Goldie (Cambridge) finished 10th, 34th and 66th in 4+ with Isis (Oxford) finishing 17th, 25th, 33rd & 59th. In the Coxless boats Goldie finished 21st with Isis’s best finishing 51st. So as a whole it’s looking pretty close between the men’s Boat Race squads at this stage of the season, with Cambridge getting the boost of two pennants.
For the Women’s Boat Race squads the respective clubs didn’t race in the same events, but the Light Blues had 3 boats in Elite 4- finishing 187th, 215th, 232nd with 2 Elite 4+ finishing 254th and 302nd. For the Dark Blues there were just 3 boast with an IM1 4x in 102nd and 2 IM1 4+ finishing 225th and 241st. so not terribly conclusive but I’d probably give the marginal advantage to the Dark Blues.
Elsewhere in the women’s events there were no real surprises. Leander dominated the 4X with 3 of the crew that also won in 2014 (Polly Swann, Vicky Thornley and Vikki Meyer-Laker with Emily Carmichael replacing Jess Leyden) although they were pushed by the crew from Imperial College. The women of the Pink Palace also took the pennant in the elite coxless almost a minute ahead of Cambridge and the IM1 4X.
In the junior events it was a good day for St Paul’s with a win in Junior 4+ finishing an excellent 39th.
Their IM2 4+ were the 2nd fastest school crew finishing in 60th. The next fastest school crew were Abingdon’s IM1 4+ which finished 9 places further back.
In the boy’s quads defending champions Sir William Borlase’s had a “difficult” day. Their IM1 4X caught a huge crab right by Chiswick Pier and then had the following two crews (Ardingly and Royal Chester) run into them as they slewed across the river. The Borlase boys nearly capsized and the Ardingly bowman get a blade across the head for his troubles
In the end it was Northwich who took an excellent win in the Jun 4X 6 seconds ahead of Windsor Boys School with Claires Court in 3rd. In the girls events Henley successfully defended their Jun W4X title with their club-mates adding the Jun 4+ pennant into the bargain.
It was fun watching from Chiswick Pier and it was amazing to see the number of crews who fell foul of the Red Buoy. I counted 8 or 9 crews who gave it a good old clatter (including some for whom the Tideway is home water….yes Thames….I’m looking at you ;).
So all in all a good day’s racing. I hope that those of you who took to the water enjoyed the racing and for those lucky enough to take a win….I’ll see you in the bar at Fuller’s Brewery for the prize giving!