Women's Head of River Race 2015
Last weekend, the Senior Women’s squad took part in the 75th annual Women’s Head of the race, along with 299 other crews and raced 4.5 miles down the Thames, from Mortlake to Putney.
Vicky McDougall showed off her towing prowess by towing 4 eights from Sheffield to London on the Friday afternoon without incident, even managing to get the trailer parked on Putney embankment by mid-afternoon, so half of the crew enjoyed a lovely afternoon in London; Ciara O’Hagan (6) buffed up on her CULTURE at the British Museum, before getting lost in a designer fashion shopping centre, much to her distress. Liz (5), Claire (4), Vicky (cox) and Cat McD (2) meanwhile managed to find the only place in London where you can walk for 15 minutes and not hit a Starbucks. Eventually, however, they found success in a coffee shop in Battersea.
However, things were not going well for the rest of the crew. Setting off at 3.15pm, they encountered a SEVERE traffic jam on the M1, and did not arrive in London until nearly 9pm, but the crew managed to get together for a pre-race fuelling session of pizza and pasta. Apart from Karen (sub) who had gone to stay with her parents, and Cat T (3) who drove halfway down to London to stay with her parents, and probably went to bed at 5pm because she was in for a 3am get up!
Race day dawned (literally. The race started at 9, so all crew members were up by 6am). All appeared well, Vicky, Cat McD, Liz, Ciara, Cat T and Claire all arrived at the boat by 7am. Fleur (bow), Jo R (7) and Eli (stroke) arrived somewhat behind having parked a good half hour away. However, disaster struck, super smasher Jo had a migraine and was unable to race, so there was some frantic calling and hero of the day Karen jumped in the boat in her place (after some powerful pedalling from Liz who probably cycled the length of the course about 4 times to pick up kit from the van!).
Getting on the water and to the start was relatively uneventful, apart from the crew changes of Karen (2) and Cat McD (moving to 7, and complaining BITTERLY that her hands had not been prepared for changing sides and thus is having extreme difficulty writing this article – you’re welcome). The crew got up to the start, turned, and raced down, literally no waiting at the start as they were boating with the ELITES in division one which meant they got to see crews 1 and 2 go off looking pretty incredible (they eventually came 2nd and 3rd respectively).
The crew battled hard, with Vicky McDougall taking an excellent racing line between two overtaking crews, and skilfully taking about 2 inches clearance from blade clashes on either side. However, rounding the top of St Paul’s bend, nearly halfway through the race, the crew faced a howling NNE gale, having to wrestle their way through a ferocious headwind on to Hammersmith Bridge. After the bridge, things got VERY exciting, crew 51 (the eventual winners, 20 seconds faster than ANY OTHER CREW) came steaming down the course, and the crew got the opportunity to see a flash of Katherine Granger, Helen Glover, Heather Stanning and the rest of these GIANTS fly by on their way to victory. Nonetheless, Sheffield powered onwards to the finish, putting in a strong finish cheered on by Mr & Mrs Carey, Jamie Parker and Jo Richardson.
The crew were helped off the water by their fantastic support team and after de-rigging did what they do best, enjoying the very best of refrigerator cake, lemon drizzle and maltloaf before heading home towed by the skilful Liz, who coaxed a struggling van, wheezing between 40 and 60mph all the way back to Sheffield!