In 2013 the Head of the River Race was cancelled because of intense cold and poor weather. Last year the race started but was halted when crews started sinking as they approached the finish at Putney. This year prospects ain’t looking much better but there are over 3,000 sets of competitors’ fingers crossed that it will be third time lucky for the traditional end-of-winter race.


If the HoRR committee can’t stage a complete event then Row Hub has one suggestion for an alternative: book the swimming pool at Putney Leisure Centre and have a go at this. 

If the race goes ahead, Leander will take some beating as only one of their number (three-man Alan Sinclair, who only managed a silver in Amsterdam last summer) has not won at least a world title; six rowers plus cox Phelan Hill have Olympic medals too. As Rowing Related points out, Leander II is packed with world-medallist scullers while their third boat is the Ladies Plate group, so they might all make it into the top five.

Molesey were fastest of those who finished last year so they go off first, with a few Olympic medallists of their own on board, but theirs isn’t the dominant crew of 2014, as the recent fixture against Oxford’s Boat Race crew showed. So substantial was the margin in the first piece that the men in black were given a head start for the following two.

If only Molesey could have had a friendly sailor to call on. The Dutch eight were just being hauled in by Cambridge after a good start in their fixture when this chap intervened.



Vets right on time

One annual event will be cancelled this year: The traditional “Watching the Vets Head while heavily hungover” as the weekend’s two races switched around because of the restrictions on tide and time. (Explained in detail on the HoRR website). Two hundred and two Masters crews race from Putney to Mortlake on Saturday.


Organisers have been at pains to point out how the start time is worked out after anger last year when the strength of the flood increased as the race went on, leaving some older competitors to finish higher in the standings than their younger rivals.

This year the clocks go forward after the race.


Blues and Blondies

You may not have noticed that the Boat Race weigh-in took place this week. Despite the historic nature of the event – ahead of the first ever combined men’s and women’s races – media coverage was pretty sparse, especially when it came to crew news. At least Dan “Fatsculler” Spring has come up with a seat-by-seat comparison of the eights.


After a bit of a backlash from the horsey set, Clare Balding has explained why the decision to work on the Women’s Boat Race rather than the Grand National is so important to her.

The Grand National doesn’t need my help, women’s sport does,” she said. “I believe that sometimes you’ve got to do something unexpected to make your point. My point being women’s sport matters.”


Balding’s other half, Alice Arnold, also did her bit in the Telegraph, bigging up the role of Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management, in forcing a move to equal funding and status for the men’s and women’s races and breaking a Catch-22.

She wrote: “In order to increase participation and performance, sports need sponsorship. But sponsors are reluctant to pay out when there is no media coverage and the media rarely cover events that are not sponsored.

“Helena Morrissey broke the circle. She put her money where her mouth is and made this happen.

“The first women’s boat race on the tideway is a small victory in a huge battle. But it is a massively important one for women’s sport.”

Of course, the women’s reserve race will also take place on the Tideway this year, a day before the main event on Friday afternoon. The crews have yet to be revealed but Cambridge reserves Blondie haven’t been backward in coming forward.


As ever, the BBC are ready for a good couple of hours of pre-race features. Here are some behind-the-scenes pictures from filming of interviews by Matthew Pinsent at Auriol Kensington RC this week.



The Cambridge University women’s crew finished fifth overall at the Women’s Eights Head a fortnight ago but the headline act was the Great Britain composite crew, helping Katherine Grainger to a record eighth WEHoRR victory

Grainger, who won her first WeHoRR title in 1998, said: “I first came here as a novice in the mid-1990s and was totally inspired by all these women racing. It was exciting then, and I’m just as excited today, I couldn’t wait to get out there. I’ve always loved it, it’s my favourite domestic event.

Headington School retained School/Junior pennant event for the fourth straight year, Imperial College retained the Senior pennant, Nottingham RC were Provincial Club champions for the ninth successive year and Henley RC C – a junior crew – won the Novice Club prize.


Westminster stop the clocks

Westminster School – who run the Schools Head each year - had time to celebrate an outstanding overall victory and a win in J16 Championship VIIIs, then they looked at the times again. A discrepancy was spotted between the front-line stopwatches and the backup system so organisers went back to their video of the start and finish, and thousands of competitors waited for the final results to emerge. 


Victory for the boys in pink was particularly fitting so close after the death of Westminster old boy Dan Topolski and a return to dominance in eights would be a fitting way for coach Bill Mason to end his career, if anyone actually believed his claim that he is retiring at the end of the season.

Sir William Borlaise and Marlow RC won in boys’ and girls’ quads respectively on the Tideway then did the double at Dorney the following day with victory in the Junior Sculling Head – The Scullery.

Two days after their success in the Women’s Head, Headington’s schoolgirls won Champ VIIIs at the Schools Head and four of their number finished equal second in the quad at Dorney. However Lady Eleanor Holles School pipped them to the Victor Ludorum trophy.


Devil’s where?

A little further down the WEHoRR field were Devil’s Elbow RC, finishing 281st of the 295 crews who completed the course. A report on the club website says: “All seemed lost after Vicki lost the collar from her blade shortly after the start. She was able to row on despite this setback and our women were able to complete the course.

The Tideway isn’t quite as picturesque as DERC’s home water, where the Trent and the Soar meet in South Nottinghamshire. Here’s some video to prove it. 


How to find the club’s boathouse? Just check their website.

“Drive or cycle to Trent Lane, Long Eaton. Follow the road along the railway line. The road leads up to a cattle grid and mud track in front of a farm, continue over the cattle grid, ignoring the Private no entry signs. Follow the track to the left of the farm buildings. The track will continue over the flood levee, onto the new stretch of concrete road and then through the farm gate (please remember to shut it behind you). Over the hump backed bridge the concrete track continues on the island. Follow the track under the railway bridges and the sailing club car park is in front of you. “



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