On March 1st the Exeter Ship canal saw a burst activity, when hundreds of rowers took part in the Exeter Rowing Club winter Head Race. The competitors represented 11 regional clubs, with nearly 150 different crews battling in several different junior and senior categories, male and female, from elegant single sculls to mighty eights.
The racing took place over two divisions, and two different course lengths. Senior and J18 crews rowed the long course from Turf Lock to Lime Kilns, while the younger juniors competed in a shorter course from Topsham Bridge to the same finish line.
Several of the visiting clubs with river access only have been affected by recent flooding and were keen to get back on the water, resulting in an unexpectedly high number of big boat entries. Canford School entered no fewer than 11 junior coxed quads and a number of coxed fours and eights, while the three local universities (Exeter, Bristol, Plymouth) had a chance to see who was the fastest academic crew in the region, after the cancellation of the BUCS Head. Exeter University were clearly on top form by winning in 10 different categories (9 in fours and eights), nearly every one they entered, an impressive display of dominance in the big boats.
The race on Saturday also provided some much needed practice and seat racing opportunity for the clubs intending to top off their winter training by racing on the Tideway in a few weeks’ time.
Apart from being delighted over the dry and sometimes sunny weather that made the whole day very pleasant indeed not just for rowers but for all the marshals, helpers and spectators, the host club are quite pleased with their own results and a few hard fought for wins.
The largest number of entries was from the Junior section. Although most were largely scratch crews (i.e. not rowed together before), this was not evident, they all looked good and produced some quick times, even some new course records.
Exeter Rowing Club results: In the first division there were 3 wins and several other really good performances from the boys J16 coxed four, J15 boys double and WJ16 coxed quad. On the long course the WJ18 4x- crew of Anna Whittingslow (supreme steerer), Megan Higgs, Rachel Boyer and Anna Newton won their first coxless event in 13min:49sec ahead of Dart Totnes and Bideford Reds. The girls WJ14 4x+ crew of Tabi Evans, Evie Drew (both J13s), Molly Batchelor and Bree Spivey, coxed by Kate Whittingslow, won their event in a time of 8:24. Lula Bowyer raced up a year winning her WJ14 single sculls event in a time of 8:50. The second long course division saw two more wins with Rachel and Megan winning again in the WJ18 2x in a time of 15:16, nearly two minutes ahead of their rivals who they managed to overtake before Topsham bridge. In the short course Poppy Bowyer won the WJ16 single sculls event in 7:59. The J16 girls did a great time in their coxed four and gained valuable experience towards their JIRR event.
The Women’s squad had entries in 1x, 2x, Nov4+ and three different eights across the two divisions. Crews in two of the eights are the ones that will be racing on the Tideway on 15 March, so this was a great practice run. And the results are very encouraging, especially for the first crew of Nadine Levin, Kirsty Barker, Ellie May Dodd, Susie Howells, Kerri-Ann Upham, Rebecca Kelly, Nic Walker and Fern Dymond, coxed by Dani Wall. They raced as WSC8 In Division 1 and with time of 13:17 not only did they beat the Bristol Uni crew by 1sec, but improved on previous course record from 2002 by 3sec. Their time would have been a few seconds faster if it wasn’t for being stuck behind another crew in the no-overtake zone at Topsham bridge. Interestingly, Bristol stroke rate was about 32-33 compared to Exeter’s 29-30, and from the bank the difference in the boat run was quite noticeable. In the second Division two WSB eights (still comprising largely novice rowers) posted good times but were beaten by the very fast Exeter Uni crew that beat several men’s eights on the day. Together with their win at IM3 at the recent Bristol Head, it is clear that the women’s squad have a very fast eight at this level, and are looking forward to measuring themselves against the dozens of other British crews at the Women’s Head of the River Race next weekend.
Men: wins for Dan in SA1x
We are grateful to the Exeter University rowing club for allowing us to host the race at their new boat house by the Countess Wear bridge.
The friendly rivalry between Exeter University and Exeter City will be on display again soon with the Varsity race down on the Quay.