Races on the Tideway 2014

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Saturday, 10 May 2014 16:01 Written by Administrator

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There were nearly 400 eights, and over 3000 athletes, on the water ready to row from Chiswick to Putney in the annual Head of the River Race when the event was abandoned due to bad water conditions at the finish. Some crews, including two from Nottingham Rowing Club, had already completed the 5.8 km course and had been observed getting into significant difficulties near the finish. John Duff, the Chief Umpire of the race, later issued the following message:

"The Head of the River Race was abandoned this afternoon at 2,55pm after about 75 crews had passed the finish line.

The organisers faced the difficult decision as to whether water conditions were sufficiently safe to start the race. The tide turned 20 minutes late and whilst most of the course enjoyed near perfect conditions, gusting winds made the finishing marshalling area very difficult for rowing.

After a 15 minute delay to the start and a reduced wind the decision was taken to start divisions 1& 2.However it soon became clear that as crews in these divisions were struggling to cope beyond the finish line,the decision was taken to abandon the race.A number of times had been taken before the abandonment and these are now published for information only purposes.As the race was not completed,the times have no official bearing.

We are very disappointed that we were unable to provide rowers with the race they wanted.Thank you for your understanding in difficult conditions."

Commented Keith Atkinson, President of Nottingham Rowing Club:

 "After a winter disrupted by wind, rain and flood, to have the race abandoned with crews already on the Thames ready to row was awful - but I'm sure the organisers acted in the best interests of the athletes. Coaches will now focus on putting together crews for the regatta season and are planning training camps for selection trials."

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On the following day, the Vesta Veterans' Head was held on the Tideway, with an entry of over 200 Masters eights ranging in years from 27 to 80-ish. Due to the timing of the tides, the race was held on the flood tide over a shortened course from Hammersmith Bridge to Chiswick Bridge, (which is the opposite direction to normal). Nottingham Rowing Club had two men's and two women's crews entered.

After a chaotic scene at the start the race started late on an imperceptible tide in good conditions. Early results showed that the Nottingham Rowing Club Women's eights had gone faster than the men! Later that day, the event's chairman Chris Harrison issued a statement:

"This year's overall Vets' Head results were severely impacted by the effects of the tide. We realised several weeks before the event that the scheduled start time was too early and that the low tide was going to be later than we originally calculated. After discussions with the Port of London Authority over the river closure they insisted that the 'Notice to Mariners' could not be changed. We shifted the start to be as late as possible as the window allowed.

Additionally, after the cancellation of yesterday's Head of River Race, we could not risk the safety of our competitors and officials by holding marshalling crews any longer before we actually started the race. The end result is that the later you started the more assistance you got from the very strong flood tide. All the categories raced together so the category positions are meaningful. The overall positions are not as trustworthy as we would have liked.

We appreciate that these results do not look great, but in the interest of openness and transparency we present them as recorded by our timing team.'

Nottingham Rowing Club results showed their joint C entry for Women average age of 43, came 24th and 3rd in their class; the B, average age 36 crew, came 65th and again were 3rd in their class; the men's joint F entry, average age 60 were 87th and the D crew, average age 50, came 95th. Interestingly, the event was won overall by Monmouth RC's Masters C crew (average age  greater that 43), who somehow managed to engineer themselves a starting position at the back of the whole race, despite their official start number being in the top 30.

Helen Bloor, Womens' Coach, said: "It was a lovely day to sit on the Thames for 90 Minutes!! We actually had OK rows considering we had sat for soooo long!

The Women's NRC/Tideway Scullers/Peterborough Masters C crew were 3rd in category. They were Bernie McCabe, Helen Bloor, Cassie White, Jo Canton, Pauline Peel, Sarah Royles, Hayley Marsters, Lou Townrow and Jo Dodgson as cox.

The Women's NRC Masters B crew were again 3rd in in their category. They were Ruth Hyde, Heather Wesson, Jill Titterton, Elly Welham, Suzy Wynne, Caitlin Olney, Gill Shuttleworth, Meryl Harrison and cox Nat Eggington.

This finishes off a good winter and we are off on a training camp to prepare crews for summer racing."

Tony Lorrimer, chairman of the Nottingham Regatta Committee, said: 'Sunday was luckily a beautiful day for organised chaos. I would have been ashamed if the Head of the Trent had been that bad. The start was delayed for a further 10 minutes to make sure the tide had changed; if the weather had been like Saturday it would have been a disaster.'

Paul Williamson, another member of Nottingham Regatta Committee said 'It was a bad a weekend - a nice day out but meaningless.'

Clearly the organisers of both Tideway events need to work hard to restore confidence in the fairness of their races, which had been regarded as highlights of winter training.