Race Reports

Women’s Eights Head of the River Race 2022

After numerous years of cancellations, a highly anticipated purple and gold return to the tideway came as the final head race focus for the womens’ squads: WEHoRR 2022. Here is a short account of events for the two competing MUBC crews as experienced by competitors Caroline and Lauren.

Senior Women

by Caroline Corrigan

On the weekend the senior women travelled down to London to race Women’s Eights Head of the River Race. We woke up early Saturday morning for a pre-paddle to test out the tideway water, as most of us had never rowed it. Very different from the canal, we realised the importance of keeping our heads in the boat due to the many distractions around. After going back home for some breakfast and rest, we were excited for the race as we prepared to boat.

Making it through the chaotic marshalling area thanks to our cox Chloe, we finally began our build and rowed through Chiswick Bridge. We settled well and kept a good rhythm, making it to Barnes Bridge where we had our strongest segment up to Hammersmith Bridge due to good focus on power through the legs and a strong swing. Passing two crews and the cheers through Hammersmith Bridge, we all felt strong and determined to continue this focus, which we did despite hitting sea-like choppiness. Our concentration with waves crashing into our boat, whilst trying to focus on power and maintaining a stable platform was difficult. Finally we got through to the line of boats where we emptied the tank and pushed through the finish.

After a long paddle back to Barnes, the senior women felt elated having completed their longest race yet with some of our best rowing this season. We feel very excited for what’s to come in the rest of the season, as this race was a testament to our positive attitude and increased commitment over the past few weeks.

Novice Women

by Lauren McGhie

For most of the novice women who made up Manchester’s crew for the Beginner Academic boat, the three kilometre course of BUCS Head was the longest race we had ever completed, and so the prospect of a 6.8 km row was daunting to say the least. A test of stamina and determination as much as skill, the Women’s Eights Head of the River had been the race we had all been talking about since the schedule for head season was released months ago.

A pre-race paddle on the Friday evening settled some of the initial nerves that were floating around on the Tideway and, as Saturday morning rolled around with blue skies and temperatures that weren’t sub-zero (a welcome surprise for Manchester crews as of late), an air of excitement was brewing.

Being assigned number 294 of 301, we were among the first to boat and last to race, meaning we faced a two hour row up to the start line before they could take on the challenge of the Tideway. Anxiously waiting on the south bank watching some of the best teams from across the country row past, including a crew of silver medal winning olympians, the gravity of the day truly hit home. Fuelled by fruit pastilles and nervous adrenaline, it was finally our turn and the girls set off under Chiswick Bridge, overtaking our first crew in under two minutes and establishing a solid gap between the remaining boats before settling in for the long haul.

In spite of the exhaustive length of the course, the girls managed to maintain their technique extremely effectively, making the most of every stroke in conditions drastically different from the Bridgewater Canal. Our cox, Hope Groizard, had worked tirelessly before the race researching wind speeds, tide directions, water depth and numerous other factors in order to generate the most efficient racing line for the girls, with much success. As we came up to Hammersmith Bridge, cheered on by the shouts of friends, family and the returning crews of the senior women and our Manchester neighbours, Agecroft and Trafford, the girls took yet another crew, providing a welcome boost for the remaining three kilometres or so.

One factor Hope could not control, unfortunately, was the blasting head wind which faced the boat past Hammersmith. Following a virtually seamless row thus far, the girls were somewhat stunted by the ferocity of the wind and the huge waves which were so high they spilled over into the boat. In spite of our fatigue, we powered through, turning the corner onto the final stretch where calmer waters allowed them to bring up the rate and power once again to well and truly empty their tanks on the long-awaited path to Putney Bridge and the finish line.

Having left everything we had (including a bit of vomit) on the Thames, a combination of pride and utter disbelief at what we had just achieved spurred us to push through the pain of the long paddle back to the boathouse, a journey made marginally more enjoyable by the blasting of ABBA and One Direction through the cox-box speaker.

  • MUBC A (Senior Women): 33rd in Challenge Academic (174th overall)
  • MUBC B (Novice Women): 11th in Beginner Academic (197th overall)

With the primary focus of women’s head season over, both squads have certainly proved themselves as competent and resilient rowers, overcoming the mental obstacles and physical demands associated with a race of such extensive length. The confidence gained can only serves as a strong platform for the upcoming regatta season. With training camp approaching, the girls will look to further fine tune their technique focuses and power generation to maximise their sprinting boat speed.

Big thank you to coaches Danny Crofton and Matthew Layton for supportting both squads over the last few months.