They don’t party like this in Durham – Cam Kennedy (2015)
The day of the 5th December dawned over a characteristically cold, damp and grey Saltford. With Storm Desmond battering the rest of the UK, confirmation was received that UBBC Head would be the only race occurring over the first weekend of December. Arriving at Saltford, many rowers had only taken a few steps from their cars before club captain and full time David Brent impersonator, Tom Clark, began issuing orders. However, buoyed (get it?) by the anticipation of watching some stellar senior and beginner racing, the Head Race went ahead.
Division one which follows a bendy 3.2km kilometre course consisted of a cornucopia of championship and intermediate boats from 8’s to 1x’s, from universities as far ‘north’ as Birmingham. The Senior Men’s Championship 8 (Cox: Johanna ‘Please add me to the Whatsapp’ Dodgson, stroked by Alex ‘Lanky Sculler’ Heslop, Tom ‘Pinochet’ Clark, Keir Salter, Harry ‘Portia’ Stroud, Matt ‘GB Stop’ Jenner, Alex ‘Tinder Date?’ Lamb, Jack ‘Squazzimodo-Tortelini-Berlusconi’ Squizzoni and Harry ‘Here take this dog’ Rosen). Aiming to prove to the University of Bath that there was indeed only one club on the Avon, the race followed a tumultuous series of events. However, despite these setbacks the 8 finished fifth, with Bath eventually taking home the championship pennant. It was a better day for the Bristol Women’s championship 8 who comfortably won their race after expertly navigating a particularly choppy course as well as several piece of driftwood. It was then the turn of the senior men’s intermediate 8, who raced solidly to finish 10th in their category.
Following the 8’s events it was now time for the small boats with the senior men putting out both a 4+ and a 4-. The 4+ consisting of cox Emily ‘Muriel’ Almond, Jonny ‘Where are your cornflakes?’ Gorner, Adam ‘Shladam’ Stapleton, Rory ‘Bunker Shark’ Cooper and George ‘King Julian’ Barnaby, dominated their category finishing in first place (we will ignore the fact that no other crews were entered into this category). The 4- comprising of the vertically challenged lightweights stroked by Gareth ‘But if you look at the power to weight ratios…’ Davies, Ben ‘Obvious Nickname’ Slingsby, Tom ‘Dodgy Movember effort’ Sykes and John ‘I’m not playing chicken with you’ Allden. Again despite being the only crew that was entered into the category, the lightweights were not deterred from putting in a strong performance, finishing their category in first place. Following the men’s events it was time for the women’s small boat events, the two 4+’s entered by Bristol finished 4th and 5th out of the nine crews present in the intermediate event showing the strength in depth of the women’s squad at this early stage of the season. The women’s lightweight 4x also put in a strong performance finishing in 3rd place behind the University of Reading. Finally, the lightweight women’s 2x and the lightweight men’s 1x each battled the elements as the Bath straight segment of the river began to resemble the Tideway to each put in strong performances. With the division one racing now over, it was now time for the carnage of the beginner racing.
Like many years before it, Division two’s racing did not disappoint with a satisfactory number of crabs, broken bones and capsizes being recorded down this short 1.2km stretch of river. However, the most notable event that occurred was the now famous tactical move by Southampton’s novice men to gain extra boat speed by removing the entire bow section of their 8. The University of Leicester, entering UBBC Head for the first time in their history decided to check the temperature of the Avon just before the finish line by undertaking an impromptu capsize test. For the Bristol beginner crews in their first test of racing, it was a baptism of fire with the Novice men’s first 8 finishing sixth in a field of eighteen. (Despite this impressive result the absolute corker of a double crab, attracted attention from as far afield as the Kiwi Pair: https://twitter.com/UoBBoatClub/status/673161907155673088). The novice men’s 2nd 8 also put in a spirited performance finishing 14th overall in their category. The novice women’s first 8 battled hard to weave in out of the unfolding carnage occurring along the course to finish respectable 4th in a category of seventeen; while the novice women’s second 8 finished just behind in 8th place. After the carnage of division 2 now finished it was time for a quick clean-up of Saltford before getting suited and booted in anticipation for the annual Head Race Ball, where sorrows would be drowned and filthy shapes would be thrown.