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BUCS Head Race 2015 Review

“This isn’t Boston” – Andrew Holm (2015, probably)

The day of the 28th February dawned, over a particularly damp and grey Boston. Apparently the sun shone here once in 1986, but the people of Boston were so scared by this great orb of fire in the sky that they clad all of the surrounding buildings in grey so that such an occurrence would never happen again. Only the UBBC senior squads made the trip north, due to the cancellation of the beginner categories because of adverse weather on the Sunday; which I’m sure is normally classed as mild weather around Boston. Following the 180 mile journey from the South West the previous night the two squads could be found holed up in various parts of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Some southern seniors who had never seen north of Watford seemed uneasy at the distinct lack of artisan coffee shops and abundance of strange coarse accents in this part of the world. However, once we realised that Alex Heslop’s mum in fact buys milk from Waitrose and owns a fridge with an ice dispenser, everyone began to relax and the excellently prepared Spaghetti Bolognese went down a treat. With the prerace carb load successfully consumed, we went to bed knowing that only death or glory would suffice in the next day’s racing extravaganza.

The day’s racing began with the Women’s Championship VIII’s in which Bristol started fourth in a tough field which included Newcastle, Edinburgh and Durham. Ultimately the other crew’s experience came to the fore and the Bristol 1st VIII finished sixth in the category, although arguably the conditions in the second part of the race did resemble more of a scene from The Perfect Storm than anything that could be described as pleasant. The women’s 2nd VIII who competed in the intermediate 8’s fared better finishing 16th in a field of 30 crews. Just as the race finished the rain began to fall more heavily and the surroundings became greyer by a factor of fifty. After some strong Yik-yaks (and some fairly weak ones from Tom Clark), boating began for the afternoon men’s events which included the mysterious championship quad. The quad, consisting of George ‘18th in trials’ Stewart, Ryan ‘he went to worlds you know’ Mitchell, Sam ‘one day contract’ Salt and Callum ‘23rd in trials’ Gathercole, tore up the field in a borrowed Stämpfli and finished fourth overall which was good enough to secure a single BUCS point for UBBC. Buoyed by this result it was now the turn of the intermediate quad, starring Hal ‘reformed father figure’ Mellen, Angus ‘proper northerner’ Bangs, Devon ‘Hey Hun’ Bunyan and Will ‘token Irish’ Black. A solid performance from this crew saw them finish seventh in their category, even though Hal supposedly didn’t take any of the weight of the boat and Devon was banned from making ‘useful’ technical calls.

The next crew to race was the self-appointed ‘1st IV’ stroked by the formidable Tom ‘Fastest Hands in the South West’ Clark, followed by this very author, then Peter ‘strokes from the 2 seat’ Style and finally Alex ‘he’s really 60 years old’ Heslop. Having been moaned at for the last three weeks by cox Emily ‘Hey Hun’ Almond, the four were ready to make a point in the most prestigious of events, the intermediate 4+. Racing through what felt like wind tunnel the 4+ finished in 12 place out of a field of 21, however it is safe to say that we definitely took gold for the coachless 4’s event. That race concluded the first divisions racing and it was then time for a consolation malt loaf break while the UBBC congress assembled to determine a strategy for men’s VIII’s races and women’s IV’s.

The Men’s 1st VIII kicked off proceedings with a solid row which was good enough for a 6th place finish behind some very strong crews from Newcastle, Imperial and Durham. Legend has it that 4 man and American import Andrew Holm had to be restrained mid race by 3 seat Nick Foster because he was getting so into it. “It’s just like the Head of The Charles” Andrew exclaimed when the race was over and he had climbed down from the ceiling of the boathouse. Next up came the 2nd VIII in the intermediate 8’s who finished 22nd overall in a field of 27 crews, four man Peter Style later remarked that the crew would have the category had everyone else rowed like him during the race. Next was the women’s intermediate quad who put in a very strong row and placed 6th out of 12. The final race Bristol was entered into was the women’s championship 4+, again in another incredibly strong field the crew finished in 6th place, and with that the racing was over for the day. There were some solid performances from the Bristol crews, but despite some of the setbacks that we faced it was clear that a lot more work needed to be done before the larger head race events of WEHORR and HORR.

It was then time for us to return to Bristol, there was an audible sigh of relief from many rowers as the convoy of Bristol cars hit the M1 knowing that their brief trip to ‘The North’ was now over and that there wasn’t a Greggs within a 200 metre radius. The one thing we can all conclude from this brief foray north of the M25 is that we would rather carry the ring to Mordor than make the return trip to Boston any time soon.

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