Tim Koch reports from London,
The 58th Fours Head took place on the 4 1/4 mile Mortlake to Putney course on the Thames yesterday, Saturday, 10 November. With a maximum entry of 520 boats (quad sculls and coxed and coxless fours) it is the largest such race in the UK and the event is always oversubscribed. The race website explains:
Although there are many more crews who would like to race each year, unfortunately considerations of tide and stream; length of river closure; November weather; space restrictions at the host clubs; and the simple logistics of marshalling over 500 crews on the water at once mean further expansion is not possible...
In 2007 an attempt to limit entries was made by the introduction of a British Rowing point minimum and events for the two lowest statuses are no longer offered.
It is thirty six years since events for women were introduced and today they make up 40% of the 3,500 rowers and scullers.
In their pre-race press notes, the event organisers stress the high standard of the top crews:
Though many of the athletes who kept us glued to the TV with their performances at the 2012 Olympics are taking a well-deserved rest, there are a number of now familiar faces on show: Bronze Olympic Medallist Alan Campbell, starts in the number 2 crew for Tideway Scullers, while Silver Medallist Peter Chambers is rowing in the lightweight quads for Oxford Brookes University. Moe Sbihi, who won a bronze medal in the GB men’s eight, is rowing for his home club Molesey Boat Club and a number of the GB women’s eight and quad are also taking part..... With an eye on Rio 2016, a large number of the 2012 Under 23 squad will be competing, along with just under half of the 2012 GB Junior squad and many of the UK’s top club, school and university rowers – all of whom will be hoping to win one of the 21 pennants on offer....
This year there was a larger than normal entry from the Oxford and Cambridge squads. As the Fours Head comes about five months before the University Boat Races it is a unique opportunity to test rowers in race conditions on the Tideway course. The Light Blues entered five men’s and five women’s crews and the Dark Blues put out five men’s and two women’s boats.
A pre-race press release from the Boat Race Team said:
For Oxford, Alex Woods, Will Zeng, Karl Hudspith and President Alex Davidson all return from the 2012 Blue Boat and are joined by 2011 Blue Constantine Louloudis, fresh from Olympic success in the GB Men’s Eight. Returning for Light Blues from the 2012 Race are Alexander Scharp, Steve Dudek, Niles Garratt, Mike Thorp, Alex Ross, Jack Lindeman and cox Ed Bosson. They have been rejoined by Olympic Bronze medallist and 2010 and 2011 Blue, President George Nash. Both the OUWBC and CUWBC crews feature returning Blues from The 2012 Newton Women’s Boat Race. For Oxford, their two are Mary Foord-Weston and Annika Malin Bruger. Returning to race in the CUWBC fours are three 2012 Blues: Fay Sandford, Holly Game and Caroline Reid.
The results by time order are here and results by event are here. The top eleven are listed below. I have chosen this odd number to include the two top coxed fours (Isis, i.e. Oxford, II and Cambridge I, five seconds apart) who did remarkably well to get this slow class of boat amongst the fastest class, the quads.
1 LEANDER I Elite 4x- 17:51.0 D. Richie, C. Cousins, P. Lambert, J. Collins
2 TIDEWAY SCULLERS I Elite 4x- 17:53.5 A. Aleksandrov, A. Campbell, L. Moon, T. Male
3 LEANDER II Elite 4x- 18:06.1 N. Middleton, A. Sinclair, J. Walton, D. Read
4 LEANDER III Elite Lwt 4x- 18:12.6 J. Clegg, J. Kirkwood, C. Boddy, M. Mottram
5 LEANDER IX IM1 4x- 18:16.2 J. Beaumont, T. Clark, T. Wilkinson, M. Gotrel
6 LONDON RC I Elite Lwt 4x- 18:18.5 R. Dunley, S. Heap, M. Aldred, M. Espin
7 ISIS II E4+ 18:26 A. Davidson, S. O Connor, C. Louloudis, M. Howard, K. Apfelbaum
8 RHWYFO CYMRU I Elite 4x- 18:29.4 J. Thomas, J. Bugajski, T. Barras, R. Massey
9 IMPERIAL COLL I Elite Lwt 4x- 18:30.3 W. Kimberley, T. Richards, J. Butler, M. Holborough
10 LEANDER V Elite Lwt 4x- 18:31.2 O. Morgan, B.Board, X Vela Maggi, M. Tymofijiw
11 CAMBRIDGE UNIV I Elite 4+ 18:31.2 A. Scharp, S. Dudek, G. Nash, N. Garrat, H. Fieldman
The fastest women's crew, Leander VII W Elite 4x, came in at 59 overall with a time of 19.25.3.
Fuller, Smith and Turner (whose 350 year old brewery is on the riverside half way along the course) have sponsored the Head Fours since 1979. They host the prize giving ceremony in December and, with their generous hospitality, an invitation to a party in a brewery is much sought after by thirsty rowers and officials alike.
The Veterans (Masters) Head of the River Fours is held today, Sunday, 11 November.