Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Head of The River Race 2014: Not Waiving but Drowning

Crew number 53, Griffen Boat Club, goes under.

Tim Koch writes:

The organisers of the Head of the River Race have put out the following announcement:

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 about 20 minutes late, and whilst most of the course enjoyed near perfect conditions, gusting winds made the finish marshalling area very difficult for rowing. After a 15 minutes delay to the start, and a reduced wind, the decision was made to start Divisions 1 and 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, and thank you for your understanding in difficult conditions.

Boating from Hammersmith. It started well, it was ‘shirtsleeves’ weather with a light breeze.

Reading Rowing Club II goes afloat.

Balliol College, Oxford passes the many blades stacked outside Furnivall Sculling Club.

Boating from Putney. As can be seen, the river was a little ‘lumpy’ at high water, but the expectation was that it would calm down when the tide started to fall. The race is timed so the first crews get the fasted water, usually about an hour after the tide starts to go out.

The wind picks up.

Leander I were the first crew to pass the finish line which is just above the ‘UBR’ stone marking the start of the Oxford - Cambridge Boat Race. Their time was 18 minutes, 16 seconds.

Molesey I were the second boat to finish, but were the fastest crew overall with a time of 18 minutes, 5 seconds.

Conditions were worst around Hammersmith, about a mile and a half from the finish. However, crews such as Forward Morges from Switzerland found the going fairly rough along Putney Embankment as well.

The first indication for those of us at the finish that there were problems was when Crew 42, Karlsruhe Wiking from Germany, became an ‘unterseeboot’.

Karlsruhe Wiking are rescued.

Muelhei  Ruhr, also from Germany, managed to get the slipway below Waterman’s Green to empty several litres of the Thames out of their boat.

Suddenly, everyone was joining in. These Old Abingdonians seem stoical about the whole thing.

With the race abandoned, everyone who had started to race headed for the nearest land to bail out.

The top ten crews were:

1) Molesey BC I: 18 05 05
2) Leander I: 18 16 00
3) University of London: 18 36 70
4) Leander II: 18 40 51
5) Nerus (Netherlands): 18 45 11
6) Oxford Brooks I: 18 46 66
7) Leander IV: 18 56 63
8) Leander III: 18 59 03
9) Imperial College II: 18 59 16
10) Imperial College I: 19 00 11

London V puts the river back where it belongs.

While accepting that a potentially dangerous situation developed (though thankfully no one was hurt) it must be admitted that it was good spectator sport, perhaps more interesting than if the race had gone off as intended. I was reminded of a verse from “Albert and the Lion”, an old comic monologue by Marriott Edgar about a northern English family’s trip to the seaside holiday resort of Blackpool:

They didn’t think much to the ocean

The waves, they was fiddlin’ and small
There was no wrecks... nobody drownded

‘Fact, nothing to laugh at, at all.

Photography © Tim Koch

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