Rowing gently down the stream

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On 2 November the men and women of the Boat Club traveled up to Aberdeen for the three kilometre Aberdeen Fours and Small Boats Head. The weather was cold and the water was packed with IVs from university and junior crews.

The senior women’s first boat started off strong from the beginning and had good power when they came up on the first bridge of the course, about one quarter of the way down. They lost a bit of momentum at the halfway point but made a solid shift to regroup and powered on, passing about five other crews. Coxswain Shelby Yvon steered them down the Dee strategically and was a powerful motivator throughout, contributing to their second place outcome. The senior women’s second boat, coxed by Laura Quazzo, placed ninth and established themselves from the getgo leaving other boats in their wake.

Quazzo said: “Despite being the first time our boat rowed together the power and set were great. We overtook a boat and our moves were strong and fast.” The women displayed great tenacity and skill when they maneuvered the course in a nice line compared to other crews that had troubles and collided with the bank.

The senior men’s first IV, coxed by Devon Brameier, had “an incredible race”. The men passed a boat right at the start, passed another at the halfway mark, and caught the stern of a third boat at the finish. They placed second in their event out of 12 competitors and had the third fastest time overall for the day. Their rating consistently stayed high, at 33 strokes per minute, and they brought it up to a 36 at the final sprint. Brameier said: “The guys were super powerful and we’re really excited to race again this coming weekend and finally take home a first place win.”

The men’s second IV, coxed by Claire Herrin, was quick off the mark, pushing away from an ARSA boat behind them and overtaking a Herriot Watt boat 600 metres into the race. As they passed under the 500m mark bridge there was much cheering for the UStABC men from the other teams. Despite the challenges that the bow-rigged boat and new line-up posed, the rhythm was established early on in the race; however, they started to lose momentum around 750 metres to go and the ASRA boat started to creep up. They managed to push through and hold them off. Herrin called for a sprint with around 400m to go and they finished strong and together as a crew.

The club was also at the Inverness Fours Head Race on 16 November on the Caledonian Canal, where the rowers of UStABC competed on the 4350m course.

The senior men’s first IV experienced a hard-fought race against zealous opponents. Having been chased throughout the entire length of the course, the men were passed by Edinburgh around the 2500m mark but held off all other crews from passing. The entirety of the race was very powerful and smooth, and according to captain Rowan Wood: “We were really happy with holding our own in the open category”.

Some problems with the steering on the men’s second IV became apparent as they rowed up to the start, where it became quite difficult for them to remain in the correct position because of windy weather. Disregarding superfluous difficulties, the men had a strong start and maintained a high rating throughout the entirety of the race. UStABC held off a Glasgow boat that trailed them for about 2500m before GUBC made a move and walked up. Coxswain Claire Herrin did a good job steering in spite of not having fully functioning steering on the course, and called for a sprint close towards the finish where the last ten strokes were fast and powerful.

The women’s second IV performed well in the composite crew line-up and entered in the challenging R1 category. Bow-sider Tracy Lee said: “The strong head wind, unique docking, and ducking under a bridge made everything a lot more interesting. It was overwhelming because we entered in an R1 category, with what seemed like hundreds of boats all gearing towards a similar goal.”

Coxswain Shelby Yvon, true to form, did a good job getting her crew in the exact position at the start line. The women’s race was crowded as many contestants dotted the course at once; the UStABC bow ball gained on other crews multiple times but Lee said “it was disheartening as we were overtaken by Glasgow’s first IV within 400m of the race, but we caught up with Edinburgh,” which gave UStABC strong motivation near the finish.

Rebecca Jackson, a rower, said: “Shelby called a power ten toward the finish and that was probably the most powerful push in the whole race.” A valiant effort was displayed by all of the St Andrews crews and the women concluded the race with a third place finish.

The season of racing for the University of St Andrews Boat Club came to an end on Saturday 7 December at the concluding race of St Andrews’ season between the boat clubs of St Andrews and Dundee. The inaugural race was a 5.8km course that spanned from Perth Sailing Club to Inchyra. St Andrews performed exceptionally well and is already looking forward to the race becoming an annual fixture in St Andrews’ competitive calendar. The main purpose of the race was for the novice crews to get race experience within the first semester. It was clear from the results that the novice men and women worked very hard throughout the semester, as they swept up victories in all of their categories.

The novice men’s IV, led by coxswain Alex Stainthorpe, had a bit of a shaky start but pushed past this and settled into a rhythm in the middle of the race. This saw the crew to a wonderful finish in front of the home crowd at Perth Sailing Club. Stainthorpe said the boys were coordinated on the water and that “a big well done is in order for the brilliant rowing which the boys displayed.”

The other IV was led by senior coxswain Devon Brameier; the men fought against the current and still had an excellent race on the long course. Brameier said: “The men laid down a lot of power and were very responsive to calls.” Andrew Finch, the men’s vice-captain and organiser of the event, said: “On a personal level I am so proud of all novice rowers involved, I couldn’t fault their effort, demeanour and representation of our club in any way.”

The novice women’s first VIII had a brilliant start as they left Perth in their wake. After flying around the bend in the course, they overtook one of the Dundee IVs. Coxswain Stainthorpe said: “The girls gave it their all in the middle half of the race allowing cumbersome Slates to glide majestically over the water to the final corner. We crossed the finish line with blisters and smiles and were able to breath again!”

The novice crews, having only been rowing and training for just one semester, accomplished their lofty goal of beating the Dundee crews. The women’s vice-captain, Emma Shaw, said: “After less than a full semester on the water, it is remarkable to have novices be so competitive in a performance setting. Our novices deserve to be proud of all they have accomplished in under 12 weeks, and of the way they represented the club at the race. Everyone showed up ready to row hard, displayed great sportsman and sportswomanship, and expressed gratitude to Dundee for making this event possible. The results speak for themselves, and are a testament to the effort put in by our club’s newest members.”

The two senior crews, both in IVs, had enjoyable rows. The senior men were coxed by Devon Brameier and had a time of 18 minutes and 58 seconds over the 5.8km course. According to Brameier: “We had a beautiful race, oars off the water, smooth technique, steady at a powerful 26 spm. The water was glassy and we walked away from Dundee with ease.” The men bested Dundee’s top boat by three minutes and 30 seconds and the second fastest boat of the day was still lagging behind by a little over two minutes. James Otčenášek, a senior rower, said: “Dundee put up a noble fight, yet their effort could not match the prowess of the four senior stallions in our boat, nor the hunger and talent of the novices.”

Although the race was dominated by VIIIs and IVs, Thomas Thomson took on the windy course in the single and completed the race with an excellent time. He overtook the Dundee novice women’s VIII and Dundee senior women’s IV about 1.5 km into the race; this is a rare accomplishment for a single against larger boats.

The senior women’s IV was supposed to borrow a boat from Dundee and christened it ‘Black Hawk Down’, yet at the last minute decided to row the UStABC boat bow-rigged. This was a scratch crew and despite not having trained in this lineup, the women rowed with ease. The crew passed a Dundee IV and pulled together nicely.

Overall, the Head of the Tay race was a successful event that gave invaluable racing experience to the novices. The race would not have been possible without the initiative and organization of Andrew Finch. The University of St Andrews Boat Club is now eager to make HOTT an annual event and would like to extend its gratitude to the University of Dundee Boat Club for participating and being worthy competitors. The St Andrews crews ended the season on such a high note and its triumphs bode well for the spring regatta season.

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