Fours Head 2011: Out of eleven crews starting this year’s race, Imperial Boat Club brought home one win, two second places, three thirds and nearly every other boat was in the top ten in their category. On a day where Leander/Team GB claimed nearly every win, as well as seven of the top ten places, ICBC continued to build on pre-season training and the form from earlier in the academic year.
The greatest success of the day came from Imperial’s IM2 4+ (Bow: Ali Hudson/Ben Spencer Jones/Rory Sullivan/Johnny Rankin/cox: Jess Johnson) who, not only won their category, but managed to record the seventh fastest coxed four time of the day; only Elite 4+s had the strength to beat the Dream Team who had donned rather fetching IC blue tank tops. Despite the crew’s interesting start to the race (Rory’s inability to relieve himself without adopting peculiar positions and Ali’s crab within 30s of racing), the four managed to bring home the win in 19:48.70 (59th overall), nearly 20s ahead of their closest opposition. Rankin will now get the chance to savour the winners’ reception at Fuller’s Brewery for the second year on the trot.
In the IM1 4x- category, Imperial had three entries. The quad of bow: Alex Gillies/Mark Patterson/Tom Pearson/Tim Richards were on the receiving end of a staring match from Leander’s coxed four during the pre-paddle and sources say it may have been this that lead to a meandering line up to the start from steersman Gillies [or else the resultant wrath of boatmen Sam Scrimgeour and Josh Butler should the boat be damaged by the sheer quantity of driftwood in the river was enough to scare him silly]. The boat was obviously in perfect working order though as the semi-lightweight crew recorded ICBC’s fastest time of the day (19:06.15, 16th overall) and took third place in their category. Immediately behind them and taking fourth place in the category were bow: Dan Powell/Danny Bellion/Simon Steele/Hal Bradbury, just 3.5s behind their lighter counterparts (19:09.73, 18th overall). Another IM1 quad of bow: Pav Dimitrijević/Finlay McPhail/Ben Anstiss/Myles Holbrough was steam-boating down the course and the bellows of Anstiss could be heard far and wide, as ever. When the results came out the older boys were happy to see they had beaten the [arch-nemeses] UL boat, in which resided Dom Meyrick Cole [the fact the purple boys may have had a little crash is irrelevant…] (20:03.82, 22nd in category, 80th overall).
Imperial originally had two entries in the Elite Lwt 4x- category, but due to illness and injury, Imperial College I had to pull out. Wilf Kimberley and Jamie Kirkwood [who is still yet to add Fours Head to his long list of wins] changed roles rapidly from bare rinsing champions on the water to devils, not so much in disguise. The lightweight honour of the club was left in the capable hands of bow: Paul Jones/Matt Monteith/Gareth Brown/Paddy Hudson. Despite a lack of preparation and a vastly vocal race, the crew put in a solid push towards the finish and took a highly respectful 7th place in the Elite category (19:24.89, 34th overall).
Another crew distinctly absent in the run-up to the race were Imperial College XI (bow: Leo Carrington/Pierre Thomas/Will Todd/Jack Cadman/cox: Connie Pidoux) for whom the race was only their third outing together as Carrington had been hauled up in China [possibly with suspected bird flu]. In spite of the lack of time in the boat, Todd’s infamous “blade in gate rage” and Cadman’s obsessions with the DLR, cox Pidoux whipped them into shape and into third place in the IM1 4+ category (20:01.17, 78th overall); barely a second slower than Imperial College III, the Elite 4+ of bow: Martin Eiermann/Matt Whaley/George Whittaker/Simon Hislop/cox: Henry Fieldman (10th in category, 77th overall, 20:00.33).
For the fairer half of ICBC, four boats were out in various categories. First out the blocks was the Elite 4x of bow: Klara Weaver/Mathilde Pauls/Mel Wilson/Laura Greenhalgh and they nearly took the first blood too, although yet another Leander boat won the event, forcing the girls into second place and fifth fastest female crew of the day (117th overall, 20:23.18). Imperial originally had two entries in the Elite 4- category but one had to be scratched as the sand leprechauns were holding back Zoë Lee in Ireland. The other (bow: Cloudy Carnegie/Lizzie Cottrell/Amy Propsting/Lucinda Gooderham) had had many changes on the route to the race (including order shuffles, changes of steerswoman), but their power showed on race day as the girls took third place in their category (21:49.32, 292nd overall).
Two coxed women’s fours were entered from the club and, as Will Todd said on race day, it was depressing to have two boats in the 400s [for those of us involved, it was more depressing waiting for over an hour in the cold to just start the race]. The IM1 4+ consisted of [practically] five lightweight women (bow: Chloe Symmonds/Hannah Patterson/Louise Connell/Rosa Atkinson/cox: Libby Richards), and [minus cox] would probably have been better suited to a quad, especially as everyone's preferred side is bowside. Nevertheless, after enough eating food to sink the Titanic courtesy of Rosa, the crew eventually started the race with cold and stiff muscles, but overtook the crew ahead well before Barnes Bridge. As the results were released later that afternoon, Richards and Connell were surprised to see that, at that moment, they had been the fastest W IM1 4+ of the day [HURRAY!]. Unfortunately this changed by the time the final provisional results were published, pushing the girls into second place (22:21.55, 338th overall) and just 0.2s ahead of third placed Oxford.
The final crew of the day was the ladies IM2 4+ of bow: Harriet Cross/Ro Smith/Christina Duffy/ Lily Beadle/cox: Ellie Smith. During their inordinately long wait for the final division to turn, POD could be heard screaming encouragement to the racing IC crews, including “You can do it, I BELIEVE” and, at Danny Bellion’s quad in particular “YEAH 6:15”. By the time the girls came past the ICBC boathouse, every male was changed and ready to start [if they'd not already started] the festivities and so an enormous cheer rang out. With a solid row, the girls took 7th in their category (23:02.64, 378th overall). Devils and skeleton onesies and IC blue tanktops were the attire for the evening’s shenanigans and ICBC could be spotted from miles away, generally celebrating a highly successful day’s racing. A report on this year’s Fours Head would not be complete without a mention of Leander, firstly for winning nearly everything but secondly for their impressive “steering malfunction” into one of Chas Newens boats moored at Putney, the morning before the race. Just a little reminder that everyone’s far from perfect.