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  • Writer's pictureDavid Simmonds

BUCS Head 2020

BUCS head is a key focus for the whole squad during the head race season. This year the squad had a very successful trip to Newcastle, coming home with 6 medals. Particular mention must go to the Men's squad for medalling in every category entered and winning the most medals of any other University Men's Sweep team. Following a few weeks of hard training, it turned out to be a rewarding trip filled with lots of competitive racing.

Division 1

1st M4+ Championship – Gold

Just before the start Casper turned around, this time not in the middle of a piece, and said "lads let's win the coxless 4s" (spoilers we did). So we rolled through the bridge up at a good rate then settled quickly into a good rhythm which was slightly lower than our expected rate but feeling strong we stuck to our pace. Ben soon told us we were catching up to the Exeter crew from the category before us so despite leaving plenty of space we prepared to take them on the outside bend. A bit of wash from their stern was overcome and moved through their 4- with the sight of Durham overtaking Newcastle far behind us. A surprise weir pushed some fast-moving water into our bowside upsetting the boat for a few strokes but we were soon back on the rhythm and heading towards the next Bath crew which we soon took before the final straight. By this point we were all feeling the burn but the shout for the last 1k and the possibility of taking a Newcastle crew kept us moving on. A cheer from Pete and Jamie just about kept us from blowing our load too soon and we sped past the blue star (not for the last time during the afternoon) and crossed the line. We all felt pretty wrecked including Tom this time who usually isn't tired ever and would wear a t-shirt to the north pole. 40 seconds clear of the next faster coxed four and 40 seconds ahead of the fastest coxless four was a result to be happy with.

1st M4+

2nd M4+ Intermediate - Silver

With a windy few days ahead in Newcastle, our four were putting in the training doing intense race pace pieces with the other 4's. These pieces were great practice for the crew and we gelled quickly as a unit. Technical calls from Annelise and well-selected drills accelerated the improvement of the boat. After arriving in Newcastle the pre-paddle unfortunately had to be "sacked-off" as the waves were obscenely large. The squad spent the rest of the afternoon walking a section of the course and then having a cheeky Nando's.

Race day came and the wind was definitely going to be a big factor in the racing. Seeing this the coaches told us to add a CLAM to the inboard to make the gearing lighter. The race was executed well and we got into a strong rhythm that was backed up by the human metronome Ed Bentley (Choo Choo Choo). Jake Smith and Max Leflaive-Manley were giving it some beans in the bow pair whilst trying to stay as smooth as possible in the wind and waves. Unfortunately due to overtaking a slower crew around a bend, we lost some time and a strong Durham crew capitalised on this and ultimately came out as the winners of the division. We were happy to get the silver medal behind them with a Newcastle crew getting a bronze behind us.

2nd M4+

3rd M4+ Intermediate – 7th

3rd M4+

M4- Championship – Bronze


W8+ Championship – 4th

After some positive steps on since our last race at Quintin Head and our fixtures with Thames and Oxford, we were excited to race again. As a fairly small crew, we found it pretty tough into the strong headwind and stream but managed to make some good steps in the sheltered parts of the course. We felt we rowed a good race and hopefully racing in the challenging conditions will be a good part of our preparation for WEHORR in two weeks time.


Division 2

1st M8+ Championship – Gold

After a successful morning in fours, the men's 1st 8 took to the Tyne once again. With the wind forecast to pick up, courtesy of the next storm in the long line of storms, the eight boated with a certain level of trepidation. A shortened course and worsening conditions around the marshalling area brought high energy to the crew and new-found camaraderie amongst the other marshalling crews. Meanwhile, Briac made good use of his spare socks and worked tirelessly to keep the boat water free.

Off the start, we made a strong press into rhythm against the strong head breeze. With some sharp steering from Cox, Ben Moore, we began to move on home favourites Newcastle. With thoughts of a certain Henley race recent in much of the crew's mind we continued to move with conviction. The next issue for Ben came in the challenge of how we would make it around the Newcastle crew. In an event much of the crew will never understand we gave Newcastle a friendly kiss to help them on their way as we moved passed before the final S-bend. Following a strong final straight we came away with the win with a margin of 30s on Newcastle. A result that reprieved many of the memories of Mahikis.

1st M8+

2nd M8+ Intermediate – Gold

Following strong expectations from the coaches to race with purpose and lay down a strong score against much of our university competition, the determination amongst the crew was high despite the difficult conditions. Waves broke into the boat as we queued to the start and marshals bellowed to be heard over the sound of the wind and water. Despite this, the crew was feeling fairly relaxed. To our amazement, the final call for racing kit was made and before long we began our build across the start. In the words of coxswain Annelise "the first minute is all about rhythm", and this was exactly what we aimed to do as we pushed through the white horses. A perpetual danger of racing in headwinds is that the crew tenses up as the pace slows and the boat steadily gets heavier, but as we stretched into the middle of the race our rate settled on a strong and punchy rhythm. As we turned into the last kilometre of the course our energy peaked as we slowly pushed level with the Nottingham University crew, but in the finishing stages our rate built to the line as we pushed through them and opened up clear water between us. Our objective from Pete was to put down a solid time and dominate the intermediate event. Scraping a gold medal 2 seconds ahead of the Newcastle 2nd 8 certainly achieved this goal and is a great marker to build on as the racing season begins in earnest!

2nd M8+

3rd M8+ Intermediate - 8th

Quite cold, and bouncing in the Tyne waves, the 3rd Men’s 8 were certain that a red flag would call the end of the race before it had even begun. To everyone’s surprise, we were treated to a shortened course. We got off to a strong start, with Dan Lee setting a chunky rhythm throughout the course; Catrin did a class job of steering, taking shelter from the stream and making most of the corners. Despite a few hiccups when gusts hit the boat, we were quick to recover and reminded ourselves that these are our waters; we are used to these conditions as a tideway crew. Indeed, the boat rowed through the choppy waters well and topped it all off with a big wind in the last 300m. Finishing 8th out of 25 intermediate crews was a good result for the 3rd 8 and we look forward to building on these results at HORR.

3rd M8+

W4- Championship – Silver

Productive and promising sessions leading up to BUCS head in the W4- had us fairly confident that we’d row a good race regardless of the result. Our confidence was shaken on our row up to the start, much like our boat was by the waves, wind and whatever else Newcastle had decided to throw at us that afternoon. We’d taken on a lot of water and spent the majority of marshalling bailing it out of the boat. Having removed 0 kit before the start of the race, we got into a chunky rhythm and battled the waves down the course. A wee clash with Nottingham and 17 more minutes of scraping with the Tyne managed to land us a surprising and pleasing second place and a hunger for some more metal come BUCS regatta.


W4+ Championship – 4th

In the true spirit of being proactive, we arrived in Newcastle having never rowed in our crew before. The conditions on the paddle up were almost as sketchy as our rowing which filled us with great confidence as the marshalls changed the location of the start. We knew things could only get better as we spun into the massive headwind and headed down to the mystery start. Thankfully Tiphaine managed to drown out Gabriel completely with her gentle words of encouragement to get the rate up so we ended up hitting a decent rhythm and managed to move away from the crew behind us, bumping into their coxless four near the finish. We were really pleased with how we worked together at the last minute to finish fourth in our category.


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