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  • Writer's pictureImperial College Boat Club

Bucs Head 2024

Our senior and novice squads travelled up north to Newcastle for the annual BUCS Head race. Some great conditions and some good racing with some silverware acquired.

Division 1

W Champ 8+ 4th

The morning started with a photoshoot of Orla the turtle (= Orla with hot water bottle down back).

After nearly 100 warm up loops, and thanks to the suspiciously nice weather, marshalling was essentially a sunbathing session. 

The race eventually started, with Lia taking us up to rate 33 from the get-go (at this point Loren calculated the feasibility of jumping out the boat mid-race but the swim back didn’t seem worth it). 

A few minutes in, Zahir told us everyone was above 200 watts. Turns out that was just the crew average (so basically everyone at 50 watts except Yas who was at 1250 watts).

With all 9 members of the crew still very much in the boat, we “made Nottingham pay for last year” by catching up to them in the final straight. 

We got off the water feeling very happy with our race. Just a shame for the FF.

O Champ 4- 'A' 9th

In a stroke of irony as unpredictable as our bowman's steering, our less-than-stellar boat had the audacity to sign up for not only BUCS Head but champ 4-, very high up in the start order. During training, we discovered our vessel had more leaks than a gossip column, and its creaks and groans sounded like a symphony of protest.

Yet, on the row up to the start line, something magical happened. Perhaps it was the collective determination to defy the odds or the fact that our boat realized it had a chance to shine. Whatever the reason, as we paddled towards the starting line, the once-disjointed crew and the beleaguered boat found harmony in the chaos.

Our oars, which had previously rebelled against synchronization, decided to cooperate for once, propelling us forward with newfound purpose. The boat, once the black sheep of the regatta, seemed to revel in its moment of redemption.

As we lined up alongside the competition, our bowman embraced the challenge with a mix of determination and a touch of theatricality. The boat that had been the laughing stock of training transformed into a symbol of resilience and unity.

In the end, our performance at BUCS Head became a testament to the unpredictable nature of rowing, where a seemingly subpar boat and a crew in disarray could, against all odds, find their rhythm and deliver a performance that left both spectators and swans in awe. The takeaway? Sometimes, a little adversity and a lot of determination can turn a leaky ship into an unlikely contender in the race of a lifetime.

O Champ 4- 'B' 5th

After a few bumpy sessions on the Tideway, we were treated with perfect conditions in Newcastle. Going into the race, we were unsure of the quality of the competition but knew it wouldn’t be easy.

Our warmup consisted of cutting up and exchanging a few words with a disagreeable Edinburgh 4-. After a few bursts feeling like we were on rails, we felt that we were to have a respectable race ahead. I liked our chances, especially having a two-time ‘Golden Footplate’ winner in bow and a purveyor of silk occupying the stroke seat. 

The race started strong, tearing along the first straight with a meticulously calculated trajectory under the three bridges. We battled through kilometre 2 and 3 before passing a Liverpool crew taking a rest in the mud bank. Around the final bend we sharpened and began the longest wind to the line in the history of the sport, clipping the heels of the pesky Edinburgh 4-. Although we just didn’t manage to catch them, we beat them overall and placed 5th. We were happy with how we raced, regarding the tough competition, and it will be one of my favourite races at the club.

O Champ Lwt 4- Bronze

Following on from previous years, the Lightweight 4 was eager to contend for silverware. After rigorous training leading up to the cancelled 4’s head, we were excited for BUCS head. Nearly cancelled due to heated discussions over boat hull choice, the scene was set for the treacherous pursuit of success.

Keeping the same crew as last year with the addition of Milo, the crew was stronger than ever. Training leading up to the head showed promise and with 3 of the 4 men able to weigh in post-breakfast in full kit, rest assured this crew was “lightweight” (Credit to Ruadhri McDougall for being a real Lwt athlete). The crew delivered an excellent race, securing a 3rd place and bronze medal, surpassing the Imperial 1st 4- and becoming the only medaling men's Imperial Crew. Given the physical exertion required for this success and the sheer speed of the crew, as to not disrupt the other athletes, they were required to stay on the bank and spectate for the 8’s division (at least that's what we thought at the time).

The crew was pleased with their performance, and although this crew has now been disbanded, we hope the success of the Imperial Lightweight Squad continues.

O Champ 4+ 4th

A gorgeous morning in Newcastle, I felt the boat got off well initially and we were putting down good power. Omar made a pertinent comment to the effect that we treated the race like a 15-minute piece, we had been really pleased with our speed in training and even with eights in the afternoon I think we could have benefitted from a more racing mindset. The Newcastle boat was moving quickly and passed us in the final straight. This combined with clash from a Nottingham lightweight four slightly threw us off I think, but I feel to improve we first and foremost need to get stronger. The boat felt pretty good, and we were level on time with the champ 4-. We just need to be able to put down more effective watts. A good base, now we must take what we’ve learnt and push for HORR.

O Inter 4+ 8th

Tessa's mighty soldiers awoke to the freezing North prepared to go get some hardware and full of confidence, this was very much false confidence. Kelvin steered "an interesting racing line"- (NUBC cox behind us) but managed to get us through the bridges and course safely, unlike a certain other cox in previous years. Whilst it was the best the boys had rowed, with Gill setting the balance in the bows. But, the watts had evaporated as the boys say on a 2:69.0 split for the piece. There was a spur of life as the Newcastle crew came alongside, with the middle pair unblowing and realising they do know what watts are, as we held them down the finish straight. Unfortunately due to some dodgy tactics from the Newcastle supporters on the bank, the boys stopped rowing. 5s penalty Ocon in my opinion. Sam, very rattled by the call from the bank, picked up the rhythm again and saw us home. It was a good row from the boys in blue, but not the result they hoped for coming home in 8th.

Division 2

O Champ 8+ 4th

A great race, gutted not to get onto the podium. A full four-man swap for the race, over the crew in training and yet I felt the boat was moving better than ever. Tonnes of power and felt really easy to click on and push. A long tech warmup definitely helped a great deal, and not having another race afterwards. Great rhythm of the start, losing it slightly in the mid-section. T Sheps said he felt that we shortened up a deal, and that probably cost us a bit. However, I thought the wind to the line was as good as we have ever done it. Super clear calls, the tiers worked well and the eight felt like it was flying. Frustratingly close to Edinburgh, and with a few more sessions in the boat I reckon we could have pipped them. Really need to push for HORR now and get some summer hardware. No more FFs.

O Inter 8+ 4th

Times like these are why we row at IC. Never before has seat racing occurred unintentionally at bucs leading to a 1/2 crew swap but there were No Dramas mate, Kelvin, now knowing the racing line steered beautifully, and caressed every watt out of us as we steamed down the river. Sam decided today was the day to take his anger out on the boys. Sending us down originally at a brisk 34 before stepping up to 38 for the last 1250m. With 300m left Sam blew, and just like the boys in the boat it fell on the mighty 7 seat Gill to keep him moving, and keep him moving he did. The genius change to put Angus at 6 seat actually allowed us to send rhythm down the boat, and for the boat to get a full 15 mins of ASMR breathing. Matt decided not to blow after the 2nd corner this time, apparently not a recommended tactic unless you're Viktor. Being moved back to 4 seat allowed Floppers to see 8 and 6s blade square, which activated a neuron and he actually got some catches in this time. Behind him, in his last race of the season Devlin 3-tard Papworth was yelling down the course, I'm not sure what, I assume it was motivational, but we were all deeply moved by his wise words.

Danny Big Dog Shaw made sure watts were indeed applied from bow pair, while being supported from the balance setter McNugget, we all were Mclovin it. The boys thought they had clinched some hardware but queens Belfast with a GBU23 World Champion clinched it at the death. However the boys were only 7s off the 1V. All in all no dramas were had, the boat became fast and we almost clinched some hardware coming in 4th.

PS- spoke to an expert the holes and dents in the Millar are equivalent to 8s of time compared to the Fieldman so it was a win for the 2V

W Champ 4- Gold

A week out from BUCS head, and the W Champ 4- knew we would need something special to make our mark on Newcastle. Sure, we had a crew of HWR winners, and the beautiful Neil James, but something was missing. It took us a few struggling sessions to piece it together. The unbalance of Watts, a natural stroke seat yearning to be put in the spotlight, Lizzie Worlds, and a coastal rower. What could we make from this? On an unassuming Monday morning, Adam revealed to us the answer: a bow-stroked f- it bucket. Finally, Orla would get to live out her stroke seat dreams (or should I say nightmares?), Laura could steer a straight line - as much as the Tyne allows, and the Mrs Worlds/Coastal Queen strokeside bucket could take us to wattage cottage. 

It made sense on paper, but would this risky move pay off, such a radical change just days before the head? A bit of luck (shoutout to Orlas socks, ribbon and warming accessories), a few Watts and a bit of steering later, the girls found themselves at the top of the podium!

W Champ 4+ Bronze

With the race being our 2nd outing in the boat, we paddled up to marshalling all thinking the same thing: just beat 1 crew. Considering our sub-par warmup and the fact the tide had just turned against us, we all thought it was going to be a rough race.

After a very early dekit, some last minute adjustments to 2 seat’s footplate and slides, we set off. 

The chunky rhythm, general good feel of the boat and Savindu coxing had us in high spirits. The three veterans did their best to support Tamara in stroke and even with Lia having to follow someone, it didn’t fall apart. 

As we neared the finish line, we finally caught up to the crew in front, which to our surprise was actually a 4-. 

Our efforts were rewarded with a bronze medal and a “good job” from Pete!

W Inter 4+ 7th

After being dragged out of our hotel rooms at 7am for a 2pm boating time, the inter 4+ wiled away the day contemplating the most unreasonable of icks and trying to find the worst mullet in Newcastle. When the hour of reckoning arrived, we realised that not only were we the only empacher for miles around but we also were the only bucket rig and therefore if we were to tank the race with all that free speed then we ought not return to shore. 

Immediately after marshalling our 2 seat realised nature was calling and the next 30 minutes was spent debating the optimal form for the matter and subsequently getting performance anxiety. During this time the rest of the crew assisted by singing Rasputin, unsurprisingly this did not help the performance anxiety. 

When we actually cracked on with the one thing we came to do, Lottie our cox and MVP carried the team. She was asked for ‘motivational’ calls, and boy did she deliver. Shouting ‘woohoo’ qt every marker provided free speed that no bucket could ever achieve, on top of taking the line so perfectly that not even Jordan Belfort could complain. However, in the last 200 metres and at the end of the alleged ‘20 strokes left’ at least one tear was shed, but seemingly worth it as we were happy to have placed 7th out of 27 in our category against some tough competition.

Division 3

O Beg 8+ Bronze

The Novice BUCS Head weekend started slow, quite literally, as after hours of crawling along the M1 at 30, the minibus finally gave out, leaving us stranded in foreign territory. Luckily, we were saved by our Men’s Captain, whose efficient driving got us there in good time, alongside winning the Tesco car meet. The next morning the landscape was shrouded in fog, raising questions as to whether Savindu our leader could guide us through unharmed. However, as the sun rose and the fog burnt off we could finally see the glassy water of the Tyne upon which we would conquer all (most) others. The pre-paddle felt strong. Spurred on by questioning spectators gazing at a bunch of Novices in a full carbon Empacher; we kept the rhythm smooth, bursts powerful, and energy high. A tinge of fear came across us while eyeing up some of the competition, however, it’s not all about size. After a quick marshalling expedition, we were given the order to spin, and the race was upon us. A fast first 500m brought us within a boats length of our competitors, however the manoeuvres required to avoid contact almost put us in the mud. Our brave coxswain steered us to safety and, after passing the aforementioned hold-up, we were on the home straight. Some serious power strokes past the spectators, and interesting noises from our stroke brought us over the finish line. Third in our category, and some well deserved hardware achieved, much to our coaches satisfaction. A big thankyou to all the seniors that made our weekend possible, and well done to everyone involved.

W Beg 4+ 'A' 5th

With our first fours race down, we couldn’t be prouder of what we left out on the water. Limited sessions as a crew left us not knowing what to expect, but we headed out on the water with excitement for the day ahead. Our previous session on the Thames had been a bumpy one, and we were warned that the Tyne could have similar conditions in store. However, when we arrived the water was smooth as glass and the sun was shining (at least we could cross a flooded boat off our worries). The nerves were high with the four our first race of the day, but as our cox Zahir put us through some warmups and navigated us to the start line, we knew we were in good hands, and settled into a rhythm. We waved and cheered to our fellow IC girlies on the way up, and with that we were in position. Despite Adam’s plea not to get distracted, a couple of us can be seen catching the eye of Pete’s drone. I daresay we were Pete’s pride and joy of the day (although his enthusiasm for the footage may have had more to do with his drone skills than our bladework). We came through the finish lungs burning, stomachs threatening to be sick, but nevertheless feeling exhilarated. Our efforts scored us an admirable fifth place (which was fourth for a solid five minutes… lesson learned not to check your results until all of the crews have come in).

W Beg 4+ 'B' 24th

Division 4

W Beg 8+ 12th

After an impressive race in two 4s and a lunch break which was far too short, the novice women’s eight were hungry for medals. We set off on the paddle down to the start: the water was impeccable and the balance in the boat was anything but.…

Our coxswain navigated us seamlessly through past other crews (who suffered from much less seamless navigation) to our starting position, only having to stop three times to check which direction the tide was going. Once stationary, the balance soon restored itself (ish) and the pre-race excitement set in. The jellybabies were cracked open and the pre-race sugar rush also set in. It’s crucial to note at this point that bow four (namely bow seat) decided it was ok to eat all of the good flavours leaving stern four (namely stroke seat) with the yellow ones (no offence to those that like the yellow ones). 

Following an over enthusiastic wave to both on the novice men’s 4s on their way, it was time to spin and start the race. We started the race with passion and leg drive like never known of before. Sadly, it wasn’t long (from personal experience) before the fatigue of the previous race started to catch up. This fatigue didn’t slow us down one bit and thanks to the motivation from our cox we were almost halfway. The last 10 strokes could not have come sooner but we finished the race with style, rhythm and some precision. 

Having been told by a race marshal that we had to keep moving from the finish line, we set off with a lack of passion and leg drive like never known before. 

We finished in an admirable 12th place (combining digits from 1st and 2nd place in an attempt to win 2 medals) and it’s safe to say we should all be feeling pretty proud. The women left Newcastle inspired rowers who had all perspired more than expected.

O Beg 4+ 'A' Silver

Having already achieved a podium position that day, the desire for yet more hardware was strong in the top novice four. The fatigue from our first race was forgotten as we entered our vessel and began the paddle up towards the marshalling area. Confident that the wheels wouldn’t explode in our bucket rigged Empacher, we put down some serious power, and the high rate bursts showed good rhythm and balance. Our confidence was only boosted by the demonstration of skill from some of our competitors, who had opted for the bumper car technique to keep within the marshalling area. We were glad upon hearing the command to spin, allowing us to escape the carnage that was ensuing, and begin our race. The combination of leaving a large gap from the boat in front, and being much faster than the boat behind, granted us a clear path throughout the race. All was well until our Coxswain uttered the command: “Empty”, upon which our stroke decided rate thirty six would do, far higher than had been attempted by any of us previously. We did indeed empty, and as the finish line was crossed we all crumpled in exhaustion, knowing we had left it all on the course. A final result of second place, within seconds of first, doubled our hardness, and boosted our enthusiasm for future races. BUCS regatta here we come.

O Beg 4+ 'B' 28th

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