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  • Writer's pictureDavid Simmonds

Head action for all! A March bonanza

The self described rowing festival brought huge numbers to our doorstep.  It was some sight, three days of head races back to back.  ICBC is privileged with a location in the heart of rowing in London and we duly soaked in the atmosphere.  There was a stall selling pogies, Shania Twain on someone’s speakers and people from across the country kept using our toilets.  It really was bouncing.

Anyway, we got stuck into WEHoRR and HoRR.  Centrepieces of the domestic rowing calendar, much of the work of the past few months would ultimately be examined here.  Three women’s eights and five men’s eights.  Thankfully, we came through.

Our reporters offer a glimpse into the various activities of what was an enthralling weekend.

IC II returning.  Credit Ali Ben Tiba.

WEHoRR – IC I, start 3, finished 3rd 

As has come to be expected in recent years, IC put out a boat of dedicated club athletes to defend their position against a stacked field.

Stern pair comprised of Zoe Lee and long term IC favourite Scown. At 6 GB Shorten cut a ghostly figure with Georgina Francis at 5. Mel Wilson stroked the bows, with the 3 seat filled by youngster Helen Kirkpatrick who, like the coaching team at IC, is likely to have many years of IC success ahead of her.  Bow pair was international Alex Stonehill and power house Jo Thom.

Powered by some of Hardcastle’s sweet stuff, these fine honeys set a punchy rhythm.

Though late into the line up, the crew were able to gel quickly and saw improvements both to their speed and in Social Brew’s quarterly takings.

Third place, naturally. Credit: Ali Ben Tiba.

Powered by some of Hardcastle’s sweet stuff, these fine honeys set a punchy rhythm down the course with Chris Au utilising advances in technology to keep the crew up to date on their placing during the race and demonstrating why IC is such a desirable university for everyone except those looking for a relationship.  Driven by the knowledge that UL and Molesey were trying to chase, the crew hammered it home, achieving another podium finish to continue their 4 year streak that started when Jo Thom first came into the boat. Tests show that this is no chance correlation.

Many thanks to coach Peter Hardcastle for providing endless anecdotes and for ensuring IC continue their Tideway domination.

NB. We can confirm to any neighbouring clubs that all athletes had correctly recorded points and are who they say they are. 11th doesn’t sound much better than 12th.

One day UL, one day. Credit: Ali Ben Tiba.

WEHoRR – IC II, start 22, finished 28th

Two full crew outings proved sufficient for a solid 28th place finish, greatly aided by the mandatory hair-braiding ritual, known universally to bring ‘free-speed’.  Following a punchy start off Chiswick bridge, the girls hit a lively rhythm as laid down by ex-palatinate Naomi Doye with Pippa pocket-rocket-England backing her up. In contrast to the five seat, in which Gledisa Musollari has established a permanent residence, the six seat saw a last-minute call-up for some watts from the recently but not permanently retired Jade Hubbard.  Making their WEHoRR bow, Georgiana Malin and Ophelia Miller completed the engine room.  In the bows, fresher Alice Jefferies also showed what she’s made of in her first WEHoRR whilst Rebecca Rowe was successfully dragged out of the weights room and in to a boat (yet again). The latest recruit to the women’s squad, Ben Moore, was promoted from the men’s 1st VIII into the cox’s seat.

IC II cranking it. Credit: Ali Ben Tiba.

Out of Hammersmith, the strong headwind was certainly felt on this virtually lightweight crew.  Though in true lightweight style, they wound high for the line, finishing off the head season with a performance to be proud of.  We are exceptionally proud of the pedigree of this boat, boasting two graduands of our novice programme.

WEHoRR – IC III, start 274, finished 184th

Having been rowing for just 5 months, we made our debut at WEHoRR and improved 90 places – factually one of the biggest movers of the day.  Stroke Sophie and Seven Sarah set a consistent rate 30 throughout the course, inspired by practice bursts of 20 to 24.  A last-minute change saw Agnese in 6, giving Lisa now in 4 a break from OG Lusby’s constant muttering from 5 seat (perhaps planning her campaign to row in the Commonwealth Games 2018 for Jersey).  The predominantly international boat saw the two French-ies in bow pair, with appearances from Sweden (Tosca in 3), the Netherlands and Australia (Lisa 4), Italy (Agnese), and Jersey (OG).

Finishing an absolutely barnstorming one hundred and eighty-fourth

Despite warnings not to front load the race, the excitement of overtaking their first prey within minutes fuelled another two more overtakes.  Unfortunately the fourth overtake remained elusive, but we continued to storm on regardless.

Not bad is it. IC III around the pin. Credit: Ben Rodford.

The premier novice squad rowed closely towards the Middlesex bank in the last few hundred metres (but I’m sure they knew what they were doing), and even got so carried away they kept rowing well past the finish line. With strong coxing from Chloe in her first race for ICBC, and somehow managed to navigate marshalling without damage.  A minor collision with the medics resulting in a floating bow number was merely tradition.

Overall it was a very successful race for the novice girls, jumping 89 places from last year’s crew and finishing an absolutely barnstorming one hundred and eighty-fourth. A massive thanks to coach Emma Reiser, rumour has it she was delighted to see the black, blue and silver excel.


HoRR – IC I, start 5, finished 9th

The boys returned to London from BUCS Head with plenty of motivation, 10 seconds separated the Top 3 in the 8+ up in Newcastle. It was all to play for.

Tom Smith sat at bow, wondering what to do with his hand speed as the blades bounced of the respective bellies of Ed Bentley and Oliver Hines ahead of him.  Emboldend from being half of the top U23 pair at trials, David Simmonds preached to the rest from the four seat.  The ICBC community remain baffled as to why Toby Heaton was moved from the 3 seat, but he was at 5, with club captain and all round good looking guy Alex Ball at 6.   At stroke, Jack Walsh enjoyed his last hours with a lid, guiding young Casper Woods into the social sec seat.  Old Pauline Ben Moore was in charge of this right old motley bunch.

IC I on their way, credit: AllMarkOne.

We went off high and hard, with a bolstered Molesey crew applying plenty of pressure around the first bend towards Barnes. The rhythm was established and the boys made good headway through the middle of the course, resisting further attempts from Molesey and holding onto the coattails of OBUBC ‘B’.  Thanks to the St. Pauls cheerleaders we maintained our speed round the bend towards Hammersmith and pushed off from the bridge.

A good lift in speed was made coming through the milepost.  However, approaching Barn Elms, Molesey dropped their Nuclear Warhead…that or Moe started pulling.  Luckily, cox Ben Moore was dead on it, showing Molesey wide down the Embankment.  Energized by the cheers from the Boathouses, we enjoyed the side-by-side scrap winding in for the line and finished the race, coming 9th overall and 3rd in University. Credit to Oxford Brookes. The gauntlet has been laid for BUCS Regatta.

HoRR – IC II, start 19, finished 61st

“Don’t worry Max, its definitely not appedictis”. Knights ca. 2018

Twas the night before HoRR when all…of a sudden… “In hospital, you’ll need a new four man” said Max, “appendicitis”.

Rather fortuitously, bowman Jac Reid had also been suffering from a bout of severe tropical flu, heralding the arrival of not one, but two super subs.  Step forth the almighty PLB – the sole man to have sat in all three IC eights – and taking it on in the bow, Ali BT – a recent graduate from the women’s eight.

Come the morning and cox Wilf decided to extend his morning slumber.  Jonny, with his usual facial expression of crippling disappointment, reluctantly agreed that we should go for a prepaddle without Wilf. Luckily, ‘once before’ cox Pippa England was able to take the helm, drifting round craven cottage as though she were smash M. Given the situation, the pre-paddle was surprisingly good and the crew were feeling positive about the race to come.

Anymore mishaps you may ask? In fact, there were none. Wilf was awoken, the new lineup in good health (well almost), and the pre-race chat inspirational.  They waited patiently on the start line, six man Alex Crabstantinou’s ears stretching far and wide waiting for our call up. The race started. With an eager Brookes crew starting behind, IC II went off strong and hit their rhythm. Barnes’ Bridge seemed to come around surprisingly quickly, and they pushed on through the crossover. Harry Knights, three man and all round great guy, was really setting the bar high with his impressive strength and technical prowess. Valiantly, they tried their best to hold off a strong Durham crew with Wilf forcing them into the slower stream. Through Hammersmith Bridge and Wilf makes the call.

“The first 2k of the season starts now”

The rhythm is held, an increase in pressure, good progress through the last part of the course. The crew pass the boat club and, spurred on by the crowd, wind hard for the line, coming in 61st overall and 21st in the university category. Whilst they had hoped for a better result, all left with heads held high for responding so well to a challenging situation. Bring on BUCS and Henley.

HoRR – IC III, start 80, finished 111st

The third eight had a relatively good day out. Despite the last-minute injury troubles of the second eight spilling over into our eight. The row up started well with the year’s first weather worthy of sunglasses, which was refreshing for crew members Dima Usynin and Pierre-Louis Bret who have been religiously wearing their Oakleys for every night session all term. However, this being England, the sun didn’t last all up to Chiswick and so we settled into the standard “shiver-and-wait” that is synonymous with head racing.

After a couple of uses of the famous IC chant “Yeah UL” we were told to turn and get ready to start. Part of what set up our row was guidance from the two elder statesmen of the crew, Matt McElroy and Alistair Wallace advising that the crew should “forget it’s a race and row nicely” whilst also remembering “it’s a race go out and smash it”. Anyway, at this point, and for better or for worse, we were set off.

The first half was smooth, benefitting from above average water, particularly around the St Paul’s bend which compensated slightly for not catching the ever-elusive No 79, whom our cox Charlotte Grayson assured us we were getting closer to all the way from Chiswick to Putney, but who we never actually saw. The crew then put in a burst at Hammersmith, no doubt encouraged by the customary Tideway race deafening cheer for ex-Tideway Scullers boy Ambrose McFall.

Cox Grayson guiding IC III. Credit: Ben Rodford.

After this the crew knuckled down for the final 2k of the race and sprint for the line, trying to stay ahead of Durham and catch No 79, which was aided by Charlotte Grayson’s superb coxing line and Durham’s completely unrelated poor steering leading to them narrowly avoiding a buoy.

The final result for the third eight was 111th, approximately five seconds off the top one hundred, but more importantly cutting the time gap per km between ourselves and the second eight by about 40% and increasing our cushion over the novices significantly.  These are the metrics which matter.  The squad were quite happy with this result and so after eating some of Ian Kegler’s delicious (and very unnaturally coloured) blue, black and silver cake headed home for some work and rest to prepare for a quiet, sober, social. All in all, a good day out for Charlotte’s angels.

HoRR – IC IV, start 112, finished 193rd

After a fairly intimate date with the Thames, the Men’s 1st Novice VIII was ready to tackle the staggering length of HoRR 2018 in their not-so-new-but-still-pretty-awesome Empacher.

With slight PTSD from erg sessions whose complicated set-ups could easily compete with  Imperial’s final year physics exams and last minute blade adjustments for that extra horse power of the engine room by Cyril, the boat was finally off to known waters.

Despite being reprimanded by the marshals for being late (what can you do, for the French bow pair Paul “2 can you take a tap?!” Sizaire and Yann “English is optional” Tardy as well as Italian cox Michela “We are not in a hurry!” Martinuzzi time is just a relative notion), the team mysteriously arrived on time at the line up and was able to start its infamous build up under the experienced stern pair Angus “We can still row underwater!” Phillips and Harry “Durham caps are a legitimate accessory” Gemmill.

Settling into a smooth race pace early, the yellow not-so-submarine-anymore followed a very familiar line down the tideway. Encountering a strong head wind at Hammersmith Bridge, the engine section was called into action and Dan “the calming influence” Lee, Jack “the Rugby renegade”, Joel “Mr rushing on the slide” Buchgeister and Matthew “Keep your head up!” Carey gave a more than gentle push to the boat upon heading to the finish line that was finally coming into the team’s reach.

The 3rd place in the Academic & Club Beginner category, leaving 34 teams behind and only being beaten by Durham and Edinburgh was a fair result. The overall placement leaves great space for improvement which the team will engage together.

Schools Head

Our current squad is made up of athletes from Abingdon, Eton, Haberdashers’ Monmouth, Kings Chester, KCS Wimbledon, Lady Eleanor Holles, Monkton College, Radley, St. Pauls, Westminster, Winchester College and Windsor Boys.  Schools Head was thus a chance to catch up with former coaches and potential future IC athletes.  We hope many of those who had tours and spoke to our current students are enthusiastic about rowing at university, wherever they end up.

We had a very good turnout from ICBC alumni, friends of the club and our personal friends and family over both days.  We thank them for their support and hope they enjoyed the reception and watching the busiest rowing weekend of the year from our balcony.

Onto the next.


Photos are from AllMarkOne and Ben Rodford, please do follow their pages on Twitter and Instagram and consider supporting through purchasing of photos.

Full results are available for WEHoRR and HoRR.

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