The head racing adventures of M1 culminated at the head of the river race. This 6.8km epic was fought out between 335 crews. LMH started 313th so had plenty of time to watch from the sidelines as the top crews came past. Knowing that the tideway can be so unpredictable, in the end it was ideal conditions for a head race. There was no rain as we waited in the marshalling area, the water was relatively calm and though there was a headwind at points on the course, it was quite mild.
When it was finally our turn to go, confusion over when to strip down to race kit meant we had left a sizeable gap of almost 30s to the crew ahead. As it turned out this crew ended up with a time 0.5s faster than ours, and the crew behind took almost a minute longer to row the course. This meant LMH had a fairly lonely 6.8km, by Barnes Bridge no crews behind were visible, and there was never any chance of catching up any of the crews ahead.
Nonetheless, LMH settled into the race and tried to find the rhythm that had led to much success in previous head races, and the midrace speed that had proved our strength in Torpids. The rhythm came and went in frustrating bursts, over such a long race this was something the crew had prepared for. With a number of substitutions from the usual 1st boat, it was always going to be challenging to find a strong rhythm and maintain it for over 20 minutes. However, in our previous head races at Wallingford and Quintin we found that towards the end we were starting to get messy, and with those races some 2km shorter than HoRR, we were worried as to how we might hold up towards the end of the race. A sign of the improvement everyone in the crew has made was that even though we were very tired for the last few kilometres, we didn’t let our technique slide. This will surely have made as much of a difference to our time as any number of erg sessions.
After a long slog back to Cygnet RC after the finish, the results proved better than any of us hoped for. 12th of 52 academic novice crews and 220th overall. A comparison with the other Oxford crews was also particularly pleasing. Only Oriel, Wolfson and Jesus finished ahead of us, whilst we beat 9 crews including a number of div 1 crews. Looking forwards to Summer VIIIs, the 30s we put into Brasenose look promising for a bump on day 1, and we know from our experience at Torpids that our crew is stronger and tougher than those around us which bodes well for the rest of VIIIs.
Head racing has proven to be a highly rewarding experience this winter and was attributable in no small part to the speed we showed at Torpids. We are confident it will also be at the heart of the success we hope to have at VIIIs. We are exceptionally grateful for the support we have received from alumni. We hope to carry on racing away from the Isis this summer at various regattas, but this will not be possible without further support. Any contribution big or small will be gratefully received.