Huggy's Blog - A Hit and Miss Autumn

The Pairs Head

After a solid performance at the Small Boats Head, we just can’t explain the Pairs Head.

Henry took one look at the water and the wind at Putney, and instantly reneged on his promise to let Huggy stroke the boat.

“Hugs old chap”, he opined, “These conditions call for experience and a calm head... so that counts you out”.

We felt we had a reasonable race: a strong start, and while the last half was really bumpy and a bit slack due to the awful conditions, everyone else said they had it bad too.

So how did we come last in category? Beaten by 3 of the boats we beat at Nottingham. Badly.

Inexplicable. No Excuses. Move on.

Hardcore Training

Our two heroes set about “moving on” with true professionalism. Henry went on holiday and caroused through 4 capitals of Eastern Europe, chomping his way through as much goulash, borsch and caviar and drinking as much vodka and jet fuel as he could feasibly cope with.

Meantime, Huggy took full advantage of Henry’s absence and delighted in the balance and power of ‘No Excuses’ being stroked by one Mr Mark Tompkins, who (despite the occasional snigger at the gasping mess behind him after a “gentle” 2k piece) was equally impressed with what could be done with the boat... in the right hands... Huggy is slowly getting used to the now obligatory grin and a wink from said Tompkins, as well as a conspiratorial “hello partner”.

"Hello partner"

Then Huggy went on his own European carouse – Venice: ate and drank even more than Henry did, but in less time; so when the fatter and fully debauched champions reconvened, they decided to forego any other attempt to train and just go to...

The Docklands Head

Henry’s face dropped at the sight of the milk-pond before him. He only agreed to go because he knew that the Docks in November are, 9 times out of 10, blowing a gale with waves the size of mountains. Any excuse not to sit in the bow seat had dissipated in one go. So it was a triumphant Huggy who eased himself into the unfamiliar surroundings of the stern, happy that the steering would be in safe hands... after all, what could go wrong, the course is pretty much straight.

They tanked off at 32, zipping past the MIRC Veteran Novice Lightweight Four before they could say boo. Settling into strong and steady 30 strokes per minute, Huggy entered the zone and happily closed his eyes to concentrate on the rhythm and his legs.

Clearly, so did Henry.

They both opened their eyes to the sound of marshalls screaming at them left, right and centre:

Huggy: “everything all right back there, old boy”

Henry: “all tickety boo, old chap... just a little tickle with on the left will see us clear...”

Huggy: “...clear of what, perchance”

Henry: “oh nothing important (grunt), a little more left (grunt) perhaps”.

They missed the swing-bridge by a hairs breadth.

Despite this, as they entered the second half of the race, the power was still coming on. Rating – a solid 30.

Henry: “Now where did you say the finish was?”

Huggy: “Didn’t you check?”

Henry: “Not again... you are supposed to check”

Huggy: “Au contraire old chap, it is de rigeur for the steersman to check”

Henry: “Exactly, you’re the steersman”.

Huggy: “Not today, I’m not”.

The rest is a story of various detours, the questioning of various marshalls and competitors they passed as to where the finish was (they were still moving the boat despite the ongoing argument). False pushes for imaginary finishes were to take place before the exhausted pair collapsed in a heap when they finally found the end, easily adding a hundred metres or so to the 2.75k course.

Fortunately their only opposition from Erith were a bit ill, and the Maidstone duo finished well ahead with an OK time of 11.49 mins.

The boys were oddly pleased with the result. Standards have clearly slipped.

Their second row in the Vet D Eight, was entirely pleasurable. So, tired but happy, our friends went to their homes to watch the Formula 1 ... and to do more plotting.

Docklands Head - 2010 - Vets Report

Maidstone Vets went mob handed to Docklands with no less than 27 competitors. Unfortunately, very few Vets from other clubs turned up, so for the most part we treated the day as a useful and enjoyable training exercise.

To add to the general pandemonium, most got 2 rows, which meant the day was incredibly busy.

For me, the result of the day came from our heavyweight Novice 4+, in the fantastically newly refurbished Sword (thanks yet again, Pat Tenters). The crew, coxed by Andrea Barker in her first ever race, were (like all the novices) asked to row at Open Masters level, yet still only lost the only Vet event – Masters D4+ by 2 seconds! The time was a strong 12.04 mins. If you consider that Liz Macham’s Top Squad rowing at Masters C4+ came in a very reasonable 11.26 mins, that’s quite an achievement. Well done chaps, it’s a bow shot on your oppositions for the future.

Andrea coxed her first race!

A couple of Heavies.

The lightweight Novices, coxed by Tui Thain, also rowing as Masters D4+, looked comfortable, but were disappointed by their 12.52 mins despite beating the Old Duffer D4+, who came in a surprisingly slow 13.10 mins (note the latter rowed in the second division when the headwind had stiffened significantly – probably a 20 second handicap).

A couple of Lights

So to the lightweights, I say “keep at it”, the heavies are punching above their weight as Novices, but you are still in the right ballpark. We may need to give the set up a tweak though. To the Old Duffers (who all felt it was a nice comfortable row - Alan Rickwood tells me he set a comfortable rate in the mid twenties) – probably just a bit too comfortable chaps. :)

Old Duffers: "Nice and comfortable lads, take it nice and comfortable"

Huggy and Henry in the Masters D2x delivered a respectable 11.49 mins, despite the usual sightseeing and other shenanigans which will be explored further in the Blog!

In addition to the small boats action, we all combined into 3, yes 3 Eights. A D8+ containing the top squad and the experienced Vets, a C8+ containing the Old Duffers and another C8+ containing the Novices – Poplar clearly have an aversion to Masters Novice racing.

Vet D8+ overtaking an extremely pretty ladies quad from Poplar...

In these combinations, all three boats did admirably well. All came off the water with broad smiles on their faces – it was lovely to see. For the record:

Experienced D8+ - 10.44 mins (9th overall)

Old Duffers C8+ - 10.55 mins (12th overall)

Novice C8+ - 11.39 mins (28th overall).

The question I have left with the Poplar organisers is: “why no pot?” We await their response.

Well done everyone – a great day out.

 "Do you think I'm sexy?"

Who was in what boat.

Docklands Head - 2010 - More Wins for the Senior Squad!

I will leave the vets to tell you all how they got on today. Their reports are always much more amusing!

Another weekend, another race! This time to the east of London when MIRC went, en masse, to the Docklands Head. A bitterly cold start but at least there was no rain and, unusually for the docks, no wind! Once again though, thanks to everyone who turned out to support us - it really is valued and I am convinced you spur us on to greater things.

Frenetic activity saw all the Maidstone boats rigged in double quick time, and out on the water for a 9.30 (ish) race start. The conditions were as good as you were ever likely to get at the docks in November and everyone was looking forward to a good morning's racing.

The MasA 4+ had a last-minute seat swap and Mark 'Free Rate' Tomkins stroked his first ever head race, and what an excellent row it was for the crew, overtaking two IM3 coxless fours in the process and rowing down Poplar's Elite 2-! All the crews were happy with their racing , the Nov 4x having stormed through the field and the Nov 4+ performing really well.

The wind picked up and changed direction slightly which made the conditions in the second division very different. All crews found they had scrappier rows but generally coped well. We then just waited for the results!

The organisers had already told me they reckoned there was at least 20 seconds difference between the divisions but asked me if it was possible for the Nov4x to have won. I said I hadn't seen the another Nov4x but I told them the crew was going really well at the moment and that they had said they'd had a stonking race (Tom deserving a special mention for some really excellent steering.) Going back to the trailer, I told a couple of the squad that the rumour was that the 4x had won and glibly said that if they meant that the crew had won fastest boat overall (and not just Nov4x), I would buy everyone in the squad a Chinese meal! However, as this meant they would have had to beat IM1, IM2 and IM3 8+s, I felt my money was safe.

When the results were finally posted, we could not believe how well the squad had done, and were delighted with some excellent racing from our vets crews as well! Some extremely good finishing positions and some very creditable wins against other crews. And all six of our 4s in the top 25! We think of Curlew and Poplar & Blackwall as the local rivals, so it was particularly pleasing to perform so exceptionally well against them. There was some surprise that a Nov 4x could beat an 8+ but Curlew's ex-Men's Captain, David, very graciously came up to John afterwards and said he thought that, when he saw them, the 4x was moving definitely faster than Curlew's IM1 8+. Very sporting.

Everyone in the squad had an excellent day, and it was really good to be able to turn out in force with the vets and show just what 'only Maidstone' can do! Does anyone know a good Chinese restaurant?!

Finishing Positions
Nov 4x Hugh (S), Charlie, John and Tom - Fastest Overall
IM2 4+ John (S), Charlie, Hugh, Ben and Jo (cox) - Fastest IM2 4+
MasA 4+ Mark (S), Richard R, Lewis, Rick Wood and Lois (cox) - Fastest Masters Boat
IM3 4x Alex, Richard R, Fergus and Rick Wood
IM2 4+ Rob, Mark, Will, Tom and Lois (cox)
Nov 4+ Rob, Fergus, Oli, Alex and Jo (cox)
Out of 127 crews

Full results available at

Kelsie wins Silver at the World Championships

At 2:55am Kelsie raced in the final of the LTA 4+. Racing in her third ever international regatta and first world championships she was both excited and nervous at the whole experience.

Going into the final the main rivals were Canada and Germany who came 1st and 2nd in the other heat. GB made a strong start but all crews were neck and neck going into the last 500m. Germany dropped off with GB and Canada battling for Gold. By less that a canvas Canada took the Gold.

Kelsie is really chuffed to have won the Silver as the crew has only been together since September although disappointed in not winning Gold with the race being so close. She cheered up after words of congratulations from Sir Steve and Jurgen!

Docklands Head - 2010 Draw

THe draw for the Head can be found HERE.

Remember, boat loading is from 10am on Sat morning.

Kelsie is into the A Final at the World Championships in New Zealand

After a 5:15am text from Kelsie and phone call I am now sleepy but really happy with her news. The LTA 4+ came 1st in their heat in a time of 3:23 a comfortable 5 seconds ahead and in Kelsie's words "well we didn't do the wind up so we have lots left". The other heat contained a tight battle between Canada and Germany only beating Kelsie's heat by 3 seconds.

It should make for an interesting final on Thursday. The weather is not ideal although the wind dropped for today's racing. The final may be moved due to an expected hurricane on Thursday! So will keep you updated on her progress.

The BBC is not showing any footage of the Adaptive races so please send in complaints and perhaps next time we might get to watch Kelsie.

To read about the whole GB performance so far click here

Playing with the big boys!

12 intrepid rowers from the men's senior squad set off yesterday morning to play with the big boys at Upper Thames 4s and SBH. Knowing we'd be up against the likes of Star & Arrow and Oxford Brookes, and many other high-performing clubs and universities, would have terrified the life out of most of them at the beginning of the year but they are now a much more relaxed and confident group.

It was one of those days you just knew was going to be miserable. The rain wasn't heavy but it was unrelenting and somehow got into every nook and cranny. Our poor supporters huddled under umbrellas and stood stoically on the bank. There wasn't any shelter and only a walk into Henley or up to Upper Thames RC secured a hot cup of coffee. Thank you so much for cheering us on!

Between divisions, Mark and Jo disappeared and we only realised where they were when we noticed Mark's car had completely steamed up. As Jo had, by this time, purchased a rather risque calendar of semi-naked Leander rowers (not in aid of Save the Hippo!), Lois quickly joined them, ostensibly to warm up! Actually, she was just contemplating where her training programme is going wrong as her rowers don't look quite like the pink palace's!

Back to the racing! The boats were very efficiently rigged, crews registered and blades put out in double quick time. Lois had to change her pep talk but, once again, this day trip was intended merely as another a training session, gaining experience of racing against some really good quality crews, on a fantastic stretch of river. We weren't expecting to win but wanted to row well and just have a enjoyable day.

The squad has been decimated over the weeks by various cold (man flu!) bugs and various upset tummies, meaning that most of the crews were scratch or had had only one or two outings together. We do like a challenge! We put a quad and two coxed fours into each division, half of which had to row out of category to enable us to enter everyone who wanted to race. Everyone seemed happy after their rows and they are becoming confident in analysing their row, giving their feedback and offering constructive criticism.

The youngsters deserve a particular mention as they all performed really well and are showing great potential. They have settled into the squad, becoming valued members of crews and are brilliant at giving us tips for Angry Birds! Oli, who has only been rowing for about 7 weeks can legitimately say he has raced at Henley and Rob even shed blood for his crew!

Rick celebrated an incident-free row, much to the relief of his crew and steered a fantastic course to win the category. We know there were only two in the category but you can only race who turns up and a win is a win! This is particularly notable though as this was a scratch IM2 4x and the crew is IM3 - just! Congratulations to Alex, Richard, Fergus and Rick!

Tom decided that his crew would enjoy seeing as much of the scenery as possible and worked out that the best way to get a really panoramic view was from the middle of the river. It wasn't until a marshal kindly invited him back onto the course (and out of the navigation channel!) that Tom reluctantly moved Hugh, Charlie and John out of the stream! However, his crew enjoy terrific views for most of the course and this tactic must have worked - they finished 12th in Division 1, only being beaten by some very handy crews from Brookes, Upper Thames and Henley! Swapping Tom for Ben in the 4+, and adding Jo in as cox, saw another creditable performance with them finishing 18th in Division 2.

All in all, a very good day and a very positive start to the season. Watch this space! Full results are available on the Upper Thames website.