The head racing season got underway on September 18th with 16 entries from Durham ARC contesting the 4 divisions of Tyne Single Scullers Head over a 3000-metre course finishing at Newburn opposite Tyne Amateur Rowing Club.
The competition is organized by Newcastle University Boat Club and last year was British Rowing’s test event for the return to rowing. This year, in contradiction with its name, entries were accepted from doubles and pairs as well as from singles.
Fine weather and good conditions welcomed competitors and saw several good performances from DARC. Racing on the ebb tide in division 1 Nick Baird was equal 4th overall in the Open 1x and only 20 seconds behind the winner, placing 2nd in band 2 ahead of several band 1 scullers from Newcastle University. The Women’s Masters had E, F and H entries from Gabrielle Moore, Sarah Rutter and Joyce Collett, with Joyce taking victory by 30 seconds after application of the handicap system.
With the tide turning Paul Rutter won the Masters F 1x In division 2, finishing 3 seconds ahead of his double partner David Heppell who was the only entry at MasE 1x, while Andy Jaggard lost out by 5 seconds to Paul Freeman of Cambois Rowing Club in the Masters G 1x.
Division 3 was reserved for Junior singles. DARC’s J16 boys had four entries in the J16 1x, two racing in band 1 and two in band 2, both of which they won. Luke Davison won band 2 with a time that was 20 seconds faster than Finlay Scott who won band 1. In another event where the band 2 winner posted a faster time than the band 1 winner Isaac Bolton finished 2nd to Purves-Liddelle of Durham School in band 1 of the J15 1x. On a good day for the Purves Liddelles James also won the J18 1x and J18 2x.
In division 4 the J16 2x lost against two Yarm School doubles, and the Rutter/Heppell MasF 2x was outpaced on handicap times by the Tees RC MasH 2x, as were Kim Forster and David Muse competing as MasC. With no masters opposition Gabrielle Moore and Aisling Dutton entered the senior women’s 2x, but were unable to repeat their Tyne Regatta success, succumbing to Newcastle University BC in band 2.
It was not the only Scullers Head on Saturday – the Tyne’s more illustrious counterpart the Vesta Scullers Head, raced on the Tideway, decided to move from its customary December slot in the calendar to an early season date, perhaps anticipating more favourable conditions and less chance of cancellation. Raced over the full 6.8km Thames Championship course the Vesta Head certainly enjoys a higher profile, more so given the recent reopening of Hammersmith Bridge to river traffic under the control of a traffic light system. Further changes are anticipated once bridge repairs commence which may affect future Tideway events.
First raced in 1954 Vesta is the largest race for single scullers in the UK and certainly isn’t lacking in prestige, attracting Henley calibre entrants, although with a mainly southern bias, perhaps understandable given the £40 per seat entry fee and the need to pre-arrange boating permission with a Tideway-based club before travelling to London. The lure of the Tideway remains strong however and the 402 entries included several from the Midlands and other far-flung locations such as Leeds, Agecroft and Exeter as well as from Ireland. The one notable northern entry was Lucy Radley representing Tees RC in the Women’s PR3 event. Lucy was the inspiration for the previous weekend’s Centurion Challenge charity row and completed the Tideway course in a very respectable 28mins 11 secs.
The Centurion Challenge was supported by Sophie Milburn of Tyne United RC who through her efforts in rowing 100km has so far raised over £1700 for the Beacon Project. She was supported by other members of Tyne United as well as by Joyce Collett of Durham ARC.
The change of date aligns the sequence of Tideway Heads in order of increasing boat size, with the Pairs Head scheduled for October 2nd, and Fours Head and Veteran Fours Head for November 13th and 14th.
In comparison the £10 per seat entry for the Tyne Scullers Head is good value although as a relatively recent addition it relies almost entirely on interest from the northern region, which is evidently in plentiful supply given the 168 entries. The addition of doubles and pairs to the programme in effect also provides an alternative for those not wishing to travel to the £20 per seat Pairs Head.
The vagaries of the race calendar threw up a third option for Saturday, an end of season sprint in the form of Bradford Autumn Regatta, which attracted the interest of many Yorkshire and North-West clubs and was also the preference of Chester-le-Street ARC.
By way of contrast Rutherford Head which is scheduled during the academic year and is for bigger boats including eights attracts entries from around the UK as a precursor to BUCS Head and the winter heads on the Tideway. This year’s event takes place on November 27th.