Champs Head

DSC_4609-champs-head Sunday was the Champs Head. It is a slightly odd head race: a short course (1200m, from the Plough to the Pike and Eel) from a standing start, but the start is just for fun, since you get timed from a few strokes in. It was a blazing day, it felt like the heights of midsummer not late spring, lovely to be out on the river.

I rowed for our M1 in the first division at 12, which was a fair enough race. James Tidy won the not-quite-too-far-over-the-top total coxing arrogance prize by overtaking everyone dawdling about by the railings. This raised a few eyebrows (this is England, don’t y’know, not Italy) but actually there is no real point to the queues there. And anyway, everyone needs to get to the top and spin anyway. We said Hello to Elspeth who was marshalling in the shade by Chesterton bridge, very nice for her. As for the race: well. We were 39th with 5:16 (winning: Downing M1 with 4:33; a very cool result :-). And the Hornets beat us. Opinions amongst the crew were somewhat divided: some thought it was a good row, and in some ways I agree: we were balanced, and together. We weren’t as strong as we could have been; not enough oomph, some holding back perhaps. But more than that, I thought we lacked a certain degree of class; things were just a bit blurred when they should have been sharp. And perhaps a couple of pips on the rating might have been good? We were very comfortable at 30, but perhaps too comfortable.

A post race pint in the fort for analysis and digressions, siting by the river watching the boats go by: very pleasant. Leading on to division 3 at 3 o’clock.

Our second men’s boat was a bit short of manliness in some respects, as my picture shows. I was coxing, because I enjoy it. After a while I worked out how to plug the speakers in, and could stop shouting, which was a relief to all. I remember the good old days when I started: only M1 had a cox box, these things were luxuries (did I tell you I grew up in a cardboard box in the middle of the road?) Due to injuries, and stuff, we ended up with four guest ladies, and by chance they were all strokeside, leading to what might have been a rather unbalanced boat, but wasn’t. In fact it was better than I’d thought it would be, but ultimately underpowered and suffering from never having rowed together before. But never mind, we rowed a good race and they were kind enough to be kind to my coxing (having to drag around a cox heavier than all but a few of the crew didn’t help, of course). In my pic: Laura (stroke), Dave R, Ev, Tony M (look at that grin), Emma B, Dave B, Lorraine, Simon (bow). Even if you can’t see the front few. At this point, we’ve spun under the motorway bridge and are heading back down towards our marshalling station. Our time was 6:30, irritatingly 6 seconds slower than our W1, but they have been rowing together for a while and would probably have been rather p*ss*d off if we’d beaten them, so perhaps it is for the best.

After which it was back home to cut the grass, plant the sweet peas (I know, I’m late) water the veg, weed the beds (nowhere near finished) drag away the cut-down trees, have dinner, finish the bow-and-arrow holder, stop the cat bringin live voles into the house (I never knew there was so much wildlife in the garden until the cat started killing it), and all the normal stuff of a sunday afternoon shading into evening.


* M1 near the start
* “M”2 just on the finish line

from DBP photographic

Also, the hydrofoil scull video is worth a look, as is the hydrofoil kayak]



Yes, another boatie post. I promise you a short break for at least a few days after this one. Unlike our little event on the Cam, Wallingford is The Big Time, and to celebrate the regatta is… yes, you guessed: nowhere near Wallingford at all. That confused me no end. It is in fact on Eton (old sausage) rowing lake (Dorney), a massive trench in the ground designed, as far as I can see, primarily to demonstrate that Eton has (or perhaps had, before they did this) stupendous quantities of spare cash. Though to be fair they did a decent cup of coffee and flapjack at a fair price.
Continue reading “Wallingford”

Head o’ the Cam


Tis a beautiful first of May and also the Head of the Cam which Chesterton (hurrah!) organises, I think in conjunction with Press, though most of the marshalls and organisation looked to be Chesteron folk to me. I was marshalling for the first division, and my call sign was “Mr Asbo”, since I was on “Asbo corner” better known as Ditton corner. My pic shows the first boat down, Caius [update: and as it turns out, the winners (oops no I’m wrong: as it turns out (thanks to James T for correcting me), that was their M2 (9:42); M1 were in div 3. Looking very good for an M2)], and this is traditional because they were first off last year too. I love the “tucked in” look of their boat; I’ve no idea if it has any advantage or merely looks good.

DSC_4488-mr-asbo In fact Mr Asbo was disappointingly civil today – apart from a token display he left the boats alone and seemed to be content to nibble at grass. His partner was nest-sitting in the cut, and perhaps we can expect renewed hostilities when they hatch out.

DSC_4489-ditton-corner Ditton corner is a very pleasant part of the world to sit on a sunny day and watch the boats go by. I was merrily chatting to – Bill Keyes I think it was – about our respective veteran-hood (though he is now a Master) and commenting on the boats when he (who happened to be looking up course) alerted me to the hapless Churchil ladies who had somehow contrived to steer into the weeds off on the far bank. How they managed that is a complete mystery (update: apparently there was some kind of Churchill-Newnham “incident”) – Grassy corner a little further up course is the one where coxes traditionally come adrift. As marshall it was clearly my duty to run around like a headless chicken, but while I stood ready to shout at them they managed to lever themselves off without backing into the next boat, so All was Well.


This is Magdalene (I had to look up their colours, sorry) with a bonus Asbo in the background. They don’t look too bad – fractionally out of time perhaps. And to quibble, although they are nicely around their rigggers, their outer shoulders are all dropped and their inside arms are perhaps too straight. Caius looked better. Also compare last year’s winners, Jesus.


What do you think of Pembroke? They’ll do. I have contgrived to take them at the moment which most exaggerates any timing errors. They were number 11. Anyway, I took most of the first division (when not forced to pay attention to my actual duties, of course) which you’ll find on flickr. Technically I claim copyright on them, so if you nick any please let me know – an email would be appreciated.

Last year’s winners were Jesus in 8:56, and Cauis were 8 seconds adrift (but they won in 8:41 this year). There is an enormous pile of photos from last year if you feel inclined to poke through them.



As trailed in March and promised recently I owe a report on the Head of the River Race (a follow up to the Hammersmith Head). Tune out now if you don’t care for boatie stuff. There is only one river, of course, the Thames; and only one head. We are insular folk. But the race isn’t: although most of the crews were British there were a scattering of high class foreign entrants from Spain, Germany, Czech, Italy and so on. Full results are here; Molesey won, if you were wondering, in 17 21.76 . But we didn’t concern ourselves with that end. Having started at 354 (where else do you put an unknown provincial club entering for the first time?) we finished at 302 (without overtaking anyone, alas) in 19 57.57 which is a fair enough result – just sneaking in under 20 mins.
Continue reading “HORRor”

Mothers Day

Mothers day, and so like all good fathers I went off rowing, only in this case I went Off a little further than normal, since we were competing in the Hammersmith Head.

First, however, I did my fatherly duty by assisting Miranda (who woke up especially to remind me that it was mothers day and that she ought to do this) to make M a cup of tea, and to set out her breakfast when she came down, and presenting the paper bouquet carefully.
Continue reading “Mothers Day”

Old boat, new boat

Warning: this post is of limited general interest, unless you (like all right-thinking people) are interested in rowing. More photos than you could ever wish to see are here.


We got a new eight today (well actually it turned up during the week, as Amy already noted; but this was the first outing); “we” being Chesterton Rowing Club (yes, I know, the site is in bad need of update). It is a shiny new Janousek, though I’m sorry to say I don’t even know exactly which model. Having looked for a long time for a decent affordable second hand boat we eventually said “b*gg*r it” and bought a new one, mortgaging our souls in the process. Still, it is lovely. The only downside, as someone pointed out, is that we have no excuses any more: no longer can we blame the boat for our rowing.

DSC_3991 Anyway: the main pic: new eight (so far unnamed) in the water, K8 (the Karlisch VIII; maybe the same make as FaTs? Curiously enough, the new J is modelled on a K shell) on trestles, and in the background Peterhouse boathouse which we (the men) boat from. It is conveniently opposite the Fort St George and just down the road from the Old Spring, which does better chips. The little pic shows James the Captain pouring celebratory champagne and misc folk drinking it.

Meanwhile, what about the poor old boat?


Look closely: you can see the words “PYE RC” dimly visible under the varnish.

DSC_4032-beautiful-patches The build quality and joinery of the K8 is a delight to behold. Even some of the patching it has had is splendid. The new boat is unlikely to last nearly so long. But alas it is definitely in need of some care and repair because the sticking tape was beginning to wear out. And also, although the build quality was superb, 40 years of use had definitely loosened its fibres; it was the only boat on the river that could be down to bowside in the stern and down to strokeside in the bows. Now it sits on blocks, awaiting renovation – it will still be used.

The most obviously thing about the new boat is that nothing is broken. Second, the slides: gloriously smooth and silent. It makes rushing the stroke a seductive pleasure. Thirdly the stiffness, though this was less obvious on the first outing: we sat it better, and were able to sit it better, though I think it will take a while to bed in properly. We need a new rowcoach / impeller, though: the one we had wasn’t showing nearly enough improvement πŸ™‚

Update: nice ejector crab from Queens this Lents. HT: Paul “Lycra King” Holland.

Uupdate: it turns out we also have new sponsors, so I’d better puff them here: Are you looking to advertise in Cambridge? We have highly prestigous side-of-boat space going at quite reasonable rates πŸ™‚

More misc

When we all wake up by the Onion.

Spam: I wrote a website for a friend who does English/German translation. This is my attempt to push it up the google rankings and maybe even get her some business:

ScruffyDan on the incoherent septic response to Siddall et al.

Daniel: stronger than 3/4 of a sausage.


We were going to the Head of the Trent tomorrow (well, today now, cos I delayed this post) but the forecast is looking awful: Div 2 and the novices are already cancelled (for some mad reason we were entered as IM2). Since that means I don’t have to get up at 5 am tomorrow its not all bad news :-). This afternoon I wandered down the river to watch the Lents, or at least the first two divisions with the most amusingly dubious rowing.

DSC_3955-nb-by-tree-close In between races it is quiet and peaceful.

Continuing: as it turned out, the Trent *wasn’t* cancelled but we did wimp out of our sunday morning outing and do a few ergs instead. Our thin excuse was that we couldn’t see the edge of the river: wading out with waders rather than boots it was possible to poke a pole in to mark it, but no-one was keen. Perhaps a slight lack of determination there.

Sorry, this seems to have morphed into a diary entry. Ah well.

Image0004 On the way back home: if you know this bit, it is the little triangle of land behind the UL near the ?real tennis? courts on the footpath towards Coton; normally a humble little stream but today a roaring torrent, or not quite, because the rain abated. Appalling picture quality due to my phone’s camera; still it was nice to have. And due to the power of – aha – Bluetooth, I xferred the photos to M’s laptop, with only a certain degree of cursing (eventually realising that the laptop wasn’t going to offer a removable-disk type option and I’d have to xfer each from the phone view’s “send”).

Late addendum: you must watch the EDSAC film. As well as being ‘istorical it is wonderful fun. Committees! People with mustaches! Punched tape! What more can you want.

And another:


Thisis me being narcissistic, of course. Of the two ergs, the second was on a machine with a functioning display πŸ™‚ and it seems I do better when pushed by a time. Next stop, 30m with a monitor.

Yet more more misc. Isn’t that just… awesome?

Lock to lock

About the furthest you can row on the Cam (unless you go over Baits Bite to Bottisham) is Baits Bite lock to Jesus Lock; and that seems to have become our regular monday evening practice. Warmup, spin, down to Jesus Lock, steady state to Baits Bite, then a piece back. It is about 5 km I think; Baits Bite to the Motorway bridge must be ~30 strokes, then it was (tonight, slight following wind, rating 24) 530 strokes to Jesus Lock (and a rapid stop to avoid going under the weir). The rowcoach said ~1:55 split average, maybe a little better. We need to learn to take the rating up; the first half was at ~22 or a fraction under; we ended at 28. This is semi-deliberate to settle us down.

Does that fit? 560/24 ~ 23 1/2 mins. 5km (and against the stream) in 23 mins would be over 2:00, so maybe it is more like 5.5 km. Hmm, and if I put the rate at 25 and say only 20 strokes to the Motorway bridge from the lock? Maybe. Next time we should just time it, that would be easier.

Meanwhile, if you want to see a very rough crew do their first bumps start of the year, try The title is a clue. Note that this was the first time 3 had done a bumps start; in fact it was the first time 3 had rated above 30, let alone 35.

Rowing and Rugby

In which I yet again abuse science blogs to discuss matters of little import to general readers. But it’s my blog, so there.

The rowing was the Head to Head, which involves rowing the 2 km form the Railway bridge to the Motorway bridge, spinning, and then rowing back. You get a rest of ~20 mins while the division comes through, or maybe more, I wasn’t timing it. Our time turns out to be a bit rubbish but we weren’t that bad. The first leg, which is downstream, was OK; the second, against the stream and therefore slower, we stuffed up somewhat with poor technique and a few mini-crabs; the times show that, in that we lost more on the second legs than other crews. Moral: more ergs, more coached outings. Indeed more outings in general. Savelie did well, mind you, at 103. Irritatingly, the Hornets beat us by 1 second – grrr. If you’re friends with the right people, there is some facebook video of the end of the second leg. The ladies look prettier but they are slower :-).

Meanwhile, back at the rugby, I have had my first taste of one of the fabled joys of parenthood: standing on the sidelines on a cold winter’s day watching your son play. Miriam had it harder though: she was unwise enough to wear her thin elegant work trousers. This was Daniel’s first rugby match, and he appears to have enjoyed it – the Perse won 40-10 or somesuch over Ipswich, which helped of course, and he scored a try and did some decent tackling, so that is all to the good. True it was but the C team – the nearby A team clearly had a better idea of tactics and play – but these are early days. Since it was a friendly match and Ipswich appeared to be a little short of players, D got to play on their team for a bit, before being “invalided” out with a cut to the leg – though by the speed with which he ran to the medic, and then ran back, it wasn’t very serious. Next time I’ll bring my camera and subject you to tedious pictures as well. Afterwards, tea and coffee and sandwiches in the hall, and a chance to chat to other parents, which of course we didn’t, being unsociable folk.

Incidentally – please be sure never to eat adulterated Ham Nuts. Always use the pure sort.

Cold and Dark again

So I was coming upstairs after talking to the digits about the things you talk to digits about, when a little beep came from my mobile receiving a text message and I just knew it was going to be the outing coming On. 4pm on a cold dark monday with only 4 people signed up: I thought there was a fair chance of it being cancelled and me getting a chance to work late (oooh how I love a chance to work late). But no, thanks to James (the one how lives on a boat, except that isn’t specific enough, the one who lives on a boat and has a cat not a dog, that will do) we were out in the Four of Death (stoat passim). To make things even better the Queens Boys were oiling their rippling torsos in the IV bay doing synchronised erging so we had 15 mins to kill and Tom said “why don’t we do an erg while we’re waiting” so we did. I disgraced myself with 7:38, but I haven’t been on for months.

The outing, however, was really rather good. Despite Paul H’s rather eccentric approach to balance (viz, throw your weight onto bowside in an effort not to have it down on stroke side; actually I’m being unfair in describing this as eccentric, it is all too common 😦 Also he improved as we went along) and the IV’s notorious skittishness we did manage the odd balanced stroke. And we didn’t turn it over, a definite plus on a winter night. And it was a lovely still night, perfect for rowing, except when Cantabs tried to slice us in half. It’s not as if there was a lot of other traffic out.

In the Spring afterwards we all agreed it was a splendid outing and we should do it again. Thanks to Ralph, Tom, Paul, James T. And Me.

Stoat: the blog that should really be called “Otter”. Thanks to all for the responses to “Ask Stoat”. I haven’t forgotten you, I’m just busy.