WOMEN’S HEAD OF THE RIVER RACE 2015 (WEHORR)
SATURDAY 14TH MARCH SAW SOME 300 CREWS TAKE TO THE THAMES FOR THE 75TH WOMEN’S EIGHTS HEAD OF THE RIVER RACE. AMONG THEM WERE 8 MEMBERS OF THE RAF WOMEN’S ROWING SQUAD, READY TO COMPETE IN THEIR FIRST RACE OF 2015.
The 6.8km course on the Tideway is the same stretch of river that hosted the Oxford and Cambridge crews for the Boat Race on 11th April, seeing the Women’s race contested for the first time on the same day as the Men’s.
The crew comprised of rowers across varied ranks and trades. Flt Lt Sally Tippett sat in the stroke seat of the boat, controlling the pace with a calm confidence coming from her previous rowing experience and kept the crew moving as one through the choppier moments on the tideway. RAF Northolt was well represented with 3 rowers in the crew: Sgt Heather Andrews and SAC Rachel Fairclough, both from the Central Band of the RAF sat in the 4 & 5 seats respectively with Mrs Zoe Cox rowing in the 2 seat. The remainder of the crew comprised Flt Lt Louise Gildersleeve, Flt Georgie Mann, Flt Lt Katie Fletcher, LAC Gemma Nichols with Natasha Perks’ (Oxford University) in the coxwain’s seat.
Run as a time trial, the boats are set off one at a time and final results are compiled when all boats have finished, we were setting off 115th so had the chance to watch quite a few crews go by before our moment to race arrived. From a rolling start, we clicked in to race mode and wound up the stroke rate to get the boat moving through the water and on the call of the cox settled into our rate for the bulk of the race. Focused and on the move we were spurred on from Barnes bridge by shouts of encouragement. Natasha kept us working with reminders of our training and we soon started to gain on the boat ahead of us. Stroke by stroke we closed the gap which gave everyone motivation to squeeze out that extra bit of effort to pull away and put some clear water between us and them. This course was definitely more of a marathon than a sprint and we had Hammersmith Bridge to aim for as our halfway marker. As we passed under the crowd-filled bridge it was time to put our training to work and push through to the finish; keeping focused on technique and timing as a crew we tried to up the pace of the boat. Winding up the stroke rate to the finish took every bit of energy we had left and as we crossed the finish line the sigh of relief was more of a gasp as everyone tried to get their breath back enough to congratulate each other on a good race. Provisional results put us just outside the top-half finish we’d hoped for but about 50 places improvement on the previous years’ result showed that the training we’d done was paying off but there’s certainly more work to be done.
The RAF Women’s Squad has approached this year’s season with enthusiasm and commitment driven strongly by their captain Flt Lt Kath Linton. Kath has motivated and organised rowers of all experience levels to form the current squad and enlisted the help of rowing coach Dave White and PTIs – Sgt Stephen (Polish) Glodkowski, Cpl Danny Barnes and Cpl Adam Redstone – to work on and off the water.
There’s still a lot of hard work ahead this season but RAF Women’s Rowing is going from strength to strength. The RAF Rowing Club was formed in 1947 and over the years has produced Olympic representatives and Henley winners. Rowing is as much based on crew teamwork as it is on fitness and the majority of RAF Rowers are introduced to the sport after they join the Service. The RAF Rowing Club is keen to recruit rowers at all levels to boost its squad for the coming year. If any RAF Personnel are interested in joining the club, please visit the website at www.raf.mod.uk/ rowing, the RAFRC Moss portal or your PEd Flt for advice and area representatives. Alternatively, email the club at: firstname.lastname@example.org