Winter Head 2021

1st VIII – came first in their division

The 1st VIII got off to a great start at Winter Head with a chonky row up, a dramatic overtake, and of course matching plaits!! We tried to summarise the events of the day but given that new chaos hit us at every corner (metaphorical and literal) this may be a long one…

We started the day bright and early (though not as early as the 2nd VIII) with crew race prep i.e. turning Amy’s room into a hair salon, in order to achieve maximum free speed. Armed (or headed as Emma Brightman would say) with matching plaits, we cycled as a weird sort of cult to the river. Amy attempted to hype the crew with some tunes but only she could hear them… hope you got hyped Amy! Once we eventually arrived at the river, we were greeted with some lovely bird poop from our resident stay-at-home poo machine (a pigeon).

Despite our green, slimy, explosive start, we pushed off with determination and much stress. Although there were many nerves peppered within the boat, we preceded to do the chonkiest row up you have ever seen (and I am NOT joking). We channeled M1 crew energy and hydroplaned aggressively in the queues with EVERYONE watching, scared of course.

After spinning, we pushed off from the bank and then just sort of started (stern pair were sooooo prepared). As soon as we had wound it up, it was clear to Cat, and Gemma, and us, and everyone except Kings themselves that we would be needing to overtake…

Cat somehow managed to juggle a flyaway race plan, the looming overtake and coxing us through the first 1km. However, even Cat’s aggressive calls of “KINGS MOOOVVVVEEEEEEEE” couldn’t deter them from the racing line and it soon became clear we would need to overtake, around Ditton on the outside line.

The aggression was clear, with Rhiannon’s call of “BOWWW BALLLL” and Cat’s call of “YEAH CLEHHMMMIIEEEE” which left us all concerned that she had been possessed. The reach flew by with Kings fading into the distance. Wrists started to tire so Becca decided to crab in order to give herself a tiny break and spice it up a little. This was exactly what the crew needed (somehow?) as almost all of us screamed some variation of encouragement and we pulled together to push off the bridge. The location of the finish line was a mystery to us all but we can all agree it was really far away. Nevertheless, we powered through, winding it up R36 and stormed over the finish line.

We limped home to our now newly decorated (with bird poop) patch of grass and slowly put the boat away. Our crew pics were then interrupted by the news that we were the fastest W1 so far!!! Considering we’d lost about 5s to the overtake, we were very excited (and hungry). Obviously, we then spent the entire day refreshing RowClock to see whether we would retain our spot as the times from the later divisions came in.

Then it was time, the final division had rowed and the first 1k times had come out. Although we still had the fastest first 1k, none of us dared to believe that we’d won. To be honest, even when the full results came out, we didn’t dare believe it… but once it had sunk in, we quickly started making plans for prize giving. Hipflasks in hand, we are now more than ready to take on Fairbairns – YEAH NEWNHAM!!

– Beth Taylor (Stroke), Emma Brightman (3) and Becca Sproston (7)




2nd VIII – came second in their division

Saturday 20th of November at 7:40am the 2nd VIII pushed off from the bank ready to give everything in the Winter Head race. The sky was grey but the boat felt powerful and the crew enthusiastic and committed. The race began from Newnham Bridge with an impecable start, going up to rate 34. Our stroke Cat Watts led us for the rest of the race at rate 32-30, higher than we had planned. However, the adrenaline and energy kept us going at this rate, maintaining an adequate and comfortable rhythm. 1km into the race and our cox Grace Donkin noticed Sirens X-press almost a boat’s length in front of us and we remained very close to them for the rest of the race.

Despite not fully knowing where the finish line was and not being able to call a final power 10, we finished second in our division, a result we are all extremely proud of. Caius W2 only beat us by 1.6 seconds, which has made us work even harder for Fairbairns. We are looking forward to it! Overall, it was a very successful and enjoyable race, thanks to rowers, our cox and our wonderful coaches Ellie and Gemma.

– Maria Victoria Rodriguez Noci (6)