Senior Women's Squad
 2012 Summer Season Report

The 2012 regatta season got off to a promising start  - blue skies, light winds, calm water  - lulling us all into a fall sense of security that this would be the year of perfect racing conditions. The Women's Squad turned out in force at Wallingford Regatta to race in various combinations, many of which had been put through their paces on training camp a few weeks earlier. The W IM2 4+ narrowly missed out on a place in the final putting in a strong performance in their first race of the new season. Injury forced a change to one of the squad's three entries in W IM2 2x; Anna Brazinova and Ruth Naylor put their winter training to the test with a solid row in the heat but sadly they were unable to overcome strong opposition in the final. 

 A bit of "fun" was called for next and the girls headed over to Twickenham for a spot of good old-fashioned river racing. Once again, we were blessed with near perfect conditions and the promise of some great racing. First up was the W IM1 2x of Clare Haley and Dawn Thomson who had a straight final against a strong 2x from Sport Imperial. The Marlow boat fought hard and in the end lost by a length; a promising performance for the lightweight crew.

 Anna and Ruth continued to show their form by winning two rounds of W IM3 2x but then unfortunately lost the final against a good crew from the University of Surrey. The W IM1 4- struggled in their light-weighted-ness against a heavyweight crew from Molesey containing a number of aspiring internationals. Dawn met her opposite number from the 2x race in W IM3 1x and lost by only 1 length (narrowly avoiding re-landscaping the riverbank in the process) and Victoria Parsons had a great scull in W Mas A/B 1x, winning her heat but sadly losing the final to a TSS sculler. Tuba Islam and Kerry Clarke tested their mettle in W Mas A/B 2x and put in a great show to lose by only 2 ¾ lengths again to TSS.

The last race of the morning session was in W IM2 4x and our hopes were pinned on the relatively scratch crew of Dani Phillips, Hannah Cumming, Fay Beanland and Emily Broadley. They did not disappoint and rounded off what could have been a day of near misses with a win - much to the delight of the crew and coaches!

A WC IM3 4x- consisting of Lisa Knill, Kerry Clarke, Amanda Rice and Catrin Jones, attended the British Rowing Masters Championships; their first test of racing together as a crew. Against some tough opposition, Marlow stayed in the pack holding on to the second placed Mortlake crew for the majority of the race. It was a positive start giving the crew the confidence to enter the 4x- at Henley Masters a few weeks later.

With the crews for HWR fixed, the squad turned next its attention to the Metropolitan Regatta at Dorney Lake, arguably one of the most competitive regattas of the season. The squad were represented well - Dawn and Clare raced W IM1 2x and W Senior 2x on both days and were joined in W IM1 2x on the Saturday by Anna and Ruth and also Dani and Tamsin Knill; the 4+ raced in W IM2 4+ on the Saturday; and Dani and Tamsin raced a 2- on the Sunday. Clare and Dawn continued to show their form, coming 2nd in W IM1 2x (a length behind the winners and some 19 seconds ahead of the next boat) and 3rd in W Sen 2x on Saturday and 4th in W IM1 2x and 2nd in W Sen 2x on Sunday.

In preparation for more river racing, some of the squad ventured upriver to Reading Amateur. Here the W IM2 4+ put up a fantastic show winning all their races convincingly and taking the honours in the final over a good crew from Henley RC.

The 25th Henley Women's Regatta was the next port of call for the squad and it was clear from early on in the week that this was not going to be an ordinary regatta. Unprecedented rain (so much for the drought) and strong winds left the organisers with a difficult of task of trying to allow the regatta to go ahead whilst ensuring the safety of the competitors in what proved to be very challenging conditions. The outcome was that a number of events were raced as a time trial to whittle the competitors down to the fastest eight in each event, who then raced side-by-side as normal.

The only Marlow boat affected was the W Sen Lwt 2x of Dawn and Clare, who duly raced their time trial on Friday lunchtime and then their first heat later that afternoon. With an "easily" verdict going into Sunday's semi-final, they had a tough race against Mortlake Anglian Alpha but pushed on to win by 2 lengths. The girls had the benefit of knowing they had beaten the other finalists, Wallingford, already this year but the times of the heats showed that it would not be an easy race. A poor start meant the Marlow girls were trailing Wallingford by 1 ½ lengths coming out of the island, but they did not give up the fight and continued to push all the way down the course but unfortunately were unable to pull back a victory. A great race and some comfort in knowing that the lightweight final's time was 11 seconds faster than the heavyweight final's time in the immediately preceding race.

The 4+ had a great victory against Agecroft on Saturday meaning that they met a very good crew from Upper Thames in the semi-finals of Senior 4+. Another dodgy start left the Marlow girls in the wake of Upper Thames but again they did not give up and the race remained a close one through the Enclosures, until Upper Thames began to sneak away from Marlow eventually winning by 4 lengths and ultimately winning the final.

The Senior 4x of Dani, Tamsin, Louise Cox and Anna Smart from the junior girls' squad had a bye into the semi-finals on Sunday where they met Guildford RC. Guildford had raced Oxford Brookes the previous day and won the race by only 2 feet thanks to Brookes not only hitting but causing serious damage to one of the posts on the course. Guildford must therefore have thought their luck was in when one of the blades in the Marlow boat broke as the crews entered the Enclosures, causing a huge disappointment for the Marlow girls. To conclude the bizarre sequence of events, the other finalists (Reading Uni) also suffered a broken blade during their final.

Although not wins, these performances at HWR were probably the stand out performances of the season for the squad.

With a preference developing for shorter distances, some of the more "experienced" members of the squad braved more wind and rain at Henley Masters Regatta at the beginning of July. Once again, the organisers faced the challenge of constant weather-watching to determine what steps needed to be taken to ensure the regatta could proceed. The main problem however was not the stream or wind (indeed the conditions were relatively favourable for racing, if you ignore the downpours) but the extremely muddy conditions in the boating area and car parks. Not to be deterred, the Marlow old girls stepped up to the mark and brought home victories and beautiful shiny medals in W Mas A 2x (Clare and Dani), W Mas B 1x (Clare) and W Mas B 4 + (Ruth, Anna, Victoria and Jo Chesney, coxed by Lisa Knill) with a good solid performance from the W Mas C 4x (Lisa, Kerry, Amanda and Catrin) too.

The penultimate regatta of the season was not to be outdone in its oddness. This year only a small number of Senior events were on offer at the British Rowing Championships, namely heavyweight and lightweight 1x and 2- and heavyweight 4+. Both the 4+ and Clare in W Lwt 1x made it to the repechage but failed to qualify for their respective finals. Dani and Tamsin had a straight final in W Lwt 2- but sadly failed to medal.

The ultimate rowing event kicked off on 27th July in Berkshire and it
did not disappoint. Henley Town and Visitors wrapped up the year on a
positive note, with Victoria just being pipped in the final of W IM3
1x, and a win for Tamsin, Ruth, Clare and Anna in W IM2 4x.

So looking back, although the season has been frustrating at times, for a small squad we have had some high quality wins from many fantastic performances. Training will resume again on 15th September 2012 - new members are especially welcome, please contact Russ Haley on 07770 568761 for more details.