It's a Long Way to…..Stourport?

Training started in mid September, and we all looked forward to a mellow autumn of warm evenings and happy sculling. Well that was a real daydream! Rumours abound that the Vet F's are putting animals in the Wooden Empacher in twos! I bet even Noah did the Fours Head!
Someone, somewhere must be having the most debauched and depraved time imaginable (perhaps in Russ Herbert's imagination?) to balance this lot up! We haven't been below the lock at Marlow since the 15th October – I mean that's the last century!
With many of the old guard 'retiring' after the summer - anyone seen Emma and Kristel? On the water! But it's dark and 07.00! that's not retiring! Grotty in a moment of extreme weakness/drunkenness agreed to be Captain – I mean how relaxing is that! Even Hodgy celebrated her retirement by getting married - and isn't that the most stressful day of your life? Worse than that she married Gary, who is either on the river, talking about it or up at 04.30 to do a job too secret to even think about! Happy retirement one and all.
Putting up with all this weather have been 8 returnees from last season – now down to 7, with poor Biffy's back giving out. In fact with Mrs McCulloch naffing off to New Zealand for October (of course I can do trials two weeks after I get back! – not on the flooded Thames you can't!) and Hillbilly being posted to Tampa Bay (yes perennial student (soon to be Dr Hillaby) was posted to TAMPA BAY to do her computer training. What ever happened to two months in Cleethorpes on pie and chips? They made them tough in our day! Anyway we were down to 5 actual scullers in mid-October (and we're not actually sure that Kate counts as a sculler yet!)
Fortunately a steady trickle of new bugs has bolstered our numbers, despite the steady rain, and we are now a happy band of - well - 15! Those who are coming to terms with being in the second eight are to be seen eyeing up the Novices erg scores very closely for a suitable candidate to make 7 into 8.
Talking of Novices, a couple of Saturday mornings in October got very silly – I mean even God would be pushed to teach 26 girls to row all at once! Gary, Phil and Sean aren't slapheads by accident! Stress is a joy to watch! Very fortunately the steady rain and plunging temperatures have reduced the numbers – although we are braced for the spring surge! Oddly there are no novice men at the club – obviously Mike Landers' leadership skills are more widely known than we dare think! However, having 26 new women in the club has dragged all sorts of veteran men out of the woodwork – I mean there were 3 Vet Eights out the weekend before last! There's a Leslie Phillips in everyone – HEEELLOOOO ladies! However a few well placed 'piss off Grandpa's' have cooled even the Carry on Saucy types.
Racing – nice idea but very hard to do in wet England. The cancelled events read like our normal racing calendar! Eventually Phil plucked Stourport Head out of the Almanack/Rowing service. Despite a tense week of steady rain, Saturday the 28th dawned bright and sunny – bit of a shock. After tea break, PT took the call from Carol Hough to say it was on! Hurray – better still we are 'club of the month' for Regatta mag! And so every move was being photographed by John Shore! Look – we're taking off riggers 'cos we are going to a race! All very novel.
Sunday started badly as the truck wouldn't start (06.30 already!), but jump leads are a wonderful thing and Mrs Rawlings (our neighbour at MRC) thinks we are all bastards anyway, so in a great roar the diesel fired up and we are off. Smoke everywhere! Marvellous conversation in said truck – conducted at a hoarse shout as ever - 'where is Stourport?', 'somewhere near Kidderminster Maurice said', 'Where's Kidderminster?', 'Get the map out!'
By 09.00 we were trundling down a slope, over a bridge and we were there! A very nice man wondered if we could park 'over there' – even PT struggled to reverse back and around 'over there'. Soon the troops arrived, riggers and numbers were put on,  and it was time to race! Much flapping from the support crew later, all were afloat and it was time to watch the eights boating which was a sport in itself. Gary was driving the Wonder Novice Eight, who boated very efficiently. Some of the college crews were a scream! Unfortunately a four managed to turn over at the start - I mean where do they find these muppets?! This inevitably delayed the start, but after much further shouting from the bank– we were off! The Novices celebrated their first ever race by rowing over all by themselves – welcome to head racing! Nevertheless they beat a crew (thanks Hereford) and were only 7 seconds behind a senior 2 crew! Great stuff.
Mrs Mac did the business winning Senior 3 and the head pennant! Emily in her first ever sculling head (kept that v. quiet) won Elite! Easy this sculling lark! And Jo (who Sean described probably very foolishly as 'evergreen' in the local paper today – Sean, she's not a tree! and NEVER even hint at a girl's age - EVER) won Novice by a heart stopping 2 seconds from 'Cath Bishop's big sister' Eva.
As the senior group were 'entered 3, won 3' after the morning, spirits were high (if cold) for the doubles clash in the afternoon run. Mrs Mac won again pm, winning Senior 1 and overall. Jo and Emily won the doubles by a second, from an Evesham/Stratford crew and they beat Fiona and Eva by one second – so Jo had beaten Eva by 2 seconds again – spooky! The only hiccup was Helen who was done out of the Senior 2 pennant by 2 seconds! 5 out of 6 wins was a great day – and Helen got her own back by stuffing everyone in the Erg tests on Tuesday night following, recording a PB of 7.10!

Rumours abound we might do this racing thing again – what's the chance of Wallingford being on ? – Oh miracles only once a year!


Phil Tinsley