Cambridge '99 – Winter 2002-2003


Pairs Head – S3 2- finished 192nd

We started the head racing season on the Tideway at the Pairs Head, from Chiswick to Hammersmith (2.5 miles) on 5 October. The Pairs Head is a smaller event than the Fours or Eights Heads, with around 300 men's and women's crews. Although we hadn't had much chance to practise in the preceding month, due to holidays and injury, a race on the Tideway is always a great occasion to look forward to. The weather was gloomy but calm as we set off late in the afternoon. We started very smoothly, rowing efficiently and closing surprisingly on the crews ahead. By Barnes Bridge, we were almost level with Pengwern BC, who had started ahead of us. Unfortunately, we went through a rough patch during the middle third of the race, fighting to stay in the stream and rowing less neatly as the race progressed. Nevertheless, we were still competitive with crews around us, and we pulled it together from Chiswick Eyot to the finish. Our time of 13'27" was 192nd overall and 13th fastest of the 19 crews in the S3 division. With more practice at race pace, we are confident that we can improve significantly on our already reasonable speed. The winning crew in our division was Thames Tradesmen's in 12'46", much quicker than any other crew in S3. The S2 crew from Cambridge '99 had an excellent row, finishing third in their division.

Crew: Richard Thompson (bow, steering), David Sampson (stroke).

Cam Winter League, Leg 1 – S4 4+ finished 46th, S3 2- finished 88th

Our first event of 2003 was the Cam Winter League over 2800 metres on 26 January. Bad weather and flooding had prevented practising in Cambridge, and we had been forced to travel to Dorney Lake near Oxford to get some time on the water.

The performance of our scratch four was predictably poor. We covered the course in 12'28", 46th overall and second of three crews in S4 4+, but a long way from the winning crew from Rob Roy.

Our training for the pair consisted of cross-country skiing in Switzerland the previous weekend, and we were desparately short of time on the water. It was hard work keeping the boat on line in the raging stream, and we were moving more by determination than finesse. Nevertheless, we completed the majority of the course without incident. That was until, as we approached Pike and Eel pub, a women's four that we were passing decided not to let us through after all. Both boats ground to a halt, but eventually we prised ourselves free and continued to the finish. Our time of 13'46" placed us 88th overall and second of three crews in 13'46", but again well adrift of the winning crew. The only way is up!

Crews: S4 4+: Jonathan Spencer (bow), Andy Kidd, David Sampson, David Rothe (stroke), Anne Harrison (cox); S3 2-: Richard Thompson (bow, steering), David Sampson (stroke).

Cam Winter League, Leg 2 – S3 2- finished 60th

The second leg of the 2003 Cam Winter League was held on 16 February. Conditions were much more favourable than in January, with a gentle stream and cold, bright weather.

We had decided to switch positions, so I was steering. We made a smooth start and took a good line around First Post Corner, but I misjudged the exit of Grassy Corner and we took a quick trip into the bank. Thankfully Angie was on hand to push us back into the course, although our bow was covered by muddy evidence of my steering indiscretion. We recovered reasonably well, but the rhythm fell apart in the Reach. By the Railway Bridge, the boat started moving better again, and we reached the line in 12'40". This time was good enough for 60th overall, and we beat the only other crew in our division. For what it's worth (admittedly not much!), of the two crews that have raced in both Winter League S3 2- races, we are leading!

Crew: S3 2-: David Sampson (bow, steering), Richard Thompson (stroke).

Cam Winter League, Leg 3 – S3 2- finished 102nd

The third leg of the 2003 Cam Winter League was held on 16 March in bright, sunny, calm conditions. Unfortunately I spent the previous day ill in bed, and I was still off form on race day.

We made a great start, moving strongly at 32 and registering our best-ever speed on the SpeedCoach. Then came the corners. I made a slight misjudgement out of First Post Corner, and we grazed the bank, but nothing serious. I took a tight line around Grassy, but I hadn't spotted a tree that had fallen into the river on the inside just beyond the apex. Richard's blade caught the tree hard and spun the boat into the inside bank, and it took some time to free ourselves and restart. We were moving well again by the Reach, fighting off the crew behind. Unfortunately there was more trouble in store through the deceptive bends by the Pike and Eel, where I bounced off a houseboat and then tangled blades with another crew. Eventually we crossed the line to record a time of 12'45". All in all, it was a disastrous steering performance, although I was relieved to make it to the finish without vomiting. Amazingly we had enough of a lead from the previous legs to take the S3 2- title overall by 34".

Crew: S3 2-: David Sampson (bow, steering), Richard Thompson (stroke).

Race results


I didn't participate in a full programme of racing over the winter. However, we had a promising row at the Pairs Head, and I look forward to entering again. I also enjoyed learning to steer, although this clearly needs some more work!

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