Cambridge '99 – Winter 2003-2004


Pairs Head – S3 2- finished 183rd

We raced the Pairs Head, from Chiswick to Hammersmith (2.5 miles) on 4 October. After Richard had been forced to miss GBR in August, this was actually our first competitive outing since the Cambridge Winter League in March. Unfortunately I was off work ill for some of the week leading up to the race, and since we hadn't had much practice anyway due to holidays in September, our expectations were modest. Anyway, enough excuses, we were still going to give it our best shot, and personally I was looking forward to my first time steering on the classic Tideway course. (On that subject, we had switched boats from the Jonathan Conder to the John Jenner, and I was finding the latter easier to steer.) We started off reasonably well, holding position or even closing slightly on crews ahead. I was pleased to take a good line through Barnes Bridge, although we had a rough patch on the following section and struggled with the balance and timing. We improved somewhat on the run up to Chiswick Eyot, but as we tried to put in a finishing burst, we raised the rate but not the boat speed. Our time of 14'08" was 19th of 34 crews in S3 2-, short of our goal of finishing in the top half of our division, but what can you say? We hadn't had time to build the confidence we needed to really get out to full length. We had the minor satisfaction of finishing a little ahead of friend and fellow Cambridge rower Rob Oeffner, happily on the comeback trail after a serious wrist injury.

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

Cambridge Autumn Head – S3 4+ finished 19th

We assembled a four of squad stalwarts Martin Hillier, Richard Thompson and myself and new club member Ben Caulton with the aim of racing in the Fours Head. As preparation, we entered the Cambridge Autumn Head, held on 25 October over 2700 metres on the Cam. There was drama before the start when a stubborn houseboat owner decided to interrupt the event by driving slowly up and down the course. Eventually the police were called, the river was cleared, and racing began. We settled into a pretty good rhythm and negotiated the early bends well. Though we hadn't had a lot of practice together, the timing was reasonable and the boat was running well in places. Our time of 10'21" earned us 2nd place in the S3 4+ division, 13" behind Broxbourne and encouragingly close to our own 4- (winners in their category) and 4x.

Crew: Ben Caulton (bow), Richard Thompson, David Sampson, Martin Hillier (stroke), Anne Rogers (cox).

Fours Head – S3 4+ finished 194th

We raced at the Fours Head of the River on the Tideway in London, from Chiswick to Putney (4.25 miles) on 1 November. The race started at the ridiculously early time of 9:30, so we were up at 5 and in London by 7. Unfortunately most of the crew (and most of the club) had been struck down with illness in the week before the race, so there was plenty of coughing and spluttering in Furnivall Gardens as we assembled the boats. Thankfully, however, no one was actually too ill to race. Starting down in 403rd, we rowed a strong race, starting at 34, settling at 32 and lifting to 35 for the run up to the line. We had plenty of action throughout, passing six crews. We completed the course in 21'20"95 to take 194th place out of the 504 crews competing. This time was an encouraging 6th fastest of the 49 crews in the S3 4+ (club) division; the division winner was Mortlake Anglian Alpha (20'34"), way ahead of second-placed Newark (21'07"54). We also finished ahead of 40 of the 51 crews in S3 4+ (academic) and 19 of the 28 crews in S2 4+. It was a good day for several Nines crews, with the S1 4- finishing 6/17 and the WE 4- finishing 3/10 in their respective divisions.

Crew: Ben Caulton (bow), Richard Thompson, David Sampson, Martin Hillier (stroke), Anne Rogers (cox).

Cam Winter League, Leg 1 – S3 4+ finished 13th, S4 4+ finished 38th

Our first event of 2004 was the Cam Winter League over 2800 metres on 25 January. This was my first race since the Fours Head, because I spent November in the US. We had a very good row, attacking the course and passing a couple of crews to finish in 11'14". This was just 7" behind our S1 4+ crew and second fastest four overall.

I also subbed into a S4 4+ crew (12'18", 38th place), but the less said about that race, the better.

Crews: S3 4+: David Sampson (bow), Richard Thompson, Ben Caulton, Martin Hillier (stroke), Anne Rogers (cox); S4 4+: Chris Owen (bow), Adam Paul, David Sampson, Darren Asquith, Anne Rogers (cox).

Head of the River Race – cancelled

I was looking forward to racing in the Second VIII in the Head of the River on the Tideway for the first time since 1998. Unfortunately the weather on race day was appalling, with several crews on the verge of sinking during short practice outings, and the organisers had no choice but to abandon the event. The Veteran's Head went ahead the next day in similar conditions, with disastrous results.

Crew: Will Scott (bow), David Rothe, David Sampson, Darren Asquith, Andrew Hodgkinson, Chris Kent, John Harradine, Martin Hillier, Agnes Simon (cox).

Race results


Quality if not quantity was the motto for the winter's rowing programme. We had a great row in the Fours Head and some good races in the four in Cambridge. It was a great shame that the Eights Head was cancelled.

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