By Stefanie Zekoll, Philippa Hammond, Estelle Beguin and Kirstin Anderson
With so many keen rowers in this year’s senior squads, Wolfson decided to end a long term of intense training with a fun day out racing at one of the most popular pre-Christmas head races of the year –- Wallingford Head, held in early December over a stretch of 4250m from Moulsford Railway Bridge to the OUBC boathouse at Wallingford Marina.
It was a beautiful winter day. Clear skies but very frosty with temperatures around zero degrees in the early morning. As the event had a total of two divisions, Wolfson decided to make the most of the day and enter two W.IM3.4+ into the morning division, then combine both boats to form a W.IM3.8+ for the afternoon division as well as enter a separate boat for the IM3 8+ category.
Division 1 W.IM3.4+ “WOO – Hammond” crew
Although it was a crisp December morning, we were very lucky to have the sun out for most of the day — it definitely helped calm our nerves as we marshalled for our first race. For a couple of members of the crew, racing a 4+ down a five-kilometre course was a new and slightly daunting experience, but we got stuck right into it with the women from Exeter University chasing us, and our other Wolfson 4+ setting off a few boats after us. After a slightly shaky start we settled into the race and pushed our way down the winding course. Although Exeter caught us in the S-bends, we put up a strong fight to keep chasing them, and finished 6th in our division with a time of 20:30.4.
Line-up: Kirstin Anderson (cox), Philippa Hammond (stroke), Jessica Dunham (3), Ellie Kavanagh (2), Tabitha Serle (bow)
Division 1 W.IM3.4+ “WOO – Zekoll” crew
The W.IM3.4+ crew racing in ‘Hermione’ started off as 138th in the division not too far behind the other Wolfson four (132nd). Once past the start, the crew quickly settled into a strong and steady rhythm. The four slowly started to gain on the crews in front of them as it pushed off the first bridge, leaving the other competing W.IM3.4+ crews behind them. After 1km into the race, full focus was set on the crews in front. The Wolfson four rapidly gained on University College (Univ), which started two positions ahead of them. It is in the S-bend (1.5km into the race) that the Wolfson four really gained on Univ with every stroke. Having to shout at Univ to give way whilst at the same time keeping a good line through this crucial bit of the stretch, Wolfson confidently overtook the struggling Univ crew in the bend and pushed off of them along the Brooke’s straight. Once past the by-pass bridge onto the finish straight, the Wolfson four was again gaining on another crew, this time Corpus Christi College. With some excellent calls from Sophie and pushes on the legs, the four kept up the strong game and managed to overtake Corpus Christi on the last kilometre before winding it to the finish. Overall, the W.IM3.4+ Hermione crew came 3rd out of 10 crews in its category.
Line-up: Sophie Schauman (cox), Stefanie Zekoll (stroke), Georgie Bowyer (3), Laura Depner (2), Estelle Beguin (bow)
Division 2 W.IM3.8+ “WOO – Hammond” crew
After two IM3 W4+ races in division 1, the crews merged to make one IM3 W8+ boat for one more race in division 2 and close off Wallingford Head of the River 2016. The W8+ crew had a strong performance over the 4.5 km course, overtaking Oriel College (Oxford) half-way and chasing down Exeter University through the finish line. Final results placed Wolfson’s IM3 W8+ crew in 6/16 crews.
Division 2 IM3 8+ “WOO – Vaas” crew
The Wolfson men got a bit of a lie in on the morning of Wallingford Head, racing in the second division we only needed to leave Oxford at 10am. Arriving in Wallingford around 11am, rigging started straight away in the very cold but wonderfully sunny weather. After a solid paddle to the marshalling area we were ready to take on the crews around us, chasing St Pauls School followed by St Johns College Oxford and a Brookes crew just a few boats behind us. We had a strong start and quickly settled onto rate 32 which was held comfortably throughout the race. Easily walking away from St Johns, we hit the S-bends at around 1000m holding a good rhythm. The rudder came on, everyone sat up and we cruised through coming onto the straight with 3km to go holding rate 32. St Pauls had moved away and St Johns were now too far behind to push off so everyone really dug deep here to keep the pressure on. After a few choppy sections along the Brookes straight we had a reset on the finishes and we came under the bridge with 1000m to go, ready to empty the tanks. We had a great sprint to the finish as we came past OUBC boathouse, crossing the line strong having put every drop of energy into the boat! We finished 9th in IM3 8+, 21st in Division 2 and 37th overall with a time of 15:36.9 over the course.