By Laura Depner
Bleary-eyed, too early on a Saturday morning, a small group of Wolfson women assembled and travelled down to London, for Quintin Head, a popular ~4.8km race on the Tideway, from Hammersmith Bridge to Chiswick Bridge. After a friendly reception at Quintin BC, a small incident involving a rigger, and a pep talk by our supporter-on-the-ground Zoe “Monster” Goodwin, we boated. We began our long paddle up to the start line, using the opportunity to get used to a relativley new crew line-up.
As we approached the marshalling area, it became very apparent that the tide had turned. Boats were being pushed around and it was a struggle to keep out of the carnage that surrounded us. Luckily our cox Sophie had learned to row and cox on the Tideway and kept a calm head while boats around us were seemingly trying their absolute best to plough into us (special shout-out for crew 124, who managed to crash into pretty much every single boat within a visible radius).
At last our division was ordered to turn and we began to spin towards the start line, but not before a rather panicked looking J16 crew sped past, apparently having missed their spot in the race by around 30 crews. We took it off at a strong, steady paddle and brought the power and rate up, to cross the start line at our racing speed. Due to an abundance of BR points in the boat, we were racing in the IM2 division, and therefore we knew that the competition was going to be tough, and that we would have to race surrounded by strong, fast crews.
As we came under Hammersmith Bridge, Sophie called for us to “stride out” and we pressed down into a strong, lively rhythm that we would sustain for the majority of the race. We had a speedy Cantabridgian crew behind us, and a CORC (City of Oxford Rowing Club) crew in front. As the Cantabs inched closer to us, our pushes off them brought us closer and closer to CORC. We spent the majority of the middle of the race, in an exciting “pack” of boats. Our crew was pushed on, both by the chance to overtake the crew ahead, and also to give the crew behind us as much of a hard job of getting past us as possible.
One of the best things about racing on the Tideway is that when you are with the tide, you feel like you are flying. A good cox can make a great deal of difference, especially on this stretch, as there is a delicate balance between taking the shortest route through the course, and not coming out of the “escalator” – where you are carried by the strongest, fastest part of the stream. Sophie’s smart line, and the determination from the crew meant that we managed to hang on to the Cantabs, as we both pushed past CORC, just as we came to Chiswick Bridge. We came under the bridge, to the cheers of our supporters who had set up camp there. This now marked our sprint for the finish. We were still within touching distance of the Cantabs at this point and we took the rate up for what would be the last few-hundred meters of the race. Our crew gave it everything, although the Cantabs did eventually pull away from us, we flew across the finish line to earn ourselves a very respectable 5th place in the Women’s IM2 division.
Line-up: Sophie Schauman (cox), Charlotte Diffey (stroke), Jess Dunham (7), Laura Depner (6), Stef Zekoll (5), Alex Isard (4), Tabitha Serle (3), Phillippa Hammond (2), Georgie Bowyer (bow)