Wolfson College Boat Club, Oxford

Fours’ Head 2016

by Ëlo Luik

The day of Fours’ Head did not start great. It was bucketing rain, cold and miserable. For those who have not raced any of the big Tideway head races, they involve an infamous long wait on the water as hundreds of boats marshal up towards the start line and with only one boat being set off at a time, it can take hours to race. We arrived in London wrapped up warm for the cold, only to find that the rain had all but stopped and it was actually rather warm.

Although only one crew from Wolfson was entered, there were nonetheless lots of proud wolves around on the day, rowing and coxing also with CORC and various Blues squads. Our athletes successfully racing in crews outside the college system is testament to the hard work that our hard working leaders have been putting in over the years to build the Club’s success. Wolfson entered a four in the Women’s IM2 category, since most colleges race at IM3 level we felt like we were stepping up to take a look at the big dogs. It is a long race with tough competitors, potentially harsh river conditions and a long long way to go from Chiswick to Putney. Fours’ Head is raced with the ebb tide, meaning that the boats will race on the water as it moves back towards the sea. Coupled with the stream of the river, this makes for fast and exciting racing as the coxes and steering rowers fight other crews for a spot on the fabled ‘magical escalator’ (the part of the river where the advantage from moving water is greatest).

Ëlo Luik (Stroke)  Jessica Dunham (3) Laura Depner (2) Estelle Beguin (Bow) Harriet Noons (Cox)

Ëlo Luik (Stroke) Jessica Dunham (3) Laura Depner (2) Estelle Beguin (Bow) Harriet Noons (Cox)

Our guest cox, Harriet, did her best to keep us focused and moving with all the circus around us. We got up to speed early and kept a solid rhythm over the course. Despite rating low, we nonetheless managed to overtake several crews and keep the pace consistent. We were admittedly a bit worn out by the time we came to our last push (I am pretty sure someone from bow pair at one point yelled ‘how much longeeeeer?!!?) but it was all empty tanks across the line. As we came down to a paddle under Putney bridge I remember thinking a) thank god it’s over b) I can’t believe we pulled this off. We had never practiced together as a full crew and some of us were… ahem… a bit rusty. But we came together to turn it into a really fun race finishing in the middle of our IM2 category, beating entries from much bigger and better prepared clubs.

The row back is widely known as the hardest part of these head races. Crews are tired, hungry, thirsty and moving against the stream. This is also prime time for mulling over the race and finding faults in anyone other than oneself. At one point coming past the Eyot, the silence of our steady paddle was interrupted with Laura’s desperate call: ‘I cannot remember a time I wasn’t rowing!’ It was a long day of rowing. Once back on dry land, we could hardly wait to have the boat trailered and get our finest trackie bottoms on to head for the local pub. A few pints and a plate of Barnes Bridge’s local ‘Dirty Fries’ (exactly as awesome as they sound) felt well earned and much appreciated. How we managed to resist curling up for a crew nap right there in the pub I still don’t know. Guess we knew we had to make it back for WCBC’s annual screening of the Boat Race epic True Blue. As our Uber made its way towards the train station along the turns of the Tideway, it suddenly of course looked like perfect flat rowing weather. We left the Tideway tired, happy and full of confidence for the racing season ahead.