Issue 94 - December 1996/January 1997
Fours Head of the River, November 9: Mike Rosewell
Leander retained the Fullers Fours Head title with a comfortable margin this year. The winning crew, inevitably a quad scull, included the GB Olympic double of James Cracknell and Rob Thatcher accompanied by Ben Hunt-Davis and Richard Hamilton, both from the Olympic eight. On a day when the tide conditions seemed to favour lower starters, the winners, under Leander V colours, started 295th, directly ahead of Mainzer Ruder-Verein, a German crew composed of world silver medal lightweights. The Germans made up some ground on their heavier opponents in the early stages, but better steering and more power over the second half gave Leander a win by 11 seconds over the Germans at the finish.
Britain's Olympic medallists, except for Tim Foster, were edged out of the silverware on the day. A quad of the Searle brothers and fellow internationals Jim Walker and Graham Smith from the British eight, led off the 454 crew flotilla after the scratching of Leander I and finished sixth, all bar one of the crews ahead of them coming from low starting places. The exception was the fourth placed Tideway Scullers with Peter Haining in the bow seat. Haining had, in fact, been 'double entered' on the day for the Scullers and for an Auriol Kensington/Roskiode, Denmark crew, the Roskiode part of the crew comprising three Danish sculling champions. Haining opted for the Scullers, and a starting place of 12th, but his crew was beaten by the Auriol/Danish line-up, starting 290, by six seconds.
Matthew Pinsent, stroking the top Leander coxed four, had a busy day. He was involved in the Lord Mayor's Show with Steve Redgrave and his crew, entered as Leander VIII, were due to start at 355 to give him time to get to the start from the City of London. An expected motor cycle taxi did not materialise with the City of London cordoned off and, by the time Pinsent arrived by tube and car, his starting slot ended up about 100 places lower than planned. 'It was a bit panicky and not the healthiest way to row the Fours Head', he said after being beaten into second place in his class by six seconds by Cambridge's top crew which included the new President, American Ethan Ayer, and two notable newcomers, Canadian Brad Crombie and Alex Story for the British Olympic eight.
Oxford replied to Cambridge's coxed four win with the top coxless four performance of the day. Oxford's winning crew, Isis II, was stroked by their notable new student, Olympic bronze medallist Tim Foster. Foster's crew included three other 1996 notable newcomers, Italian international Roberto Blanda, and Nick Robinson and Andrew Lindsey of GB Junior fame. Oxford's first crew, also coxless, had an enforced last minute switch when ex-Blue and world performer, Damian West, was injured. His replacement was an ex-Cambridge Blue, perhaps belying the apparent hatred depicted in the Royal Film this year, 'True Blue'. Oxford, with two other category wins on the day, shared the top honours of the day with Imperial College who also achieved a 'hat trick' and whose top quad, albeit IC/Queen's Tower, finished fifth overall and took the Senior 2 honours from the Searles and company.
Thames RC dominated the women's classes. Their winning quad, which won with ease in an overall finishing place of 42nd, included Olympic finalist Guin Batten, and world gold and silver medallist Jane Hall, who is apparently thinking of going for the international lightweight single slot next year. The Thames winning coxless four, which was hard pressed by Marlow, included Ali Gill and Anne-Marie Stapleton from the British Olympic eight and Alison Brownless who has an unprecedented one gold and five silver medals behind her.
Leander achieved the unusual distinction of winning both the overall event and the Junior honours of the day. The club's excursions into Junior rowing over the past couple of seasons paid off with their first win for an impressive looking quad.
The non-appearance of 46 crews from the scheduled 500 cannot have gone down too well amongst the 100 crews from 35 clubs who were turned away when the entries reached the permitted 500 starters five days before the official closing date.
Women. Quads. Thames I, 19:18.
Coxless Fours. Thames II, 20:10.
Coxed Fours. Open: Marlow VI, 21:12; Senior 2: Cambridge University IV, 22:07; Senior 3 (Academic): Southampton University V, 22:15, (Club): Sons of the Thames V, 22:02.
© Copyright Mike Rosewell, 1996.
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