This weekend saw clubs from far and wide descend upon Newburn for the first major head race of the season: Rutherford Head. Raced over the same stretch of river as BUCS Head, it was a great opportunity for crews to test out the waters and battle the Tyne in preparation for the race in February. Luckily this year the conditions surprised us all by staying calm and flat for the whole day, allowing all Newcastle crews to put on a strong display and come away with impressive wins, especially in the Elite mens 4- and Elite womens 8+.
The first division began with perfectly flat, if a little frosty, conditions for all of Newcastle’s 5 men’s eights, women’s quad and 6 women’s fours. The men’s first eight, who were racing in Eli 8+, were set off first and were being chased by Edinburgh & UL. As they came past the boathouse they were putting up a good fight against a strong Edinburgh crew, however they couldn’t quite hold them off, leaving them in 3rd place. The men’s lightweight eight finished 2nd in IM2 just behind Edinburgh, whilst the next two eights finished 3rd and 5th respectively in Senior. These results put 4 Newcastle eights in the top 15, a mean feat achieved by no other club. The ‘alumnlads’ took to the water to relive the glory days, racing for the Blue Star club and finishing a solid 7th in Senior eights. The best result of the morning, however, came from our newest recruits – the Novice eight – who represented the club brilliantly and raced with great composure & maturity. Their hard work paid off as they won their category in style, beating the second fastest crew by over a minute.
The women’s crews were led by the Elite quad who were racing in a very competitive field, against Edinburgh, UL and Durham. The girls had a strong row, finishing behind a quick Edinburgh crew and the UL crew who won Fours Head a few weeks ago. There were two women’s Elite 4- racing; the first just missed out on the win to Edinburgh and the other came fourth. Racing for the first time, our new novice women rowed superbly and came seventh in a tough field of 12 boats. Our coxed fours also raced well, finishing second in Elite 4+, and third and sixth in IM2 4+.
By the afternoon, the sun had made an appearance once or twice, raising the temperatures above freezing ready for division 2. This time it was the women’s turn to race first, starting with the first eight who were chasing down Durham in Elite 8+. The local rivalry was at its finest when the two boats were battling side by side past the boat club and through Newburn bridge, being cheered on by NUBC supporters filling the club steps. This crew went on to win Elite 8+ in spectacular style, topping not only Durham but well established Edinburgh and UL crews as well. The second eight then followed, having also started behind their Durham counterparts and storming past the steps with clear water over them. The women’s third eight, however, went one better by finishing 2 seconds ahead of the second eight, winning IM2 8+ and thus putting 3 Newcastle eights in the top 6 (above all other club’s second eights). The fourth eight also raced in IM2, placing a respectable seventh after a last-minute substitution.
The men also stepped on from their division 1 performances, emulating the women’s afternoon success. The top coxless four were first down the track, racing against good crews from Edinburgh and UL made up of athletes from their first eights this morning. Despite issues weaving around women’s novice eights, the Newcastle crew finished on top and won Elite 4-. The men’s Elite quad came second to a very competent Edinburgh quad, and the Elite coxed fours finished third and fifth. The IM4- placed sixth and the last boat of the day, the men’s novice four, came 4th out of 10.
Overall the club performed outstandingly both on and off the water, making for a successful start to the head season. Saturday’s racing was followed a short boat naming ceremony for two of our new boats. The women’s quad was named after Gemma Hall, an outstanding athlete who has represented Great Britain multiple time and was a member of the club from 2011-2014. Then the men’s pair was named after Murray Wilkojc who was at the club between 2008-2011, won at Henley in 2008 and was president in 2010. The racing has given us a strong base to build on heading into the long winter grind. We’ll see you in February.
Written by: Kelsey Stoddart
Photos by: Srinjoy Sen