Czechs triumph at Head of the River
21/03/2012 - 12:25:00
Under overcast, drizzly skies, and accompanied by a lively breeze, 395 boats took to the River Thames last weekend to race down the four and ¼ mile course from Mortlake to Putney in London in what is one of the last international Head Races of the season.
In a year where British-grown international athletes are focusing all training efforts on the upcoming Olympic Games, international and domestic club crews had a chance to shine.
Looking to gain a spot at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the men’s eight at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, this coming May, the Czech Rowing Federation came over with a point to prove. Crews passing had to take a double look – sitting at seven in the Czech crew was none other than 2010 World Rowing Champion, and supreme single sculler, Ondrej Synek. Synek was sitting along with Matyas Klang, Michal Horvath, Jakub Podrazil, Jakub Koloc, Petr Melichar, Milan Dolecek, Jan Pilc and cox Martin Suma. The crew were imperious. With such horsepower, they had caught Molesey I by Hammersmith Bridge, and overlapped with Leander I, last year’s wining club, by the finish line at Putney.
The Czech Rowing Federation won the Open Pennant and the Overseas Entrants Trophy in 17:34.08. Leander I came second in a time of 17:56.07. International lightweight Chris Boddy was sitting in bow of this crew, whilst 2010 lightweight men’s four World Rowing Under 23 Champion Jonathan Clegg was in seven seat.
Chief coach of Leander Club Mark Banks was very impressed with the crew, who were coxed by 2011 World Rowing Championships silver medallist Phelan Hill: “With what really is our fourth, possibly third eight, we’re still the fastest British crew. This is a really good result for our guys.”
Hill agreed, stating: “It’s been a really good week leading up to the Head. What has been encouraging and probably why we got a good result here is that every time we got on the water we’ve looked to improve. We made sure every stroke had a purpose to it, and that everyone knows what we want to achieve.”
Top British universities proved their worth. Oxford Brookes University finished with two eights in the top 10, whilst the top crews from University of London, Newcastle University and Durham University also impressed.
International crews comprised the majority of places between 10-20. Italian club Astillero finished twelfth, just two seconds ahead of CUS Pavia. Germany’s Crefelder RC 1883 were fourteenth and Switzerland’s Zurich SC came seventeenth. St. Petersburg University of Russia finished eighteenth.
Despite the poor weather on Saturday, hundreds of spectators lined the banks in London eager to catch a glimpse of the passing boats and cheer on friends or family racing.
A new day dawned on Sunday, and with it, some improved weather conditions. Sun broke through the clouds as masters and veteran rowers from all over the world took to the River Thames to race the Vesta Veteran’s Head of the River.
A total of 228 veteran crews raced and experience levels varied from ex-international rowers to novice crews.
The same course is rowed for the iconic Boat Race, between Oxford and Cambridge University, but upstream, from Putney to Mortlake. This year’s Boat Race will be held on April 7 at 14.15 GMT.
For full results of the Head of the River, click here
For full results of the Vesta Veteran’s Head of the River, click here