Alex Fothergill writes:
Towards the end of October 2016, a crew of London Masters crossed the pond to Boston Massachusetts, to take part in the 52nd Head of the Charles Regatta, competing in the Men's Senior Master Eights division. For many of the crew, this has been an annual campaign for several years. For others, it was a first time racing in the largest rowing event in the world. Unfortunately the training proved too much for 7-man Bill Baker's back and he had to withdraw with barely a week before the race.
And so it was only 7 men and Vicky Rees, our lady cox, who met up at Riverside RC on the Charles River on the Thursday morning before the race. The following days brought heatwaves, icy showers, a parade of substitute bow-siders, and a lot of practising with our boat's "Fudder". (A fudder is the name I've given to when the whole fin swivels to act as the rudder. Anyone who's been unlucky or careless enough to lose their fin will know that this can give the boat a supermarket trolley feel, with a mind of its own.)
Saturday, Race Day, arrived, and we'd found someone old enough and brave enough to sit in for our race - many thanks to Tim Bond of Riverside RC for taking the bow seat. With Tom Killick at 2, Ralph Humphrey at 3, Adrian Theed at 4, Alex Fothergill at 5, Julian Scrivener at 6, Stewart Harries at 7, and Simon Harris in the stroke seat, we paddled up to the start in the mild drizzle.
We set off at a punchy 37 strokes per minute, settling to an aggressive 34. The boat was flying along the Powerhouse Straight section of the course, and before long we were gaining on last year's second placers, Marin Rowing Association, in front of us. We could feel their wake as Vicky urged us onwards towards the tight bend at Weeks Footbridge. The fudder meant we could not risk taking as tight a line as we'd have liked; the stewards are famously strict with their penalties. And as tiredness began to set in, we could feel our opportunity to overtake had passed. The remainder of the race went by in a haze of bridges and ever tightening curves. Vicky called us home and we raised our rate back up to 38 across the finish line. The results came out, we had come 4th in our category of 62 crews, which was enough for a top-5 medal.
The regatta went on for the rest of the weekend. We spent the weekend cheering on friends, old and new, and soaking up the atmosphere. We'll be back next year, and hopefully, back to win.
Many thanks to Riverside RC for the boat and hospitality. To Tim Bond for subbing in. And to Stewart Harries for organising.