Fast Fours

Many rowers seem to think that events such as the Fours Head ‘just happen’. These are the people who attended the pre-race umpires’ briefing, only some of those who are needed to organise and run a major Head Race. Picture: @HoR4s

27 November 2019

By Tim Koch

The Head of the River Fours from Mortlake to Putney, founded in 1955 and sponsored by local brewers, Fullers, took place on Saturday, 23 November. Tim Koch was on the towpath.

Recent heavy rains produced an above-average flow of water into the Tideway from upriver resulting in a strong stream. Also, easterly winds and rain were predicted for the day. However, while there was some early rain, weather and river conditions were eventually favourable for a good race over the 6.8 km course.
Works outside Fulham Football Ground probably assisted in keeping unweary crews away from the infamous ‘Fulham Flats’, the shallows along that part of the Middlesex Bank.
Boating from Putney.
A Vesta cox shows her own sense of style.
Hopefully, this Thames crew were more uniform in their sculling than their kit.
Westminster School in many shades of pink.
Testing… Goldie takes no chances.

The Fours Head reached maximum numbers in a little over two weeks and there were cerise faces at Leander when the club failed to get its entries in on time. The club won four pennants in 2018, including the two fastest men’s and the fastest women’s crew. Thus, in his pre-race preview on the British Rowing website, Martin Gough wrote:

(The) overall headship looks likely to be a battle between the Great Britain quad that won the world Under-23 title in Florida last summer and a crew from the Swiss Rowing Federation, which includes three senior internationals.

The Swiss crew finished a surprise fifth last year and rumour has it they have spent a fortnight training together, while the GB quad – racing as composite of four clubs – planned to get together at Tideway Scullers School on Friday for the first time since winning gold in Sarasota in July.

‘We decided in the summer to do Fours Head,’ said the quad’s coach Kieran Clark. ‘Some of the reason behind it was that it was our only chance to race the GB senior internationals (from Leander) but it’s turned out like this’.

They’re Off! Crews 1, 2 and 3 viewed from the start at Chiswick Bridge. Picture: @HoR4s
Pictured from Hammersmith Bridge, the winners of 4x Band 1 and the fastest crew overall (18:02.2), Crew 1, a composite of Durham University / Edinburgh University / Nottingham RC / Tideway Scullers. The crew was Sam Meijer (str), Josh Armstrong, Matt Heywood and George Bourne. In the background is Crew 2, the 4x of the Swiss Rowing Federation, Switzerland.
Crew 2, Swiss Rowing Federation, Switzerland, who came second in 4x Band 1 and second overall (18:05.4).
Winners of 4- Band 1, and 8th overall, Crew 11, Swiss Rowing Federation, Switzerland.
Reading University Crew 22, winners of 4x Academic Band 1 and 4th fastest overall.

The Boat Race hopefuls in the top Isis (Oxford) and Goldie (Cambridge) coxed fours had an interesting Fours Head. Goldie ‘A’ (Crew 33) recorded 18.39.6 and were provisional winners of 4+ Academic Band 1. Isis ‘A’ (Crew 32) were only two-seconds slower and clocked 18:41.7. These were remarkable times for coxed fours, the slowest of the four person boats, putting Goldie in 5th place overall and Isis in 8th. However, the final results saw Goldie ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ getting a five-second penalty for being late to Chiswick Bridge. These were applied to several Division 1 and 2 crews which were not above Chiswick Bridge by 12.35, ten minutes before the start. Thus, Isis were declared the winners of 4+ Academic Band 1 and they went to 7th place overall while Goldie, now with a time of 18:44.6, went down to 9th overall and second to Isis in the top student coxed fours race. Whatever procedures there were with times, it all bodes well for an exciting Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race on 29 March.

4+ Academic Band 1: Goldie ‘A’, Crew 33. Freddie Davidson (Str), Callum Sullivan, Arthur Doyle, Ben Freeman. Cox: Charlie Marcus.
4+ Academic Band 1: Isis ‘A’, Crew 32. Felix Drinkall (Str), Tobias Schröder, Charlie Buchanan, Augustin Wambersie. Cox: Toby De Mendonça.
Oxford’s W4+ Academic Band 1 ‘A’ crew at the start. Picture: @HoR4s
On the Oxbridge women’s side, draw your own conclusions from these results. Cambridge won the Band 1 Academic Coxless Fours, 54 seconds ahead of Oxford. However, Oxford won the coxed version of the event, over 21 seconds ahead of Cambridge. Perhaps bragging rights should go to Oxford ‘A’ in the heavy coxed boat as they were only one-second slower than Cambridge ‘A’ in the lighter coxless boat.
Westminster School ‘A’, winners of the 4x Junior Band 1.
Five senior internationals were in the Oxford Brookes University 4+ Band 1 crew (they could not enter the Academic event). They came first in their class and third overall with a time of 18:27.1, another remarkable achievement for a coxed four and over ten seconds ahead of the top Oxford and Cambridge 4+ boats.

Martin Gough also wrote in his preview that Kieran Clark, the head coach at Tideway Scullers:

(Feels) the women’s quads will be one of the most competitive events. A Tideway Scullers crew boasting two U23 internationals plus two Pairs Head winners will take on a quad comprising three of the GB world U23 champion quad, rowing as Molesey BC/Edinburgh University. There is a strong-looking Swiss entry in this event too.

In W4x Band 1, Crew 92, Tideway Scullers, came first (19:23.3) and were the fastest women’s boat. According to a Tideway Scullers’ Tweet, their 36th overall finish place was the third highest place for a woman’s crew in the history of the Fours Head. The crew was Susannah Duncan (Str), Saskia Budget, Katie Wilkinson-Feller and Fran Rawlins. Molesey BC/Edinburgh University were second (19:37.1) and the Swiss Rowing Federation, Switzerland, were third 19:49.7).
Perhaps everyone who rows the world’s most famous river course is a winner. Crew 102 Nottingham University W4x, Crew 103 Reading University W4x, Crew 104 Nottingham University W4x, Crew 107 St Paul’s School Junior 4-, Crew 108 King’s College School Junior 4-.
A sign of the times on Hammersmith Bridge.
Marlow’s W4x- Junior Band 1 crew approach Hammersmith Bridge.
Maidenhead 4x Junior Band 2 pass the construction works at Fulham football ground.
More unsung heroes who make rowing happen – part of the finish team on Putney Pier. Picture: @HoR4s
The view from Putney Pier as another boat crosses the finish line. Picture: @HoR4s
Crews head home as others are yet to finish.
Surbiton High School head back to their host club, possibly missing someone.
Barn Elms – journey’s end for some.
The event winners in Band 1.
The event winners in Bands 2 and 3.
In the absence of Leander, Tideway Scullers were the big winners, as this Tweet tells.
The full results are here.
The Head Fours website has a nice history page for HTBS Types.


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