Forget the Boat Race, Saturday’s Head of the River will see no less than 406 eights racing down the Thames at 15 second intervals on the four and quarter mile Boat Race course, the opposite way from Chiswick Bridge to Putney.
It is the aquatic equivalent of the Grand National when, once the top 30 have passed under Hammersmith Bridge, the field begins to bunch up and provide the crowd with excitement as some crews clash blades in their effort to get ahead, and others actually run into each other.
Either way it is not uncommon for three of four boats to be approaching Hammersmith Bridge side by side later in the race.
Last year’s winner Leander from Henley, where the GB Olympic team train, will lead the way. Weaker this year because of Olympic calls no doubt. But the same could be said of the second crew Molesey, also a nursery for GB oarsmen. With the absence of Olympic oarsmen this year there could be a good chance for Tideway clubs to seize control. Imperial College, who start at number 6, have a good chance of winning. But I’d have some money on London Rowing Club, like Imperial based at Putney. Another Putney crew seeking success is Thames at number 17. Their womens crew won the recent Womens Head of the
Hammersmith clubs Auriol Kensington, Furnivall and Sons of the Thames all take part. I am a cox, the person who steers the boat through what can be mayhem. I’m starting at number 74 with the HSCBank crew, and in the past have suffered mixed fortunes. Although to be a Tideway cox is an enormous
advantage because of the quirks of the course. You have to coach and cajole your crew through effort and tiredness.
Many years ago coxing a Mortlake crew I was hit by another crew broadside coming around the bend near Pissarro’s. My crew seeing a star on the opposing crew’s shirts presumed they were from Israel and let rip with anti Israeli verbals. They did not seem to mind this abuse, because in fact they were Italian!
The thrill for a crew is coming to Hammersmith Bridge where there is a huge crowd. The locals roaring you on. So that is the place to go on Saturday as long as you shout for crew 74, of course!