Tideway Head of the River Cancelled – Discuss

Rough(ish) water on the Tideway Image Credit: WestLondonSport

You’re the HORR committee, stung by the fallout from having to abandon mid-race in 2007 and 2013.  You decide to cancel the race early in 2017, to save people from travelling.  This makes 4 no-races in the past 13 years.  Clearly a Plan B is called for.  What do you suggest….

Rough(ish) water on the Tideway Image Credit: WestLondonSport
Rough(ish) water on the Tideway Image Credit: WestLondonSport

I was privy to a Facebook thread about the Head of the River cancellation and thought I’d share the discussion so that anyone interested can follow along.  Names have been removed as I don’t have permission from them all to quote.  The thread started with the text above the photo.

  • Contingency incoming tide race plan.  Prices will be higher for more river closure. but more assurance of a race would attract those put off.
  • Can be done if the tide turn times work out.  But some years would run into having one division either very early or very late… having multitudes of non-Tideway crews being on the water in the dark is not feasible.  Other problems include the logistics of marshalling all those eights to race on an incoming tide.  The other point is getting the bodies – the old stalwarts of umpiring will be happy if they are fed, but every Tideway head struggles getting launch drivers, so enough volunteers to cover two shifts would be awkward.
  • Would you expect to run the race twice or just have the closure in place to allow for an incoming tide race is the outgoing tide was too rough?  If the incoming race was first do you run it in case the outgoing one later is not possible, or only if the forecast is bad?
  • Racing twice would be a big ask but a contingency plan to race on the flood for 200-300 crews sounds feasible.  Decision could be made 1-2 days before.  Would the PLA allow such a long river closure? In the name of safety maybe?
  • Tomorrow the Veterans Head will be raced from just before Hammersmith to Barker Rails using the stretch from Hammersmith down to Putney to marshal the crews.  Would this not be a possibility?  It’s a shortened course but better than nothing, you could always move the finish to be by UL boathouse.
  • We looked at reversal for the womens race a couple of years ago when the issue was high fluvial flows.  Our chief marshal came to the conclusion it wasn’t feasible.
  • I wonder if a lot of it is driven by concerns about crews with inadequate Tideway experience?  Would there be a point at which the organisers felt that Tideway-experienced crews could deal with the conditions but not visitors?  And if that were the case, would there be a way to have some form of race rather than none?
  • Or just have non-Tideway novice crews racing?  Assuming the rest can cope with it
  • The first crew to sink in 2007 was the Italian national squad (so I believe) so being a good crew doesn’t always help
  • The decision was understandable.  The E-NE wind direction makes the water from Dove Pier up to Chiswick Pier unrowable at mid teens wind speed with gusts of 30 [knots I believe].  Event the top crews would be testing their buoyancy.  Marshalling as if Hammersmith Bridge is Chiswick would put the tail end of each division in the rough above Dove Pier.  The only option is flexibility with two days to o is to flip to running on the flood from Hammersmith to Chiswick in the morning or afternoon.  I cannot see PLA giving the committee this option.  Closing the river is a big issue, but in order to be able to deal with what seems a consistent disruption it may have to happen.
  • In these circumstances i.e. bad weather anticipated, decision taken 24 hours in advance: race from the Milepost to Putney pier, wide marshalling area and though often lumpy, rarely unrowable.  OR allow crews to scratch without penalty (?refund) to discourage inexperienced crews from venturing through the worst upstream chop to reach the shortened start (arbitrarily cut the last 100 crews with full refund if you see fit.)  Bring the start time for Div 1 forward slightly, and give each division a set start time, spaced out a little more to cut down traffic congestion.  The above plan is deliverable, but still relies on some serious organisational ability and watermanship.  It provides most crews a chance to put a time on the board, and having been in two of few fast crews in 204 and 2007 as a rower, I’d be bl**dy grateful.  But it is still risky and is a lot to ask of a volunteer-run event.

8 thoughts on “Tideway Head of the River Cancelled – Discuss

  1. mudlark says:

    In my view the HORR shouldn’t be bigged up as a big fixture in the first place. It isn’t nearly as conducive to proper and fair competition as side-by-side regatta racing owing to so much depending on the quality of steering in such a tricky course,

    To avoid disappointing so many, it should go back to its roots as an amateur ‘pre-season’ exercise of a few tideway/Thames valley clubs before the proper national competitive season kicks off with the regattas. The fact that foreign crews are trying to come to a Tideway head race *in March* which gets weathered off half the time begs belief. It’s a fun race with a good Tideway tradition behind it but it’s gotten too big for its boots in my opinion. Downsizing the event would also allow fours and eights to compete on the same day, which would allow for the usual day of the fours event to be set aside as a contingency date in case the course were declared unrowable.

    It’s a pity that the event seems to be cancelled so often, but there’s no use in persevering and setting up hundreds of clubs half the time. Maybe a new head on a less tempestuous stretch of river should take its place as the pre eminient pre-season event?

  2. David Raine says:

    I am lead to believe it was a little premature. Rather annoying as a damned expensive train ticket I purchased couldn’t be claimed back!

  3. Terence woolford's says:

    No need to ever cancel the Boat race again. Just fit super schute self bailers to the boats they sit flush in the hull and displace about half a litre per stroke you can fit two or three so the chances of you sinking are very low. We have used them for years with great success, give me a shout for more information, by the way I don’t work for the company that make them. It’s just common sense to fit them

  4. Emily says:

    no! I said “NOT have non-Tideway novice crews racing, assuming that the rest can cope”, I don’t mind being quoted, just not misquoted, obvs

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