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Vesta Member *screams* at HORR

Jock McKerrell a member at Vesta Rowing Club, Putney, writes in Row360 about the crazy date situation for … read more

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Jock McKerrell a member at Vesta Rowing Club, Putney, writes in Row360 about the crazy date situation for the 2018 Tideway Eights head races and the Boat Race.


There are three head of the river races run on the Thames tideway between Chiswick and Putney on weekends in March. They are the Men’s, Women’s, and Veterans’ Heads. The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races are also held at this time – the biggest showcase of our sport.

The three head races are best run on an ebb (outgoing) tide, whereas the Boat Races are on a flood (incoming) tide. So what might be a convenient date and time for a head race, would not be for the Boat Races, and vice versa. This year is especially difficult for the head races because the tide times only make it possible to run their races on the weekends beginning 10th and 24th March 2018.

How were Tideway Race dates selected?

I would like to ask why it was decided that the Men’s Head is to be run on Sunday 11th March? This is an extraordinary decision, bearing in mind it is traditionally run on a Saturday. These head races have built up well earned international reputations that will suffer untold damage because of this one decision.

The events are not just the races themselves. They are boating on arguably the most famous stretch of rowing water in the world, with the unique opportunity for everyone from novices upwards to measure themselves against international crews in the same race – a tremendous experience. And more than that it is the post race gatherings and parties to meet and renew friendships with peers and competitors.

Running the Men’s Head on a Sunday will spoil the Women’s Head the day before.

The gatherings and parties will be curtailed because there’s another head starting the following morning. And how are they going to persuade the hitherto faithful army of volunteers to get up early and do it all over again two days on the trot? This will also spoil their aprés row, because next day it’s back to work.

Moving on a fortnight, why couldn’t the Men’s Head have asked for March 24th? I understand when the Boat Races saw it was available they bagged it. Nothing wrong with that at all, but there must be other dates and times available to them that would not work for a head race. Surely these could have been discussed?

And what about Masters?

The last in this sorry saga is the Veterans’ Head on Sunday 25th March, the morning after the Boat Races and the only available date and time. This race was started when the Men’s Head became over-subscribed, to take place the day after, so visiting clubs could make a weekend of it. Not this year they can’t. And to add to the woes, there is of course no boat trailer access to the Putney embankment on Boat Races day, nor on the following morning when their equipment is being dismantled and transported away. So where are the boat trailers to go? This race will probably suffer the worst.

If the Men’s Head could have been held on 24th March, and the Boat Races could have kindly agreed to another date, it would have all worked out satisfactorily. The Men’s and Women’s Heads wouldn’t have been spoilt, and neither would the Veterans’ Head, being the day after the Men’s Head as usual.

Let us all hope this sad situation is never repeated.

A Comment from Rowperfect

I remember 1987 when the Boat Race and HORR were on the same day – the BBC left its cameras and helicopter in place and broadcast the HORR live in the afternoon after a morning University Boat Race. Surely something similar could have been made possible?

Happily Martin Cross has uploaded this and shared on Row2k.   [Thanks to David Biddulph, Peter Haining and Nick Hubble.]

Additional Reading

About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

2 thoughts on “Vesta Member *screams* at HORR

  1. “These head races have built up well earned international reputations that will suffer untold damage because of this one decision.” That’s pure conjecture… they might do, they might not.

  2. The Men’s head was run on a Sunday in 2015, so really not that extraordinary a decision.

    Shame that Vets Head has to miss out, but in reality someone had to. And let’s look at what we’re getting instead: three consecutive days of top class Head racing – women on Saturday, men on Sunday, schools on Monday. What an amazing showcase for the sport!

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