Inverness Winter Head 2024: 6 Divisions & 1 downpour

With 682 entries received across all boat classes, fingers, and anything else crossable, was crossed that the weather would be kind, and no freak localised and stubborn fog patches would stop play this time.  Cool with a gentle breeze was on order and it was therefore a bit of a surprise to pull back the curtains on Saturday morning to see to snow falling.  Luckily the snow cleared and all looked set for a great weekends racing.  To try to lessen the time spent marshalling each day was being split in to three divisions for the first time.  This also seemed to make getting on to the water a bit more relaxed.

EUBC enjoying perfect water to set the fastest time of the weekend

The first division went off bang on time but unfortunately for most of the small boats this coincided with a brief but almighty downpour of sleety rain – unlikely to have been able to get more wet if the racers had capsized!  The water was however perfectly flat and the drenching distracted minds from the effort that was being applied. Luckily that was the last of the precipitation to be seen and the sun had an ever increasing prominence in proceedings.  EUBC sent down the fastest boat in the first division recording an impressive 14:08 in their Open 8+.  IRC had to settle for some very tight second places.

Bethan Hinkley and Heather Gordon on their way to victory in the WR1 2x

Division 2 produced the first medal for IRC with Bethan Hinkley and Heather Gordon leading the way in their WR1 2x (18:36).  EUBC were back in their 8+ for Division 3 as a time only entry and managed to set the fastest time of the weekend by knocking 7 seconds off of their morning effort.

Sunday dawned bright and still.  Tom Baker and Jim Smillie took advantage of the fantastic conditions to win the Mas 2x.  And the medals kept coming for IRC in Division 2 with Shay Hammock taking first place in the J14 1x (19:59) and Mary Clouston winning the WMas Novice 1x. The success continued in Division 3 with Heather Gordon winning the WR1 1x in 19:51 and Gary Hunt and Sophie Baker sharing the Mix Mas 2x spoils with Dave Rothwell and Jude McManus in a dead heat.  The fastest ladies crew of the weekend was St Andrew Boat Clubs WR1 8+ with a time of 16:48.

The IRC winners / rogues gallery

A great event to draw a close to our head season and great to hear so much chatter already about the upcoming regatta season – all looking forward to what we hope will be some warm summer days competition.  Finally, it was brilliant to see so many people enjoying the racing and so many of our own crews progress in experience and seeing their times coming down.  And as always a huge thanks to all of those involved in the organisation and running of what is the largest head race in Scotland.

Fours, Small Boats and Fog

As now seems traditional the winds dropped and the sun began to shine, lighting the burnt autumn colours that line the Caledonian Canal.  It could only mean that it was time for the Inverness Fours and Small Boats Head once more, this edition sponsored by Caley Marina.  With six hundred and fifteen entries the waters were only going to stay calm for so long!

The final few strokes towards the finish line [(c) Stanislav Vohnik]
As always it is fantastic to see some truly quick crews making the 4500m course fly by.  The fastest crew of the weekend was the University of St Andrews BC R1 Quad stroked by Aidan Graham making it down the course in a time of 14 minutes 48.55 seconds (that’s holding a split of 1:29 for the whole course!) and the fastest women’s crew was also from the University of St Andrews BC with their R1 Quad stroked by Lizzy Adlam in a time of 16 minutes 12.89 seconds.  The overall winner of the Head of the Caledonian Canal 2023 was St Andrew BC, breaking the strangle hold that the University of Edinburgh have had on this award for a number of years.

Winding down after Saturdays racing

It was hugely unfortunate that when Sunday came dawn never really appeared on the canal due to dense fog which persistently sat in the Inverness basin while the surrounding hills basked in the sun under clear blue skies.  The water remained flat calm and provided a beautiful row for those that could head on out after the racing was unfortunately called off for the day.

Inverness was well represented throughout the races which did go ahead on the Saturday.  A notable mention goes to the Novice 4+ stroked by Sam Roxburgh for making 2nd in their event despite being relatively new to sweep rowing.  There were wins for Inverness in the J14 singles, with Shay Hammock coming home 45 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, and the reunited composite pair of Conor Burgess (Chesterton Rowing Club) and Steven Andrews who took first place in the Masters 2- despite having a 2 year gap since their last outing.

Thanks to Stanislav Vohnik for documenting the weekend superbly – his photos can be found here.

Sunny Sprints in Aberdeen Again!

The Aberdeen Sprint Regatta is a favourite event in the Inverness Rowing Club road-trip calendar and memories of the sun-drenched banks of the Dee sat well in our memories from last years event.  With a large IRC contingent heading east it was going to be a busy day of racing. We had a bumper entry of 29 crews racing across all boat categories (it was a very full trailer!) and crews included juniors, getting their first taste of sprint racing, to experienced masters and even generational doubles.

The winning Generational 2x crew

The short, 500 m, format of the Aberdeen Sprints always provides some exciting racing but to add to this IRC came away with a number of great performances and, as a consequence, not an insignificant number of medals. The first of these came from a close race between two Inverness crews in the R2 Mixed 4+ (winning crew: were Harry Ratcliffe, Euan McLeod, Bethany Hickling and Hannah Luke with cox James Luke).  Other wins were earned in the Novice 2x (Victor Atkinson and Samuel Roxburgh) and Open J14 1x (Shay Hammock) categories.  One of the most deserved of victories was in the Generational 2x with Gary Hunt and James Luke battling through two heats before winning in the final with a convincing lead.  A further medal was earned in the Masters 2- (Robert Gordon and Dave Rothwell).  Having won their heat against a Masters “A” crew they met their long time and well-known competitors from Aberdeen Boat Club.  Due to age differences in the masters crews, the Inverness crew had to win their race by a handicap of at least 10 seconds.  The final result was declared a draw when the timing team recorded a difference of only a tenth of a second between the crews, meaning that the medals were shared.  Races certainly don’t come much closer than that!

The lovely Deeside setting

It was a fabulous day and a great experience for all those involved.  Thanks go to all the organisers, coaches, drivers and supporters that made the day a huge success.

Dates for the Inverness Fours & Small Boats Head and the Inverness Winter Head confirmed: Get training!!

The dates for the Head races run by Inverness Rowing Club have been confirmed and we look forward to hosting clubs from around the country and beyond!
Caley Marina Fours and Small Boats Head
Caledonian Canal (Start- Dochgarroch, Finish – Boathouse, Torvean)
11th (10a.m./ 1.30p.m.) & 12th November 2023 (9.30a.m./1p.m.)
Caley Cruisers Winter Head (including Scottish Student Head)
Caledonian Canal (Start- Dochgarroch, Finish – Boathouse, Torvean)
2nd (11a.m./ 2p.m.)& 3rd March 2024 (10.30a.m./1.30p.m.)

Regatta Recap

The club has been out and about throughout the summer regatta season, so far attending the Scottish Spring Regatta (22nd & 23rd April), Castle Semple Regatta (20th May) and the Scottish Championships (3rd & 4th June).
     The Scottish Spring Regatta provided a great opportunity for a number of our junior rowers to gain experience of multi-lane racing at the Strathclyde Park Course.  This was followed up with a more select squad heading down to the Castle Semple Regatta where Megan Bromham rowed in a scratch eight with members of SPRC, and in a quad in which she reached the final. Also entering the novice and J18 1x events, Megan came away with a brilliant win in the novice category!
     The Scottish Championships were next up and good contingent were looking forward to testing themselves on the Strathclyde Park Course.  Our junior members had entries across the age ranges and in some of the novice categories whilst our seniors had entries in both novice and masters events.

     For a number of the squad this was their first experience of multi lane racing and all put in strong performances, including several minor placings in the junior events.  The highlight of the weekend from an Inverness perspective was the gold medal in the masters pair, which was a first gold medal at the Scottish Championships for Dave Rothwell, our former President, 23 years since first competing there.

35th Aniversary row for the first Inverness VIII to compete on the Tideway

Last weekend provided a perfect weather window for a reunion of the Rogie Falls Boatclub, the precursor to Inverness Rowing Club (more here).  Thirty five years ago this crew made their way down to the Head of the River Race on the famous Tideway course, the same as the Boat Race course but in reverse.

Gay Faulkner (cox), Iain Morton (Str), Mark Wilson (7), Bruce Murdoch (6), Jamie MacLean (5), Alec Maciver (4), Jonny Wetherspoon (3), David Finlayson (2) and Iain Leighton (Bow) showed they still know how to row and made the most of the fine weather.  Having led to the formation of the club we all row for today we are all hugely grateful to the impetus they provided to establish rowing on the Caledonian Canal and they will always be welcome back at the club.  Getting the boat in and out of the canal is certainly easier than when this crew first started training here, when it took a 300m carry and negotiating a stile!

The Rogie Falls Boat Club reunion crew taking to the water

It’s like this all of the time!

Last weekend saw the weather settle and nearly 650 boats ready to race which can only mean one thing – it was time for the Inverness Fours and Small Boats Head.  While what seemed like the rest of the UK was being battered by wind and torrential rain the waters of the Caledonian Canal remained placid, each morning reflecting back a perfect image of the autumnal trees that line its banks, that is until the first lucky boats made their way up to the start of the head course, cutting the water and spreading rows of ripples in their wake. Is it always like this? Well, best just to say we have been lucky with the weather for the head race weekends for some time now.

So, on to the racing. For inverness we had entries in almost all boat classes – must get a coxless four entered to make the full set next time.  And we had success with our novice coxed quad, mixed masters quad and womens r1 pair all picking up medals.  Really great to see some of the newer members to the club earning medals, along with those more experienced campaigners.  Almost more encouraging was the number of Inverness crews which had been making such an effort to get out training.  Now its time to push on and buld on teh settled crews that have formed in preparation for our winter head, and other fun racing excursions to come.

As always the universities and schools had significant contingents racing and it was an EUBC/St Andrew BC mens quad (Patton) that made it down the course in the fastest time of the weekend clocking 14 minutes 40.76 seconds. The fastest women’s boat was a EUBC quad (Jonsson) that raced down the course in 16 minutes 8.15 seconds.

Of course, as always, a huge thanks to all of those that made the weekends racing happen.  It is always quite an amazing achievment and should never be taken for granted just how much work goes in to making it run, particularly with ever expanding entries.

Goings on around the boathouse

For those that are down to our boathouse regularly, you will have noticed a few things going on.  For those that aren’t down so regularly you may expect to see quite a change next time you visit.  The club development plan has been forging ahead with the learn to row sessions, expanding our membership base, and now the next important phase of this plan is really getting underway with the new training/welfare cabins, changing cabins and additional boat storage area arriving soon: a veritable rowing village!

Plan of the facilities under development

To accommodate all of this activity, in the coming weeks the existing containers are going to be moving around and the ground is going to be prepared.  Work on the new training and welfare units should begin in mid-October and be completed by mid-November.  The changing facilities and boat storage area should follow swiftly thereafter.  Any help members can offer will be gratefully received, and a huge thanks goes to those that have taken this project so far and continue to push it forward.

Sunny sprints in Aberdeen

Driving through the early morning drizzle, expectations may have been tempered.  But as we rigged the many boats we had taken down to the Dee and the large Inverness contingent gathered, the sun broke through heralding what would be a great days rowing.  Inverness had entered 29 crews, including eights, fours, a coxed quad, doubles, pairs and singles. Some members were tasting racing for the first time and some were slightly more seasoned competitors.  There were several excellent close-run races which made for some exciting viewing, including our R2 and masters pairs races and the mixed R2 fours, with one of the best races of the day being between two inverness crews!

Inverness also made off with a decent haul of medals with wins in both the open and women’s novice 2x (Harry Ratcliffe & James Luke and Hannah Luke & Rachel Seed), the open novice 1x (Steven Andrews), the open J16 2x (James Luke & Samuel Roxburgh) and the women’s J16 1x (Megan Bromham).  There was such enthusiasm from some club members that rowing wasn’t enough and so some swimming was also thrown in, maybe just to cool down!

Brilliant performance all round: captains, organisers, drivers, coaches.  Lets hope we can take some of these crews on through autumn and to our November Head Race.