by Dominique Billingham
photo by Mark Ruscoe
Saturday, 23rd November 2019 saw crews compete in the 65th Fuller’s Head of the River Fours race - one of the most prestigious head races in the rowing calendar. The event takes place on the River Thames in London, between Mortlake and Putney: a grueling four and a quarter miles known to many as the Oxford/Cambridge boat races course in reverse.
As with previous years, this year received the standard high volume of entries with last year’s overall winners, Leander Club, being notably absent after failing to make the cut-off in time.
However, with conditions forecast as high winds and a strong stream, the entries had to be reduced by around 100, to 380 crews. Some 40 crews scratched voluntarily, leaving the race committee to cull a further 60 crews using the SAS RPI system - much to the consternation of some Scottish crews in particular. Camilla Hadland, of the race committee said, "On explanation, most people understood. The SAS PRI is the only tangible measure we have. We can’t go around and ask every crew about their individual experience."
Meanwhile, on the water, Tideway Scullers School showed their strength in depth by entering a total of 18 crews from their men’s, women’s and junior squads. Out of these crews Scullers took home 8 wins (M4x Band 1, W4x Band 1, JW4x Band 1, W4- Band 1, W4- Band 2, JW4- Band 1, JW4x Band 2, W4+ Band 2), three second place positions, and two third places.
One of the most impressive performances of the day came from their women’s quad competing in Band 1. The crew of Fran Rawlins, Saskia Budgett, Katie Wilkinson-Feller and Kyra Edwards, who was a last-minute substitution, finished 36th overall and fastest women's crew of the day.
TSS head coach, Keiran Clark, said, "We put together crews that we thought would work with the minimum of training. We were in eights last weekend for Basel Head so only got into fours on Tuesday."
The University of Reading also impressed with their men’s and women’s academic quads taking first place, both competing within band 1.