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Hills Road crews make light of testing time on the Thames

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Hills Road Sixth Form College rowers at the Schools Head of the River Race. Picture: Mike Hunter
Hills Road Sixth Form College rowers at the Schools Head of the River Race. Picture: Mike Hunter

Conditions make going tough on the Tideway

Hills Road Sixth Form College rowers had to deal with the vagaries of the wind and the Tideway when they took on the Schools’ Head of the River Race.

The crews, who are coached in partnership with Cantabrigian Rowing Club, had prepared for a 20-minute, 6.8km race, but that soon changed.

After a long delay to the event, the winds going in the opposite direction to the water flow meant that the race finish was moved and the distance cut to 1.7km, less than one third of the full course, to avoid the roughest water between Chiswick Pier and St Paul’s School.

The Hills Road girls’ eight felt the head wind straight away, but brought up their rate under Chiswick Bridge to get into their rhythm.

They finished on a power call from cox Susan Rutter, and crossed the line – which came a bit sooner than expected – in 6min 49sec, which placed them 12th in the schools’ first eights’ category, and 332nd overall.

“It was understandable but quite disappointing that the race was shortened as it was not what we were prepared for and there was some element of confusion throughout the day, at least for me,” said Rutter.

“Personally, I didn’t really know where the course ended and therefore feel like I didn’t do as good a job as I could have in terms of calls and planning.

“But I’m grateful for the experience and hope to be able to return to the Tideway some other time and have another go at it, hopefully in better conditions.

“I’m glad we did it and I do think it made us more of a team.”

Coach Dr Rachel Bryant said: “I was really pleased with the way they adapted as a crew to a very last-minute crew change (Geena Dawson at No 5 instead of Emma Burnley-Davies who herself was subbing for Emma Clarke), learned how to take apart and put together boats as a team with good humour, and of course I was pleased to see they’d done a good job of the rowing, especially given the conditions.

“They all said they’d enjoyed it – although the lengthy marshalling/ late change of plans was challenging and they were glad they’d followed advice and taken plenty of layers and sweets in the boat with them.

“And they enjoyed seeing so many other young rowers. They’re keen to build on this experience so we’re planning to enter some more races over the summer.”

Hills Belles finished in 6.54.1 for 14th in the school second eights’ category, and 337th overall, while the Hills Road/Cantabrigian quad clocked 6.51.5 for 24th in the girls’ championship quad category, and 334th overall.

Hills Road’s first boys’ crew timed 5.45.4 for 12th in the school first eights’ section, and 112th overall, and the second crew clocked 6.21.3 for 14th in the school second eights, and 260th overall.

Ann Hemming, head of sport at Hills Road, said: “It’s lovely to see the sense of achievement the students feel knowing they have rowed on the Thames.

“There were a few tired faces but the results have certainly raised the profile of Cantabs/Hills partnership.”

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