On 29 November, Julian Scrivener won the Masters D division of the Scullers Head on the Tideway in London. This is the biggest sculling event of the year, with around 550 entries, and is held over the Boat Race course (in reverse – running from Mortlake to Putney). As well as beating the 30-odd others in his age-group, Julian’s time of 22minutes 10 seconds was only just over a minute behind the overall winner of the event, who is over 30 years younger than him and who won a silver medal this year in the World under-23 Rowing Championships. Here’s his story of how he did it …

Early start on Saturday, leave Cheltenham at 5.00 am to get down to Barn Elms for a 9.30 race.

After a really calm 10k paddle Friday morning I felt in great shape for a good race. On arrival the conditions looked good, boated at 8.30. The paddle up to the start was incredibly bouncy, mainly due to all the safety launches buzzing around. 9.15 and in position at the start, off load my kit to Tabs (ground crew for the day!). With time to spare the usual eyeballing could commence. One of my two chief rivals, Frank Raschke, was starting three ahead, so a cursory nod of the head to Frank then back to focusing on what was going to have to happen in the next 25 minutes for me to realize my intentions of winning. At this point I must thank Ron for the message he sent out on Friday detailing the areas where the head wind would be at its worse and laying out a great race plan to follow.

My race starts well pushing hard at 32’s for a minute then settling at 30’s for the next 3 minutes. Approaching Barnes Bridge I’m caught by no 37 (young whippersnapper from Westminster), have to give way and get pushed wide on the bend, tuck back in behind him but go too far over to the opposite side. Get it together by the Bandstand then start to think about just sculling clean, relaxing and letting the boat run out (first, second and third rule of the Ron!)
By St Pauls I’m level with no34 and no35 and push on hard to break away and clear Hammersmith Bridge ahead then squeeze away from them towards the mile post. Steering at this point is bang on (compared to previous attempts). I ask for more of myself – win it here, last 4 minutes, there’ll be seconds in it, trust the legs, breathe and sit tall -stay clean and sharp. Barn Elms approaching fast, take a look- yes straight for the Black buoy and then the finish, 2 minutes left. Now time to let rip, I start to jack the rate up over five strokes to 34 passing Vesta , no mistakes, keep it clean but push again, must find more. London RC is coming soon, look & sense finish line, go ape for ten and finish.Mr Scriv 7

First thought always is “was that enough”, see Tabs and get the thumbs up. Find out later on, from the Provisional set of results, that it wasn’t enough missing out by 3.5 seconds. I felt great disappointment to have missed out, left with the feeling of being “owned” for another year. Later on I began to analyse my time comparing it with those of no’s 34, 35 and 38 and I felt something wasn’t quite right. Having overtaken them both and finishing well ahead I was only attributed 7 seconds over no35, my thoughts were it should have been at least 15 seconds.

Then, Monday morning 8.30, receive a text from my great mate Mark who won Masters E saying “you really ¬¬need to see the results”. Tabs opened up the web page to see a revised set of times, and there it was, Upton RC winner Mas D, YYYYEEESSSSSSS!

I have, however, still spent these last days in a state of flux waiting for the various updated versions to come and go, so I am relieved to be able to send this report now as the final times have been published. I would again like to thank Ron for the coaching and video clips, those two outings together helped me greatly, making the slight tweaks to my set up, and your 3 step mantra helped cut a clear hole through my fog. In previous years I have won this event, but not when I was a member of any club. I was boating from a school boat house in Tewkesbury and training completely on my own. Being a part of Upton RC has helped me immeasurably over this year. This was by far and away my best performance to date, finishing just over 1 minute behind the overall winner is something rather special to me. I put a lot of that down to being in a “happy space”.

Thank you all for your support and interest. Next challenge will be to find a suitable outfit for the big one – Upton Xmas Head!


Dear Rowers

Quite an impressive mini-head race yesterday. Excellent conditions, with just a hint of stream to push people along. Possibly a record turnout with 11 boats, 34 rowers + 2 coxes. Almost certainly a record winning time of 16.44 by Julian and Tabitha in their old wooden double. Lots of tight racing through the fleet – Jack refusing to let Julian and Tabitha pass; a similar battle between Matt and the double of Andrew and Jeremy. The men’s quad couldn’t hold back the ladies quad, and there was a close contest between the men’s 4- and ladies 4+.

The final actual race times and positions are below and in the spreadsheet, along with the corrections using George Strang’s infamous factors which adjust for boat type, age and gender to reveal the competitiveness of crews.

Crew Boat Time Basic Ranking Adjusted time Adjusted ranking
Dee Trish WC2x 00:22:15 10 00:17:46 10
Peter + mxE8+ 00:21:12 9 00:19:02 11
Debbie + WE4+ 00:20:43 8 00:16:36 6
Helen & Wendy wE2x- 00:22:23 11 00:17:17 7
Ian Mackie G4- 00:20:10 7 00:17:20 8
Matt c1x 00:19:37 6 00:15:48 4
Andrew & Jeremy f2x 00:19:33 5 00:16:15 5
Duncan D4x 00:19:11 4 00:17:41 9
Jo E4x 00:18:26 3 00:15:12 3
Jack J181x 00:16:59 2 00:14:02 2
Julian & Tabitha Mx D2x 00:16:44 1 00:13:45 1

Many thanks to Misar and the timekeepers.

Finally – Don’t forget:

Next Minihead 28th December. Extra handicap allowance for fancy dress?

Please let me know by the 26th if you plan to enter (as a crew or as a rower wanting to form a crew)

£2 seat fee (which covers the Misar rescue).


Having lost by two feet at Llandaff International and achieving our first quad win at Bewdley we continued the campaign at the bank holiday regattas at Gloucester and Ross.

Disappointed by the lack of a quad entry at Gloucester Vets and Juniors we split into the pair (Maggie and Liz) and the double (Jo and Linda).   Pre- regatta nerves weren’t helped by Matt’s input “Gloucester! – have you ever steered there?  It’s about as wide as someone’s drive….”  No pressure then!

Ladies Quad 2014

Both crews got through to the final with the pair narrowly beating Leicester.  Lining up the old Burgashell on trestles next to their smart Fillipi pair was a bit embarrassing but it made the win all the more special.  Celebrations ensued largely because this had been the pair’s first win since 2002 – which was longer than most of the juniors at the regatta had been on the planet.

The double were narrowly beaten by Leicester in the final but Leicester certainly knew they’d had a race.

The next day the crew went to Ross Vets and Juniors with events for both the quad and the double.

First on was the quad.  Ron’s coaching focus since Llandaff had been on the crew achieving one catch – rather than eight.   Progress must have been made as the Evesham Vet D quad was beaten by a number of lengths before the Evesham Vet C youngsters were taken on in the final.  The stagger at Ross always comes as a surprise and it required a good build (by bow, two and three – eventually followed by Stroke) to get over the finish line to win by half a length.

The pair got through to the final but missed out on their normal cracking racing start and trailed after the first half minute.  Having gained on the opposition throughout the race, and with around twenty strokes to go, they made a final desperate push for the finish, crossing the line half a length behind their opposition.  For those who believe that bad luck comes in threes, seconds after crossing the finish line their boat was struck by the blade of a single scull which was being rowed back towards the embarkation point. Although shaken it was fortunate that no one sustained any injury but the boat was damaged and is now awaiting repair.

It has been an eventful season with so much learned from one another and from Ron.  We have felt encouraged and supported by everyone at the club – so a big thank you to all.

For any “Learn to Row” graduates you may like to know that Linda and Jo were complete beginners not so long ago and only took up sculling in 2012 – so keep training!!

Having made some changes to our gearing and practised our racing starts (following a pathetic attempt at the National Masters in May), Jules and I felt confident enough to consider entering the Henley Masters Regatta as a Mixed Masters D Double.

There were 8 entries in total including the bronze and silver medalists from the Nationals and an unknown American crew.  That meant Quarter Finals on Friday  followed by Semi’s and the Final on Saturday.

We drew Walton, the silver medalists, in our first round.  Consequently our tactic was to go out hard from the start and keep going! We duly did so, taking Walton by surprise off the start – I think they were expecting us to be slow in our heavy wooden boat – and won the race by 3 lengths.

BIGBLADE HMR_14_06804_over_1800x1200Back on Saturday morning to face Bewl Bridge, bronze medalists from the Nationals.  Having beaten Walton so easily confidence was high! It was very hot and we had a long wait at the start.  It was also bouncy from passing motor launches and we had drawn the middle of the river.  Three strokes in Jules missed the water on bow side due to a large wave, the boat tipped to stroke side and I crabbed my next stroke.  We came to a halt and Bewl Bridge took full advantage pulling at least a length ahead.  We got going again and by The Barn we had come through them taking a length, thinking “job done”!  However, they did not give up and came back at us in the second half stroke by stroke.  It was a nail-biting finish with neither crew knowing who had won, but the result was Upton by a canvas.

There was then a long 5 hour wait to the final.  It was very hot and we spent much of the time seeking shade and drinking water. Due to the heat and nervous tension, we decided not to do our usual warm up routine in the boat but then had to wait on the start for at least 15 minutes for an Umpires launch. On the first stroke I felt a muscle pull in my lower back down my left side. I tried to ignore it but my next few strokes were painful and difficult.  I lightened off and focused on my technique.  It was even bumpier than earlier and the last thing I wanted was to crab and stop the boat as I knew we would not come back from that again.  We had about a length on our opponents, a composite crew from Tideways Scullers School.  I did as much as I could, and no more, to keep that distance.  Jules, meanwhile, was pulling his heart out unable to understand why we were not demolishing the other crew (on paper we had 12 seconds advantage over them comparing our semi-final times).  We maintained our lead comfortably and crossed the line ahead – verdict a win to Upton by one length!

Jules rowed us to the landing stage by Upper Thames RC where we received our medals, sportingly applauded by our opponents.  I crawled from the boat, drank lots of tea and took a moment to reflect on a dream result – my first major win ever and also a first win for Jules in a double at Henley on his 4th attempt!

We would like to thank everyone at Upton for supporting us.  It is great to be part of a club set-up again and it definitely inspired us at Henley as we did not want to let the club down.


After months of planning by the Upton RC recreational rowing committee, on Thursday afternoon boat trailers from all over the country began arriving at Worcester Race Course for the 21st British Rowing Tour. Solent galleys, a wherry, touring boats of various designs, and fine boats were unloaded and re-rigged ready for the following morning. Meanwhile crews were being welcomed to their base at the Puckrup Hall Hotel by Upton “Tour Makers” in their distinctive lavender polo shirts. During the evening buffet Andrew and I were surprised to learn that we would be rowing in the morning to substitute for an injured rower and so would become honorary Weybridge Ladies for a day.

On Friday morning two large coach loads of rowers were bussed to Worcester. With many extra hands for the heavy boats, 21 boats were launched from Worcester Rowing Club’s landing under the interested gaze the media. They were particularly impressed by the wide age range (up to octogenarians) and the large number of women participating. Participating rower Ruth Marr, a rowing tour organiser from Winnipeg, Canada, was also a centre of media attention. Maurice joined a ladies crew from Henley RC in Peter Barker, and with some trepidation Sheila and Judi joined the crew of one of the Solent galleys.

Under brooding skies I set off in the last boat with three Weybridge Ladies and Ruth. While waiting to enter Diglis Lock they were excited to see our first non-cygnine wildlife, a young cormorant, soon followed by a kingfisher. After locking down we set off on the day’s main stretch to Upton into a gusty headwind. As the Severn meandered southwards the conditions alternated between rippled and choppy waters but our scratch crew coped well in our fine quad. A quick burst of light rain added to the sense of endeavour. The rain didn’t return and we set a steady pace with short bursts of firm pressure to keep warm and almost caught the group of slower boats ahead who had locked down well before us.

At Upton Marina everyone moored or hauled their boats out to be welcomed by the Mayor of Upton, Cllr Pete Webb, and Upton RC Captain, Steve Cox. They then enjoyed a buffet lunch at the Wheelhouse. The Solent galley crews were relieved to find that beer was available after the lack of riverside pubs since Worcester. It wasn’t long before the crews were keen to get back on the water, including Sheila and Judi who had decided that fixed seat rowing was easier than they had expected, though hard on the arms, and Solent galleys were great boats. After lunch I handed my seat over to Andrew and re-joined the Tour Makers.

BR Tour Lower Lode

After about an hour of rowing, the tourers reached Mythe Bridge where they were treated to tea and a mountain of cakes by AB Severn RC. Another short row took them to Upper Lode lock where they were able to lock down in three groups. A wider more exposed stretch of choppy water greeted them as they approached the end of the leg at Lower Lode, Tewkesbury. The boats were hauled out for the night at Cheltenham College BC and the coaches returned them to Puckrup for dinner with the mayor of Tewkesbury, Mike Dean, and his wife.

On a cloudy but dry Saturday morning the tourers returned to Lower Lode. The wide concrete ramp at Cheltenham College BC made launching straightforward and a steady stream of boats headed off around the bend to Deerhurst, Apperley and Wainlode.

The Tour Makers headed to the East Channel outside Gloucester Lock to rig ropes for holding boats in the strong tidal stream expected around high tide. After a long delay from the MV Edward Elgar monopolising the East Channel and causing northbound narrow boats and cruisers to queue for Gloucester Lock, the tour was finally given clearance to row down to the lock. As they arrived and grabbed onto the throw ropes, there were some concerned conversations. “Was that a plastic bag we just passed or a body floating in the river?” “I thought it was a body.” The message was passed to the leading MISAR safety launch and they took off to investigate. They soon returned with a confused soul who had decided it was a good idea to go for a swim in the river. MISAR handed her over to the police and the care of the ambulance service.

BR Tour Glos DocksThe second batch of boats was shepherded through the lock and into Gloucester Docks where there was a scramble for the last remaining moorings and a rush for the toilets after the long delay. At the lunch provided by the Waterways Museum, the mayor of Gloucester, Deb Llewellyn, welcomed the tour to her city alongside her rower daughter and the captain of Gloucester RC, Jon Garner.

The tourers made a whistle-stop sightseeing tour of Gloucester Docks before returning to their boats. After little more than a mile of rowing the tourers reached Hempstead Meadows, where ground has just been broken on the site of Gloucester RC’s new clubhouse, and hauled their boats out for the night.

On returning to Puckrup, the tourers swapped their Lycra and sun hats for blazers and dresses ready for drinks before the gala dinner in the ballroom. After dinner a series of speakers talked about touring past and present and speculated about the future.

Sunday morning started with broken cloud and blue skies but instead of clouding over like most days for the last month it cleared to a glorious warm sunny day. The touring rowers were bussed to Hempstead Meadows to start the final leg down the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. There they were joined by day rowers from Bewdley, Ross and their hosts Gloucester.

Earlier in the week the Tour Makers had been to the tour finish at Purton to trim back the brambles from the canal edge and extend the small landing stage with a floating pontoon. On Sunday a large working party returned to Purton to direct trailer parking and to pitch two borrowed scout tents to shelter (or as it turned out to shade) the lunch. The non-rowing tourers arrived having walked the towpath from Slimbridge and lunch arrived on schedule so everything was set for the arrival of the rowers.

The shore party stood by Purton Bridge staring up the reach eager for the first sight of oars. After a few false alarms from narrow boats the first rower appeared around the last corner, a single sculler from Gloucester RC who had been determined to keep a Bewdley women’s eight behind him all the way. It wasn’t long before more boats arrived. They had helpfully become strung out due to stops along the way, meaning that there was very little queuing for the short landing stage. All the larger boats were hauled out bow first, due to an awkward 90 degree turn into the car park, and carried to the trailer field opposite. Many locals and day trippers looked on in fascination as the assortment of 28 boats were recovered from the water.

The tourers de-rigged and loaded their boats before tucking into a classy picnic lunch served from an old fashioned canvas and wood tent that seemed to be in character for such an event. Circles of rowers sat cross-legged in the sunshine reflecting on the tour. The consensus appeared to be that this was the biggest and best organised tour yet. There were many happy waves from departing crews. The Tour Makers struck the tents and tidied the field before enjoying a well-earned cup of tea from Purton Church. They returned home weary but glowing with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Duncan Jardine

The tour was featured in the Worcester Evening News – a link to their article can be found here.