Head of the River Race to Host Top International Crews on the Thames

A full river this Saturday as 400 crews come to battle out the UK's spring classic race

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Saturday 27th March 1.15pm from Mortlake to Putney

The Head of the River Race is the Classic timed processional race of four and a quarter miles for men’s eight-oared boats and dates back to 1926.The Race takes approximately 1½ hours and the top crews go first at 10 second intervals and will finish approximately 20 minutes after the start.

It will feature all of Great Britain’s rowing stars, competing for World and Olympic glory, later in the summer and ultimately up-stream at Eton in 2012 respectively, in Britain’s most successful Olympic Sport.

Many GB international medallists and some whole squads from abroad will also race en masse on the traditional Championship Course, from Mortlake to Putney on the Thames Tideway in London. The procession rows off in the order of finish of last year’s event. The elite competitors appear as wolves in sheep’s clothing as all are racing in their Club colours as opposed to their national strip.

The current Head Crew is Tideway Scullers’ School in red and yellow livery. It gained the Headship last year with a crew composed almost entirely of Beijing Olympic finalist single scullers (1 rower 2 oars) called the Great Eight. This year a couple of their number including GB’s Alan Campbell return with other international level oarsmen.

Leander, containing current World Champions and Olympic medallists in their pink (or cerise) uniforms want their title back.

While Leander traditionally contains the nucleus of the Great Britain Rowing Team, a familiar face will be stroking the Black Boat rowing off fourth and looking to upset the established order. The in form Andrew Hodge is the reigning Olympic Champion stroke of the GB Coxless Four and while some of his squad-mates are in the Leander boat, Hodge’s crewmate from Beijing Tom James will wear black. They will feel this is their year.

A strong showing from Spain’s Astillero last year and GB’s Lightweight squad make up the top flight.

The Czech National Squad will also be intent on threatening the British Establishment. Form for the Head may be determined in duels happening this week between the above crews and evenly matched Oxford and Cambridge crews for the Xchanging Boat Race the following week.

This year, the capacity field includes 60 crews from 11 National Federations, mainly Germany, Italy and Spain, but also from Sweden and Poland.

Hoping to teach them a thing or two are University powers, such as Oxford Brookes and Imperial College, whose open selection policies permit non-students and can include whole international level crews.

Barn Elms is a familiar waypoint in the Race (and the local Borough rowing facility) but this year is also the flag of convenience to an elite Italian international crew.

Look out for the Hadrian Boat Club, a line-up of old boys from Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham, including recent Olympians Matt and Pete Wells celebrating 30 years of its school boat club.

Others with points to prove include the constant and long held club, academic and local rivalries, such as Thames (celebrating 150 years) and London, who are fielding 10 crews between them, and elite lightweight crews, seeking to defeat their heavyweight counterparts.

Further down the order come club, school and college crews from all over the country and further who have trained for this harsh physical and technical challenge, preparing during the especially polar winter months, often as assiduously as many elite athletes in other sports. This is the big one, and referred to fondly as simply ‘the Head’. From these will come tomorrow’s champions.

Crew 400 is a crew from Evesham. They too have an opportunity to move stealthily up the ladder at the top of which is invariably an Olympic gold medal in Britain’s traditionally most successful if not most celebrated Olympic sport.

March 24, 2010