FOR the first time in the club’s history Leander Club boated two crews for the Women’s Eights Head on Saturday, when their athletes finished in second and fourth place overall and winning the club pennant
FOR the first time in the club’s history Leander Club boated two crews for the Women’s Eights Head on Saturday, when their athletes finished in second and fourth place overall and winning the club pennant.
Leander I, packed with GB internationals, led the 300-boat field over the 4 ¼ mile Championship Course from Mortlake to Putney, while Leander II started among the new entries further down the field.
Not even late crew changes, forced by injury in the first boat, could dent a performance that helped cement the club’s leading role in women’s rowing.
With GB international Polly Swann at stroke, and Zoe de Toledo in the cox’s seat, the leading Leander boat had the best of the river, establishing a clear water advantage ahead of the rest of the field.
But despite the presence of seasoned internationals such as Vicky Thornley, Katie Greves and Lou Reeve, Leander had to settle for second place after their time was bettered by a GB composite which started further down the field.
With Olympic champions Heather Stanning and Helen Glover in the stern seats, and with Olympic legend Katherine Grainger in the engine room, the GB crew took the Head pennant more than eighteen seconds clear.
Leander II included many of the club’s development athletes, along with former captain Debbie Flood. Pam Relph, the 2012 Paralympic champion from the GB mixed coxed four, was also drafted in to replace Karen Bennett, who was promoted to the first boat just days before the event.
Being surrounded by the new entries helped the crew pace themselves, with stroke Katherine Douglas setting an excellent rhythm, and the engine-room putting in a solid performance behind.
When the times were released it became clear that Leander II were fourth fastest, less than two seconds behind third-placed Imperial College, but more than enough to win the Club pennant, which they were later awarded by Annamarie Phelps, chair of British Rowing.
Jane Hall, women’s coach at Leander, said: “Coming fourth was magnificent. We expected to come in the top five, but the disruption caused by the injury changed all that. But Pam ended up as the star of the crew â?? she brought all her ParalympicÂ experience to bear, and helped the crew’s result match what we expected.”
The Women’s Eights Head started in 1927 but has gone from strength to strength in the last 20 years, with a substantial increase in entries, and effective management behind the event. In contrast to some other major Head races they are able to get finish times available soon after crews cross the finish line.