Fixed seat rowing clubs compete in Sussex to be Head of the Ouse

On Saturday, 1 October, six fixed seat rowing clubs competed in the second edition of the Head of the Ouse — a challenging seven mile river race between Newhaven and Lewes.

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The event is open to all types of fixed seat rowing boats, and this year two Bursledon gigs, four Cornish gigs, a triple skiff and a cutter made the starting line-up.

The Head of the Ouse is in fact two races — a women’s race upriver on the last of the flood tide, and an open race back downriver as the tide begins to ebb. The boats are set off at intervals, with handicaps — based on those used in the Great River Race — added to the course time. The event takes place in the heart of the South Downs national park, with the Sussex downs providing a stunning backdrop for the hard-fought competition on the water.

On race day the women’s crews battled a strong westerly the length of the river, while the open crews contended with a heavy downpour early on in the race as well as the stiff breeze. After adjusting for handicaps the two Bursledon gigs from Hamble River Rowing — Kelpie and Rowsie — won one race each. The prize for the ‘swiftest gig’ across both races was won by Affinity Rowing Club’s Cornish gig, Grace O’Malley.

fixed seat rowing boats racing

Amanda Richards, chair of victorious Hamble River Rowing, said, “The Head of the Ouse is a great addition to the rowing calendar. Racing up from Newhaven to Lewes, with the sun on the South Downs, was so picturesque. The event was well organised with generous hosts who looked after us very well. A fun and lively race, and something to look forward to as autumn draws in. We will be back next year!”

Lee St Clair from the organising committee said, “It was a great privilege for Lewes Rowing Club to help organise the second Head of the Ouse race and to host the halfway point — it was wonderful to see so many boats on the river and meet rowers from other clubs.”

The event organisers, Affinity and Lewes rowing clubs, are already working on plans for the 2023 Head of the Ouse, and hope to be able to increase the maximum number of boats taking part next autumn. For more info and advance notice of registration, email headoftheouse@gmail.com. You can also follow the event on Twitter.

rowing boat at Newhaven

Photo credit: Martin Sinnock