Leander retain Women’s Eights Headship

The 2024 race, which was at risk of complete cancellation until race day itself, went ahead with a reduced field in a stiff headwind and strong stream conditions


Photo: Ben Rodford Photography

Head race (and even regatta) cancellations are all too common in the more extreme weather of recent years, but the Women’s Head has been particularly unlucky. High winds put paid to the 2019 race. Stream conditions resulted in the Port of London Authority ebb tide flag status changing to red on the morning of the race seeing off the 2020 race (in hindsight, fortunately as Covid-19 was spreading fast). And then ther was the pandemic in 2021.

This year, weeks of rain led most Tideway watchers to put the chances of the race running at 50-50 the weekend before, and then the forecast started showing gusts of up to 29mph for the race start time. By mid-week, though, the PLA flag status went back to yellow (albeit at the high end of that wide range) and the wind forecasts abated a little, which was enough for Jess Eddie, in her first year as Race Co-Ordinator, and the Organising Committee to plan for the race to happen. The only way that this could be done safely, was to reduce the field. In the end, 162 crews raced out of 326 on the original start order, which enabled safe marshalling at the start and finish by spreading crews out. Crews had to battle a headwind or cross headwind the whole way down the course, and this was strongest shortly after the start and then again approaching St Paul’s, when it was straight on, but despite this the water was never worse than reasonably choppy.

Leander A went off first and pulled away rapidly from their second crew, which started directly behind them. The Pink Palace’s first boat, stroked by GB Under 23 athlete Abigail Topp and coxed by Henry Fieldman, cox of the GB Women’s Eight in 2023, must nevertheless have had a clear view of Oxford Brookes bearing down on Leander B. Brookes’ impressive row wasn’t quite enough, though, and Leander crossed the line in 18:47.2, 3.8 seconds clear of Brookes, who claimed second place in 18:51.0. Thames A were third, winning the Club Pennant, in 18:59.4, and their B crew picked up the Senior Pennant after finishing eighth.

WEHORR Pennant winners 2024

Ahead of the Boat Race crews announcement on Wednesday this week, the members of Cambridge University’s (7th) only crew made a strong claim for blue boat selection when they won the University Pennant, despite losing a place after incurring a time penalty by doing firm pressure in the marshalling zone. Oxford University chose not to enter.

The School/Junior Pennant was also retained – by Headington School A (17th) finished three seconds ahead of their nearest challenger from the open club Hinksey Sculling School.

London A (15th) retained their title – the Medium Club Pennant – by a comfortable margin of nearly 30 seconds over their own B crew, with the Provincial Pennant going to Cantabrigian A (27th), and Sociedad Deportiva Santiagotarrak (42nd) from Spain claiming the Overseas Pennant. St Andrew BC’s (48th) long journey down from Edinburgh proved worthwhile as they won the Challenge Pennant; University of Exeter C (60th) took the Challenge Academic category, and the Masters Pennant went on handicap to a Masters D composite from  Quintin/ UTRC/ Stratford/ Walton/ Strathclyde/ Guildford/ Danube Sport RC. The Small Club Pennant, which had had 11 entries, was not awarded due to only one crew eligible for it racing.

Full results are available on the Women’s Eights Head website.

Photos: Ben Rodford Photography

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