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Oxford Brookes Dominate the BUSA Head of the River Championships 28/02/2007

Over 1,300 athletes in 365 crews contested the BUSA BUR Championship Head, now the largest University Head race in the world in only its fourth year.

Racing was exciting and fast on a quick stream, with several dead heats and for the first time overseas opposition coming to compete in the shape of the Faculty of Economics crew from Zagreb University in Croatia.

Several changes had been made to the format of this event for 2007 in an attempt to create a better racing environment for crews travelling from 42 Universities as far afield as Lancaster, Teeside, London and Plymouth to race on the Trent in Nottingham. With Small Boats now enjoying their own event earlier in the season, just two races were planned with a larger recovery gap over lunchtime to also help crews recover and boat safely, thus also promoting better racing.

The morning racing featured Women’s Fours and Men’s Eights, with an all-star Oxford Brookes Eight leading off the pack of 135 boats over the 5km course. In a display of powerful technique the Brookes boys hurtled down the track in an amazing 11 minutes 44 seconds, destroying both the old course record and any thought that their opposition were in the same class. This was the start of a Brookes clean sweep that saw them also pick up both Junior (reserve) (12m06) & Novice (12m27) Eights, each by over 20 seconds, an impressive start to the season and reward for work put in by the athletes led by coaches Spratley, Haining & new-boy Bailhache.

Ladies Fours saw another Brookes win, their ladies taking coxless fours (13m52)  from Durham (14m06) and Birmingham (14m39), whilst the European Universities Sports Association (EUSA) Champions Southampton picked up the coxed fours (14m29) by a large margin. The first shock of the day saw the talented UWE Lightweight quad (14m10) finish ahead of an Imperial / Loughborough dead-heat (14m18) whilst Durham continued their Freshers Challenge comeback with a solid win (14m02) over Newcastle (14m15).

The afternoon racing featured Ladies Eights and Men’s Fours, with Durham building on their reputation by picking up both Champ Eights (13m44) from Brookes (13m52) and Southampton (14m53) and then the Junior (reserve) Ladies Eights (14m05) from UWE (14m28) and Birmingham (14m34). In Women’s Novice Eights Cardiff (14m34) cleanly took the event honours but we saw a good tussle between Birmingham (14m50) & Durham (14m53) for the minor medals.

Imperial College boated two very high quality Men’s boats in the afternoon race, with their coxless four (13m05) comfortably leading home Durham (13m14) and Bristol (13m23). The Quads race was possibly the highest standard event of the day, with IC (12m37) just leading in the EUSA and World University Champions Newcastle (12m39), with Reading third in 12m54.

The closest race division of the day had to be the Men’s Coxed Fours, one second covering the top three crews with a tie for the gold between Nottingham and Bristol (both 13m23) with Exeter a mere second behind them.

Durham again picked up the Concept2 Freshers points with their Men’s Eight again leading home Newcastle. It will be fascinating at the Regatta to see how squads will play the final roll of the dice, with Durham needing to win all four remaining C2 races.

In all 11 Universities took home medals, at Gold level Oxford Brookes (4 golds) being the most successful, although Durhams overall haul (2G, 4S, 2B) is also well worth a mention.

One crew had a very cold day out. The Exeter Women’s 4+ got stuck in a tree whilst marshalling at the start and having been jammed for over an hour were then too cold to be able to race. They were eventually freed and returned to the Finish area by the Colwick Park Safety launches, emphasising the thanks we owe to the volunteers who support rowing in many different ways.

So what of our Croatian visitors? They travelled for 16 hours to arrive at 11:30pm the night before the race, then jumped into a borrowed boat to race on a fast-flowing river that they had never seen before, and they usually only row on a lake! “Great racing, we have nothing like this at home” was the quote from their Club President Andrea Prusina, “we will be back with a Zagreb crew to win this race” We have been warned…..

Results  www.busa.org.uk and www.concept2.co.uk/universities
Pictures copyright Brian Pluckrose at www.naturesimages.co.uk

For all the full results please click below

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