Skip to content

Even the weather gods smiled on us and held off the thunder, lightning and rain until Sunday morning.  They are fickle though, so we went from course records in the morning to posting the slowest time of our season in the afternoon.  Otherwise, what a glorious day we had for the Head of the River.

The competition started long before dawn.  In the dark there was furious competitive decorating along the lakeshore.  Our atmosphere was sweetened by freshly baked pastries from Skala and the odd waft of freshly brewed coffees, only for card holders.  A studiously informed atmosphere, as Raimond manned the screen and made sure everyone was up to date on results and footage.  Suitable amount of chaos added by boys dashing through to the back tent to collect their blazers for official photos.  There was certainly a frenzied departure from boating area when boys heard Skala had a doughnut waiting for them.   Throw in virtually the whole school management team, a couple of council members to add gravitas and the Saints marquees were humming.

Unseen by the parents, the dark cavern that is the West Lakes boatshed played host to a continuous churn of squads.  Each arriving at their allotted time, rigging boats, carrying out blades, final coach briefings, then disappearing to race as the next squad rolled in.  Weaving in and out of the torrent of boys, Joe our boatman, quietly made sure everything was in place for the boys when they needed it.  He patiently finds all the urgently demanded items that hide in plain view, where they have always been stored.

Unlike the SPS regattas the Head of the River progresses through the age groups, youngest first.  Saints opened its racing account with four crews racing in the F final against a lonesome PAC crew, all our crews won their category.  All bar one of the Y8 crews produced their fastest race of the season at the Head and the A boat took ten seconds off the course record.  Any coaching team would be pleased with that set of results, so well done; Jake Nesbitt, Steve Perry, Philip Marshall, Lily Hockings, Charlie Silcock, Philippe Scalzi, Tom Hamilton-Smith, Will White, Will Barone and Murphy Eaton.  The Year 8 squad were ably assisted by Year 7s reserves Tyler Gao, James Young and Henry Ye.

Across the board the Year 9 squad managed their highest finishing positions of the season.  Alex Molga was too modest about the A’s final, that was a significant step up.  The B’s were 0.8” off the season best while the C, D and E’s recorded season bests.  However, it was Estelle Wollin’s C crew who brought home a bronze medal.

Fresh from sculling themselves, Eddie Powell, Henry Willington and Harrison McClurg stepped into the Year 10 D final, where four of our crews battled it out against two other schools.  All three of the Year 8s picked up a second medal, despite Harrison’s crew having to carry 18 kilos to bring him up to weight.  All four of our crews won their category, with Sid Tierney started with us in January winning overall.  By this time the wind had picked up and there were no season best times to be had.

It was just before midnight we heard one of the boys had tested positive for Covid.  So, the Grutzner promoted its cox Tim Silcock to row, recruited Y9 rower Liam Hutchison to cox.  Weighed down with 17 kilos to bring Liam up to weight the crew took to the water and opened the Senior squad’s racing with an emphatic win.  Fred Kidman retains his 100% Head winning record, Harvey Ledger and Ollie Francou take away a medal and trophy from their return to rowing and Liam sheds all those kilos to gain one medal.  Just as well coach Sam Burton put all that time into Tim Silcock’s sculling.  Not a smooth ride for any of these boys, they brought a real “Can do” attitude to the project.

Completely different story for the Blackmore; their season has been one of dominance of their event.  It is a tribute to the calm coaching of Clare Romaniuk and the unshakeable determination of strokeman George Quigley that they took the Scotch challenge in their stride and rowed clean away from them in the last 250.

The Blackburn produced some of their best rowing of the season, holding PAC under rating them by three pips.  Unfortunately, they did not retain the same length and cohesion as their rate came up and PAC drew away to retain the Wallman trophy.  Yet to find another programme that can field them an opponent the Digby met its own challenge of finishing within 30” of the Blackburn.

The chant leaders whipped the crowds of supporters into a frenzy.  Luckily, the words for the new “Stick” chant did not overtax their memories.  There is something really spectacular about the beach on Head day; the contrast between the marquees with their bunting and the seething mass of humanity churning and chanting in the water.

With impeccable timing the drone ran out of battery limiting coverage of, arguably, the two most important races of the day.  Scotch threw the kitchen sink at us.  Our man at the 1000m reported Scotch led.  Our coaches at 1500 reported Scotch led.  That sort of effort takes its toll.  As Saints stuck to Brigette’s plan and started to go through their gears, the pressure told on Scotch and they were pipped on the line by a fast finishing PAC.  The Wylly handled huge pressure to lift the Gosse Shield for a record ninth time and retain the Blackmore trophy.

Another top team of decorators dashed from the lakeside to make sure Mem Hall had a suitable rowing theme for the evening.  The Youngs decked out “Willie Watts” with vertical sculls and filled with ice to chill the drinks in front of the hall.  Hot foot and hot off the press, images from the day’s racing were uploaded to the projector, to bring the day’s regatta into the hall for the night.  With the crews’ pump up videos and the squad reports, dinner guests were given an insight into the season from the boys’ perspective.  Brigette’s speech gave a glimpse of the amount of thought and care that goes into creating that process and plan.

The dinner was a great celebration of our community in a memorable setting.  It certainly was greater than the sum of its parts.


Mr Wade Hall-Craggs 
Head of Rowing