10-11 March 2018
Mortlake to Putney
Against all the odds Leander athletes notched up a double success at the weekend, with an emphatic win in the Women’s Eights Head on Saturday and a dead-heat for first place with Oxford Brookes in the men’s Head the following day.
With a significant number of their GB athletes either sick or injured the portents were not good in advance of the weekend, which marked the first time the men’s and women’s events had been held on successive days.
Only six GB women were able to boat for Leander, including Olympic silver medallist Karen Bennett in the 7 seat, but club athletes Emily Ashford and Emily Ford stepped up to the mark as the crew mounted their defence of last year’s title.
Cambridge University, looking to peak for the Women’s Boat Race in two weeks’ time, were widely tipped to reverse last year’s result and snatch the title, but Leander extended their four second margin to sixteen seconds over the 4 ¼ mile championship course from Mortlake to Putney.
Leander’s second crew, composed entirely of development athletes, came storming through the field from their starting position of 52 to finish ninth overall.
Just twenty fours hours later it was the turn of the men, who were looking to avenge their 2016 defeat by Oxford Brookes after last year’s race was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.
Leander were once again under strength, but Olympic champion Tom Ransley was in the 7 seat, with Rio finalist Al Sinclair behind him at 6.
Brookes set off in pole position with Leander in hot pursuit, but the gap remained constant, and when judges examined their times they could not separate them with any degree of confidence.
Race chairman Ben Helm announced a dead heat – the first since 1927.
“Obviously we would have preferred a clear win but Brookes were overrating us by two pips all the way down the course – they were outstanding” said Leander chief coach Mark Banks.
Behind their lead boat the scratch Leander crew of experienced seniors managed a creditable fourth place overall while the young Thames Cup group finished inside the Top 20 with 16th place.
Despite sharing the win in the men’s head the weekend’s results mark the end of a memorable winter season for Leander, who recorded wins in both the men’s and women’s divisions of the Fours Head and the Eights Head for the first time in their history.
This weekend marks the end of the long-distance winter training programme but with a significant number of Leander athletes either sick or injured it’s not just local residents who have suffered from the recent cold snap.
The Women’s and Men’s Head of the River Races are being held on the same weekend in London for the first time since rowing legend Steve Fairbairn founded the Head in 1926.
More than 300 crews will race over the 4 ¼ mile Championship Course from Mortlake to Putney, with the women on Saturday and the men on Sunday, and although Leander is looking to secure a double win it’s going to be a tough call.
After their four-second verdict over Cambridge University in last year’s race Leander start off in pole position in the women’s race on Saturday. But with more than 50% of the club’s internationals ruled out of competition Leander will boat a scratch crew to defend the title.
Cambridge, who are looking to peak just two weeks later in this year’s Women’s Boat Race, will be looking to overturn last year’s defeat but will first have to see off the double challenge from Imperial College and University of London.
It’s a different story in the men’s race on Sunday where Leander are looking to regain the upper hand after last year’s defeat by Oxford Brookes University, who won the race for the first time.
The leading Leander crew includes a clutch of seasoned internationals as well as Olympic champion Tom Ransley, but a number of the club’s big names such as Pete Reed and Will Satch are on the bank.
Leander will be boating from British Rowing headquarters at Hammersmith at 9 am for Saturday’s race, which gets under way at 9.45am, with Sunday’s timings exactly an hour later.