Just two years ago, our only representatives in the Scullers' Head were Les and Ed H. Today, 13 of us pushed off from the pontoon to join the traffic jam of singles to Chiswick Bridge. The start order looked something like this:
Ed Hillyard MasBNov
Michael Tchoubouroff IM2
Ross Cook IM2
Anna Caffyn WMasA
Stephen Baldwin MasC
Drago Zhelev MasC
Ed Fawssett MasD
Neil Kashishian Nov
Greg Foden IM3 LWT
The weather forecast's promised sun duly appeared, bringing with it an unexpected warmth, although a couple of scullers who fell in may not have said the same about the water temperature.
The presence of Olympic single sculls bronze medalist, Alan Campbell, brought extra distinction to the race. How many other sports let ordinary mortals compete alongside the Olympians? Mind you, there doesn't seem to be any such thing as a wild card at the Sculler's Head. Alan started back at 108, but won anyway.
Meanwhile, further down the order at 318 your correspondent was progressing up river, the sharp knock of oar on carbon-fibre shell enlivening a stop-start journey.
At the Ship Inn, official "tops-off" station, a nagging anxiety about my ability to feed a soft-shell jacket through the mouse-hole sized hatch cover was dispelled by the unexpected prescence on the shingle of a club mate. Thanks Cat, with your impressive rowing palmarès, I should be carrying your jacket.
And so to the return under Chiswick Bridge, my heart rate monitor suddenly deciding the time of day was much more interesting than news about what my heart might be doing. At least the Boat Coach app on my phone continued to work, displaying 30 in reassuring large numerals.
As usual, I was slow to settle and immediately came under pressure from 319. He'd eventually row through me right opposite the club - a humiliation that passing four other boats didn't really make up for. He must have had a good second half too, finishing third in Masters D. My aim was to finish in the top 200 which I failed to do by five seconds. Last year it was six, so with this rate of improvement I'm looking good for 2017.
The bigger news was Greg finishing as the fastest Sons of the Thames Rowing Club entrant. I've come to think of Colin's elegant trophy as being permanently resident on the Hillyard mantlepiece so this was quite a shake-up and well done to Greg. Ed did win the MasBNov category however with another characteristically fast row. Joining them in the top 200 was our Mens' Captain, Ross.
Right down the starting order, and probably with less tide, Lju put in a really solid row having only learnt to scull this summer. Dave Smith, her unofficial coach, demonstrated some tidy blade-work of his own to finish 254th. Dave tells me that the last time he did the Scullers' Head in 2000 he placed 347th which just goes to show that advancing years can still produce faster times.
He also had the spur of competing with his daughter Catie who represented Latymer School. The older Smith won this encounter, let's see what happens next year.
Anna placed fourth in her category. Did anyone else know that Anna is a former winner of the the Pairs Head pennant for elite pairs? There are hidden depths to some of our members.
In the men's novice section Eoin put in a strong row winning the battle of the twins, although I'm not sure their boats were as identical as they are. Neil has made a film record of one of his early morning outings from a stern-mounted camera which you cansee on Youtube. I think it gives a good idea of what it's like to be on the Tideway early in the morning and boat from Sons at Hammersmith.
With the sun and very little wind this was an enjoyable day wasn't it? Most coaches believe that single sculling is important to technique development in both sweep and scull crew rowing so a healthy sculling squad won't do us any harm. I imagine most of us scullers will be out rowing VIIIs for the Dewar Shield next month.