Leander take top two at largest ever Women’s Head

A record 307 women’s crews competed in the 83rd race, the highest number ever to start


Leander Club A (Photo © Ben Rodford Photography)

The water was calm with little wind, making for excellent racing conditions despite volunteers and competitors needing to wrap up warm for the penetratingly cold air temperatures. From the full entry of 320 on the start list, 307 crossed the start line, with 299 placing for a result. The starting number was up one on the previous record of 306 set in 2013.

Leander club women's eight racing Leander Club A won the 2023 Women’s Eights Head of the River Race (Photo © Ben Rodford Photography)

Leander Club A – filled with current GB squad athletes – retained the Headship, finishing 8.6 seconds clear of Leander B, who won the Club pennant and featured athletes on the periphery of the national squad. The winning crew was: Karen Bennett, Eleanor Brinkhoff, Emily Ford, Rebecca Edwards, Florence Donald, Esme Booth, Rowan McKellar and Heidi Long, coxed by Morgan Baynham-Williams.

Oxford Brookes University BC A put in a strong showing to round out the top three a further 8.3 seconds behind, winning both the Senior and University categories. A composite crew of GB open and lightweight scullers finished fourth.

Tyne ARC eight racing at WEHORR 2023 Tyne Amateur Rowing Club A, winners of the Provincial Club pennant (Photo © Ben Rodford Photography)

The Overseas field was back to its usual size this year after Covid-related travel restrictions of 2022. Despite more numerous opposition, NUI Galway BC A successfully defended their title, finishing in 27th place, with their B crew second in the category. Tyne ARC A took the honours in the closely-contested Provincial Club pennant, finishing in 30th place, just 2.4 seconds ahead of City of Bristol RC A (33rd) and Cantabrigian RC (34th). Anna Van de Braak, who rowed at six, said: “On the whole it was quite an uneventful race! We had a solid first half, stepping on through the markers and were gaining on the crews up ahead. Thankfully, as Tideway conditions go, we couldn’t have asked for a much better day – or result.”

Girls eight racing in blue kit Headington School Oxford BC A, winners of the School/Junior pennant (Photo © Ben Rodford Photography)

Headington School Oxford BC A (20th) regained the School/Junior pennant that they last held in 2017. In another competitive event, they were closely followed by Henley RC A (22nd) and Wycliffe Junior RC (24th) with their first ever Women’s Head entry. Eight School/Junior crews finished in the top 50, which is the highest number in recent history, showing the continuing growth of strength of junior women’s rowing on the UK domestic circuit.

The Medium and Small Club pennants went to London RC A (21st, setting a new course record for the event) and Clydesdale ARC A (111th) respectively. London’s win was the second year in a row for them, but this was a first win in this category for Clydesdale returning the pennant north of the border, and continuing a ‘tradition’ of it being won by a variety of different clubs.

The Challenge pennant was won by Thames RC D (28th, in another new course record time), Challenge Academic by Durham University BC B (35th, new record), Beginner Academic by Edinburgh University BC C (69th, new record), Masters by Wallingford RC A (Mas F, 142nd), Beginner by Trinity College BC/Lady Margaret Hall BC (223rd, new record).

Guin Batten Guin Batten at her final prize giving as Race Co-ordinator (Photo © Ben Rodford Photography

Prizes were presented at a Victory Ceremony on the Putney Embankment in front of Thames RC by Tokyo 2020 Olympic Champion Grace Prendergast of New Zealand, with World Rowing Commentator Camilla Hadland-Horrocks compering the proceedings. Guin Batten announced that this was her last race as Race Co-ordinator after leading the organising committee since 2010.

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