For the uninitiated a Head Race is a long distance, processional time trial. Long distance paddling was originally conceived as a way of keeping fitness up during the cold winter months but inevitably competition between rival clubs developed to see who could be fastest over the longer distance. This competition became organised and formalised to see who could be 'Head of the River' and such events eventually became the norm all over the rowing world.
The Head Race season in the UK is generally between October and March and there are events all over the country during this period but the most prestigious occur right outside our front door on the Thames Tideway.
Starting in October with the Pairs Head (crew of two), through Head of the River Fours (crew of four + cox) in November, Scullers Head (single sculls) in December, to the main events of Women's Head of the River and The Head of the River Race in March (crews of eight + cox). There are also other local head races on the Tideway as well as specific events for Schools and Masters.
These events take place over (or part of) The Championship Course which is most famously used by the University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge. Unlike the Boat Race however, the majority of Head races are usually raced down river on the ebb (outgoing) tide from Mortlake to Putney.
Although the Boat Race (which is actually a match-race rather than a Head Race) attracts the most attention, these other Tideway Heads attract the most competitors. The Eights Heads in March have a maximum entry of 420 boats and the Fours Head in November has over 500!
With such a large entry, crews in Head Races are sorted into a divisions with crews of a similar status. A crew's status is based on the points system used during the regatta season. Pennants are given to the winning crew of each category and while you may have bragging rights over local rivals there is only ever one crew who can claim to be Head of the River.
Cygnet RC compete in all the main Tideway Heads as well as other local Head races both on on off the Thames.
Our boathouse is also a popular boating venue for visiting crews. Along with BBRLC we aim to offer a friendly welcome and organised boating service for what can be thousands of visitors on Duke's Meadows. Club members are strongly urged [expected] to volunteer a few hours help on big Head Race days to 'put a bit back into the sport'.