While many of us will be looking forward to a very pleasant lie-in this morning 251 crews will be down by the Thames at the crack of dawn preparing themselves for the 10am start of the 2008 Womens' Head of the River Race (WEHORR). In contrast to most years, though, the very cream of Britain's female rowing talent will not be taking part as they're on their way back from a pre-Olympic training camp in Italy. Consequently, the headship is much more open than usual with any one of the top ten crews poised to make this year's title their own.
Mind you, fighting your way past last year's victors, Thames A, over the 4 miles and 374 yards (or just under 7 kilometres) Tideway course will not be achieved easily, though one thing that will be clear will be who has actually won since the format of the event is for the boats to set off from Mortlake individually at timed intervals with the holders getting first use of the water and everyone else, graded down from elite to novice, trying to pass as many other crews as possible before arriving at Putney. First past the post goes home with the spoils, though not the actual prizes, which are not presented until March 13th.
Everyone involved will be hoping for a repeat of the bright and sunny weather that accompanied last year's competition, though some less dedicated followers of the sport might secretly be longing for the kind of chaotic conditions that dogged the men's equivalent race. The forecast suggests that overnight showers will have dissipated, but that, if you're not actually rowing your heart out for twenty minutes, you should dig out your favourite fleece and a flask of strong coffee to weather the twenty mile per hour winds.
Picture of a crew from Worcester College, Oxford via shimgray's Flickr stream.