It's some one and a half week ago, but on March 18th the Head of the River Amstel was held in Amsterdam, the 80th edition. After our team (Fier) came in at the 10th place (of the 29 competing teams) last year it was time for a second try. Only thing was that I wasn't 'selected' to row. No problem, because some weeks before the race I was asked if I wanted to steer the ladies of the Pazzipanten. Of course I wanted to do that!

The Saturday before the race we went to Amsterdam to rigger the boat (read: assemble everything after transport) and to explore the river. It was the first time for me that I would steer this race. And a good coxswain can make or break the race. There are a couple of treacherous and difficult corners. Especially the Big Corner (also called the Whore Corner) is very tricky (see map below). That's why we went there a day ahead to practice and get the right feeling. After the training we went back to Groningen and the next day we went to Amsterdam again. It's cheaper then staying in a hotel.

Head of the River Amstel (2012) - queuing

The day of the race. After we got into the boat and did some exercises it was time to get in line and queue. At the buoy at the Toronto bridge we turned and lined up in two rows towards the start. Merge before the New Amstel bridge, pick up speed under the bridge and... we started!

We started as the third boat in our field and the boat in front of us came closer and closer. The tempo and speed was good! At the Berglage bridge we were right behind them. At the Omval we overtook them in the outside corner. When we passed them they tried to stay with us, but after a few minutes the had to let go.

Head of the River Amstel (2012) - overtaking the first boat

After that I focused on the next boat, one from Gyas. It was quite far ahead, but slowly but surely it came closer. First I had to navigate a couple of corners and bridges. For the rowers it might be tough, but for the cox it's also a challenge. Steer tight and keep the rowers on their toes. If you feel the power draining, directly intervene and focus on pushing with the legs. Ahead was the Big Corner and the Gyas boat was right in front of us. Oh no...! I hope we don't have to go side-by-side through the corner, but thankfully it all worked out. Last year that wasn't the case with a couple of eights.

Head of the River Amstel (2012) - rowing

In the distance I saw the next corner and I yelled to the rowers: "The next corner is ours!". That's called psychological warfare towards the other boat. Ten extra hard strokes on the legs! En ten more... and ten. Then we overtook them and went first into the corner. Yes! All that's left is a long stretch towards the finish. Giving it all in the last bit and... quietness. While we calmly went under the bridge towards the finish area we heard Reina, the coach, yell from the side that we got first place! What?! No one of us expected that, so the joy was even bigger.

Head of the River Amstel (2012) - first place

With a 10 mile wide smile we went back to Willem III where the boat was unloaded and placed on the trailer. Even then we couldn't believe we won. When we finished I also picked up the smell of pancakes and got the idea to treat the ladies to this delicacy. After everyone had showered we went to the finish area by car to track done those pancakes. We didn't find them. But a cup of tea or some hot coco will do just fine. There is another time for pancakes.

Head of the River Amstel (2012) - tea and hot cocoa

At the end of the afternoon / beginning of the evening we went to De Hoop rowingclub to get our medals and the Stephan Collast trophy. We drank a beer and partied a bit. Then we went back to Groningen. Tired but very pleased.

Head of the River Amstel (2012) - cheers

Head of the River Amstel (2012) - fastest team with the Stephan Collast trophy

By the way, the time of the ladies was 32:18.27. And if you would like the read the story of the bow (Kim), that's possible... she created a musical piece out of it (Dutch). My own team (Fier) got 14th place with a time of 28:37.86. A good minute faster then last year.

Photos: Reina Rentema