The Big One – The One We’d All Been Waiting For…

…Has finally arrived. From the beginning of this term the measure of time has always been “nine weeks to Henley”, “three weeks to Henley”, “six days to Henley” and now, still managing to almost come as a surprise, it is no days to Henley. Preparations went as well as they could have been expected to with a sudden improvement coming around week 6. From there we came second in IM2 8+ at Met and the VIII (without me due to exams) got to the final again at Marlow. Continuing the wave of improvement, the 1st VIII then pre-qualified for Henley for the first time in its history. With arrangements a bit up in the air for various reasons we then commuted to Henley (80 mins each way) every day from last Saturday. Training on the course for maybe an hour at a time. It seemed to me to be a terrible way to prepare in terms of time on the water to time travelling ratio but then, who am I to argue?

On Saturday we also received the draw. That was the point that our campaign really came to an end. The University of California, Berkeley. A moments googling returned the fact that they had just won the US national championships, were undefeated this season, and were coached by the US olympic coach that had taken an VIII to win gold at the previous two olympic games. This was never going to be our race.

In the training sessions that followed there was no noticeable improvement just continual rowing in of the various things we’d been training for over the past couple of weeks. Long drawn out finishes and pronounced lean back, together with the new race plan.

Wednesday morning came and in the usual pre-race talk style we all sat around and talked about how they’d not be used to being behind and how we would take them off the start like the poor deluded fools we were.

Getting to the start line and warming up went as well as for any other race we’d been in although I don’t really remember much of it. The race itself is also fairly blurred. I remember them taking off stunningly quickly and not seeing or hearing them again and very little else. It didn’t stand out as being some of our best rowing but neither was it our worst.

The final verdict was 4 3/4 lengths which doesn’t seem that bad until we found out that they had wound down to about 23spm by halfway and paddled it home. Their time was 6:42.

While we were still in touch

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