Hammersmith Head

The sequence of events that make up a race day is getting quite predictable now. It’s always been fairly similar but after a year and a bit of racing in the first eight the standard procedure is so well fixed that it’s getting boring.

  • Pre-Race:
    • Training. Paddling in outings is good. Bursts/pieces are quick and feel sustainable.
    • Team talks. We all stand around and convince ourselves we’re quick; that if we have the right mentality we can do this thing; that we are prepared.
  • Race Day:
    • Pick-up. The bus rocks up about quarter of an hour late.
    • Get there. Long drive to a particular stretch of river that has no redeeming qualities that might encourage visitors were it not for the race.
    • Rigging. General drift towards rigging boats, getting things in order.
    • Final five minutes of panic as the chance of us making it to the start on time diminishes rapidly.
    • Boating. In what we would like to think of as an organised fashion.
    • Warm-up. A paddle to the start with a few bursts thrown in to ‘loosen up’. This stage generally goes well and is some reasonable paddling. Bursts are generally relaxed and quick.
    • Marshalling. Getting shouted at by angry people with megaphones.
    • The start. Going through the start marshal the boat is generally moving quite well.
    • The race. “Right that’s it. We’ve done the training. We’ve started the race. We row well in training therefore we just have to go through the motions and the rest will just happen”.
    • End of race. “It didn’t happen”
    • Debrief. Everyone gives there opinions on why it didn’t happen. Coach expresses disappointment. “This can’t happen again”
  • Post race:
    • Make changes. Long e-mails from coaches and captains describing all the ways that we’re going to change to stop this happening again.
    • Rinse.
    • Repeat.

Hammersmith Head - Approaching Chiswick Eyot - Copyright Iain Weir and Rowing Photography

This is the third race this term (out of three) where this has been the case. I’m struggling to convince myself that the crew change after BUCS was an improvement. Even the training paddling/pieces don’t feel as together. It definitely feels like we’re eight people sitting and rowing in the same boat and not like a crew. At best we’re two crews, the first IV (stern four) that came fifth at BUCS and the other four who sit in the bow and also row.

I can’t see what is going on in the boat so can only go by feel but there is definitely something wrong. The back end of the stroke feels so laboured. It should be the fastest most dynamic part of the movement and yet by the time my hands are away and I’m leant forward starting the slide on the recovery there is still weight being thrown around. This makes the boat fall over which in turn make people less confident in moving quickly around the back of the next stroke. At the end of the session we all get off the water and discuss the problem and agree on what is wrong. After that I fail to comprehend how it happens again the next time. If someone is told that their hands move too slowly, and they agree, why is it not possible for them to just speed them up? Even throwing them out far too fast would be better as it would at least be a change. At the moment we’re paddling down races at rate 30-31 and it’s just not working. I probably shouldn’t be complaining about rate what with sitting at stroke and all but I really can’t rate higher when the crew behind me isn’t backing it up. [/rant]

Not only did we fail at the race (11th of 32 was the final result – we should have won and could have done if we’d raced like we train, we even beat some of the crews at BUCS) we also managed to lose a footplate from the boat. Whoever sectioned the eight after de-rigging it apparently didn’t tighten it afterwards. So now there is a very expensive (~¬£400) Hudson footplate sitting on the M40/north London somewhere. If anyone finds it, I’m sure it would be appreciated.

It was also pissing down with rain for the whole race. I think we’ll blame it on that for now and focus our attention on repeating the cycle for the Head of the River in two weeks. After all, we can do this if we have the right mentality. We are prepared.

Results

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