I mentioned yesterday our spectacular race last weekend and thought now was as good a time as any for it to be aired. Hopefully people will stop laughing at us for it soon.
It started, as all things do, with general disorganisation. We were travelling in two vehicles (our double and another from the club – one of the guys from the erg race and another) with the others and the boats on the roof of a van (or in the van, either way) and me by car having decided the floor in the back of a van was an inadequate way to travel any significant distance. Things being as they are we were never going to arrive at the same time and I drew the short straw and ended waiting in a delightful supermarket car park in Henley town centre.
As an aside, while I was waiting I watched a large number of people unload bikes from cars and proceed to sit around in the car park talking before heading off on some group XC ride. It made me oddly nostalgic. I think I may have to sacrifice some training weekends next year and go back to some XC races. It’s been too long since I rode properly; the Stumpjumper must be getting lonely.
It’s been too long. I think it’s time to see how well rowing training translates to XC
After fifty minutes or so of people watching I wandered over to where I might find a boat or two. The areas along the Thames through Henley look so alien during the non-Henley-Royal 51 weeks of the year, it’s hard to imagine it’s the same place. Gone are the huge marquee boat tents. Gone are the enclosures with their brass bands and raised seating. Instead there is a quiet field with trees and a road that seems lost without being edged by high white fencing. And trees. Somehow the trees are completely absent from my memories of Henley during the regatta.
After a while wandering round a field full of other people’s boats, the van arrived and with it, the mad rush that was the rigging.
With about ten minutes before it was too late to boat, we collected our numbers and faffed around deciding what we were racing in (braving short sleeves in the end – hypothermia be damned). Joining the end of the boating queue, we watched school/junior crews being shepherded around by worrying teaches/coaches as they took it in turns to forget racing numbers or got blades the wrong way around. I think this must have been the first race for many of them. Having first stepped in a boat in September, getting this far was quite an achievement in itself. Whether the race would go there way or not was almost immaterial. Looking back on my first race, I keep telling myself that anyway. That was after a lot longer and we were terrible.
I would have laughed (to myself) at the crew who forgot to put the seats in the boat before carrying it down to the landing stage but we did exactly the same thing at the Pairs’ head the week before. And we didn’t even have the decency to be at the back of the queue (third boat on the water – stand around for five minutes waiting for someone to find seats. Problem?).
Eventually we were all on the water and, basing our opinions on the carnage that was the marshalling area last year, were having our doubts about whether we would get to the start in one piece let alone on time. As it turns out things were better organised this year. They actually had marshals telling people not to ram each other and the boats were stacked four deep against the bank. We were even on time as well although I’m not sure we’d have wanted to be any later.
The race itself was a fairly non-event. It, along with the pair’s head three weeks before, were the only time we’d held race pace for more than a few strokes and it showed. Looking back at the photos for the head there are some serious timing issues at rate that are probably the main reason we’re unable to rate high enough.
It wasn’t terrible though and since there were only two boats in our division with us going off first, we had a good idea of how we were doing compared to our competition. As hard as it is to judge distance from ground level, we seemed to be sitting fairly level with them, gaining and losing ground as we went through faster and slower sections of the course.
As we came through where the enclosures would be during the regatta, I had flashbacks to our r41 finish against Imperial. Still a different league unfortunately. We did wind the rate up slightly though and reached the heady heights of r33. Not good but it’s the thought that counts, right?
This was where things started to unwind. Some one on the bank by the finish seemed to be under the false impression that our competition should win more than us and as we reached them, they shouted (to the other boat) something along the lines of
“Come on [their number]! [our number] is already through!”
By this point in a race I’m not usually too focussed on what is going on outside the boat but apparently not all are so inclined.
I don’t want to seem like I’m passing blame for the events that followed, but I can’t seem to find any other way to put it. When I said things started to unwind, it may have been misleading. Our race wasn’t unwound so much as cut off mid stroke as I suddenly found myself the only one rowing. Forgetting momentarily that there was a bell and a finish sign at the end of the race, a certain someone in the boat took the “…already through” to mean through the finish.
By the time I’d turned around and convinced myself that we hadn’t passed the finish after all and then convinced the remaining non-believers, we’d missed four or five strokes. Paddling the last few strokes across the line I was unsure what to make of it. There’s not really much you can do except laugh in disbelief.
I don’t suppose we’ll ever know how much faster we’d have been otherwise, the only thing to be sure of is that it probably didn’t help. One good thing to take from it all is that we’re not that far from our competition otherwise.(The more observant of you may have noticed that this post was actually published tomorrow – I wrote it today but ended up not submitting it due to family taxi service duties taking longer than expected and sleep becoming a priority)