So, as promised, my 8's Head story! But before I start, this is a pretty
detailed account - so my apologies to those with less rowing interest!!!
Finding out that we would be rowing as Leander IV, it was somewhat
demoralising. It meant we, being a new entry, would start 212th - a big
disadvantage, having less stream, bouncy water and inexperienced crews to
steer around. But despite this initial negativity, we took it on board as
another challenge and opportunity to turn some heads. The crew formation got
changed around just over a week beforehand and I was promoted to stroke. Doing
some pieces against Leander II (Ladies Plate), we knew we were going well,
when not only we were beating them on percentage, but on actual time!
So in the couple days before the race, we moved from the Henley stretch to the
Tideway to get used to the different water. And differing to my past
experiences of Tideway training, it was rather enjoyable!!!
On the day of the race we moved from Mortlake boathouse to the ARA boathouse.
It's incredible how much atmosphere there is in that tiny
shed beside Hammersmith Bridge! Squeezing 4 crews and coaches upstairs for
changing, race chats and toilets is a challenge in itself. But the thing I
noticed and appreciated most in the last hour before launching for the race
was how relaxed everyone was. Having just as much, if not more jokes and
laughs as in training, it made it impossible to get nervous.
So getting changed into the borrowed kit and ready for race, we then had our
pre-race chat. Main emphasis of the day being on 'Clear Heads, Big Hearts!'
Hands on the boat and all the ex-Leander boys give you a clap/cheer as you
walk down to the stage. With the club Photographer snapping away as we step
into the boat, I felt almost like a celebrity! But as soon as we push off,
it's down to business and on with our warm up. We swerve
around crew after crew and scrabble together as much as we can
preparation-wise just before finding our marshalling point just upstream of
Barnes Bridge. There, we had over an hours wait until we moved up again and
started. Entertaining myself by teasing my 7man for getting stage-fright,
trying to pee into a bottle and cheering on crews I knew, the time flew by.
We moved up and pulled on race kit ready to go and pumped up for a gruelling
18 minutes of pain.
Rowing through the start-line having built up the rate to 38 we had 45 seconds
before we lengthened out to our pace. Striding out to 34, we began reeling in
the crews ahead. Despite the very uncomfortable water, we shot through two
crews at Barnes and made our way into the pack of relatively novice crews. I
honestly don't remember much up until Hammersmith Bridge -
where the majority of spectators watch. And boy, what a noise! Instantly,
without any call from the cox, I could feel everyone, including myself pushing
harder. It was an incredible lift that would give us the boost right up until
the finishing stretch along Putney Embankment. Lifting the rate in steps, we
powered up to a scrappy 38/39 over the line followed by a collapse over the
handle. It's only at this point I really feel the lactate
scream up and down my legs. And being a Head race, when compared to side by
side racing, you dont know if you've won or lost.
Getting back to the club, we de-rigged, got changed, loaded boat onto trailer
and most of us went separate ways. I met up with Annamay and joined a few of
the other lads for a drink in the pub round the corner. Halfway through my
pint and more significantly, mid-sip, I get this massive smack of my shoulders
with a scream of 'F*****G NINTH, F*****G BRILLIANT!!!!' in my ears. I honestly
thought it was a joke to start with. But I was wrong, we managed to exceed
expectations by about 10 places. The first race this year I have felt really
happy with result. I hope there's more to come!!!
- 3mins 11seconds and you'll see us rowing off Hammersmith Bridge.
Speak to you all soon