Personal epistle by Alan Sinclair on HORR 2008

posted by Roy Sinclair - 24 Mar 2008

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


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