There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you are racing. I could not even expect what I felt on Saturday during our race for UH Head. Not only did we do as well as we thought we could do, but we finished even better than expected! Our practice run of the 3,600 m course last week was enlightening and we knew just how much we needed to push for the race.
The girls got to the UL Boat House at 11am and waited for our coxswain to get out of her meeting so that we could take our boat out. We ended up just flipping our boat in the racks so that we could change all of the footplates to be placed closer to our seats. This is because we share the black 8 with the Novice Guys team and quite a few of them are significantly taller than we are, so everything had to be changed for the race. While a marshall was checking our boat to make sure that our shoes were tied down, the boys arrived! It is a really really really good thing that they came early to watch us boat because it was exceptionally windy when we were trying to take the boat out. Providing some hilarious pictures, we ended up having about 13 people holding our 8 while waiting for the other crews to boat.
When we were finally able to put our boat in the water and push off of the bank, it was game time. The weather wasn’t as cold as I had anticipated, which was a great relief. The paddle to the pink house where we had to marshall took a while, though I couldn’t give you the exact time because I was trying not to pay attention to the time! It was a bit difficult with the strength of the wind to get a clean stroke, so we were all trying to make sure that we could square our blades early enough and not get caught up by the wind. Our draw was 22 out of 23 for the first division, so we were the second to last crew to roll start. Once we got around the corner and made our turns and paddled up to the start line. For those of you that don’t know a lot about rowing, a head race has a rolling start, so you can power up to full face pace right before you cross the start line. We were down to our onesies and ready to go.
I can’t really tell you much about the race because I was focused on my stroke during the race, but there were a couple of points that are well worth mentioning. I am not quite sure how far we were into the race, but right before the first bridge our cox, Val, shouted, “Alright girls, only 1 and half boat lengths until we overtake this next crew!” I remember thinking that there was no way we could be overtaking a crew so early. About 15 strokes later another call from Val was, “1 boat length girls! Push harder!” The bit where we actually overtook the crew is somewhat of a blur because I was just too excited that we were in the process of going fast enough that we could overtake a crew. We managed to take the crew going around the bend and under the first bridge.
Andy caught the bit after the 2nd bridge while we were passing the boat house and you can watch it below!
We passed the boat house with cheers from our fellow LSE rowers and that was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. It was really something else to be cheered on to get that extra push of power going through one of the last bits of the race course. We only had a bit left until we reached the finish at this point and we were making our final pushes ’till the end. As we passed the finish line, we knew that we did very well as a crew. Given that it was our very first race as a crew, my first race ever, our 7th time on the water as a crew, and my 6th time on the water ever, I would say it was an incredibly successful race.
The novice boys jumped in our boat right as we came up to shore to start the paddle to the pink house for their race at 3:30, so we didn’t have to carry the boat out of the water! This was fantastic because it started raining as we were paddling back and it would not have been very fun to put the boat back. The boys did well also! The Men’s Intermediate 8 came by the boat house first and we saw them overtake 2 crews! Then the Men’s Novice 8 came through and they overtook a crew right in front of the boat house, which gave me some epic photos.
Overall, it was a fantastic day for the LSE Rowing Club. We went to The Station House, a gastropub near the train station in Chiswick, after everyone was back from races and changed into dry clothes. It was fun having everyone in the same place at one time, as this does not generally happen. Everyone was anxious to see the results posted by the UH Head staff and you could tell that we didn’t need times to confirm that we all rowed well and had an amazing day.
We had to wait until this morning to see the results (you can see the full results here). Ultimately, the Experienced men overtook 3 crews and finished the 3,600 m course in 13:42, placing 4th out of 7 in the Men’s Senior VIIIs. The Novice men overtook 1 crew and finished in 15:04, placing 4th out of 7 in the Men’s Novice VIIIs. Us girls? Well, much to our excitement, we finished in 15:49 and placed 2nd out of 7 in the Women’s Novice VIIIs!
Second place?! We made the podium!!! I am so proud of my girls for how far we have come. On to Women’s Head of the River in 2 weeks!