With variously sized athletes and just the one practice, our Vet Eight crew in Mixed C couldn't really expect too much from the VHORR. As it turned out they nearly won the pennant. Solid technique all the way down the boat showed in a well co-ordinated, efficient-looking crew. Many thanks to Lju for chronicling the day and feeding the Google monster.
I'm not entirely sure what prompted me to send an email around suggesting a mixed 8 for vets head, it may have been the lack of a head race in a big boat for the first time since learning to row almost 3 years ago, or the opportunity to race with seasoned rowers with years of experience. Regardless, I was pretty much expecting replies along the lines of "sorry, family commitments that day" or "I think I'll give that one a miss". So you can imagine my surprise when everybody agreed!
Planning for what happened next was looking a bit thin: we had 7 rowers, no cox, and I was fully aware of the fact we may not even have a boat due to rentals (a special mention should be made to Sam and Drago – they raised a tidy sum for the club). Practice outings were looking nigh-on impossible: I also had commitments elsewhere pretty much every weekend for some Bruce and Steve were in a similar predicament given their jet-setting jobs. Thankfully Dave kindly stepped up and coordinated one of the club boats that hadn't been rented out, some blades, and our 8th rower: Brad. Peter kindly offered to cox us, so all that was lacking was our first outing together as a crew.
Several email exchanges later it was clear that the only practice outing we would get would be the morning of HoRR, the day before our race. As we were getting the Julian Tanner ready we regaled in tales of manic, last-minute erg sessions to preserve fitness, (or not!). The more pressing matter in my mind was whether the boat would be big enough for Brad. Luckily it was!
Despite never rowing together, our first ever outing was a delight; as if we'd been rowing together for years. We landed back in the pontoon in high spirits, feeling considerably more hopeful about how the race would turn out, almost optimistic. As is the Son's tradition, we had a celebratory fry-up at the Hammersmith Cafe.
Race day! Given the cancellation of HoRR, there was concern that our race would also be scratched. We were greeted with glorious sunshine and a very flat looking Thames. There was some debate about whether or not there should be a warm-up... In the end we just trundled down to our marshalling position.
Marshalling was a treat – it must have been some of the most civil, friendly fellow competitors to be queuing up with for the start line.
The glorious sunshine that shone all around put aside any anxiety of delays to the race starting. The delays did seem to have some negative effects on some of the other masters’ crews. We did our best to look away… Of course there was always the obligatory crew that was looking a tad lost in the marshalling area prompting some friendly jeering.
Eventually it was our turn as we span and started down the course. Despite some protests at the thought of sitting at rate 30 by the crew (including me!), Bruce fired out a steady rhythm, and we happily tapped away at rate 31 for the entire race. Our solid start enabled us to glide past a crew soon enough. But never it be said you can have a race without drama. One of the earlier boats, on its way back to Putney having finished racing decided that it would hurtle towards us... Some clever steering from Peter prevented a head-on collision. The mass of wash flying towards us from a somewhat annoyed marshal did help to recreate the tideway experience we all know and love/loathe…
Undaunted, we continued on our way, passing another boat. No other incidents made themselves known as we crossed the finishing line, being teased by the prospect of the chance of passing another boat.
Even heading back to the club was treated as a mission, with Peter getting us back at lightning pace. The emotion in the boat running high – and we wanted those results… 5 minutes ago.
We managed to remain patient, and we were rewarded with an impressive finish: 49th out of 210 starters, and 2nd in our category, just 6 seconds off a pennant. Not too shabby for a scratch crew!
Cox: Peter Horton