Yes, another boatie post. I promise you a short break for at least a few days after this one. Unlike our little event on the Cam, Wallingford is The Big Time, and to celebrate the regatta is… yes, you guessed: nowhere near Wallingford at all. That confused me no end. It is in fact on Eton (old sausage) rowing lake (Dorney), a massive trench in the ground designed, as far as I can see, primarily to demonstrate that Eton has (or perhaps had, before they did this) stupendous quantities of spare cash. Though to be fair they did a decent cup of coffee and flapjack at a fair price.
Here is a view down the course with few VIII’s thrown in. You take your blades down first, there are rows of pontoons to boat from, a nice chap checks your heel restraints, and (just like at the HORR, only not quite so hectic) you get hurried off the pontoon for the next folk to boat.
Rowing side by side is bizarre and unnatural (have these people never head of bumps?), but quite fun. I’ve done it (barring Christ Church regatta, which was soooo long ago) only a few times, and that for the 9′s, so I’d better not speak about it. As the pic shows, there is a trail of stands and stuff on the RHS bank starting at the finish which peters out into school marquees and ends after ~500 m; then you’re into the car parking stretching off into the distance. As the photo also (unhappily) shows the weather was rubbish: really pouring with rain in the morning as I drove down, just raining on the early divisions, and by the time we raced no worse than cold, overcast, grey and windy (very windy; the official race results ack that as a cause for delays). On the LHS you can just see the warm-up channel.
This kind of stuff is a whole different world. Here is the start of the women’s elite coxless IV’s, just a fraction of a second after the start. You can see that they have pretty well all stuffed it up one way or another (not that I expect we looked any better, of that more anon). See if you can play “spot the flaw”. One nice thing to spot is 3′s blade in boat 5, which is clearly bending under the stress. Another is that although bow in boat 5 is nearly at the finish, the boat hasn’t moved: it is still being held by the starter.
Anyway, so, the idea is that you come out of the warm-up channel, back onto your starting station, get held, get straight, and are started. However, it really was quite windy (did I meantion that already?) which meant getting on station was difficult, which meant all of the races started running late (so much for “the races will run to the second I can tell you” (anon)). So when we turned up at the marshalling zone (having had the honour of being overtaken by a Leander VIII on the way), we were told to go round again. Which we dutifully did. And again. Expecting ~30 mins delay. Only then… we learnt they were marshalling the race just after ours… which meant our race was just about due to go off… Argh! So we zipped through, probably powerfully annoying the crews who were with difficulty keeping their station on the start, stuffed up a couple of attempts to get on station (mustn’t panic… mustn’t panic) as the wind blew us off. But then we were straight and off, with no time hanging around to unsettle us. Or for Chris to take off his splashtop.
Anyway, I hear you ask, what of the results? Well, quite tolerable: we were 4th of 5 in 07:43.40. Which sounds worse than it was, because we only missed 3rd by 0.5 of a sec. And we beat our IM3 IV+ who rowed later and got 07:48.72. I’m not entirely sure why – I await their excuses with interest :-). Incidentally, I don’t think I trust those split times: I do not believe that we were 0.05 of a sec down on the lead boat at 500m, nor were we second at 1000m. Just after the start I think we were up on the Oratory, and pulled away from them during the race; we were behind Latymer Upper School but only fractionally, and the others were out of my view and therefore ahead. By 1000m we’d settled quite well and started to pull ahead of Latymer, but between there and 1500m things went wrong. The wind had been laying us down to bowside; by then I think James H and I had got somewhat annoyed by that and started “doing something about it”, and since I at least had no strength or brain left for extras it didn’t work. What we should have done (ah how easy to think this in retrospect) was to have dropped the rating a fraction, given ourselves a little space to think and to re-balance the boat and to lengthen out. But there was no time to think all that during the race. Over the last 500m Latymer regained their lost 0.5 sec and their third place. However it was great fun being in a race that close and very educational.
Incidentally, it is interesting to compare the times of the Mens novice IV+’s to the Womens Elite IV-’s (and the – should give them an advantage too). In that Mens “novices” are faster. Now the novices are clearly not really novices, but by the same sort of token were you to compare, say, marathon times I think you’d find the Elite Women would leave Novice men in the dust.
The pic is our beloved cox James T “vansitting” the King’s school Ely van, which towed our boat down for us (thanks Chris). The crew… oh yes, how could I forget. No pic sorry: we were: cox: James T, stroke Tom W, James H, Chris W, bow: me. And the IM3 IV+ in the afternoon was that, minus me and Chris, and plus Dr Southgate and Mr Olly.
[Update: mind you, if we thought our weather was rubbish, look at the Gaylords of Nashville -W]
[Update: pix of us: from Bigblade. Also, we're now fairly sure that some of the splits have been swapped: "The first two splits were swapped over from the second placed crew" looks like a theory -W]