Head of the River

113   -   2nd Fastest College   -   23rd /79 in IM2

M1 approaching the finish

We'd made good progress in the week on the tideway leading up to the race, some guest coaching and a rigging genius had given us an edge in our race pace pieces that we'd been looking for. Racing at Kingston showed we were already pulling our weight at the sharp end of college rowing and sparring with Downing gave us further confidence. In still conditions we could have been the fastest but then again the Thames isn't known for pan flat windless expanses of water.

Paddling up through the confusion of marshalling it was clear that the crew was nervous. We couldn't get settled in the bouncy water but were still moving up though crews around us despite rowing in fours/sizes, sadly it isn't a race to the start. The helpful Germans starting behind helped us put our bow number back on but we politely refused their request to let them though easily. Heavy rain gave us a good cool off as we watched the top crews race past and then we were off through Chiswick bridge to spin.  

The race plan was relatively simple, settle from Chiswick to Barnes, put down the work from Barnes to Hammersmith and hold on for the last stretch. Through the start we sat up strongly, hitting the rating and settling into a solid rhythm. The first three minutes were well planned out; we held a good speed, ensuring we didn't blow out to early, focusing on sharp long strokes. Through the second quarter we struggled in the wind, conditions were good by tideway standards but a far cry from the sheltered waters of the cam. The rhythm stayed strong but bladework was scrappy, we lost some composure approaching the Eyot. The middle section is somewhat of a blur; with no crews to pass and none passing us we continued to push down the course, though Hammersmith and past Harrods until unfortunately clashing with a large red buoy.  Losing focus, but thankfully no crew members, we tried to gather it back together and were past the mile post in no time. Winding for the finish was always going to be more 'cling on and hope you make it' than 'polishing off a technically perfect performance'. We were finally getting close to some of the poorer crews drifting down the order but this merely served to hamper our efforts further. Bouncing around we struggled to really bring it up, boat speed improved but we were increasingly sloppy and pushed through to the finish.

The final results have us down as the second fastest Cambridge college, 15s behind Downing, and ahead of the top five May bumps crews. We are still slightly bemused by a timing discrepancy between the 18:26 recorded by us to 18:50 recorded by them but other boats seem to have experienced a similar phenomenon and it must be down to an error on our behalf. Overall this is a fantastic result for a club that hasn't even entered HoRR for at least five years and is certainly within our original target of top 5 colleges. We have many thanks to give, Matt Castle for coaching us to 9 seconds faster than his own Pembroke M1, Ian Watson for taking us out for coaching with Downing, Bill Mason for a coaching and rigging session and Sonya Milanova for coxing us in Alex's absence.

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