Shrewbury Regatta 2014

The last time I competed at Shrewsbury Regatta was when I lost my novices way back in 2009.

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On the Saturday the course is 1000m and had a single event to compete in, Masters C 2x. I’d not been in a boat for 2 weeks, or a double for about 6 months and had never rowed in a double with my partner. These facts did not bode well. It didn’t go well either. We were lucky to not capsize if I’m honest. Steering was a problem as we just couldn’t get our stroke side blades out of the water because we were constantly being pushed over by the high wind. Our opposition were sheltered from it on the other side of the river, but I’m sure they were feeling the effects of the weather. We felt it more because we weren’t balanced to start with. We eventually paddled over the finish some time after our opposition. It was probably the worst I’ve ever sculled and I was very embarrassed by my performance.


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Sunday sees the course reduced to 600m, again I had a single event to compete in. This time Masters C/D/E 4x-. It was a straight final against a Masters E crew. Masters rules meant that they were given a 9 second head start, which over a 600m course seems like an eternity. After a false start and us receiving an official warning, our opposition were set off and the long countdown began. We stuck to the start we used at Leicester regatta as it seems to work well for us. The boat speed picked up quickly and we soon got in to a good rhythm. I sat at the 3 position just behind the stroke man, constantly making calls out to help him get to a good rhythm and keep it.

I’ve always seen the 3 seat as a crucial seat. When I’m sat there I make it my job to stroke the boat along with the stroke man, I can reign him in when things get rushed and stop the other guys rushing him in. So, that’s what I did. It’s also my job to calm the stroke man down when things get a bit sloppy, which they tend to do in the latter stages of a race!

Anyway, we had a good rhythm, the boat was moving well and we were balanced, for the most part. I glanced over my left shoulder and saw a boat, we’d only taken around 20 or so strokes, so I looked again and it was our opposition. We’d eaten up their head start in no time at all and were rowing through them. We got maybe half a length up and they picked it up, trying to pull us back. But we were really into a good groove at this point. I kept making calls to the stroke man to keep the length and rhythm we had. No one else could hear me! Not that it matters as they’ll follow the rhythm stroke is setting. We pulled ahead and stretched out a lead of 2-3 lengths by the time we crossed the finish line. Job done.

I was quite surprised by how heavy I was breathing as it didn’t feel that hard during the race. That’s a sign of a good row. It feels good, even easy right up until you stop rowing, then it hits you like a brick wall!

I was still buzzing from the adrenaline 20 minutes after we’d got the boat off the water!

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For anyone wondering what the numbers mean …

  • 2x = double scull
  • 4x- = quad coxless scull

 

Leicester Regatta 2014

On Sunday 27th April 2014 I competed at Leicester Regatta, which was surprisingly easy to get to. Parking was fairly close by, being only a 5 minute walk away.

I had 2 events, the first being a Masters Quad. We never quite got the boat sat right on the paddle up to the start, and that continued during the race. We were, however, at a disadvantage from the word go. In master rowing there is a rather bizarre rule where the older crews are given a head start. I can understand the reasoning behind it, just not the execution of it. Masters crews are categorised by the average age of the crew, so with us being slightly younger we had to start 5 seconds after our opposition. The problem I have with it being done at the start is that we are immediately in our opponents wash, which makes everything that much more difficult.

Anyway, we pulled a little bit of the deficit back, but not enough. We lost by 2 lengths.

The next event was an IM3 quad. We fared much better in that, as we were both starting at the same time. We’ve been training as a coxless/coxed 4 for the last couple of weeks, so this was the first time in a while that we’d rowed together in a quad. The paddle up to the start was much better, although to me it still didn’t feel quite right. We agreed on our start strategy, and it worked great. Our start was really smooth, and we got the boat up to speed within 5 or 6 strokes. We were level with our opposition for the start and when we lengthened out, pulled away from them with every stroke. Towards the latter third of the course we started to get a bit messy, so I made a few calls to the stroke man (I was at 3) and we crossed the finish line 3 lengths ahead. Job done, on to the final, which I’d forgot about and was privately celebrating getting another point!!

In the final we weren’t quite as clean or as powerful and were down from a couple of strokes in. We were up against a much stronger crew and ended up losing “easily”.

Despite losing there are a lot of positive to take away from that. The main one is that we were racing against students in the IM3 event, literally half our age. And we got into the final, so I’m really very pleased with how we did. Also, it’s the start of the season and we can only get better.

So, I’m looking forward to a good season of sculling and sweep oar rowing.

Burton Regatta 2013

This weekend just gone (13th-14th July 2013) I competed at the Burton Regatta.

Team Trent all met at the club at 7am (well most of us did, some didn’t quite get there on time) for a pre-race paddle. As I wasn’t racing until late afternoon I didn’t actually get to go for a paddle with the rest of my crews. So, I helped paddle a quad up to the regatta field, one at bow/stroke and nobody in the middle!

The Burton regatta isn’t held near the club due to lack of space, so it’s 1.4km (approx) up river.

Things did not get off to the best start for me as I slipped on the grass bank at the club while getting the launch out. I was actually quite lucky to not break my leg as I slipped and went under the launch which then fell on my leg just above the knee. I escaped with a shallow cut a couple of inches long. It was a bit sore, but thankfully it didn’t impede my performances.

I had 2 events on the Saturday, both quads.

My first race was at 16:25 in the Masters C Coxless Quad Scull (MasC.4x-) against North Staffs. I wasn’t confident that we’d do well in this one, but I was proven wrong. It took us a while to get lined up at the start on account of the flow of the river pushing the crew on the Stapenhill side around a bit. The Saturday start is from stake boats, so it’s a bit fiddly! My memory of this has faded a little in the 2½ weeks since we raced. I do remember getting soaked through! I was at 3 (sitting behind stroke), both the guy at stroke and 2 are known “splashers” and I got the brunt of it. Still, it was nice and refreshing as the whole weekend was an absolute scorcher, weather wise. We won fairly easily by a length or two. So, my first win in a long time. But, no extra sculling point. The rules for masters are that you can only win a point if you don’t already have any.

My second (and last) race was at 17:15 in the Open Intermediate 2 Coxless Quad Sculls (IM2.4x-). We had a bye into the final, which turned out to be against Bradford. Again, I wasn’t sure how we’d perform. One of our crew had to pull out due to a back injury, so we roped someone else in from another club and we weren’t sure how we’d do as he’d only been in a quad a couple of times. But, about 30 minutes before race time the substitute was changed for a better sculler from Team Trent, things were looking up. The paddle up to the start was promising, we were moving well. Again, it was fiddly at the start getting both crews lined up. Pretty much as soon as we set off, things got aggressive on the steering front! There was a lot of “move over” shouts from both bow-men, we clashed blades about halfway down the course. They took a lead on us, we pulled it back and pulled away, they came back again. Like I said, *VERY* competitive. Coming in to the last 50 metres or so they were up by almost a length and I was shouting “GO” at the top of my lungs for 4 or 5 strokes and we had a massive surge and started to eat up the gap, then it got really interesting! We were clashing blades and riggers! But, I kept on rowing for all I was worth, my legs felt like lumps of lead I was gasping for air but I kept going. That is, until we got so tangled up neither crews could row any more! We crossed the line all tangled up and I was positive we’d won, as was the other crew and everyone else in my crew. We appealed immediately as they’d rowed into our water and (rightly so) we’d held our ground. The verdict came in just as we were landing, Bradford by 3 feet! No-one could quite believe it. With one person left in the boat we could still get a re-row. (The rule is if the whole crew is out we’ve accepted the verdict)

It seems the only people who thought we’d lost were the officials. So, we had a re-row on our hands. The first I’ve ever done, and not the thing I wanted to hear after my legs had just turned to jelly! We paddled straight back up to the start, turned around and we were off again. Unfortunately we didn’t have much left and lost by a couple of lengths.

So, because of slight changes in times of the races, I ended up rowing three 1100m sprints back-to-back. With the benefit of hindsight the IM2 was an awesome race to be a part of, so agonisingly close to a win. But, it felt good to be right up there in the mix rather than lagging behind by a number of lengths.

Sunday is a shorter sprint regatta over a distance of 700m. Again I had 2 events, both quads. I am becoming something of a quad specialist!

My first race was at 13:36 in the semi-final of the Open Intermediate 3 Coxless Quad Sculls (IM3.4x-) against Burton Leander (our neighbouring club). Apparently they were all about the start, going off hard and controlling the race from the front. Armed with that knowledge we practised a few starts beyond the start line (it’s not allowed on the course). We were moving well and agreed on a good stroke pattern for the start. As it’s a shorter distance it’s a free start, so the 2 crews have to get level and then we’re set off. We powered away from the start and I knew we’d won by the time I’d taken the 3rd stroke. We were a couple of lengths up within 50 metres from the start and we kept pulling away to win easily. If I were to guess I’d say we’d got somewhere around 5 lengths on them by the time we crossed the finish line. We were through to a Trent-Trent final!

The other event for Sunday was another Masters C quad, in the same crew as the day before. I remember this race, again for the thorough soaking I got all the way down the course. Which was actually very refreshing as it was even hotter than the previous day. I’d take a guess that it was hitting 30C. We were racing a crew from Ancholme rowing club, and they were having issues lining up at the start. We were eventually set off and I knew we had them from the 2nd stroke! I looked across and they were almost tipping in! Lots of shouting and very messy, they recovered and staged a comeback halfway down the course, but we were always in control. All this despite the boat being a bit wobbly and very very splashy. But we kept our heads, kept the boat upright and crossed the finish line several lengths ahead.

So, on to the final of the IM3.4x-, a Trent-Trent final no less. A fairly relaxed affair ….. on the surface! But I needed to win this one! We were pretty much the last race of the day, so the only people left cheering us on from the river bank were the local clubs! The paddle up the the start was good and we put some firm pressure on the way there to try things out. We were confident of a win.

We powered off the start, even quicker than previous races. We had them off the start again, up by a length within 15 strokes. We kept the pressure on and had a massive pickup with about 100 metres to go. It’s always easier to do that when you can see the other crew! The boat was really flying and we won easily.

So, my haul for the weekend was 3 medals. It should have been 4, but there you go. Perhaps if we’d moved over a touch in our IM2 race on Saturday instead of holding our ground we’d have won as we were destroying them in that final sprint. But, you live and learn.

Overall, an awesome weekend of racing made extra special by being cheered on by my little boy as I won a few races!

(photos to follow)

Trentham Regatta 2013

On Sunday 9th June 2013 I travelled to Trentham Gardens, near Stoke-on-Trent to compete at the regatta. I would be competing in 2 events, the IM3 coxless quad (IM3 4x-) and the masters coxless quad (

The first race of the day for me was at 13:10 against Leicester RC. Our crew had never actually rowed together before as a quad. We’ve rowed together in other boats, but never as a crew. I say never, we may have in the dim and distant past!! It was pretty close all the way down the 750m course, we managed a win by a length or two. It was hard work, but very nice to get a win at my first regatta since August 2009.

Trentham operate a “winner stays on” system, so we paddled back up to the start for the final of the event. The boat was moving well, we’d got a good start in the semi-final and we decided to do a few more exercises on the way back up to the start. Things were looking better than I’d expected for what was effectively a scratch crew.

We came up against a crew from Agecroft Rowing Club in the final. They got a slight jump on us at the start, but we pulled level with them quite quickly and we starting to row through them. But, they came back at us and we ended up in a mad sprint for the line apart from a small section at the start! We made 2 or 3 pushes, but so did they. We crossed the line and both crews looked at the other, neither of us knew who’d got it. Unfortunately we didn’t get the usual quick announcement from the officials, so we hung around waving arms and shouting at the officials for 5 minutes!! Eventually we found out that Agecroft had won by a foot. I was sure we’d won as when we looked over after the finish we were the faster boat at that point. But, I guess Agecroft took their final stroke just before the finish line and nudged in front of us. If we’d done that we’d have got it.

We were all gutted as we’d given our all. Oh well, there is always next time!

IM3 Quad Final

The other event for me was the Masters Quad. We’d got a bye into the final, which was scheduled for 18:19. So, I had plenty of time to kill and spent a while sitting with Team Trent watching some of the other races and getting very hot under the baking sun. The setting for Trentham is beautiful, and there are plenty of shady spots to cool down in.

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By the time our race time arrived I was actually quite chilled out, so a short warm up run was called for to wake myself up!

We’d rowed together for the first time as a crew the previous day and it had gone really well. During some “up 2s” we’d done the boat was really shifting and we’d figured out a good start that was smooth and fast. We were optimistic. However, as the other crew were Masters D and we were only Masters C, they were entitled to a 5 second head start. That 5 seconds probably equates to 3 or 4 boat lengths. So, we were always chasing them. I think we got to within a length of them but they just had too much of a lead and too much experience to let us young upstarts take the lead. We finished about 2 seconds behind.

Masters Quad

Unfortunately we didn’t row as well as we had the previous day in training. We were scheduled to be the last race of the day but as things turned out we were 2nd to last. So, the banks were empty apart from Trent supporters. All in all a very enjoyable day which gives promise of more success in the future.

Giving sweep oar another go

I haven’t been in a sweep oar boat for at least 3 years now. I stopped “rowing” and switched to sculling when it continuously hurt my back. Some of that was most likely down to bad technique on my part, some down to being in unstable boats/crews. So, I switched to sculling as there was no leaning involved, I could keep my back straight and greatly reduce the stress being placed on it.

Anyway, since my back is now much less painful and much stronger (thanks to many chiropractic sessions). When given the chance to have another go at sweep oar again I took it. The decision was easy because it was a purely technical session. “Not a firm stroke” is what the coach said.

It was certainly odd getting in the boat, I was rowing stroke side so had nothing other than the boat to hold on to while getting in and pushing off from the landing stage. It was even odder just having the one blade to worry about!

It didn’t take too long before it all started to come back to me, mainly based on past mistakes!

After the session (about 90 minutes) I could definitely feel it in my lower back much more than I would with sculling, but nothing a few stretches hasn’t sorted out. I will definitely take the oportunity to get in a sweep boat again for a few more technical outings. But, I’m a way off being able to put any power down.

Burton Head 2012

So, it seems my rowing/sculling comeback might “stick” this time as I took part in the 2012 Burton Head race today. My first competitive race in over 3 years! It was nice to see a few old friends and good to be involved again. I only took part in the 2nd division (all that means is that it took part in the afternoon). Since my partner in the IM3 2x (intermediate 3 double scull) was also in the morning session (1st division) that meant we didn’t get to go on the water together until the paddle up to the start line. But, that is quite a long paddle, about 4.5km.

It went surprisingly well, the boat seemed well balanced and when we put in a few bursts it moved pretty quick too.

We had quite a long wait up by the start so decided to pull ourselves into the bank and hold on to some long grass. Well, it saved us joining the group of boats that got tangled together a few times!

Our start was pretty good, we were really motoring along at quite a high stroke rate. We actually managed to hold that rate for most of the course, although towards the end I wasn’t quite getting to full slide.

In a head race the crews are set off at timed intervals, in this case 30 seconds apart. The crew that started after us caught us at around the 2000m marker (the course being 3500m in total). They were a much more experienced crew than us and not our direct competition, so I reckon we did well to hold them off for as long as we did. The next crew also caught us, but we ended up in a regatta style side-by-side battle for the last 1500m or so. We managed to hold them off in sprint for the line, so that was good. They were coming past us at one point, but we picked up the boat speed and pushed away from them.

The lactic acid was a bit painful as we crossed the finish line, but worth it. We thought we’d put in a pretty quick time, but as it turned out we came last in our category. All things considered it was still a good race as we moved the boat well and were nicely balanced. There are plenty of things to work on for next time, but there always are!

I couldn’t stand up properly when getting out of the boat, so commitment wise, I’d given all I could.

Hopefully next year (and in the meantime) I’ll have more and more to give.

It’s now just over 9 hours after we finished the course and my legs are still aching, but it’s a “good” ache.

Yet another return to rowing

So, I’m making yet another comeback to rowing! I went down to the club on Thursday night and ended up in a quad scull.

It was quite surprising how quickly I got the feel for it again. I went out with 3 fairly inexperienced scullers so actually ended up making a few calls to help sit the boat a bit better. I’m sure I was pretty rusty too, but there were a few moments where the boat sat reasonably well.

If all goes well this ‘comeback’ will stick.

Ross Regatta 2009

On the 31st of August I raced at Ross Regatta in a coxed 4 and a coxless quad. Having survived the previous evenings antics, ending up in a shot drinking spree and then bearing witness to some drunken streaking, I was lucky in that my races weren’t until later on in the day!

We got through to the final, but lost by a length or thereabouts despite a big final push for the line. The coxed four didn’t go so well and we lost in our first heat.

All things considered a good weekend, and quite encouraging that we managed to win our first race at Intermediate 1 level and came so close to an event win.

Gloucester Regatta 2009

On the 29th of August I travelled down to Ross-on-Wye to join my team mates who had been taking part in the Dragon Boat racing that day. I didn’t partake myself, I was only going there for the rowing/sculling.

On arriving at the campsite, I was quickly told that we might not have a race the following day. I was not too pleased to be hearing that! So, a call was made to Gloucester to let them know what one of our crew had pulled out and that we didn’t have enough people to make up a crew. We were very kindly offered the services of one of the Gloucester rowing club members. So, we were back on.

Since Gloucester is only a short 30 minute drive from Ross, we all camped over at Ross and were planning to drive over for our races on the Sunday. What we didn’t count on was a 9:05 am heat in our open IM3 eight. That meant we had to get up at 6:30am!!

So, with our scratch crew, we set off in our borrowed eight with our cox wearing a borrowed life jacket. How prepared were we!!

It actually went reasonably well, the boat did sit down to bow side a bit too often though.

We had quite a good start really, gaining half a length straight away. We then increased that lead gradually throughout the race and won our heat comfortably, if not a little messily!

The final didn’t follow the same pattern, while it was a close race I don’t think our opposition were ever in with a chance of losing it.

Stourport Regatta 2009

On the 15th & 16th of August I competed at Stourport Regatta. This was another first for me, as I now had my own tent to live in for the weekend. My chosen abode is a Vango Swift 300. It’s a 3 man tent with a lobby area, so it’s very comfortable. I can’t stand up in it, but there is plenty of room to get changed in there. It’s one of these popup tents, so literally takes seconds to pop up, and a couple of minutes in total to pitch fully. Combined with my ReadyBed (a sleeping bag with built in airbed) I was very comfy for the whole weekend.

  

The weather reports for the weekend were a bit mixed, ranging from cloudy and rainy to blistering heat. Well, it turned out to be the latter, which while nice and dry; Poses another problem of trying to avoid getting burnt to a crisp!

On to the racing….

The coxless quad was again the only event I competed in. This time just the one event each day, which turned out to only be one race on each day. For our race on Saturday we had a bye into the final, which turned out to be against Birmingham University. This was the crew that had won the gold medal at this years National Championships. Armed with that knowledge I became even more nervous than usual.

While our start wasn’t the best we’d ever done, we had an overlap with them after the first 5 strokes. But, that was the last we saw of them until we crossed the finish line, and they were already turned around waiting to get off the water. The verdict was – easily. Not a good result for us, but I think we all knew we didn’t really stand much of a chance. So, we treated it a bit like doing a good training piece, and in those terms it was a good row. Still, a bit embarresing though.

For our race on Sunday we again had a bye in to the final. Quite a relaxed weekend really! As it happened it turned into a straight final, as the semi was to include the previous days winners. But, they chose not to race. So, we were in a straight final against Worcester RC. We had a bit of a wait, as the race was scheduled for just after 4pm. I even managed to fall asleep on the riverside, it was a nice sunny day after all plus I was feeling quite chilled out.

Anyway, our race came and we boated along with our opposition. After what seemed like an eternity, to get the other dozen or so races out of the way before ours could start we lined up ready. Feeling pretty confident as I’d had a look at our opposition and they didn’t seem quite together as a crew. We got a pretty good start, getting the boat up to speed quicker than we usually do in race situations. Because we have a very old boat, it’s very heavy, so we’re usually at a disadvantage off the start and usually have a length or two to make up after the start. This time however, we didn’t. We were level. That kind of threw us all a bit. But, we kept our heads and got into our rhythm, beginning to push away from our opposition. The Sunday course is very short at Stourport, it’s 450m but feels much quicker despite being upstream; So I was told. So, we weren’t hanging about and were giving it all we had. The boat was moving okay, not as well as we’ve done in training pieces. But, we had a 2-3 length lead by the time we got to the last 150m. Kenny called for a push, later he told me he did that for fear of us being passed in the dying stages of the race. So, he made the call even though we were ahead. We responded, and it got a little messy but we soon sorted it out. Meanwhile, our opposition were making their push for the line. I think because they were already behind and had a fair bit of ground (water) to make up they panicked a bit. Their number 3 man caught a crab which slowed them down quite a lot. Seeing that I backed off the power a bit, knowing we had it in the bag. I think the other guys in the crew also did that, and we cruised over the line; Still putting a bit of a squeeze on, but not pushing it so hard that it got messy. Basically, just keeping it clean and smooth.

So, I now had 3 points and another pot to put on my shelf. Awesome!!

Apparently, every single person from Trent Rowing Club who competed at Stourport Regatta came away with a pot. I’m told it’s our best ever away regatta, with a total of 9 wins. Not earth shattering, but pretty good for such a small club.

The official photographer for the regatta has a service where we can get all our club photos onto a CD for only £30. So, we got him to take a few Team Trent photos on the Sunday just before we left for the journey home. Once I get a copy of the CD I’ll add some photos to this post.

Trophy Shelf- Teddies courtesy of Sue!

Photos arrived some time back but I’ve just got round to putting them on here

Drive

Catch

Mens IM2 4x Crew