The last time I competed at Shrewsbury Regatta was when I lost my novices way back in 2009.
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.
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!
For anyone wondering what the numbers mean …
- 2x = double scull
- 4x- = quad coxless scull