Sufficed to say, I was feeling decidedly under prepared for this regatta, having only ever been in the boat a total of 6 times, EVER. I was struggling to believe they had even entered me, but here in Southland everyone is SOOOOO laid back, at the same time, I was not at all surprised! After all, I was thrown into the intermediate squad on my first visit to the velodrome! I have never even been to a regatta, never mind been in one! I had no idea what was going on!! There were boats everywehere, and people everywhere too! There seemed to be a wee system where the boats that were headed to the start line, down river, were kept inside buoys close to the shore. The finish line was just a few metres after the club boathouse.
There was loud speakers, giving a cometary of the races, and the tower that stood at the finish line were in charge of the finish hooters. I was told not to stop rowing even if I thought we were done, because ALL of the boat has to cross the line before you are finished.
I had no idea what races I would be put in, my name was not on the start sheets, on purpose I was told, so they could change it if necessary.
The way it ended up was I was in the masters mixed quad, and the novice coxed quad. I only found this out a few minutes before each race was being prepared! I had been down to the club on Wednesday this week, and that was the only time I had ever practised starts. Hubby and I were also split up, he competed in the men’s double and raced against me in the masters quads. He was also thrown into a men’s masters double sculls, which he had never been in before! I thought it only right and proper that I wore club colours, so I quickly purchased a club singlet, the colours being three yellow stripes. The races were well organised, and literally went off one after the other, but it still took a good four hours to get through the thirty something races, and it turned out that the club’s biggest rival was the one immediately next door, Waihopai rowing club.
My first race was race 19. I was in a boat with three men. The club doesn’t have neough women masters rowers to put out a women’s quad. We gently rowed down the river, and practised a few more starts, before lining up to the start line. I hadn’t rowed with my three crew members before today, but had been in this particular boat before. Nevertheless, I was feeling rather panic stricken! The disadvantage is you look where you’ve been from your seated position, not where you are going, so you have no idea what’s happening! The start was a mass frenzy of partial strokes to get the boat moving and we were off. Sculling still takes a lot of attention and focus on my part to get anywhere near correct, so the slightest thought can put me out of sync! we worked our butts off, I was actually gasping when I crossed the line, but we were 7th and last. not by a lot, but still. I was rather unamused at first till i put it into perspective. Imagine I had bought a bike and learned to ride it last week. and one week later, entered a bike race. Yep, sound mad, but that’s what I did today, in effect. So, I didn’t do too badly at all!
Second race I was in was much later in the programme. The novice coxed fours. I always wondered what a cox did. They steer, apparently. They are so well hidden down in the boat that I didn’t even notice we had a cox at first! There was one of the coaches in the boat, and two young people from the special olympics rowing team within the club. The ‘stabilisers’ came off the boat, which they usually use, but I was reassured all would still be well. The girl sat in the stroke seat, the coach behind, then me, then the final crew member at the back. The girl in the stroke seat was setting the pace of the stroke, and we follow. The coach in front of me was talking her through the race, while the person behind me i could hear gasping. The sculls were at times, a wee bit out of sync, the girl kept freaking out and stopping, for brief moments, and on occasion an scull would dive into the water and the boat would rock. To be honest, I really thought I was going in at one stage, more so than any time that I have caused the rocking in previous sessions! So, I decided to begin shouting alternative words of encouragement, which seemed to help. Anyway, novices we were, and we all dealt with it really well, held it together, got it back together when we lost, it, and in the end, with a strong finish, came 3rd. Well done team!!
I stood on the shore to watch the final races, proud that I had now, after only 6 training sessions, competed in my first regatta, and even can say we came third! Much to learn, and upwards from here.