I can’t quite believe it! Let me tell you all about it!
We have been preparing for this for the last few weeks, and this quad team have been practising later in the evening than the regular masters rowing session. This is only my second ever regatta, do bear in mind, as I only actually took this up in October 2013.
This race was 1000m and we row down to the start line, and then race back up the river, past the club house to the finish line around 500m up river. Today it was a headwind and an outbound tide, making it a bit of an uphill race, so to speak.
I really wasn’t sure how this would go, I take it all really light hearted, as do a fair number of the masters crew. Some, however were in the club house warming up on the erg, feeling nervous, and so on. Not me, this is just for fun. Well, I say that until you stick me on a start line!
We haven’t, as a crew, practised starts all that much, and they do feel very frantic to me. Sometimes we go well, sometimes not. We set off out of the start line a little slower, and I could see in my peripheral vision that we were in second place, the Riverton crew just ahead. Two of our rowers are recent deflections from Riverton (just up the road) so this was an important battle! Our aim was strong and smooth. I was sitting in no 2 seat, the most regular spot for me recently, and we were going well. The Riverton boat was still just ahead, we could still see them alongside.
Our aim was to lift the pace and the stroke rate when we got to a certain point on the course, then in the final 500m lift again. As we came to our first lift, we were still almost neck and neck with the Riverton boat. The club house was coming into view, 500m to go, the cheers were ringing out on the water. We were still going well, and the second lift had started.
We began to pass the Riverton boat and take the lead, just as we were passing the clubhouse.
We were all spurred on to give it our all, and we pulled clear of the Riverton boat in the final 300m to take the win. Then collapse. We had given our all, we were exhausted but we had won!! (And, to be noted, the Riverton boat did not have a proper masters crew in it, there were two young girls, making the victory even sweeter!)
The next race didn’t go quite as well, and left me feeling very cross. This was the masters doubles, there were 7 boats this time, and we were in lane 7, the furthest away. Almost immediately the race started, the adjacent Riverton boat began veering into our lane. The course referee in the speed boat was shouting over his tannoy for them to stay on course. This shout was repeated at least 6 times, that I remember. The far side of this river has a huge sand bank, that becomes exposed in low tide. We tried to steer to avoid, as I could see the Riverton boat very close on the stroke side. The referee was still shouting at them. There simply wasn’t enough water for us to avoid, and the Riverton boat did not correct their course as they were asked, and collided with us. I was raging. They then floated around, not doing anything to get out of our way. I even got hold of their scull to push them away but the girl in that seat simply let go of it. I could have climbed across and socked her one.
By the time we got clear and got rowing again, we had lost way too much ground. Luckily our other two women’s crews placed in the top three, with one winning the race. That didn’t appease me, I was still raging. I rowed the rest of the river in such a rage there was nothing else I could have given to the effort, but it was not to be.
It seems that the tactics of this came into play a lot during the day, and other crews were pushed wide, and so on, so that another boat could get the cleaner line.
This was always going to be an uphill battle, as the rest of the crews in this race were young girls!! The open category is for the youngsters above 16 I think usually, so we were taking it as a fun training run, as we don’t often get enough masters women rowers to take this boat out. This was my first time in an 8 and only my second time at sweep oar. This was a hard race for me. I managed to lose the oar at one stage, throuhg bad technique and while the other 7 continued rowing I fought frantically to get my oar back upright and pointing the right way! I found the grip tricky, much more slippy than the rubber gripped sculls, but all in all we completed the race, I recovered well and the other girls in the boat were a great support.
We were fourth (of four) but that is where we expected to be, as it was not a masters category anyway.
Some great lessons learned, great fun, great camaraderie, and strangely I can now say that I am Southland champion in the women’s masters quadruple sculls! There is a thing I wasn’t expecting today!!!