11.04.2006 0 °C
Spring has apparently sprung and now is supposedly the time to be out on the river...
Well the daffs are out. The birds are twittering away in the early hours and I can finally walk the dog in daylight of an evening but thats about all that has happened Spring-wise. Its still bitterly cold.
But I didn't start this just to tell you about our semi-wintery Spring (well not as a main subject).
Sunday 9th April was Bedford Small Boats Head of the River Race (Or BSBH if you're in the know!)
For some masochistic reason I was down to cox and Antony was down to race in division two at 10am on Sunday morning which meant an early start to get to Bedford and put the boats together ready to race. The day started out better than you could imagine - hardly a cloud in the sky and just brilliant sunshine as far as the eye could see! We got to Bedford in time to get boats put haphazardly together and sort out who was rowing where and set off down the river for our first race. It was a novice mens 4 and I got soaked in my position at the bow of the boat (you have stern loaders and bow loaders which relates to where the cox sits and this boat what a bow loader so I wa sat the rowers mercy when it came to splashes off the blades!) but they did well for a first off-Cam race.
My own crew arrived well in advance of our race. We had time enough to stand sunning ourselves and talking tactics before boating and even got warm enough on the trip down to peel off a layer or two at the start area. Thats where it all goes a bit pear shaped. About 1 minute before we started the race the temperature dropped at least 4 degrees very suddenly. But it didn't feel like it was going to rain so we just htought - its cold lets get the race started.
We set off at a good pace and were at full tilt over the start line. Our cox, Muppet, set us up a good line to take and was talking us through the race as we went. The rhythm was struggling to settle through the boat and we weren't making the most of each stroke but we were holding our own. Then I caught a minor crab (where the blade sucks into the water rather than out of it at the end of a stroke). At about this time it started to hail on us - little tiny stinging bits of hail which rapidly turned to sleety snow. Then a senior womens boat from Guildford turned up on our stern. They raced up on us and we all thought they would fly by and we would be left trailing but after about 4 strokes I thought - they're still there. Muppet yelled out loud enough for the whole of Guildfords boat to hear 'We're holding them off - GOOD GIRLS!' and that seemed to do it for us - we just settled our stroke into a really good strong solid pull and that was it for them. They just couldn't lift the boat any faster after that. We held them off for at least 1500m before they started to push past but by this time they had been trying to overtake on the outside of a corner for so long they were burnt out and we managed to stick with them right to the finish!
By the time we passed the finish line the sleet was bucketing down and the ground was at least an inch thick with it. When I got out to hold the boat to shore to allow everyone else out I abandoned shoes to do so and ended up stuck to the icy grass by my socks. We lugged the boat to the trestles and I then had to rapidly change from one set of soaked gear to another to cox the next race. Which I can tell you was the least pleasant thing you could chose to do of your own free will on a Sunday afternoon.
The boat, when we got it in the water, was full of ice which I pushed to where my feet would be so at least I wouldn't be lying on it to start. We paddled down through sleet and got to the start line. When we started the race one rower nearly lost his oar when the gate holding it onto the rigger burst open. Luckily we hadn't passed the start so we stopped, hooked up and got on our way really fast. The crew did awesomely - possibly the nicest boat I have ever been in as a cox. Perfectly sat and moving so quickly and smoothly through the water you would never have known we had about 30 kilos of water weighing the boat down (all that melted ice!) We just flew to the finish. I cold barely talk to the crew my teeth were chattering so much but I really don't think they minded!
I can tell anyone interested that the novice crew I row with beat two of our senior womens crews time-wise on the day. We did the 2km course through a head wind and sleet in 8 minutes 23 seconds and came in 4th place in our division by 12 seconds. We have consoled ourselves that earlier crews had tail winds and no sleet and we know for a fact what kind of difference head and tail winds can make to a time so we are very happy with our performance.
If you are at all interested in seeing the photos the official photographer took on the day they can be found at http://www.rowphoto.co.uk/events.php?event=bedford_spring_sbh_2006&club=Cambridge%2099. Please note the photographer was not tough enough to stick with it through the hail so he missed the chance to get any pics of our fantastic finish but you can see me coxing boat 68 and can see a few of the other rowers at my club racing away! If I find any pics of my crew I promise to put a link to them here!
Hope all is well around the world. If anyone is hogging all the summer time weather please send it this way!