We had two goals for Winter training; The Winter League (three head races held on the Cam in January, February and March) and WEHoRR.
Our land training had consisted of weekly strength sessions at Core Cambridge, a usually gruesome Erg plus a water session often coached by Andrea Bosnyak. We’d been blessed with a mild winter so few outings had been cancelled and unlike the rest of the country not too much in the way of flooding.
After the first leg of the Winter League we were in joint first place in our Novice Women’s Eight category so we were game on! After the second leg we pulled away from the nearest opposition by 10 seconds so just had to keep it together for the third leg. Luckily we were placed just behind the Champs Vet Men who we were able to hunt down in the second and third races and they really helped give us something to aim for which helped our times. The second and third legs were slower on paper due to strong stream and head winds but overall we progressed up the field going from 101st up to 63rd and finishing as the ninth fastest women’s eight and Winner’s of the Novice Women’s Eight category.
With heavy persistent rain over most of the south part of the country all Winter there was a question mark over whether the race would go ahead or not. The Port of London issued a river flag system and this was Red (meaning no rowing on the Thames) due to the strong flow in the weeks leading up to WEHoRR. A week or so before this the flag changed to yellow but there was still uncertainty as to whether Novice crews would be able to enter. A final decision was made two days before the race, Novice crews could enter but had to prove there suitability and that their cox had Tideway experience. Our lovely cox Alison although incredibly experienced had only coxed Tideway once and not being able to assess the conditions herself took advise and made the decision that she didn’t feel she had the experience to cox the race in the unprecedented strong stream. This was a massive blow but fortunately James T the Men’s cox who has coxed Tideway many times before stepped into save the day.
2014 turned out to be an epic race, the fast flow and quick NW wind helped the course records to tumble. We were racing alongside Olympians (Katherine Grainer, Helen Glover, Heather Stanning and Anna Watkins). We boated from beautiful Furnival gardens under the cherry-blossom trees and were blessed with blue skies and calm conditions. We started hard and kept the rate (32/33) and splits (sub ) seemingly consistently throughout the race. Lea overtook us in the first third of the race and there a bit of clashing of blades as we jostled for the steam. As we came under Hammersmith bridge the massive cheer from our bank party spurred us on to overtake the crew in front. The long ergs paid dividends as we slowly took each seat until James was on their bow and we had clear water. The finish didn’t come a moment too soon we’d given it our all.
We came 154th out of 239 (a reduced entry due to the conditions) and 4th out of the 13 in the Novice Club category in a time of 21:17.7. Our best result by some margin. Last year we’d finished 247th in a time of 22:20. Even more satisfying was that we were faster than three of our Cambridge rivals all of whom were IM3 crews.
A fantastic result to the end of a good seasons training.