WEHoRR has been, since our selection into the squad back in October, the most anticipated and talked about race of the year. It is what all our training so far has been leading up to: a 6.8km stretch of river where we would be racing alongside experienced crews such as the likes of Oxford and Cambridge. It wasn’t going to be easy, and our Novice Women were nervous to attempt it, with it being our longest race to date; but we wouldn’t let it phase us. We approached it with a shed load of determination and a strong desire to excel.
Setting the boats into the water outside Barn Elms boat house, we saw streams of crews paddle past us towards the start line, 4km upstream from where we were currently placed. It was a sight to see with so many women of all abilities on the water at once. It was empowering to be part of and filled our Novice Women with great confidence and excitement.
However, both crews faced difficulties in the paddle upstream to the start line. It was a long wait, with our crews nearing the back of the line-up. With a long wait ahead meant we had to constantly battle against the stream to keep our boats away from the bank, but still within the line of other crews waiting to start. Our Novice Women’s 1st VIII faced some complications, with the fin of their boat getting stuck under a rock in the bank, resulting in the senior women’s coach, Hugo Moon, having to lift us out, but bending our fin in the process. A wire in the cox box also became dethatched, and so with a limited supply of microspores tape on board, our cox did her best to repair the wire. With the damaged fin and a broken cox box resulted in the crew feeling anxious about how our performance in the race would be affected. Our Novice Women’s 2nd VIII faced similar problems with their bow having to get out of the boat and into the water in order to push the boat away from the bank. With a rocky start, and sitting in the rain and hail for an hour and a half, meant spirits were tested and everyone was eager to just get started.
Both crews started well and fast, with their stroke rates high and power streaming through their legs. A strong rhythm was kept throughout both crews, moving the boats efficiently through the Thames, despite the water being choppy and difficult to row through at times. The 1st VIII kept a consistently high rate throughout the 6.8km, despite having limited experience of such a long sprint, and in such difficult water conditions as well. However issues soon became apparent with the 2nd VIII. A failed cox box meant that their bow four had limited access to the cox’s instructions during the race and a few girls also experienced injuries during the race. Backs were sore and cores were riddled with cold, but our novices were strong and determined knowing that they couldn’t let their team mates down, and so powered on through the pain all the way until the very end.
Going in to the race we knew that a sprint of 6.8km would be the toughest race we would face all year. It was terrifying to think of, but once completed filled our girls with the greatest sense of pride and achievement, despite the difficulties faced both with injuries and damaged boats. Although our Novice Women placed quite low down the rankings, we were able to witness our senior women place 47th, which has given us such motivation to return next year even stronger.