2700 athletes, 300 boats, 8 Chesterton rowers, 1 cox, and a day to remember! For several of us is was our first experience of rowing the Women's Eights Head, or 'Tideway', but even for those who had raced on the Thames before, it was still a fantastic experience.
Under Hammersmith Bridge (birdman photography) more here
The forecast was for sunny spells, and although we could have done with a little more sun, we were still lucky to have a bright, not too cold day without a lot of wind. We were boating from Tideway Scullers School, which is positioned exactly on the start line, by Chiswick bridge. We all arrived, some by train and some by car, by 12:30pm, and the boat was waiting for us. Once we had put the boat together, we had plenty of time to eat, pose for crew photos, and try to calm each others' nerves! At 2pm, we went hands on the boat, and took our place in the queue to boat. It all happens very quickly, as there were so many boats waiting to push off behind us. We were very grateful to Janice, Emily and Jo, who helped us with our blades and wellies. And then we were off! Rowing on the Thames! It was pretty exciting, and for many the race nerves fell away.
We then had a short row to our marshalling spot. Our cox, Kate (from Magdelene College) who had kindly stepped in to help out and get practice for coxing Magdalene M2 at the Mens Head of the River Race, very ably kept us on station. It was a constant process of rowing and maneuvering to keep in the same spot against the flow of the tide (the Eights Head races are always rowed with the tidal stream). As we moved up to the start, race nerves started to appear again for some (including me)! Under marshall's orders, we de-kitted and span the boat ready to race. This was it!
We felt like we got off to a strong start. Rowing on the Thames is different to rowing on the rivulet that is the Cam, but we took it in our stride, and kept a good rhythm, rating 28, and rowing quite long. We had gained confidence when we overtook the boat in front (a Durham college second boat) with ease within about 3 mintues of the start. This gave us a great boost and we maintained well under Barnes bridge, and past Chiswick Eyot. Tiredness began to set in, but before long we were rowing under Hammersmith Bridge where we could hear cheering from our enthusiastic support team. This fired us up, and we were determined to look good for them and the cameras. We pushed off Hammersmith Bridge, rating a little higher at 29 and relaxed into the long stretch to the Black buoy. Unfortunately it was on this stretch that the cox box battery ran out, and Kate's voice, which has been spurring us on so well, faded out. She didn't realise how badly we couldn't hear her, so for the last part we were on our own to an extent. Despite this we did still manage to overtake another boat after this point. Although my memory is somewhat hazy, the results tell me that it was another Durham college first boat! Not knowing exactly where the finish was made the final minutes somewhat difficult to judge, and we were overtaken by a couple of boats just before the finish line. Although we clearly all wanted to prevent them coming by, we weren't able to make a united effort to do so. But despite the lack of cox box, we all kept going strongly, coxing ourselves through it to keep pushing. We did lose length towards the end but we kept a good rhythm, and when we passed the finish line, none of us had that much left!
But we still had to row home, back to Tideway Sculler School at Chiswick. It was tough and it took a good hour against the stream. My hands were quite sore, as well as everything else, but it was not entirely unpleasant in the evening light to be rowing down one of the most famous stretches of river in the world! Upon arrival at TSS, we were greeted by our loyal wellie bearers and my James helped pull us in. Soon we were back on land, enjoying Freya's delicious flapjack, and putting the boat back together.
We retired to The Ship on the opposite bank after we had put the boat back on the trailer for drinks and dinner before heading back to Cambridge, tired but elated at having done it.
Chiswick Bridge as the sun set after the race.
Our category (expand for a better view)