Saturday 6 May saw four Lea men’s crews take the trip across town for a spot of tideway racing on the 1000 metre course at the Chiswick Regatta. For the men’s novice 4+ this represented the first experience of side by side racing, while for the other crews it was the first opportunity to make the transition from the head race season into the sprint format.
In the week leading up to the regatta the men’s Learn2Race squad (novice and IM3) had been battling each other on the River Lea trying to get some much needed experience of the unique pressures of side-by-side racing starts. Calls of “Draw, draw, wind, wind, wind…lengthen” bellowed down the river from Tottenham lock down to the boathouse as both crews tried to get up to speed quickly and cleanly, the raw power of the novices up against the slightly more experienced and refined IM3s.
Race day began with a first round win for the novices who, despite the racing start practice, managed to get left a few lengths back after the first few strokes. The power told, however, as they rowed back and through the opposition to take the win and progress to the next round. The second round saw another poor start and this time there was to be no way back, as the crew ran out of course to chase down the leaders, eventually going down by just half a length.
In the IM3 4+ category, Lea had two crews; one from the senior men’s squad and one from Learn2Race. The Learn2Racers got a bye through to the semi final where they met the seniors and also a strong crew from Twickenham. On a turning tide all crews lined up and, after a brief period of repositioning, the umpire shouted ‘Go’. The Learn2Racers were desperate to get a good start and stay in contact with the more experienced, stronger crews alongside them and they managed this for the majority of the race – not enough to challenge for victory but certainly enough to stay in the
hunt, particularly given the relative lack of practice during the day. The senior men’s IM3 4+ went on to win the race, thereby ensuring at least one Lea 4+ crew went home victorious.
Lea were not done yet, however. As the Learn2Racers settled down with a pint of ale in front of an open fire in the wonderfully atmospheric Quintin RC boathouse, the senior men set out to contest the final of the IM2 eights against a crew that had placed above them at the Head of the River Race in April. A close race saw Lea turn out victorious, thus meaning that every member of the senior squad went home with a pot, and at least one point.
For the Learn2Race crews the Chiswick experience was excellent preparation for the racing season ahead. It taught a particularly important lesson in the value of getting a good start off the line and was a painful reminder that 1000 metres is a tough, tough distance to race.
Written by Angus Dawson, Mens LEArn2Race squad.