Mens LEArn2Race National Masters, Nottingham.

On Saturday 19 May, Pete, Adam, Jacek, Bernie and coxswain-extraordinaire Sally departed London for Nottingham and the British Rowing National Masters Championships being held at the National Watersports Centre, Holme Pierrepont. We had spent the morning at the Lea Rowing Club under the guidance of our coach Nigel Weare, perfecting our start, timing and ability to operate as a single unit. We got it nailed in the boat, but unfortunately couldn’t translate this to the drive up to the course as Adam and Jacek had arrived and rigged the boat as the rest of us were leaving Newport Pagnell Services with bananas, cake and juice. Once we’d reconvened, we checked out the course conditions and noted the tail wind (square early!), before heading off to get some food and shut-eye.

Come race morning, we felt like proper Olympic athletes as we left our twin rooms at one of Derby’s finest accommodation houses, the Premier Inn on Wyvern Business Park. We’d each been going through our pre-race rituals, visualising the perfect race. We found Sally at the breakfast buffet. I’m sure she was just having a coffee, though there was a mention of mini-muffins. We were perhaps a little too relaxed and ended up leaving the hotel later than planned for Holme Pierrepont. This trend seemed to continue once we got to the course. Toilet stops, faffing, a quick crew run, more toilet stops, before we were literally ordered into the boat by cox Sally for a sprint up the course to make
it onto the stake boat by our allotted start time. It didn’t happen and we were formally warned by the Umpire. Ten seconds later – nice and warm after the sprint – we were all given the off!

We had a strong start, with a high rate and decent timing accelerating the boat well, giving us an early advantage over the other crews, even if only marginal. The work we had done the morning before had certainly paid dividends and compared to previous races we had improved, giving us the confidence to relax and settle into a good race pace for the middle sector. We perhaps let the rate drop a little too much, allowing Furnivall SC to come back at us, and coming into the last 250m we had lost our lead. Sally made the call to push, but were already on the limit and gave what we had left all the way to the line. It certainly wasn’t the most clinical row technically, but physically we’d given it everything and it had been close at the finish.

As we sat in the boat an eternity seemed to pass before they called Lea RC to move to the winners landing stage to collect their medals. We’d won! Amazed, we glanced over at the score board on the far side of the course which showed just how close it had been – 0.05 seconds. Goodbye Novice status, hello IM3! We all left Nottingham with a “Row for Gold” medal and huge smiles. It’s worth getting up at 6.30am on Sundays.

Written by Bernie Rowell, Mens LEArn2Race squad.

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