“Draaawww…” shouted cox Zara, “… wind, wind, now lengthen…”. We’re off in a 3-way semi-final, pushing away from the grey hulk of Chiswick Bridge. We haven’t started well but the school crew to our left are struggling and a canvas down already. On our right Quintin BC are level with us and rowing neatly. Slowly the crew finds its rhythm, we’re at rate 36, the boat is set level and we’re locking on well at the catch, leveraging our power advantage over the other crews, now pulling away with every stroke. Belief seeps through the crew as we power out to a clear water lead at 600 metres, the heart-warming sight of opposition boats lagging behind. Despite a few late wobbles as we cut through the Tideway chop, we cross the line 2 lengths clear – and into the final!
Some months earlier a squad had come together: a strong student contingent, some of last year’s novice crew, and a handful of recent Start to Row learners. From a diverse group – comprising various ages, heights, weights, nationalities and occupations – a core emerged who committed to the training. Good results followed – Head race performances gave other KRC crews pause for thought. Despite some personnel changes we had approached the regatta confident and prepared.
Emmanuel School are our final opponents. We expect a fast start from them but hope our mid race pace will come through. There’s nervous jockeying for position on the line as bow pairs tap it up, finally the umpires are happy. Our start is better than before – a glance across and Emmanuel are a seat up only. This time there are no wobbles, with a pounding rhythm we steadily walk up the opposition boat. The umpires screech a warning for us to hold our line but we’ve got clear water and don’t let go. Coach Adrian shouts from the bank as we wind for the line – we’ve won! Some nervous moments, as the umpires solemnly lecture us on holding line and Emmanuel protest, but to no avail. Back on the bank we de-rig and head back to KRC.
“3…2…1…go…” Zara flies through the air in a graceful arc, and drops into the water with a satisfying splosh. “Youz *******” she says as we haul her out of the river, and an exhausted but deeply satisfied crew and cox head to the pub in the late afternoon sunshine.