Worcester Mix It Up In Liverpool

Liverpool was the second national league event of the season and the first of the shaken up format.

Rather than the usual 200m thrash to start the day it would be the longer 500m pieces in a further shake up I was moved from stroke into the engine room. So it was a strange experience as I loaded myself into the warmth of the centre of the boat and let the musty smell of sweat and victory waft over me (although that may have just been Brian’s aftershave). A quick trek up to the startline and we were ready for the off. A quirk of fate had seen us draw the flies as well as Secklow. Suddenly we were away. Unlike our normal 200m starts there was no error in the transition and we powered down the course leaving the other two boats in our wake.

Our reward for such a comprehensive victory … A long rest followed by a semi-final against the home crew and local rivals Pershore. On paper this was a race we would struggle to win but we were full of confidence and started hard. Throughout the middle of the race Amathus’ dominance started to show as they pulled out to a lead of more than a boat length. As we neared the finish surely it was too much to pull back. Or was it….. We turned on the power and the lead shortened. 30m out from the line and we had our head overlap their tail, 20m their lead was three quarters of a boat, 10m out half a boat surely we couldn’t do it from here, 5m the gap had shortened still, and we cross the line …. Narrowly in second place if only the course had been longer the result might have been different although whether we had another 10 strokes in us is another question. Unusually for three boat racing the major final had a fastest losers place which our outstanding finish had earned us. We faced Amathus again and league rivals Execalibre. Once again we were off with a furious start and away. For some reason Amathus and Execalibre didn’t want to play with us, were they scared, was it Brian’s aftershave. We’ll never know but both boats veered away from us and raced their own race on the far side. As they pushed each other on, lonely Worcester fell back as the final few metres approached. Could Worcester pull off another of their awesome finishes? No, unfortunately, not this time. As we upped the power the wash from the other boats caught us and we lurched left. Another stroke we lurch back right as the boat bucks it loses its run and as we battle to get any speed back on the other boats pull away. We cross the line in third place a brave result but not up to the targets we set ourselves.

Whilst the 500m were at the wrong time of the day they were still races we were used to. The same could not be said for the next event the curiously name paired buoy racing. A sprint out 200ish meters to a buoy the tightest turn possible and then back to the start whilst your opponents do the same further across the dock. This was the first race of the mixed up format and for Worcester it was literally mixed with the club electing to run a mixed boat (8 women) in preparation for the mixed events later in the year. It also saw me leaving the muscle men in the engine room to return to the front of the boat were the air smells of summer meadows and you can feel the wind in where your hair used to be before your race haircut.

As well a test of speed this would also be dependent on the helms skill and control and coordination from the rest of the boat as we moved round the buoys. With Nigel on the back we felt confident even though conditions in Worcester had prevented us training for the event. After a number of huddles and setting control points in the boat to manage the turns we thought we were set. Our first race had us against Seklow we were confident that we could beat them on the straight but with a turn anything could happen. We were right about our speed with us being first to the buoy, the turn wasn’t as effective as we would have liked but it worked and we are left with an easy run back to finish in first. Rather than a seeded draw to the next round we drew lots and this time we drew Amathus possibly the hardest opponent we could have ended up with. Worcester Dug deep and despite a better turn trailed in a close second. We thought it was disappointing to be out so soon but at least we’d get some time to dry out and rest before the 2000m piece. However that was not to be the case. Our crew managers, probably concerned we may  have eased back if we had known, kept the fact that for this round a fastest loser also goes through to themselves.  And this time that crew was us woo hoo! (I think). This then put us in a semi against execalibre. This time we had alternate turn strategy and thought we may need it. We were second to the buoy but the turns now were something spectacular the boat was now both helm and paddlers well drilled in the turn and our secret plan that involved emptying the dock into mine and Russ’ lap seemed to work we span a little tighter and regained position. Our final push for the line worked well and we crossed the line with a narrow lead.

Our final race was against Amathus once again. They went off like a rocket and were well clear at the buoy another tight and soggy turn saw us close the gap once again only to be outmuscled on the run home. With Worcester mixed taking second place in an open competition this was a great result. What’s more it meant I could raid the bottom of my kit bag for something warm and dry for the afternoon. I like to think the look was vintage couture others may have thought raiders of the lost property box but at least I was dry and smiling again.

The racing drew to a close with the 2000m event an event incorporating two turns one of them “the wrong way” Worcester were off with Amathus and Execalibre behind and loads of crews in fronnt to chase down. And chase them down we did a lovely turn at the end of out going leg again pouring water on to my dry kit and the boat was flying back the way we came. We felt controlled and powerful we passed hurricanes leaving our drummers shouts in their ears and made sure we reached the final turn, a right hander, having priority. The turn took nearly the whole width of the dock but we completed it and were left looking at three crews we could catch with a good run home. Alas that wasn’t to be. Just as we got momentum on Hurricanes cut back across our boat failed to make the turn then stopped forcing us to pull an emergency stop and pushing us into the nearby cruiser. Hurricanes then stopped against us taking the water on the opposite side. With no water for our paddles we were forced to wait for what seemed like an eternity before we could get moving again and look at catching Hurricanes for a second time. We paddled with controlled aggression and the boat moved smoothly with power unfortunately we didn’t quite manage to take our position back and were left with an anxious wait for the results. When they came in it was a shock to find that despite our forced rest in the middle of the race Worcester had finished second. All that was left was to pack up and collect our medals. 3rd in the 500s, 2nd in paired buoys, 2nd in the 2k and 2nd overall. A great result and a fitting end to a great days racing.