May 24, 2012

Competing at the Nationals

On Sunday last I competed in the National Masters regatta at Nottingham as usual but this year I abandoned my mates in the quad to chance my arm in the single.

This is no mean task. Generally only the best person in a crew would have a go at racing in the single because any other person in a crew would know they were already likely to be beaten by their crew mate. So it's a pretty select bunch.

And of course, by the time you get to my age, you know almost everybody and you know their pedigree and often you know their current form too. So before you even start you know the mountain that you have to climb and the task you have set yourself.

In my case I knew that to win I had to beat two people whom I knew to be awesome athletes and then there would be the unknown athletes too. Sometimes you know from the name of the club they represent that they will have done a lot of quality training alongside other good people so you know they are not going to be a pushover. Sometimes you know absolutely nothing about them and maybe somebody else in the event can tell you if they are a threat or not.

Anyway, after a strange heat where somebody failed to show so that we all went through to the final to be joined by a sixth person who'd been given a bye to the final all of the above circumstances unfolded in a fantastic race. The guy who had the bye to the final, Milligan, from Poplar, Blackwell & District was in a different league. Andy Jaggard, a customer of mine, who was in the next lane to me told me as much as we were waiting to go onto the start.

The two people I knew I had to beat were George Perrin of Runcorn who is about half my size again and has been thrashing me in the winter Head races over the past few years and John West of Norwich who had beaten me on the few occasions we'd met at National events like this. He had previously won the singles in our age group.

But Andy Jaggard himself had shown in the heat that he was a contender. He was one of those who looked tall and rangey in the boat and being from Durham has was sleeveless and leggingless even though it was cold and windy.

Andy Langmaid who was on my other side is from Dart Totnes and my crew had lost to this club many times in recent years. They're tough and train hard so although I'd beaten him in the heat, this meant nothing and sure enough he shot off at the start and took the lead. So this meant everybody was a threat.

I put my head down for the first 500m and passed Langmaid then had a look around and found that I was a little ahead of everybody except Milligan who had disappeared and was ten seconds ahead already! So I was second.

Andy Jaggard & I found ourselves eye-balling each other several times. My boat was the shortest in the field as I was the smallest sculler so my body needed to be ahead of his just to be level at the bows. The water became quite disturbed because of launch wash and I struggled to keep my boat level but managed to regain my composure. I looked across again and George was creeping up on us with West pressing him hard.

Then I found myself in the stern wash of a launch. We were catching up the race that had started ahead of us! As I surfed down it I raised my rate to take advantage and gained a 1/4 length on Jaggard but then I was in a trough and although I put my rate up as high as it would go at the finish I found myself 1.7 seconds (1/2 length) behind George and he was beaten into 3rd place by West by just three tenths of second. But we were all soundly thrashed by Milligan so well done him. It turns out he rowed in the GB eight at the World Championships in 1977 and 1978. Now we know why. He must have been good as he clearly still is!

Posted by Stephen Walker at 06:27 PM