After the dire weather at training on Thursday and Saturday, it was a great relief to find Sunday morning breaking bright, sunny and (most importantly) calm. A very early start needed this morning as the race was scheduled for a 9:00 AM start, meaning we were away from the club at 6:15.
An uneventful run down to Chiswick, all hands on and we had the boat rigged and ready to go in 20 minutes, in plenty of time to boat. No last minute dramas today, Pierre-Yves not getting caught in traffic, unlike Hammersmith Head! Unlike WEHORR and Hammersmith Head, which ran on the highest tide I’ve seen on the Thames for years, today’s race was on pretty much the lowest tide I’ve seen.
The Civil Service was organised chaos with loads of boats getting out – the low tide allowed something like four or five crews to boat simultaneously, unlike the two at a time that normal conditions allow. Although this got all the crews out quickly it did lead to heavy congestion by Barnes bridge and in the ensuing crowd, we managed to almost lose our race number from the bows.
Anyhow, once out of the traffic, it was a nice controlled paddle up to the start, no real drama and excellent marshalling. None of the manic shouting of recent years but firm, polite calls. It makes such a difference. Racing at number 15, we didn’t have long to wait and pretty soon we were spinning and setting off for the start. The boat was sitting nicely and we accelerated over the start line and were off, just a mere four and a quarter miles to work through.
Rating around 32, we settled well and it seemed like quite a strong row. We were overhauled fairly quickly by a very fast moving Lea crew but looked like we were holding most of the other boats around us. Certainly, the conditions were much better than the last couple of sessions on Caldecotte Lake and the extra practice sessions were definitely paying off. An uneventful first half saw us through Hammersmith Bridge without incident although another crew caught and passed us just past the bridge. Coming up towards Fulham FC, Andi called another push as we were closing in on the crew in front. This, together with an increase in rating took us past Cantabs, a very nice feeling to be overtaking someone.
Towards the end, Andi called for another increase and somehow we managed to wind it up to an amazing (for us) 37 strokes per minute, making sure we weren’t passed by any of the other crews all pushing hard for the line. We went past the finish still flat out, before taking it down and spinning just past Putney bridge. It had been a good hard row, pretty stable most of the way and with some very strong pushes; all in all a pleasing performance.
Getting back proved to be an endurance event though. Because the tide was so low, there was no water at all through the small arch at Hammersmith, so the entire flotilla had to wait until the last racing crew had passed through the bridge before we were able to start on the journey back. Fortunately, it was warm and dry, otherwise this would have been miserable. As it was, this spread the field out and we were able to have a good practice paddle on the way back, fuelled by the Mars bars so thoughtfully provided by Paula!
Having arrived back at the Civil Service, we waded ashore, being careful not to ground the boat on the shallows and had it stripped and back on the trailer in no time. It was a slightly odd feeling though, to have finished the race and to be on our way home well before midday!
The results (here) were up later in the evening, and these gave us a time of 21:29.13, placing us 79th out of 204 overall but a disappointing 20th out of 21 in Masters B.