Shortly after the new squad had arrived in Oxford to begin this season’s training, a crew of recent boat race athletes and current squad members, who had been training over the summer, travelled to Taiwan with the new lightweight chief coach, Alex Cavell, to participate in the 10th I-Lan International Collegiate Invitational Regatta.
Racing was in coxless quadruple sculls and all of the crews taking part were either current or previous students of the universities invited to attend the regatta. In the women’s competition, the following universities were involved:
- Turku, Finland
- Fu Yen
- St Petersburg
- Western Ontario
The regatta was of a particularly high standard and provided our quad with the opportunity to race a calibre of crew that they would be unlikely to face in domestic competition. Many of the other quads that participated in the competition included athletes that have represented their respective countries in international competition, either at U23 or senior level, something that the Oxford athletes aspire to achieve over the next few years.
The regatta was initially scheduled to be held over 2 days, but due to a forecasted Typhoon predicted to hit the region towards the end of the first day of racing, the schedule was revised after we had arrived in Taiwan! This resulted in the heats, semi-finals and finals all being squished into one day’s racing with a very early start.
The racing was challenging, especially in the heat and humidity, but with each round we raised our game, learnt some lessons and gained valuable side by side racing experience. In a quality field we lacked the strength and experience to reach the A final, and had to settle for a place in the B final. This proved to be the best race of the day and we moved on against crews that had presented more of a challenge in the earlier rounds. Finishing 6th overall in a field of the quality discussed and with a relatively novice crew, was a promising result and one that should set us up well for a successful season.
Besides the quadruple sculls, there was also a single’s event. Oxford was represented by Hilary Powell, who claims four Boat race wins, and Gold in the University Games of 2004. Again she showed her valour by racing a steady and excellent course despite the conditions, and came third overall. She thereby gained a Bronze Medal and much respect amongst all other participants.
After racing in I-Lan in the north of the island, some of the crews were transferred down to the south of Taiwan for a regatta in Kaohsiung on the Love River. This was the first time in the event’s history that racing has also been held in southern Taiwan, and this gave us the opportunity to gain further valuable race experience.
In addition to the racing, there was plenty of time to sample some of the Taiwanese culture, socialise with the other competitors and get to know the interpreters and driver (of our own personal coach!) which we had been assigned on our arrival. We were taken to see a beautiful waterfall, a couple of night markets which gave us the chance to sample some local delicacies (!), and a cultural park. In the evenings there were various dinners with the governors of the regions in which we were staying at the time at which we were treated to a spectacular array of excellent food and some entertainment by local groups. We also got a taste for karaoke after stumbling across a very Taiwanese karaoke bar on the first night having foregone the opportunity to join many of the men’s crews in the hotel’s outdoor hot tubs that evening! This proved to be an amusing evening and a bit of a social icebreaker.
Overall, the trip was excellent and we were very privileged to be showered with such hospitality during our stay. Not only did we get valuable experience of racing, but the trip gave everyone the opportunity to get to know each other better, which should make training more enjoyable over the long winter.
S: Mima Boardman
3: Liz Rowles
2: Hannah Mason
B: Sarah Cornick
Coach: Alex Cavell
Hannah Mason reports from Taiwan (September 2005)