Anna Corderoy recounts her journey from OUWLRC to the World Championships

Anna Corderoy coxed the Great Britain PR3 Mix4+ to a Gold Medal and World Best time at the World Rowing Championships in September 2017 in Sarasota. She writes: 

Christmas 2014: an unexpected message in my inbox. OUWLRC needed an extra cox for training camp, did I want to go for it? I (eventually) decided that I fancied it, but on the strict, self-imposed condition that it wouldn’t lead to any long-term commitment. A whirlwind of a year later, my crew snuck their bowball ahead of Cambridge’s at the Henley Boat Race 2016 to pull off an incredibly last minute win by a canvas. Then I graduated, feeling certain that my experience of the real world would be much more land-based and much less on the water.

However, OUWLRC left such an impression on me that I wasn’t ready to let it go. I messaged anyone I thought might be able to help and told them the same thing: I wanted to cox for GB. A massive long shot, but I’d do whatever it took to give it a decent try. I didn’t know that would entail upping sticks to London, blowing every penny left in the bank on a flat with strangers, setting alarms for 3:50am to trek from Putney to Molesey for outings before dashing from zone 6 to 1 for 9am lectures at law school. Trying to get on the radar, racing with any crew that asked me, even putting myself in front of busy GB coaches and eagerly introducing myself. One morning my coach at Molesey told me the GB para squad were looking for coxes, and that they’d put my name forward if I wanted to trial. I told him to count me in.

It hit home that the 2017 World Rowing Championships were happening when, just after we touched down in Florida, the pilot wished luck to the GB Rowing Team over the tannoy to a cabin full of passengers who burst into applause. In Tampa, there were posters and billboards for the event everywhere. Everyone greeting us in the airport was full of energy, excited that GB had arrived – one of the first nations to come through. Watching other teams from all over the world gradually join us one by one at the Nathan Benderson Park was surreal; as the boat racks filled up I made the transition from deciphering Oxford college blade colours to working out which countries were training in the lanes around us on the lake. When, during the colourful opening ceremony, the 69 competing nation flags were brought onto the stage, it reinforced what a privilege it was to be there and what an amazing week lay ahead.

Base camp was the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sarasota – second to none with our 9th floor balcony views of the marina and Gulf of Mexico. Most of our time away from the lake was spent recovering here, with our fantastic team coaches/doctor/physiologists/physiotherapists/nutritionist no more than a few doors away if we ever needed support. With our preliminary scheduled for five whole days into the regatta, it was exciting chatting with other GB athletes over meals and hearing their accounts of how racing was going.

Our final came around on the morning of Saturday 30th. Despite a good preliminary two days previously we were ready to step up another gear and adamant not to rest on our laurels. We’d been told the day would be a “19-camera-extravaganza”, and that tickets had completely sold out; nonetheless everything that morning seemed to happen perfectly within our own crew. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be, as we’d been so well prepared in the lead up to the race that we knew exactly what the plan was and how we were going to deliver it. Auto-pilot kicked in from the minute we pushed off the raft. We were given a bit more of a fight off the start compared with the preliminary race; it was important to stay internal and execute our start sequence exactly as we’d planned it. 500-600m in, as we pulled away from the USA, the challenge was to see just how clean, efficient and technical we could make the rest of the race. We knew what splits to look for and which technical points we’d need to stay on top of to hit them. By the time the red buoys came it felt as though we’d set a sustainable platform to build for the line. Seeing the bubble-line getting closer and closer whilst hearing the sound from the stands was amazing.

Everything after that was a bit of a blur: landing, getting ushered into the media area, hugged by Dame Katherine Grainger and Sir Steve Redgrave, trying (and tremendously failing) to keep my cool on camera…learning that we’d achieved our aim, 6:55.7, a sub-7 minute world record. Then standing on the podium and hearing the national anthem – the absolute nail in the coffin RE any semblance of media dignity as I bawled my eyes out. After that it was an immense privilege to be able to spend the rest of the weekend in the stands with the team, watching everybody else race.

Back to OUWLRC. I took lessons learnt with the lightweights onto the start line last Saturday, not least every month beforehand in the build up. Back in 2015, when, inexperienced as I was, OUWLRC decided to give me a chance, this club taught me a few of the most important things: shoot for things beyond your reach. Take even the least expected opportunities. Work hard, take what luck you can get and do whatever you can to make the rest for yourself. I am so grateful for all of the support that OUWLRC has given me since I trundled confusedly into Heathrow on Day 1 – thanks especially to Chris, Jill, Clive, Andrew and all of my squad members over the last few years. You’ve made the journey incredible!

Thanks also to Phil Bourguinon and everyone at Molesey Boat Club, and last but absolutely by no means least our fantastic coaches Nick Baker & Tom Dyson, everyone working behind the scenes on the GB Rowing Team for all of their hard work getting us to the start line, as well as the National Lottery for the ongoing support.

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Successful pre-season camp

Following the success of the 2016 pre-season training camp, we returned to Lake Sarnen in Switzerland with a mixture of returning athletes and a selection of new recruits from our summer development squad.

Although we were greeted with pouring rain on the first day, which made for the first character-building moment of the season, the sun eventually burnt through and the weather was generally mild with scattered showers, which made for perfect rowing conditions.

The focus of this camp was predominantly working on technique. A number of our development squad athletes had never sculled before, and it was a great opportunity to learn new skills in single and double sculls as well as work in pairs and fours, and great progress was made by the whole squad in just five short days.

We were coached by Chris and assistant coach Jill and also accompanied by former VP Laure Bonfils (our gym bootcamp leader) and our squad nutritionist Jasmine. We had 2-3 outings and/or land training sessions per day, as well as video analysis sessions and talks educating us on the importance of nutrition and recovery, boat maintenance and what to expect during the approaching season. Jasmine also did an amazing job of cooking for the squad and bringing plenty of supplements for us to sample.

This five-day training camp provided a highly valuable, focused environment for the athletes before the season commences with the whole squad. We are hugely grateful for the hard work and commitment of the coaches and Jasmine in organising this camp and helping us gain the most from this trip, ensuring we are in the best possible position for the upcoming Henley Boat Races.

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BUCS 2017

This year we had a large number of the squad compete at BUCS regatta in Nottingham from 29th April – 1st May.

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On the Saturday, we competed in both the Lw8+ and Lw2x categories. In the lightweight double Christina Turner and Ellie Watts successfully qualified for the semi-finals, despite only learning to scull 3 weeks ago, they finished 12th overall. The Lw8+ consisted of this year’s blue boat plus super subs Maline Meiske and our very own coach-turned-student Jill Betts. Although they faced close competition from Exeter, they put in a strong push in the last 500m and went on to win the race by about a length! As well as winning gold, this also meant that the ladies who participated in the boat race now fulfilled the criteria for full blue status!

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On the Sunday, two Lw4- competed. Although both qualified for the semi-finals, neither managed to progress to the A final, the B crew missed qualifying by just 0.7 seconds. Jo Heymann also entered the Intermediate Lw1x category and won her B final. Dani Edmunds went up against the best lightweights in the country in the Championship Lw1x, she put in a strong performance, qualifying for the Championship A final, where she finished in 6th place.

On the Monday, Rachel Anderson and Moyo Tian entered the Lw2- category and successfully qualified for the A final, finishing in 7th place. Despite only training together twice in full combination the 4+ (made up of Linda, Livia, Lise and Tuuli) finished 7th out of around 50 entries, a fantastic result! Overall, we all gained valuable racing experience and are very much looking forward to our summer of pot-hunting!

Many thanks to Jill, Andrew, Chris and Clive for all their coaching and support of the athletes during the regatta.

— report by Ellie Watts

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The 2017 Boat Race

The weeks leading up to the Boat Race are a blur: crew selection – Wimbleball training camp – finishing touches in Wallingford, and then before we knew it we were in Henley: 8 rowers, 1 cox and the reserve pair. We spent a successful week adjusting to the strong headwind the Henley course had thrown at us, leading to some adjustments to rowing technique to cope with the rougher waters. Armed with our new Resolute, newly named ‘Inverbroom’, we ended the week with quiet confidence and determination.

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When Boat Race morning arrived, there was a feeling of readiness – we had done all we could up to this point, now it all came down to getting the final job done. The course greeted us with slightly kinder conditions than we had spent the week preparing for, with the wind slowing to a slightly weaker cross-head wind.

The morning went by quickly and suddenly the race was upon us: hands on – past the crowds – boat on the water – “pushing off on three, ready: one, two, three”… After a solid warm up, with some good confidence-boosting bursts and starts we felt ready to go. We were aware that Cambridge had a strong line up, but we were so focused and internalised it didn’t cross our minds that we might lose this race. Both crews attached to the stake boats quickly, but getting (and remaining) straight was a struggle in the crosswind, which had picked up throughout the day. I heard the Cambridge cox, repeatedly: “my hand is down”, just as my own bows swung around in the wind. As I was straight, I heard the Cambridge cox: “my hand is up”. We finally synchronised and the umpire quickly called the start: there was no time to think.

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We produced a solid start and went off the stake boat cleanly through the waves. Cambridge’s start was simply stronger and they pulled ahead. I called an ‘absorb’ move to hold strong coming off the start, but not one eye strayed from our boat; we all had confidence in each other. Between the 500m mark and the Remenham club, Cambridge’s clean, composed rowing extended their lead when we came past our supporters at Upper Thames. We stuck to the race plan and I called our focus on sharp catches approaching Upper Thames, and combined with the effect of the support from the Oxford crowd we finally found our rhythm and started to move. Cambridge were now well ahead and it was at this stage coming up to halfway that I knew we had to do something special to narrow the margin. Rather than a power push, I called our wind for the finish early: the rowers knew this could happen at any stage in the race and I was so proud of the response they gave. We took the rate up three and started to narrow the margin for the first time. We knew we were behind, but not once did I see or feel anyone in the boat give up and it was amazing to find our rhythm and lock onto it. This transition, coupled to a final successful wind into the finish at 500m to go saw us narrow the margin to three lengths at the finish.

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It would be so easy to judge the success of this year on the margin of this loss and reflect on what we could have done better as a crew and as a squad to change the outcome. There was a lot to be learned from this race, but although it is hard to admit, Cambridge simply put out a better crew of 9 people and rowed the better race. They deserved this year’s win, and I commend the race they produced. Regardless of the outcome, for any athlete to juggle training for a Boat Race with a full academic schedule is something to be admired, and I am in awe of my rowers every erg test and training session they put themselves through, for months on end, coming back year on year. Yes, we lost the boat race and that hurts, but we have also come so far as a crew. I can honestly say I have never experienced such camaraderie, determination, and complete commitment to each other and a mutual goal, and I am so proud to have been part of this group of amazing athletes.

2017 Blue Boat

B Hannah Patel
2 Lucy Cross
3 Livia Dewaele
4 Rachel Anderson
5 Danielle Edmunds
6 Joanna Heymann
7 Moyo Tian
S Laure Bonfils
C Cecilia Karlsson

— Report by Cecilia Karlsson

Henley Boat Races 2- reserve race

 

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report by Christina Turner:

On Sunday 26th of March 2017 the 2nd lightweight women’s reserve race proceeded under difficult conditions. The weather had threatened to prevent the pairs race during the week, however both crews bravely took to the water to showcase the work and training they had put in over the previous 6 months. The Oxford crew began strong, taking two lengths off the start, however due an unfortunate line taken by the Cambridge pair, Oxford was knocked off their rhythm.  Oxford quickly recovered, although Cambridge had now established a powerful stride and began to pull away from the Oxford pair. Cambridge extended their lead to two lengths by Remenham club. The Oxford pair put in a valiant effort with a push at the barrier, however it was just too late. Cambridge won the 2017 reserves race with a result of easily in 8:05.  Both crews dealt with tricky conditions well and we congratulate Cambridge on their performance. We look forward to the 2018 Henley reserves race!

crew: Maline Meiske and Christina Turner

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Crew Announcement

We are delighted to announce the 2017 OUWLRC Blue Boat:

Stroke: Laure Bonfils (St Hugh’s)
7:  Moyo Tian (Balliol)
6: Joanna Heymann (New College)
5: Danielle Edmunds (Lincoln)
4: Rachel Anderson (St Cross)
3: Livia Dewaele (Worcester)
2: Lucy Cross (Lincoln)
Bow: Hannah Patel (Linacre)
Cox: Cecilia Karlsson (St John’s)

and the Reserve Pair:

Maline Meiske (St Anthony’s)
Christina Turner (St Edmund Hall)

The squad will be staying at 25 Rotherfield Road, Henley-on-Thames RG9 1NR. We are looking forward to seeing all the Oxford supporters at Henley on the 26th of March!

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Topolski Fund

We are delighted to announce the formal establishment of the Topolski Fund in memory of legendary Oxford coach Daniel Topolski. The fund, a permanent endowment fund to support all four Oxford University rowing clubs, is launching with initial donations of £10.6 million and an amazing matched funding pledge (for every £1 you give, an additional £1 will be donated by the founder donors, up to £2 million).

The clubs need to reach £20 million to secure their future and we need your help to get there. To find out more or to make a donation, please contact the club or visit:

https://www.campaign.ox.ac.uk/club/topolski-fund

For a brief news release from the university:

https://www.campaign.ox.ac.uk/news/oxford-rowing-receives-major-boost

2017 Winter Training Camp

By Jade Bogart

   From 30th December to 9th January, OUWLRC had their winter training camp in Galicia, Spain. The squad returned to Balneario Laias Caldaria Baias, where camp had taken place last year. The location was superb, right next to the Miño River which is the longest river in Galicia. We were very fortunate with the winter weather this year, which although a little chilly at first, remained mostly clear, sunny and even quite warm in the afternoons!

OUWLRC’s stretch of the Miño River, right outside the hotel

OUWLRC’s stretch of the Miño River, right outside the hotel

   As far as the training itself was concerned, the squad spent a lot of time in pairs, switching combinations and seats. As a technical exercise, this was brilliant. The pair is unforgiving to any discrepancy between the rowers’ strokes and so makes clear the improvements to be made. It is however such a rewarding boat when it finally works and by the end of the week there were some impressively fast combinations!

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   The success of this was evident in the ‘Ninja warriors on water’ exercise. Random combinations had the challenge of firstly spinning the boat both ways in the fastest time, then a 500m sprint, followed by having 10 successful roll ups. Combinations were able to work regardless if the rowers had been with each other before – some girls even switched sides! The ‘Pair’s Matrix’ at the end of the week was a similar success, with again random pair combinations doing a 1000m time trial: the fastest being Dani Edmunds and Linda van Bijsterveldt, who had never been in a pair together until then!

    Aside from the pairs, the squad spent sessions in an eight, fours and sculling boats. OUWLRC have two girls trialling for GB Under 23s this year. This was a great opportunity for Dani Edmunds and Lucy Cross to spend lots of time in their singles and we look forward to what this year may bring for them! The camp also marked the start of seat racing. This was the first proper experience of seat racing for many of the rowers, and a taste of what the upcoming season has in store.

   Off the water, the girls took full advantage of the natural thermal baths that were part of the hotel. The sulphurous waters did wonders for aching bodies and blistered hands. There was also cause to celebrate as the camp went over the New Year, and OUWLRC began 2017 in the most fitting way: hours of rowing chat and a long paddle the morning after.

   The squad also had an afternoon off in which they made a trip to the nearby town of Ourense. The girls visited the old town, the famous As Burgas (thermal springs) and the city Cathedral.

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   The aim of this camp was three fold: to make technical and physical progress, to begin to have an idea of the final Blue Boat crew, and to bond as a squad. We most definitely achieved each of these by the end of the camp, but I think the last point deserves more attention than the others. Boats go fast when people row well, but they go faster when people row together. Over training camp the squad has become even closer than before and there is a real support network and team ethos which makes the entire trialling experience so special.

   A big thanks must be said to our coaches and support team who made this camp possible. It was a brilliant way to kick off the New Year and we hope 2017 continues on this positive trajectory!

OUWLRC Squad 2016-17

OUWLRC Squad 2016-17

Chris O’Hara, Coach of the Year

We are immensely proud to announce that Chris O’Hara has been awarded the title of Coach of the Year by British Rowing, in their Education Performance category!

British Rowing will have been impressed by the fact that Chris has been chief coach of OUWLRC for 7 years, during which time he has won the boat race 5 times, and also encouraged the club to expand significantly in its size, activities, and achievements. They will also have read comments made by recent athletes, who have been extremely complimentary about the programme and coaching at the club during this period.

Thank you so much Chris for everything you have been doing for the club!

 

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2016 Trial VIIIs

Video of the race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iatlvHtL0uA&feature=youtu.be. Many thanks to 247.tv!

 

On Sunday 11th December, OUWLRC had their Trial Eights race at Henley. This race was the final event of what had been a packed and productive winter season. The athletes have competed in a variety of regattas in the last few months. OUWLRC had two crews racing at Fours Head, which was for many their first head race or a longer course. The squad also went to Brit Champs and Wallingford Head. With each race, massive technical progress was made as well as giving athletes and coxes more racing experience, to be able to overcome whatever challenges the elements or other crews may pose.

The season’s final race came round all too quickly. The squad were really put through their paces in the training leading up to Trial Eights, arriving at the start line that Sunday afternoon after a week of erg tests, triple outings and seat racing. But as we sat there at front stops, we knew we could put our trust in all the training we had done. It had been a season of massive technical and physical gains – the cox had only to put their hand down and we were ready to make this our best race.

The crews off the start were pretty much level, the two French strokes equally keen for a good beginning to their race. The river conditions were good and so both boats benefitted from clean water to maximise their progress. Liberté however soon pulled away from Egalité. Egalité remained strong, not letting Liberté become too comfortable with their lead. Gradually throughout the race however, Liberté increased their lead and passed the finishing line roughly 13/4 lengths ahead. As both crews arrived back at the boat house however, a sense of success was shared by the entire squad. Every athlete had worked super hard over this season and the results were self-evident: we had rowed better and we had done it together.

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It has been an absolutely fantastic first part of season. As always there are improvements to be made, whether that’s in technique or erg scores, but I think this is more cause for excitement than anything else. With training camp ahead of us and then only a couple of weeks until The Boat Race, we go into the New Year with a sense of anticipation for all the further gains it should bring. Thank you to Chris, Clive, Jill and Andrew for your coaching and advice. Thank you also to committee members working behind the scenes to make the team run smoothly, to our President Alba Pellaroque for creating such a good squad atmosphere and holding us all together, and to each member for their enthusiasm and commitment to making OUWLRC such a fun and successful club.

By Jade Bogart