Pre-Season Training Camp to Lake Sarnen, Switzerland – 2016

by Jade Bogart

The 2016-17 season was off to an exciting start, with a small group of returning and new athletes going to Lake Sarnen in Switzerland for pre-season training camp. The 7.5 km² large lake is roughly 85km south of Zurich, surrounded by gorgeous mountain and forest scenery. It was an incredible location. We stayed for 5 days at the Swiss Rowing Federation’s national rowing centre, which was situated only a minute away from the landing stage.

Lake Sarnen

Lake Sarnen

Despite initial fears of thunderstorms, every day we had warm (sometimes too warm!) sunshine, little wind and flat water. These conditions were perfect for technical training, which was to be the focus of the trip. We went out 2-3 times a day, in a mixture of sculling and sweep boats. For many of the new rowers, this was their first time they had sculled.

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On the coaching team was head coach Chris and assistant coach Jill, who as always were fantastic with helping us make rapid improvements. For the last half of the camp, we were also joined by a past President of the club, Linda Reynard. Not only was her additional help very useful, but it was also interesting to discuss how the club has evolved so much over the years. It made us feel even more privileged to be here!

Aside from making technical progress in our rowing, the squad had an afternoon off to visit the nearby city of Lucerne. We went to the historic centre and climbed the old ramparts in order to have a view of the town. The camp provided a great opportunity for the new squad members to mix with the seniors and to start to build the team ethos that is so important to the club.

This was also the ideal time to get prepared on other aspects of training. The girls received lots of information from our nutritionist Rianne, who accompanied us on the camp. We were introduced to many new products and had all our questions answered. Rianne also did an amazing job of organising the meals in our self-catered accommodation, so was really vital to the running of the camp! We were very grateful for all the advice she gave and look forward to working with her over the year.

The squad is currently back in Wallingford with the rest of the triallists and have begun the training for this year. We would like to say thank you to Chris, Jill, Rianne and to all those who worked to organise the trip behind the scenes. This was really a wonderful way to start the season.

Pre-Season Sculling Camp, Wallingford – 2016

This year, two pre-season training camps took place:

  • A Pre-Season Training Camp to Lake Sarnen, Switzerland (see next post): with a small group of athletes – a mix of returning rowers and a select few of this summer’s development squad. Coaches: Chris and Jill.
  • A Pre-Season Sculling Camp, in Wallingford. Coach: Andrew.

Julia was one of the lucky rowers to experience the pre-season sculling camp:

“I was a novice last year and only ever did sweep rowing, so the sculling camp was an amazing opportunity for me to learn to scull. The coaching was fantastic with so much attention and time spent on both each individuals techniques and working together as a crew when in doubles/quads.”

We would like to say thank you to Andrew for his amazing coaching.

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Bronze at EUSA!

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The lightweight quad of Laure, Dani, Jowita and Anna (all Blue Boat 2016) following a 3rd place finish at BUCS regatta were selected to represent Oxford and GB at this years European university games in Zagreb.

GB Rowing team

GB Rowing team

Upon arrival on Sunday at the accommodation, a student village of the sports section of the Zagreb University, the girls took to the water for an afternoon paddle. The following day was also reserved for training and preparation for the racing which was to begin on Tuesday.

Weighing in the morning and coming comfortably under the crew average of 57 kg the first day was a race for lanes against 5 other crews: reading, Bristol, Koc university (turkey), Njungen (Holland) and Munster (Ger). The girls following a very strong middle 1 km narrowly won their race and proceeded to draw the top lane for Thursday’s final. Having the next day off from racing gave us a chance to do some sight seeing of the old town of Zagreb.

Heat Official Times

Heat Official Times

The next day despite a day off from racing still contained two training sessions in which we aimed to improve our start in time for the final.

On finals day again weighing in very comfortably under the average (with Dani being especially favoured by the officials as probably the lightest athlete of the rowing at 52.3 kg) the crew was ready for a tough fight against the crew from Germany and reading university. After a slightly disappointing first 500 m we were a length down on Munster in 3rd and over a length behind reading. There was a lot of catching up to do and we managed to get a seat on Munster before they inched it on the line in a time 0.3 s faster than ours! Even though we were initially disappointed with the bronze medal after winning our heat we knew that we have come a long way as a crew in a very short space of time. The final was followed by a medal ceremony, compulsory kit swaps and of course the end of games celebration with the other crews.

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Flo, Dani, Laure, Anna and Jowita showing their Bronze medals

It was an amazing experience which we will remember for many years to come. It was also the highest calibre of competition that our crews have done and a fitting final farewell to Oxford rowing for a number of the quad. Achieving bronze along with Flo Pickles (OUWBC) has also cemented Oxford as a household name not only in sweep rowing but also women’s sculling.

 

Henley Royal Regatta Picnic

Sunshine and smiles at Saturday’s Henley Royal Regatta OUWLRC OMA and OULRC OMA picnic. Thanks Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club and Oxford University Women’s Lightweight Rowing Club – OUWLRC see you again next year.

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EUSA 2016

After a fighting performance and bronze medal this May at BUCS, the club qualified a lw4x for the European University Sports Association Rowing Championships this summer. The club are pleased to announce that the four athletes racing in this event will be Dani Edmunds, Laure Bonfils, Jowita Mieskowska and Anna Robotham. The girls, along with head coach Chris, will be flying out to Zagreb, Croatia on the 10th of July, and will be competing from the 12th-14th. We wish them all the best in the championships.

Sunny training at DOrney Lake

Sunny training at Dorney Lake

Reading Town Regatta – 25 June 2016

Reading Town Regatta, on the 25th June, provided an excellent opportunity for many members of this year’s development squad to race with the club for the first time, along with a chance for some of the returning seniors to race in smaller sculling boats.

This year we had three development squad boats competing. The novice 4+ had a close race, coming third to Borlase, and the IM3 4+ came second in the semi-final, with a very strong fighting performance in the second half of the race. However, the highlight for the development squad was a win in the novice 8+, making this the second year running that the club has won this event at Reading. We very much hope that this will be the first of many races that the development squad girls do with the club.

Many of this year’s returning athletes competed in sculling events. We had two 2xs in the IM2 final which was unfortunately won by a strong Wallingford 2x, with Jowita Mieskowska and Anna Robotham coming a very close second by a few feet. Fred Winter competed in the novice 2x with OUWBC’s Kate Erickson, with a very convincing win. Fred continued her success in the novice 1x, winning the all-OUWLRC final against Jowita Mieskowska and Laure Bonfils. A special mention goes to Christina Turner for putting in a great performance in her first ever sculling race in the novice 1x who unfortunately did not make it to the final due to being drawn against our own unstoppable Fred Winter in the semi, despite a very strong row.

Thanks to Chris for all his work with the seniors, and Andrew for his work with the development squad, and thanks to Clive Cooper for his support for the athletes on the day.

Dev Squad 8+

Dev Squad 8+

Henley Women’s Regatta 2016

Henley Women’s Regatta always provides an excellent opportunity for the top development squad athletes to race for the club in the intermediate academic 8+. This year we had 8 very talented development squad rowers coxed by Ellie Shearer, our 2016 Tethys’ cox. The eight put in a strong performance in the time trial, but due to the very high standard of the competition this year they sadly did not qualify. However, their talent and progress was excellent and we very much hope that they will return to trial next year. Many thanks to Jill and Anna Corderoy for their coaching and support of the development squad 8.

Dani Edmunds also competed in the senior lw1x, qualifying after a successful time trial. However, she was drawn against a very strong athlete from Tideway Scullers in the first round and, after a shaky start, was unable to make up the lost distance despite a fighting performance, sadly not making it through to Saturday. Thanks to Chris and Clive for their coaching and support of Dani in this event.

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BUCS 2016

This year we had a very large number of athletes competing in BUCS regatta at Nottingham from the 30th April – 2nd May in both sweep and sculling events.

On the Saturday, the club had three boats in the finals. Jenny Tran and Anna Robotham did excellently in the lw2x, finishing in 6th place in a very high standard final after a very strong day of rowing in their time trial, semi, and final. Fred Winter also made the final in the intermediate 2- with OUWBC’s Elettra Ardissino, finishing in 5th after a very good row. The highlight of the day was a silver in the lw8+, a combination of this year’s blue boat and Tethys’ crews, who put in a great fight, coming second to a very strong Exeter crew.

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On the Sunday the conditions were somewhat traumatic, especially in a lw1x! Dani Edmunds, Anna Robotham and Jowita Mieskowska put in solid performances in the lwt1x time trials and some very brave rows in the waves and wind in the semi-finals. Fred Winter had a successful day, making it to the final of the intermediate 1x. The club also had two 4-s competing, but due to an equipment failure, the A crew were eliminated after the time trial. However, the B crew went on to put in an excellent performance in the final, taking bronze behind CUWBC lightweights and Exeter, showing great determination in their battle with Bristol for third place.

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On the Monday, conditions continued to be sub-par. However, there was a brief patch of relatively still water at the time of the lw4x finals. The B crew ended in a gutsy 5th, and the A crew took bronze behind strong crews from Exeter and Reading. Due to this result, the club managed to qualify a lw4x for the European University Sports Association rowing championships this summer in Zagreb, Croatia, along with Reading and Exeter.

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The quad with their Bronze medals

 

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

2016 Henley Boat Race – Race Report

By Anna Corderoy, 2016 BB cox

The trophy is back where it belongs!

The trophy is back where it belongs!

Huge thanks to the following people for the great photos:

  • Aaron Sims, “Aaron Sims Photography
aaronpjsims@gmail.com
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126243491@N08/
https://www.facebook.com/aaronsimsphotography/
  • Kirstin Bilham’s father and Christina Turner

 

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Credit: Aaron Sims

What does it feel like to row a Boat Race? I think we’d all agree that it’s strange how so many months and years of preparation come down to 6-7 minutes on the water. Afterwards my dad said that, as we had carried our boat down to the raft on the day, he’d never seen me look so serious.I responded that if I had nTJ0A4328ot zoned out from the crowd, I’d have been crying. Not even from nerves; there is something so unbelievably overwhelming knowing that everyone there is applauding for you, and that you’re walking down to that river with Oxford on your back and the best crew that you could have asked for. I haJust before boatingd cried in the changing room earlier that day, and I wasn’t the only one; climbing out of the minibus, seeing friends, family, teammates and coaches there to support us, knowing that they respect us, have absolute faith in us, and that after 7 months of training you’re here to give them the result that they’ve been waiting for…is indescribably emotional.

But that feeling has to go away the moment you take your seat in the boat. 1915047_1049400095120925_7932908924712597472_nAs we numbered off, Chris came down onto the raft, but it quickly became clear that no words were needed. We were ready for this and we just had to get out there.TJ0A4344

I had been more nervous about the warm up than the race itself. We had 50 minutes to execute a very long sequence whilst negotiating other traffic, the pairs race and, most of all, the conditions. We had known the water would be rough – and the girls were handling it well – but our final practice start really hammered home what a task we had ahead of us. That final start threw what felt like a small bathtub of water into the boat, and I was suddenly facing the very real prospect that my entire season would come down to me loathing myself for forgetting a sponge. We pulled together and used anything and everything we had to bail, even down to my socks. Then came the onerous task of passing down every single superfluous item into the stake boat, and making sure that everybody was de-kitted and ready to race.

We were right on our schedule, but still everything seemed too early. It felt like we attached to our stake boat years before Cambridge did. It was cold, and we were all shivering. I looked at Laure, and she looked like she was about to freeze. I even felt guilty about it. It didn’t feel like we were on the start line of the Boat Race. I just remember thinking that I had to keep the cold out of my voice. I kept telling them “process, process” over again, along with a final few words of encouragement. In those moments your opposition never looks anything but perfect. They didn’t look nervous; they didn’t look cold. As they passed their kit into the stake boat, they looked perfectly controlled. We knew we were in for a mental game and all that mattered now was that the athletes stayed switched on and fully focused.
For me, being on the line was probably the most intense moment of the entire process. Mess up anything here and you can hugely disadvantage your crew before the race has even begun. The aligner was telling both boats to move; I complied with the tiniest of movements, determined not to pull ourselves off the stake boat. Meanwhile, in the 2 seat, Dani was consistently squeezing us round; the conditions were pulling our bowball towards stroke side. I knew my hand wasn’t going down until we were facing that temple dead on.

The girls had come forward, ready to go. The roll call came quicker than I think any of us expected. In those final seconds, I expected there to be so much in my head. In reality you feel nothing. This is what absolute focus must feel like: complete commitment to the here-and-now. I had just enough time to say it again: “Process.”

2 strokes, and I remember knowing that we were going down off the start. We had always planned to “rev the boat up” gradually and powerfully but, as a result, they had taken a quarter of a length out of us right off the line. We expected this, however, and it hardly crossed my mind. We had our own start sequence to execute, and I wasn’t going to tell them where we were until it was done.

The conditions were horrible. The wind was against us, there was water everywhere and we had white-caps smashing over the sides of the riggers and into the shell. But we were a “rough water crew”; we hadn’t nearly drowned in Ourense for nothing. Unpleasant as it was, I realised very quickly that we had to hold it together and that, now more than ever, we all had to be “hard as nails”.

We were down about a third of a length. Days before the race, you think that that realisation will be emotional; it isn’t. It comes through like a short signal. There is no time to respond emotionally. There are a thousand other things to think about. There were 10 strokes in that start sequence where I willed us to pull level; even a surreal moment where the “boom” calls of both coxes corresponded with one another. I even left the stride late; I didn’t want us to be perceived as falling away. We were determined not to let them go.

After the stride, we had to forget about Cambridge, get back to the race plan and bed in our rhythm. “Internal, laser-like focus.” If we hadn’t been so prepared it would have been very hard to zone-in and come together to set the tone of the race, but we were used to being down off the start. It had happened with Headington, Imperial, Brookes…we’d sparred with crews that had gone off harder than us all season. On every single occasion, it had taken us a few pieces to fire ourselves up and make a comeback. Now, against Cambridge, we had that massive 3rd 500 to wait for. There was plenty of time.

We had to start with technique. 500 in: I reminded them again that it was a mental game. We had to row-smart and stay loose; as the conditions got worse and worse, it became increasingly clear that the smarter crew would win. By this time, the boats were far too close. On the Bucks station you want to be slightly left of the centre, and I had no room to move in my station at all; I couldn’t believe that this was allowable.

We were told that we should avoid blade-clash at all costs. Besides the obvious fact that it impedes your crew, if it’s judged to be your fault then it provides the other crew with grounds for an appeal if they lose. Now blade-clash was imminent, and though I didn’t think that it was my fault, I wasn’t 100% sure. But nor did I want to surrender my line. I remember waiting desperately for the umpire to warn one of us. In the meantime, I told the girls to prepare for a clash. We were well drilled for this; we were no strangers to blade-clashes, and we knew that the hardest-fighting crew would emerge ahead. “Nobody touches your blade.”

I think that we were all immensely relieved on hearing the umpire warn Cambridge for the first time. The cox was being incredibly aggressive, and was warned twice more after this as she tried to push us into the dead water that we both knew was on the far side of the Bucks station. But this warning was all I needed: now I knew that I absolutely was not moving.

We were now half a length down, and it seemed to be increasing. Whenever you come up against a crew for the first time, there’s always a degree of unexpectedness; a chance that the crew you’re opposite might just be faster. The sinking, hopeless feeling that ensues is almost inevitable. We’d all felt it before, and we felt it now. This time, however, we only felt it for a split second.

I remember being snapped out of it by the noise that was coming from Upper Thames. I told the girls that they had to make a statement. Clive had emphasised how crucial it was to maintain contact with Cambridge at all costs; now, at ¾ of a length ahead, they knew that one push to clear us would seal the deal. The only thing in our minds was not to let them do it. As we came to Upper Thames, about 800m into the race, I saw the stern of the Cambridge boat start to sneak away and instantly called our reserve move. We had prepared this; 10 strokes to hold and absorb, then a move of our own to counter. It was a risky strategy; two weeks previously, Chris had asked me, “How big are your balls?” Listening to the commentary after the race, you hear their rate increase to 35, and then we match them. We weren’t going to be humiliated rowing past our own supporters.

Beautifully, our first planned move then came just after 900m: a massive move to get us into the 3rd 500, which we had always said would be our 500. I told the girls, “This 500 is Dark Blue water”; power, grace and a massive rhythm reset. Oxford start to make a comeback.

Somewhere between the half-way point and Fawley Court channel, I realised for the first time that Cambridge were failing to move any further away from us. We were still holding them at half a length down, and, therefore, it might be possible to break them. At 750 to go there was still time to do this, but we knew that we had to take something out of them in the next 250m if we were going to stand a chance. The girls were absolutely killing themselves, but I needed them to stay with me, and I told them: “Girls, I actually think that we can do this. But you’ve got to do as I say.”

Then came the move. We had always planned for a push out of the turn; we decided to wind it now and take it back, inch by inch. I reminded the girls of Goose: they weren’t dying. They hadn’t even started yet. Every cox wants to see the stern of the opposition being fed slowly back to them; finally it was starting to happen.

The water where we were seemed much better; later Sarah told me of her elation at realising that we were in the best place on the course. Our blades looked pretty clean. I could see, just in the movement of those 8 oars, the fire, grit and commitment that has always made that crew special from the beginning. Then I looked at Cambridge’s blades. They were also clean, but their water was much worse than ours and they were definitely having a harder time. It literally looked like we were firing ourselves alongside them. I was able to tell my crew that we were making ground, and at one point I saw Jowita’s eyes leave the boat. We all knew it was happening.

As we came up to the barrier, we got ready to explode into the final quarter of the race. Every single race rehearsal that we had done had both boats going into the final 500 level; we had always  thought it might come down to this, and now, excitingly, it looked like that might be the case. We were passing Cambridge’s supporters, and we had to have the blinders on. Tunnel-vision. I reminded each girl to do her 1/8th; there are no heroes in this race. If we win, we do it as a crew. “Process.”

We couldn’t have been more than a few feet down, but I remember deciding to tell the girls: “Dead level.” The Cambridge cox looked out. By the time I called it again, 3 strokes later, it was no longer a lie. It had worked. There was nothing in it.

We came up to the final 300, and I asked the girls to go again. We had always said that, with the sheer grit of this crew, the moment we got our bowball ahead we wouldn’t let it go. We took the coxing seat and the stroke seat in a matter of seconds. Everything now was focused on taking as many seats as we could; we knew the finish was staggered and that our shell was shorter, and being a few seats ahead might not have been simply enough. I was on their six seat, and I kept telling the girls to take them one by one. The umpire was asking Cambridge to pull in; they’d moved too far to the right of their station. As they came back in, they tried to counter our move. The two crews converged, and I was back on seven seat. I asked the girls to go for Chris, and for our president, Lucy. When I looked over again, I was almost on the five seat.

Then, on the island, I made a call that I had never envisaged making when less than halfway down the opposition. I asked the girls to walk. In general, there is something incredible about being over half a length up on a crew and asking your athletes to stick the knife in and finish the job. I knew that it worked for these girls; most of all, I knew they’d associate it with finishing off the crew next to them, and we needed that now. We had to go, and keep going. We had 10 strokes to hold it. I called “Walk, away” all the way down the island to the line.

We had imagined winning the Boat Race; we had imagined losing the Boat Race. Neither of those scenarios compared with how we felt when we went over that line. With 350 to go, we had been down; we hadn’t had enough time to register that, less than 60 seconds later, we might have actually crossed the line ahead. As the buzzer went, I heard Sarah shout. I ended the race between six and five, and I could see Jowita’s look of shock and elation as she looked over and saw the three seat next to her. As she looked back at me I told them all to wait. The white flag had gone up, and we knew that the umpire had a verdict, but all the way down the island I’d been thinking of that staggered finish and the fact that we were in the shorter shell. We all desperately wanted to believe we’d actually done it, but we weren’t 100% sure.

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Credit: Aaron Sims

I think I speak for all of us when I say that there are no two words that I have ever wanted to hear more than these: “Oxford, canvas.” And there are literally no words that can describe the feeling of slowly realising what you have just achieved: that, in a season of ups and downs, early starts, long weekends, gruelling erg-tests, high-intensity outings, difficult tank-sessions, excruciating spin-classes, hard dieting, some extremely tough conditions and the absolute race of our lives, we have just won the Boat Race. That photo of us on the line says it all.

Most of all, I don’t think that any of us would have had that race go any other way. To have been back so far, for so long, and to have been able to find the mental strength and grit to turn it around is the mark of an exceptionally special crew, and for that reason I maintain that it has been an absolute pleasure to work with all of you. We’ve had our moments; we’ve hit absolute rock bottom in terms of confidence. We’ve been hard on ourselves, we’ve been hard on each other, and the coaches have pushed us harder than we believed possible. But we stuck to that process, trusted in our training and, most of all, stayed together as a crew. Finally, in that last 750, confidence came: and it was pretty damn magnificent.

Thank you to everyone that has been there for us throughout the season. To our coaches, Chris, Clive, Jill and Andrew: you are the best of the best, and we feel immensely privileged to have worked with you all. Thanks also to our fantastic team behind the scenes – Andrea, all of our massage therapists, our nutritionists (shout out to Sarah “The Golden” Graham), Goose, Nicole, Diana, Nanda and Fred. Most of all thank you to our absolutely GLORIOUS president Lucy Roberts. We couldn’t have done it without any of you; this race was for you all.

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2016 Lightweight Women’s Reserve Race

By Kirstin Bilham

Lucy Roberts and Alba Pellaroque making history as the first pair to compete in an official lightweight women’s reserve race against Cambridge at HBR! In conditions most people wouldn’t go outside in, never mind row a pair!

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