Nottingham, 4th – 6th May
Joining 2500 students from across the UK, 16 OUWLRC athletes participated in 41 races over three days, producing some fantastic performances. The first day saw another victory over Cambridge in the women’s championship lightweight eights category, with OUWLRC crossing the line 8 seconds ahead of the light blue boat to win gold. Stern pair raced again immediately afterwards, coming an impressive third in the B final of the women’s intermediate openweight pairs, less than a second behind Edinburgh. Two championship lightweight doubles also raced and produced the fastest sprints in the last 500 m of their repechage to secure 3rd and 4th place, just missing out on a place in the final.
Sunday was the day of the singles, with Oxford occupying four of the six lanes in one of the women’s intermediate lightweight AB semi-finals. Anneloes Hoff won possibly the first lightweight singles medal in the club’s history, finishing a magnificent second. Naomi Holland, Amanda Thomas and Caitlin O’Brien came 6th, 9th and 12th in a strong field of 41 athletes. In the intermediate openweight category, Emily Hinson won the E final, while in the championship lightweight category, an impressive performance from Ellie Watts earned her 5th place overall. OUWLRC also entered 2 lightweight 4- crews on the second day of the regatta, with the A crew finishing third overall, while the B crew narrowly missed a place in the final despite a determined performance in the repechage.
On the final day of racing, two crews entered the women’s championship lightweight pairs category, finishing 4th and 6th. The B 4- from Sunday built on the previous races to finish second in the C final, having missed the AB semis by 0.3 seconds. The squad’s last race for the weekend was the lightweight quad, which came fourth and qualified for EUSA.
The weekend was hugely enjoyable, and with three boats medalling, another qualifying for EUSA and the rest gaining valuable experience, the squad can be very proud of its achievements. A special mention should go to Amanda for subbing into the 8+ so brilliantly at the last minute, and to Emily for the enormous amount of work she put into the weekend, not least running the squad Insta story! We would like to thank Chris and Jill for giving up their time to organise the trip, and for their invaluable support throughout the weekend.
After a rough time trial in choppy conditions, both crews placed for the same repechage round, where only the first 2 crews would go through to the A final. Ellie and Naomi in lane 4 maintained overlap on the Durham crew in the next lane in a tough battle for second place, but Durham managed to put their bow across the line just a second ahead of them. Early on in the race, Anneloes and Amanda, two lanes over in lane 2, overtook the Reading crew that had beaten them in the time trial. With Ellie and Naomi in their peripheral vision, they sprinted for the finish line, coming in fourth.
Backing onto the stake boats next to Cambridge, it felt very much like a re-run of the Boat Race. That Bristol and Exeter were lining up on the other side of the course barely crossed our minds – for us, there was only one crew to beat.
We heard the roll-call and the umpire’s “attention”, but the beep to signal the start of the race was lost in the noise of the four eights powering away, urged on by their coxes. Coming out of our start sequence, Charlotte called the first split and we knew then that this was our race. The rough conditions in the time trial had seen our splits saw, but now they were back to normal. We could do this. We could beat Cambridge for the second time this season.
We flew down the course in the familiar sequence of pushes and tech. calls, Charlotte’s updates on our position telling us that we were leaving Cambridge behind. At 600 m to go, she called the wind in early. Did that mean Cambridge were sprinting already? Were they going to walk through us in the last 500 m? No. This was ours. 3 for 3. We had won at Brit Champs at the start of the season, we had won the Boat Race, and now we would win this. 3 for 3. Let’s go.
The rate came up and we threw everything we had into the last 500 m, crossing the line with clear water on Cambridge. The breathless shrieks of delight showed just how much this race had meant to us. Oxford had won the women’s lightweight 8+ for the third year in a row, and we had beaten Cambridge into the bargain. The weekend was off to a good start.
We were thrilled to have come 8th in the time trial, putting us in the AB semi, despite the windy conditions and quick turnaround from the 8s race just to make it to the start line. We took on some intimidatingly tall pairs in both the semi and the final and were really pleased to come away with 3rd in the B final, just beating Newcastle to the line.
On Sunday morning, 4 scullers nervously huddled in the OUWLRC gazebo, awaiting the results of our 8 am time trial. The outcome was exciting as much as it was brutal: all 4 of us had come top-12 in this category with 32 entries, qualifying for the AB semis, but we had all been placed in the same semi-final and would have to compete with each other for a place in the A final. The roll call of that semi-final should make any OUWLRC supporter feel smug: Oxford, Oxford, Oxford, Oxford … Amanda and Caitlin continued to the B-final, where they finished third and sixth. Anneloes and Naomi went through to the A-final, where Anneloes’ incredible performance was rewarded with a silver medal.
Ahead of our races on the last day, the two pairs combined to race a coxless 4 in the championship lightweight category. We had a strong time trial and qualified straight into the A final, where we won bronze with an exhilarating sprint to the finish.
For us, this was a day of firsts. Most of the crew had never raced at a multi-lane regatta, and none of us had raced in a coxless boat before. Learning circulation patterns, coxing calls and how to manage steering while rowing added to the nerves about race day. Our time trial went surprisingly smoothly, giving us a chance to get used to the new experiences, and we made it into the repechage. Unfortunately, our second race did not go to plan, and despite fighting determinedly to stay with the rest of the field, we didn’t qualify for the final. However, this left us free to cheer on the A crew as they won their bronze medal and we were able to learn a lot from our own races, ready for the WInt4+ event the following day.
With Charlotte taking care of the steering and the coxing calls, we were a lot more relaxed about this race than we had been about racing in the coxless 4. The grins when we finished the time trial showed that we had made the improvements we had identified the day before and that the boat felt a lot better for it. Frustratingly, it wasn’t enough to get us into the top 12 crews that would go through to the AB semis, as we came 13th by 0.3 seconds. However, this gave us the best lane in the C final along with a very good chance of winning. Our start was shaky, resulting in a crab that left us several lengths down on the rest of the field. It would have been easy to give up, but instead we committed to minimising the gap, and then Charlotte told us that we were moving through the crew in front. The excitement in her voice told us that we could do this, and we pushed harder to hear her call “bowball” on the next boat. At 800 m to go, she called for a wind. This seemed impossibly early, but then came the magic words – “trust me”. We did trust her, and, trusting the girl in front to do the same, sprinted for the line. Spurred on by calls from the bank, we fought our way into second place, finishing 7 seconds ahead of the chasing Newcastle crew. While it wasn’t the race we were expecting, it was the most exciting race we had, leaving us with the knowledge that we had shown just what ‘mighty lighties’ can do!
WCLwt2- (Grace and Fiona)
By Monday we were feeling the effects of the first 2 days of racing so were happy to have placed 5th in the time trial and 2nd in an Oxford-dominated repechage. As our 10th race of the weekend it was a battle to make it to the finish line of the final where we came 6th, but it was great to have a second day in the boat we’ve been looking forward to racing in all year.
WCLwt2- (Leah and Katie)
Our first time racing a pair was a unique challenge, and it paid off! We were 4th in the time trial, won our repechage and ended up placing 4th overall in our final.
The two doubles joined forces on Monday in the lightweight quad. Amanda’s excellent steering skills kept us out of the buoys despite strong gusts, and gave us a place in the A final, where a EUSA qualification was at stake. With Newcastle and Durham in the adjacent lanes having produced similar time trial results, all three crews knew that anything could happen in that final. Behind off the start, we pushed to gain back our position, making an early move on Newcastle, to which the blue stars instantly responded, keeping the crews level. 750 m into the race, Anneloes called for a push on Durham. With each stroke, we moved up on our purple competition. Keeping our strokes long and powerful, we pushed off the Durham crew, trying to stay level with Newcastle. At 500 to go, Newcastle was two seats up, and we knew it was now or never. Ellie took up the rate and we sprinted with every last bit of power we had left after three intense days of racing. *beep*-*beep*, two finish beeps immediately after each other, but which beep was for which crew? With the enraging difference of 0.22 seconds, Newcastle took home the bronze, but with the amazing consolation that with our fourth place, we had secured a place for OUWLRC at the European University Rowing Championship in Jönköping, Sweden.
Henley Boat Races
Henley, 30th March 2019
Blue Boat Race Report
7 months of training and we have 7 minutes to justify it. 7 minutes to justify the countless early mornings on the water, the seemingly endless steady-state ergs, the agonising 2k tests, and not just the work of the 9 people in the boat, but of the squad that has pushed them there, the coaching staff who have encouraged and corrected, and the support team who have worked tirelessly in the background to keep the squad running. No wonder Race Day feels huge.
The pre-race paddle helps to calm nerves and is a chance to get rid of jittery mistakes before the race – the wobbly dress rehearsal before the spectacular performance. We hope. We go through the familiar sequence of warm-up, bursts and starts, finishing with a race rehearsal over the full course. As we paddle back, it is strange to think that the next time we pass the island, we will be finishing the Boat Race.
Waiting around is often the hardest part of racing, but thankfully the few hours left before the race pass quickly and we are soon back at the boathouse for the final preparations: our last land warm-up; our last set of squat jumps; the last time we “get hands on” the boat, but more importantly, a last reminder to trust each other and do what we have been training to do.
We get the boat on the water and push off to the cheers of the growing crowd of supporters, but after that it is “heads in the boat”. No distractions, dark or light blue; just a focus on the job at hand. The warm-up passes in a bit of a blur and then we are backing down onto the stake boats, just like we’ve done so many times in race visualisations at the Henley House. The mental rehearsals have really paid off, making it all feel reassuringly familiar. As Steph Cullen said when she gave us our kit earlier this week, this race is ours to take, and as Jolet will later call to us in the race, we will “show them what dark blue can do”.
“Cambridge…Oxford…attention…GO!” 16 blades drive through the water to drag the eights up to racing speed. Cambridge take 2 seats off the start, much as we expected, but Jolet calls for us to sharpen up and we begin to move back, drawing level as we start our first push just before Upper Thames. It feels like we have hit a wall of sound, the energy from the cheers at Upper Thames coinciding with the call that Jolet is on the 2-seat of the Cambridge boat, that “this is our race”. It is all we need. We are up and will continue to walk. Distance is deceptive in a boat, and it is hard to believe her when Jolet calls that she has their bowball, but that is all the more reason to push harder. Our second push comes just after the slight bend, stopping Cambridge taking their advantage. Then it is 700 m to the island, one final straight. Our race plan becomes personal, Jolet asking each pair to do their bit. We have 500 m to overturn the result from last year, to add to the tally of dark blue victories. At 300 m, we are supposed to take up the rate and wind to the finish. Turns out we don’t have much of a wind left in us, but whatever there is is channelled into that sprint for the line. 200 m – sharpen up, keep pressing, this is it. 100 m – keep it long, give it everything. Last 5 strokes for Chris.
We had done it. We had won the Boat Race.
The Blue Boat crew would like to thank everyone that made this race possible. Thank you to those who organised the event itself, and to those who have supported the squad throughout the season. The nutrition advice (Jasmine), physiotherapy (Caitlin), massages (Briony, Tom and Simon), sports psychology support (Heather), physiology testing (Filipe) and spin classes (Goose) were invaluable. Thank you also to the squad as a whole – the standard of the racing crew would not have been nearly so high without your hard work throughout the season. This really is a shared victory. Finally, thank you to Chris and Jill for everything that you give to this squad, and particularly to Chris for coaching the Blue Boat through the last few weeks of training. We hope we made it worthwhile.
Crew: Jolet Mimpen (cox), Fiona Jamieson (stroke), Grace Hanna, Ellie Watts, Naomi Holland (president), Grace Joel, Katie Hurt, Leah Mitchell, Katherine Ferris (bow)
Coach: Chris O’Hara
Women’s Lightweight Boat Race 2019 – Oxford, 2 ½ lengths, 6:28
Amsterdam, 9th – 10th March 2019
On the blustery morning of 9th March, 18 athletes flew to Amsterdam to take part in the Heineken Roeivierkamp. Unfortunately, strong winds meant that most of that day’s racing was cancelled, including our events, but this at least gave the team the chance to rig the boats then dry out at the hotel – the afternoon was wet as well as windy!
The following day, conditions were far from perfect, but they were now rowable and we were very excited to get our boats on the water. It was great to see a new stretch of river, especially the corner we had been warned would require a special rudder or, since we didn’t have one of those, the rowing equivalent of a handbrake turn! Thankfully it was only included in the 5000 m race, which had been cancelled, so we didn’t have to attempt it at race pace!
After our warm-up, we joined the mass of boats marshalling up to the start line, enjoying the challenge of identifying club colours from various countries. Despite the vast number of boats somewhat chaotically distributed down the river, it wasn’t long before we reached the start line and could wind up the rate. Our first eight was between crews from Galway and Zürich, while our second eight was chasing Tideway Scullers, quickly pulling away when their pursuers had to drop out a few metres from the start line. The boat they were now chasing had started too far ahead to provide much competition, but our crew was able to focus on their own boat and rowed a fantastic race in spite of this, finishing the 2500 m course in 8:50.7. The first eight had a more exciting time, having to stop mid-race to avoid crashing into the Galway crew in front when they blocked the racing line through one of the bridges. Although at the time this was stressful and frustrating, it was good practice for a potential Boat Race scenario. The crew responded well to Jolet’s calls, executing an impressive mid-race start sequence to make up for lost time, still finishing first of the British crews in our category in a time of 8:23.7.
On winding down from the 2500 m race, we began marshalling for the 250 m sprint. This seem much less efficient than the steady parade to the start line for the longer distance, and the light but relentless rain, coupled with the wind, made it a very cold experience. Fortunately, there was little time in the sprint for more than a start then a wind to the finish, and after that we could warm up on the paddle back to Poseiden, who were hosting us, and change into some very welcome dry clothes!
While the weekend may not have gone entirely to plan, it was a good opportunity to come together as a team and it provided some invaluable racing experience ahead of the Boat Race at the end of the month. A huge thank you goes to Jolet for organising the trip, and to Chris and Jill for their time and effort in preparing the two crews.
Crew 1: Jolet Mimpen (cox), Fiona Jamieson (stroke), Grace Hanna, Ellie Watts, Naomi Holland (president), Grace Joel, Katie Hurt, Leah Mitchell, Katherine Ferris (bow)
Coach: Chris O’Hara
Crew 2: Charlotte Lee (cox), Emily Hinson (stroke, vice president), Jane Ellis, Amanda Thomas, Tuuli-Anna Huikuri, Laura Boddy, Caitlin O’Brien, Anneloes Hoff, Jessica Wang (bow)
Coach: Jill Betts