June 29th: Qualifying Race

By Gage Wells ’15

Well, we’re through the qualifier.

It’s been a very busy few days for the B Four. Prior to arriving in England we had only rowed in our racing lineup one time: the 1k time trial that put our boat together. So, after several days of training exclusively in small boats and eights in Switzerland, we definitely weren’t expecting a perfect first row on the Thames. We went out twice on the 25th, rowing long steady-state meters up and down the racecourse at low rates with the dual goals of trying to find swing together as a boat and familiarize ourselves with the course. We spent the practices mostly at low rates, trying to approach the challenge in the moment, without worrying about the impending time trial.

The morning of the 26th marked the arrival of our cox, Lindsay – and a brutal row of about 18k which was, once again, up and down, with an especially weak first piece and an especially strong second one. Despite some set and connection issues, we felt positive, clearly building in the right direction. An afternoon exploring the streets on London and a great evening and meal at the London Rowing Club Boathouse didn’t hurt either. Much of what we heard from the speakers at LRC was invaluable, preparing our younger, less experienced crew (three 2nd years, two 3rd years) for what to expect on the Thames come raceday.

London Rowing Club meeting room

The next day, the 27th, our boat really began to come together, with very strong technical practices in the morning and evening. Our meters over the past few days really began to show, with the boat feeling more set and powerful than before. Then off to an early bed with the time trial coming up late the next evening.

After a brief morning row to feel out our race pace one last time and an afternoon of rest, we headed down to the course for the time trial. The goal was to finish well within the top 8 crews, as only the top third of those trying to qualify would succeed. Somehow, in the five hours we hadn’t been at the course, hundreds of people had arrived, filling the boat tents, grouping along the banks, and clogging up the course with boat traffic. We pulled up to the line alphabetically (read: last) and got off to a solid start and settled in well to base, the wind picking up to a moderate cross-head. Before long we had closed the gap between ourselves and the boat in front of us, the University of Surrey, to a length, but had some difficulty passing them due to the wind, wake and narrow lanes. However, by the Remenham we were walking well, and moved into contact with Surrey before walking through them to open water by the finish. We waited in the boat tent to hear the officials call the eight qualifying crews, knowing that since qualifiers were announced alphabetically, we would have to wait until the eighth crew was called to find out if we had qualified or not. And, fortunately, we made it through, a fact which we celebrated with plates of ribs, chicken, sausage and hamburger at the Leander BBQ.

Leander Club cookout

All in all, we’re happy with yesterday’s result, but also acutely aware that we need to (and will) get faster over the next few days. We’re a strong crew in terms of erg results, but we’re also a very new crew, and a crew that needs to continue pushing ahead one practice/piece/stroke at a time between now and our first race next week.

Now on to the draw.