The second World Cup of the year took place in a lovely part of France called Aiguebelette. The course was on a natural lake full of beautiful clear blue water and sheltered on one side by a mountain, covered in lush green trees and quaint little holiday buildings. Our first trip to the course was one to remember. We were greeted by glorious sunshine and blue skies, however, this all changed when the majority of Great Britain crews tried to boat for a paddle. The heavens opened, the sky roared and heavy rain cascaded from large black clouds, blasting huge bursts of thunder with the power to shake the buildings full of athletes seeking shelter from the elements.
This World Cup was definitely an experience. The layout of the regatta was different to normal format, beginning with a time trial- a single file racing style. Its purpose was to select crews for the heats, which is fair enough, but to be honest I didn't have a problem with the way crews were drawn for heats previously. The only main difference now would be we lose a day of racing and have to cram both heat and rep in on Saturday. The time trial format meant that a mix of crews raced over the entire course and others just practiced the first 500m or so in preparation for the following morning heats. As a result, many of the top crews were drawn to race each other in the heats.
I was in Heat 1, consisting of USA, France and Poland- all very good crews and in with a shout for a medal. Heat 2 consisted of Belarus, China and Iran- I think everyone had a firm favourite for this race. We had three changes in our eight from our European line up: Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell, Alan Sinclair and Matthew Langridge, who all joined the crew only a week before we flew out to France. Each new member brought with them a new skill set and valuable race experiences. True to form, we were not as lively out of the blocks as our competition in the opening stages of the heat and this saw us falling out the back of the pack and scrapping for a third place finish. USA won the heat and qualified straight through to the finals, but we came third and so faced another race in the reps. As a crew we could have let this result get us down but learning from past experiences we saw the reps as a chance to work on areas that had not been up to scratch in the heats.
Returning to the start line for the reps there seemed to be a much more relaxed feeling amongst the crew. Five nations were racing for four places and I am certain everyone thought Iran would not make the cut. The rep was all about trying out new race plans and styles and, if possible, securing a better lane for the finals the following day. I remember the start being far more explosive, boarding on the edge of being too much so, but nevertheless it was a positive change.
Moving onto the finals I felt that as a crew we had a clear understanding of how we would approach the race. I think with any crew discussing race plans and technical aspects in the lead up to a race is key to allowing a crew to gel both physically and mentally. In the line-up we were placed between France and USA. Personally, I really liked this, as I felt we could learn a lot from both crews and as the race unfolded we would gain a clear idea of whether our changes had made a positive impact or not. I remember getting off to better start that allowed us to begin working through the field as the race progressed, giving us the platform we needed to settle on a good rhythm to carry us down the course. In the last 500m I remember our cox, Henry Fieldman, shouting updates on crew positions and informing us that Belarus was making a big push to get their bows ahead of ours. For a unit that had only been put together one week prior, I was really impressed with how we held our form and length as we started to increase rate and power for the final sprint to the line. Watching the race back on the BBC, I was surprised with how close the racing was! It is very easy to lose marginal perspective when you’re so focused within your boat, pushing yourself above and beyond what your mind deems capable.
In : Rowing