World Cup III

Posted by on Thursday, July 31, 2014 Under: Rowing

Every year the season's third and last World Cup is held at Lucerne's “Lake of the Gods” in Switzerland. Being my second trip there, the memories of last year were very present. Racing aside and the lake itself is very pleasant. It’s surrounded by lush green trees, a small waterfall just before halfway, a small penned-off swimming area at the start line and, on the far side of the lake, a public train line that runs the length of the course. As the seasons change many of our camps and race venues do not, making tedious tasks like packing a little easier once you know what to expect. Based on my experience in Lucerne last year I was preparing for a hot few days, with lots of sun cream and shorts essential. Or so I thought. Now I know to always check the predicted weather forecast, as it was going to very wet this time around. Not cold, just wet! Sadly, I found this out the hard way only when we landed in Zurich airport. 

Even so, our eight was very lucky with the weather as some crews ended up racing in huge downpours. For us, racing was a fairly dry affair. We only got caught out by heavy rain on the morning of our final as we boated for a paddle to wake the body up and reinforce technical focuses. 

With regard to the athletes in it, once again we were a new crew. Since the previous World Cup in Aiguebelette, we had four new members. Paul Bennet and Matthew Gotrel, who raced the pair together at World Cup II; Tom Ransley, a seasoned eights racer and competitor in the second coxless four at World Cup II; and Constantine Louloudis, returning from his Oxford studies post-Olympics, now able to compete with his exams out of the way. In true form this boat came together only two weeks prior, our first test being a few days before the heats at Henley Royal Regatta.

Our heat was on the 11th July. I mention the date as it fell on my birthday! For the past eight years I have celebrated it in a number of places. As a junior it was at the national water sport centre in Nottingham during seat racing selection. As an U23 it was at several b&b’s in Lithuania. Now in the senior team, I can get used to enjoying my birthday in Lucerne until this chapter in my life reaches its end. 

The heat was straight forward- the first two crews would progress through to the Sunday finals and the remainders to the repechage the following day. In our heat we drew Russia, Netherlands 1, New Zealand and Germany 2. The Kiwis were a boat of under-23s (World Champions from the previous year), using this world cup as racing opportunity to prepare for their U23 World Championships a few weeks later in Varese, Italy. Germany 2 was a lightweight eight preparing for the senior Worlds in Amsterdam. As a new crew with very minimal racing experience together, we really wanted to use this first race as a marker of our capabilities and, in doing so, hoped to reveal some areas of improvement for the coming weeks. We got off to a happy start but found ourselves playing catch-up with Russia rather early on in the race. As the race progressed, we gradually settled into a strong rhythm and let it move us away from the pack to begin closing Russia’s lead. By the closing stages of the race, we had both moved clear of the field. Neck and neck with Russia, we could not hide our flaws. This important race identified our key points to work on in following weeks.

A few hours before our final it seemed our four man Matthew Gotrel would not be joining us due to an unexpected injury. Luckily for us, the coxless four had already raced and won in fine style, meaning we might be able to steal one of their two bow siders. Fuelled by Twitter rumours, it was both a stressful and exciting wait for revelation! Once confirmed by the course, super sub Moe Sbihi was welcomed with open arms. Moe is a great athlete with lots of experience and he made sure to bring all of this with him on his second trip down the course that day. The final lined us up against Germany, Russia, Poland, New Zealand and Australia. As things stood, we had had a few good tussles with Poland but never enough to overhaul the Germans and Russians. The racing started quickly. We had a much better 500m this time, up with the Germans and Russians, and ran with them to the halfway mark. Then, Russia threw a big push to scrape clear of Germany and us. We didn't react fast enough, unlike the Germans, who grabbed the challenge and even turned the positions around- crossing the line first with Russia in hot pursuit. We ended third with contact on Russia. 

I feel we learnt a lot from this regatta. We had been faced with uncertainty and dealt with the unexpected changes of a new crew member and an injury from a key player. Looking forward, I see a bright future for this very determined crew. With testing now behind us and seats selected, we can truly move on over the coming camps to find the speed we need to lead the rest of the World.

In : Rowing