13 Mar Tideway Sparring – Saturday 5th March 2011
The race is inching closer and closer and in order to get some authentic racing experience CUW headed down to London to spar against 1927 BC, Imperial College BC and Sport Imperial. It was our last chance before the Boat Race to compete against an unknown crew on an unfamiliar river. We arrived at Imperial Boat House early in the morning and went out for a ‘competitive paddle’ to get the feel of the Tideway and warm up before the sparring later on. In the second session the Lightweights sparred against the 1927 crew and Blondie, completing a series of four pieces side by side. The pieces enabled us to learn how we would cope with the nerves of racing another crew and see how we would deal with the unexpected circumstances racing often brings. For instance, Hannah had injured her back during the first outing, so Anna-Marie Phelps kindly agreed to sub for us. Despite the changes we did not let this phase us as a crew. Our pieces were structured so that Blondie and 1927 raced side by side first, whilst the Lightweights chased behind. The second piece was 1927 racing side by side with the Lightweights, with Blondie chasing, the third Blondie and Lightweights with 1927 chasing and the final 1927 and Blondie side by side chasing the Lightweights. With no crew beside us in the first piece, we did not attack the piece as much as we would usually and it felt quite steady. The pieces in which we were side by side had quite a different feel to them. Our aim was to move as fast off the start as we could, as an initial lead would hopefully give us the confidence to push through the opposing crew. In our second piece side by side with 1927 we moved quickly from the start, and continued to push through the crew, resulting in clear water by the end of the piece. It was satisfying to gain clear water against 1927, but as we tired our nerves showed in our rowing and it was a little scrappy. This experience highlighted the areas that might fall apart under pressure, and in proceeding outings since we have made considerable improvements in coping with these effects. Our third piece side by side with Blondie had the same result as our second, but we were more relaxed as a crew and had gained confidence from the success of the previous piece. The last piece was there to solidify what we had learnt from the days racing, but more importantly we used it as an exercise to visualise racing Tethys.
On behalf of the Lightweights and CUW as a whole I would like to thank 1927 BC, Imperial College BC and Sport Imperial for sparring with us and to Imperial specifically for allowing us the use of their boat house. It was a valuable experience which we would not have gained by remaining in Ely. Thank you!