Novices win Winter League

City Men Win Winter League Novice 8's

On the morning of the Third Winter League Leg, City Novice A crew knew they had a six seconds lead on X-Press Legends. The first leg had been slightly disappointing after we fell apart through lack of fitness after the Railway Bridge. Our coach Ben Duckworth called for 5K erg sessions leading up to the final leg and which happened to coincide with the river freezing over, so more land training it was. Dividends quickly paid off in the second leg where we marginally improved our time while the three novice boats (Legends, Rad M1 and Chesterton) that had beaten us in the first leg fell off by around 30 seconds each.

 The City Novice A crew were racing in Division 4 with Legends in Div 2 so we would have the target times before we pushed off. Indeed Legends put in a decent 10:23, a second slower than our own PB, thus the Winter League was ours to win.

The usual faff of setting up the boat was compounded by driving cold rain and wind. King was put in the water while half the crew sheltered in City's boat bay and the rest dashed about tweaking their footplates and repairing a wheel on the bow seat to roll freely. By the time it came to actually get in the boat fifteen minutes later, two inches of water had accumulated in the hull. Nothing for it but to take the boat to heads and dump it out. The crew seemed to cheer up knowing that we couldn't get any wetter.

The rain and wind eased by the time it came to spin and go. We were going off after the City Masters VIII+ (with Coach Ben on board) and ahead of a Rob/Ely Women's IM1 quad. The plan was simple try and get as close to the Masters as we could and make sure we pushed well off the quad. Building over ten, the start was strong and controlled, the rating was not as high as we can go but it was possible to hold that higher rating with power until finally the "Rhythm" call came about 200 meters into the race. A big 'Up One Down One' (or Three) and we were into it. We'd gained three lengths to the Masters. The boat was set and moving fast. Cox Anne held a tight line around First Post corner and we got a big lift down the Gut. Cornering on Grassy seemed to take forever and the lift on Plough was rewarded with a "You're closing on them!".

The forecast headwind on the Reach was missing thankfully and it was all in play. A power ten to start and the cox box changed to Radio Technical. Focus on drawing through and keeping it long. Stroke Jaf held his blade in the water to last moment giving the rest of us a chance to get every ounce of power down. A power ten from Middle Four managed to do what no other burst had previously done, stifled Johnny Royle's inspirational shouts and only a single half gargled "Come on" was to be heard from the usually ebullient Four. Solid rowing all the way but the Masters kept station ahead of us.

From the railway bridge we wound the rating up slowly, painfully aware that a crab would dash it all. Control was the operative word, no ragged flaying could be tolerated, everyone was to stay in the boat! Only when the cox knew that the crew was capable did the "Up Two" call come. The boat surged, the crew settled and again "Up Two." And Again "Everything in the water." "Last twenty Strokes now. How much do you want to win this? " We pushed hard.

Drifting under the Green Dragon bridge, the first stroke of the paddle home caused a chorus of groans from protesting legs, always a good sign. Slowly the endorphins kicked in and we could reflect on what had felt like a strong, clean and most importantly fast row. Beer and watching the sleet fall as we waited for the results. 10:19 fastest Novice Men VIII+ of the day (just faster than the City Masters' run who had pulled back their gap). City Novice A gets their first Pot. 31:09 overall to X-Press Legend's 31:19 and Rad M1's 31:27.

Big thanks to Coach Ben Duckworth and Coxes Anne Palser and Sherry Haque.

S. Jafar 7. Ben Heath 6. Mike McClurg 5. Colm Mac 4. Johnny Royle. 3. Wessel 2. John Walley (WL1 &WL3) Loic (WL2) B. Matt Urbanowski (WL1 & WL2) Loic (WL3).

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