Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Bedford Regatta & Mays Speculation

I think it's a standard affair that all sporting events involve a fair amount of faff, especially if you travel as a squad. You travel in together, you hang around while you do your stuff, and everyone else you're with does theirs (because usually you're not all racing/playing/whatever at the same time), and then you come back. Rowing certainly has this, but it also has a great deal of extra faff because you need to take the boats apart, stick them on a trailer, put them back together, race, take them apart again, but them back on the trailer, and then put them together when you get back (I admittedly skipped this last bit at the weekend because I was feeling ill at the time). Racing itself is awesome, but there's inevitably a huge amount of messing about either side of it.

Token lulz image:

Anyway, last Saturday was Bedford regatta. The bus left college at 6:15am, meaning a damn early start, clutching a thermos mug of strong coffee (which I burnt -_-) and trying to rouse myself into full consciousness. We got into Beford and put the boats together, and were done by about 8am, meaning that M2 only had... about four and a half hours until we needed to start getting ready to race.

The full results are on the website, with the executive summary being that W1 won both their events, M1 did fairly well and got to the final of the College VIIIs and did reasonably well in IM2, and M2 just got shafted by the entire damn weekend.

There are two things that are good about Bedford. One is that they have a College category, meaning that there's an extra competition to enter aside from the standard BRA class. The other thing is that most of the competitions have a secondary plate competition, which you're entered in if you lose the first race, meaning that you get at least two races in the day (or four if you're entered in two competitions), and if you get knocked out in the first round you've at least got a chance of getting somewhere in the plate.

The first aspect to screw M2 over was that the Novice category, which we entered, was oversubscribed and our entry was one of the later ones and got binned. This was a real pain, because we really should have done fairly well in the Novice category, and the times from the day suggest we would have done. Instead all we had was the College category, which is filled with various first boats from Oxford and Cambridge colleges. Some crews we could probably give a good run, but not a competition we were likely to get too far in. Still, there's always the plate if we get taken out in the first round, right?

No. Because our first round opponent scratched, so we got a bye into the second round, and missed entry into the plate. If we lost, we lost. And if we won, we would face Downing M1 in the third round. That race would actually have been fairly fun, but as it happens we lost, and basically spent ten hours in Bedford for a single four minute race that we lost. Or longer than ten hours for the people who didn't get the X5 bus home.

I wasn't so much annoyed at how much of a complete waste of the time the entire day was, because despite the fact I did absolutely nothing productive, when I could otherwise have done, the day itself was actually fairly good fun. What annoys me more is that it could have been a lot better if we hadn't just been screwed over by things which weren't even in our control. And that we could probably have done with the race practice. I know I could have done - regattas still scare the crap out of me.

I'm cool with head races, and I pretty much never get nervous for them any more. There's a bit of adrenaline over the start line, but for the most part I can have a solid race plan, which we can stick to, and there's not much that's really going to totally go wrong. I'm collected and focused, and nerves are a fairly minor issue. Bumps still makes me nervous, but I don't think there's anyone in the world doesn't get nervous in the ten seconds before the starting cannon, where the entire river is absolutely fucking deadly silent except for the faint noise of traffic on the A14. That period right before the start gun is something specially nerve-jangling that I think only bumps rowers can properly understand and relate to.

On the other hand, I've not really raced in many regattas. Most of them have been pretty damn difficult from a coxing perspective, because they've been on-Cam and therefore tight and blade-clashy. On the Cam for the most part there's barely enough space for two boats to be side-by-side, and there are no buoys to mark the centre of the river, so a lot of it is guesswork and whatever you can get away with from the marshals. There's also the fact that aside from winning Uni IVs in Michaelmas with W2, most of the on-Cam regattas haven't gone particularly well for my boat, meaning that we've been knocked out early, so I don't have a lot of experience and what I do have isn't that great.

So yeah, Bedford wasn't nearly as good as it could have been from the M2 perspective, but there wasn't much that we could have done about that as a crew (other than be a bit less nervous/scrappy in our race and have actually won it), so it's not too difficult to just put it behind us and write it off as a day not particularly well-spent.

Looking into the future, bumps is four weeks tomorrow, and M2 at least have a fair amount of work to do to get to where we want to be, but I'm fairly confident that if we spend the next four weeks well, we'll manage it. The average 2k time for the boat is pretty damn rapid for a second boat, and the main focus is just to get that speed moving well on the water. We're up near the top of the second division and surrounded by first boats, but the boats in front of us seem to be slower than the boats behind us (with the exception of LMBC II immediately behind us to give us a bit of a buffer on the first day). So the real hope is that if we can get ourselves up to the speed we want then we can move up on the first few days and have a decent shot at perhaps climbing into the second division. It's fairly difficult to gauge simply because there aren't many results from this term to provide a guide, but given the potential of the boat this year compared to last year, things could be pretty good.

M1 have the fairly obvious goal of bumping every day and blading to headship. I'd say that's probably pretty unlikely, but I think a two-year plan to get the Mays headship isn't unreasonable at all, and moving up two or three this year will put us in a really good position to take it next year, because we should still have six guys in that crew around to row next Mays, and as long as we're right up there we'll have a decent chance.

W1 will probably have a pretty big scrap with Pembroke at the top of the division, which at the moment I'd say is likely to go our way going off results so far this term (sorry Anna...). That said, things were looking similar last year and Pembroke still managed to hold us off every day, so I don't think it's particularly certain. Christ's aren't looking slow either, and could shake things up a bit as well.

All things said, this is pretty hand-wavy speculation given how variable bumps racing can be, and how poor head races and regatta results at this point in term are at predicting proper pace in four weeks' time. Still, it's fairly amusing to make predictions, and maybe I can piss off the messageboards again this term.

Looking forward to Champs Head on Sunday (assuming the weather improves a bit). Won't be the proper M2 crew because we'll have a sub, but given that sub is likely to be from M1 it shouldn't slow us down at all. And excluding shoddy marshalling Cambridge head races usually tend to have a pretty good race-to-faff ratio.

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