Just one week after Reading regatta, following another intense week and final preparations, the event that we had been building up to all season had arrived- it was Henley Women’s weekend!
Two women’s eights loaded the boats on to a packed trailer we were sharing with Agecroft, Liverpool Vics and Liverpool University (don’t ask)! Arranging the number of boats and equipment needed by each squad provided an interesting challenge. After some serious trial and error and a lot of brute force the frustrating boat loading jigsaw was complete and the trailer was off. Time for the crews to pile in to cars to head south too and to our respective host homes. The 1st VIII heading to Ealing and the 2nd VIII to Oxford where very kind rowing families put us up (THANK YOU). Places to stay on regatta weekends are worth their weight in gold, fingers crossed for plenty more southerners in next year’s intake!
Both crews had decided to head south prior to the weekend to get a bit of training in on the Henley straight ahead of Friday’s qualifiers. So at 1pm on Thursday, following the scavenger hunt for the trailer and our boats we were rigged and on the water. Warm ups, paddles and practice pieces went well and once satisfied we decided no more could be done and left our qualifying fate in the hands of the rowing gods.
Friday morning… Qualifiers… Oh !?#$*?!#!!! Nervous energy levels were at an all time high mixed with delirious excitement; an interesting combination for the most important start line of my short rowing life. Novice rower, in the 1st VIII, sat at 7, behind the scariest stroke in the world, in front of one of MUBC’s best female talents… WHAT AM I DOING!?!? Our row up to the start was probably one of the scrappiest and most jittery we’d done all season but after some rehearsals of our diamond start sequence we were together and we were ready. “Manchester! Proceed to the start”… “Manchester… Attention… GO!” Then, honestly, the next thing I remember is “and… Wind down girls!” We liked to think we were all in a significant enough amount of pain to think we’d done enough boosted by some serious praise from Hackett when we’d got the boat back off the water. All just in time, I might add, to see the 2nd VIII steam past, rowing probably the best they have all year! What a start to the weekend! Unfortunately though only the 1st VIII made it through the qualifying stages to the first round, although I think champagne in the sun eventually made up for any initial disappointment.
Needless to say Friday night was a quiet one in the Stampfli camp, full of carbs, serious team talks and an early night all round. Reading University A in the first round in the morning would be an ominous task.
Saturday morning came and went and as we sat on the start line against Reading we knew we had to give it everything we had and hold them from the off. It was likely they would beat us but lets put on a show and give them a good race and that’s just what we did. We crossed the finish about 3 1/2 lengths behind Reading exhausted, broken but bursting with pride! We’d given everything and left it all on the water, beaten by a better crew.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun, then an evening trip to the pub followed by BBQ and drinks reminiscing about the year. What a crew and what a squad! MUBC have the potential to take this years progress and go out and smash it next season! It will be strange not rowing with MUBC next year but I will be at races and regatta regardless, though minus the pain and the blisters. What an exceptional boat club and amazing squad… Time to take the 2014/15 seasons by storm!
Gee Purdy started the sport of rowing at MUBC in 2014.