Sculling nearly half the course on my own when I couldn’t even see my competitor was a really lonely place to be.
Pimms, champagne, outrageous blazers, glamourous dresses and a good party are just some of the things that spring to mind when you think of Henley Royal Regatta. However, the main purpose of the regatta is of course the exhilarating head to head racing over five days. It is seen by many as the best rowing race in the world. It is the pinnacle of a club rowers season and it’s also a regatta that international crews come from far and wide to win. I have raced Henley four times and winning it has evaded me.
The final of Henley is just five days before the start of World Cup III in Lucerne, the most competitive race we face before the World Championships. Therefore, racing Henley was a risk with such little recovery between races and it could have had a negative effect on my Lucerne result but I was willing to do that for the opportunity to win Henley on home water.
One of the main reasons that Henley is so different to all the other racing we do is the one on one match racing. You either win and feel on top of the world or lose and feel like a failure, there is no second place.
Over the whole weekend I was blown away by the support down the bank and some of the alcohol fuelled, comical comments really made me laugh. It’s such a buzz racing down that course and nowhere else do you have people cheering from the first stroke to the last.
The morning of the final I was nervous. I so wanted to win. I wanted to win for myself but also for my club Leander and for the home crowd. I was racing Annakaterin Thiele from Germany. We had raced each other at the Europeans and World Cup II and I had come out victorious both times but she is a fierce competitor and I knew I was going to have to deliver my best race and it was going to hurt!
The first part of the race went to plan, I was slightly down but that was okay, I was confident in my mid race pace. However, when I reached about 700m into the race my boat was getting pulled into the middle of the course and off my station. By pulling hard on my left oar I was doing all I could just to keep from crashing into Annakatrin. I am still not sure what caused this but whatever it was, it was out of my control. This really hampered my speed and Annakatrin took advantage of this, opening up a significant lead. In match racing especially in a single scull once someone opens up a good few lengths of clear water the race is over.
This is when Henley is brutal. Sculling nearly half the course on my own when I couldn’t even see my competitor was a really lonely place to be. I crossed the line devastated, not really knowing what had happened and wanting a big hole to swallow me up. I limped up to the pontoon outside Leander. Katherine straight away came over to me for a supportive hug which I was really grateful for. My coach Paul was also there with some some supportive words and a strong hand on my shoulder.
In my disappointment I just wanted to just crawl into a ball on the floor and not get on a bike to remove the lactic acid that was coursing through my body. However, I had to think of Lucerne and a good warm down would give my body the best chance to recover. As they say, better never stops…