Sunday, 4 July 2010

Henley Qualifiers

Armed with razor sharp catches and an abundance of enthusiam, the men's coxed four of Charlie Pearson, Charlie Jackson, Ed Stenner, Mike Glanville and cox Vicky Fieldhouse made their way down to Henley for the friday qualifiers:

The Britannia Cup (for club coxed fours) is no easy event to qualify for and the guys knew this as they went head to head with 17 other crews fighting for 1 of 6 places.

After a morning practice to familiarise with the course, anxiety started to rise as the time came closer to boating. The crew "pushed off" in plenty of time and after a couple of practice starts, the Minerva four assembled above Temple Island waiting for their start. Olympic medallist and MBE; Kath Grainger was co-ordinating things at the marshalling area as the guys waited in the hot sun for their moment. Time seemed to pass slowly, but before long they were called forward, assembled at the start and under starter's orders to go.

After a quick half pressure stroke, Vicky called the "GO" then a "DRAW, DRAW and Wind it up..." With adrenaline flowing, there was no problem getting the rating into the 40s and before the end of the island the crew lengthened out to a more relaxed 36 - exactly as planned.

The start could have been tidier, but it certainly wasn't the worst, and coming down to the barrier the crew had settled onto a more relaxed 34 with a much better rhythm. The crew maintained a steady pressure in the water and Vicky kept things in check holding a safe course.

Coming into Fawley, Vicky called for more pressure and a rhythm change, the Charlies took the rating up a couple of pips before lengthening out, Ed and Mike provided extra power to back up the stern pair and the boat settled to a good rhythm and a solid platform. 4 minutes into the race, adrenaline was used up 3½ minutes ago and the crew needed every bit of motivation holding onto the pressure as they powered their way down the course. The next milestones went remarkably quickly, before you knew it the Remenham club was gone, then the little bridge and the crew were rowing down past the public enclosures.

With cheers starting to ascend from the increased number of spectators, the crew dug deep knowing the inevitable "Hole in the Wall" was approaching and with it the final charge for the finish. At this point Vicky called the rating up 2 pips, before long, Vicky was calling again for "MORE POWER", 2 MORE pips on the rating and the crew were up to the Scoreboard with just 10 strokes left. At this point, the call they've been anticipating.. "EMPTY THE TANKS" is bellowed out and with all their resolve; everyone sacrificed the last reserves of energy. Knowing each and every stroke could make a difference, the crew "lifted" and accelerated the boat forward again before crossing the finish...

After taking the boat off the water and racking in the blue and white boat tents there were mixed emotions of exhaustion, excitement and anticipation. A few minutes past, then announcement came: "The following crews have qualified for the Britannia Cup"

The successful clubs were read out in alphabetical order... Grosvenor, Kingston, London, were all announced and everyone "willed" the next club to be Minerva. With baited breath and a pause which seemed longer than before... "Nottingham" was announced, and with it, the realisation that they wouldn't be competing this year.

Minerva had finished pretty much halfway in the pack of non-qualifiers ahead of City of Cambridge and Bristol Ariel.

Having just 6 weeks together and an unfamiliar boat, the crew knew qualifying this year was always ambitious. Henley is notoriously difficult to qualify for, especially for small clubs, but then if it were easy to get in, it wouldn't be the premier event it is.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger". Minerva will be back next year and next time Henley needs to be ready for the Gold, Purple, Black and White of Bath.

Ian Townsend

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