Nick Colman, Recreational Rowers
With Henley Masters taking place 40 miles upstream, the three recreational racing crews from Lea thoroughly enjoyed a fantastic day at the Kingston Amateur Regatta on Saturday 9 July. The weather was glorious, the surroundings’ idyllic, and the sparkling Thames was ‘Sirens’ inviting. It was wonderful for the three Rec crews who entered, all of whom came from last year’s L2R intake, to row on such a wide stretch of water and feel the boat bobbing beneath them (when it wasn’t adding that extra little challenge).
We caught up with our friends from Kingston, but between our three crews, we also rowed against Thames Tradesmen, Weyfarers, Broxbourne, Marlow, Molesey and Maidenhead. And we acquitted ourselves admirably. The races involved three boats in a side-by-side, 1,000m downstream sprint from stake boats. All crews had to first row 1,500m upstream before turning to join the racing line, and this enabled us to practise our drills and find our rhythm.
Crew 1 making their way upstream towards the starting line
Lea entered both events: the morning Division 1 for novice rowers (those rowing since 1 January ‘21) and afternoon Division 2 for all experienced rowers. There was no way Lea wasn’t going to test themselves against the experienced crews. Lea came second in every race bar two across both divisions, with Crew 2 coming first in one heat only to be beaten in the final by an exceptional opposition. There were some dramatic moments ….
In the first race, Crew 1 just missed out on first place after an excellent final minute’s drive. However, Lea had a very bad start. The crew were staked very near to the Middlesex bank and not given an opportunity to straighten up. On ‘Go’, Lea had no chance to turn and they sided with the bank. But the crew recovered well and dashed off, quickly overtaking Kingston, only to be pipped to the line by Tradesmen. Given Lea’s start, this was galling. It also had not gone unnoticed by the umpires that Tradesmen, who genuinely misunderstood the rules, raced in their racing boat. They maintained their first place however, but Lea left the race with their heads held high.
Crew 2 winning their afternoon heat to get to the final
The afternoon division, for experienced racers, saw Lea do even better, with Crew 2 beating Kingston and Wayfarers in their heat to get to the final, despite catching three crabs! Bow caught the final crab just two strokes from the finish, but the boat had enough momentum and crew resilience to get them over the line. Weyfarers acknowledged how well Lea rowed, graciously admitting that, but for the crabs, they wouldn’t have done as well as they did.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be in the early evening final, with Crew 2 comfortably beaten by a well-honed and experienced Molesey who just beat an excellent Kingston crew to the finishing post. While Molesey went home with the medals, Crew 2 consoled themselves with ice creams and some cooling feet paddling in the water while relaxing on Kingston’s landing stage.
The regatta was very well run by Kingston. It was held over two days with Kingston including Lea’s five Rec’ races (plus the final) on the Saturday. This year, they hosted 43 clubs (including some Internationals) with over 380 races across the weekend. For the Rec’ crews, who have been rowing for less than a year, it was thrilling to take part and perform as well as they did.
When not racing, the Lea crews stationed themselves in a lovely enclosure along the Middlesex bank, set aside for crews, friends and family. The enclosure was full of delicious food stalls and refreshments, with Lea contributing most impressively to the beer tent coffers once everyone had finished their races.
Some Lea's Rec' athletes (Ahem!) enjoying the racing
We made some new friends in Maidenhead and Broxbourne, with our Lea neighbours very keen to get our social trips back on track. Kingston were very welcoming, as usual, and an evening social row with them to Hampton Court was offered and rapidly accepted. They invited us to join them at their BBQ and toga party at the boat club in the evening, but we were just all too spent!
It was also lovely to meet some of the partners of the Lea crews. Our star supporter was Bryony’s 2-year-old daughter with her impressive shouting of ‘Go Lea!’. This was truly a fun day, and we were proud to ‘field’ three crews; making sure Lea made a big contribution to the Rec’ race events.
The stragglers at dusk
A huge ‘thank you’, as always, to our coaches Piers Johnson and Adrian Scott for getting us into shape (with Adrian taking gold in his G8+ on the same day at Henley Masters). Lea’s racing starts were well executed but what was impressive was the determination and drive shown by the crew members; on more than one occasion they dug deep and drove themselves into contention.
So, back to training, and here’s to Lea’s Autumn regatta in September!
Crew 1: Nick Colman (C), Bryony Lemon (S), Lionel Eid, Horace Gonsalves and Grace Lemon (B)
Crew 2: Ben Longley (C), Raquel de Luis Iglesias (S), Horace Gonsalves*, Simon Zelinger* and Vicki Hilder-Bailey (B) (*replaced by Justin King and Thomas Bird for the last heat and final)
Crew 3: Thomas Bird (C), Jennifer Sutherland (S), Rory McEvoy, Justin King and Sarah Livingstone (B)