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Virtual Henley Regatta

This year, with the Henley as we know it cancelled, a new and quite different style of regatta took place online. Though we have now been back on the water for a few weeks in singles, we were all beginning to really miss that race day feeling. The pre-race nerves less so, but the adrenaline, team spirit and wave of emotions that you get after having raced were all sorely lacking from the dull, repetitive routine of life in lockdown.

Early on in lockdown, we had raced a few times over Zoom, but nothing quite at this scale. Over the last week, junior girls and boys, parents and club staff took part in events, either running or erging distances ranging from 207m to 2112m. There were individual races and championship crews of four people. As an individual, you could race in events over one distance with people in your age group, from J12 to J18, repeating as many times as you wanted to try and climb up the rankings by the end of the week. At the Lea R.C., all the erg events took place on Zoom, with a cheering squad of coaches to motivate everyone to the finish line.

The championship quads, however, had to race a different distance four days in a row, from Wednesday 1 July to Saturday 4 July, with the fastest crews getting through to the 2112m run or erg final on the Sunday. I raced as part of the running team, which we dubbed the ‘Whippets’, and I experienced how running fairly short distances as fast as you can for five days in a row can make muscles you never knew existed ache a lot!

As a crew, we tried to run together as much as we could, cheering each other on or running together to get back the feeling of racing in real time! We marked the distances on the roads near our houses with chalk to make sure we didn’t run too far or, potentially more annoyingly, not far enough. We were even able to run on the track at Finsbury Park a few times which made the measuring of distances a lot easier.

Alice Metcalf (left) and Darcy Wyn-Jones. Both won the individual age group run events and formed half of the winning championship run quad.

Both of the Lea junior women’s quads made the finals, with the runners winning by almost two minutes against two Headington crews and a crew from Surbiton. The erg crew were narrowly beaten to the gold medal, coming second by only four seconds to a crew from Henley, and finishing ahead of Headington and Surbiton.

David took first place in the J16 open ergo, with Alex finishing in second place only two seconds behind. Mathilda and Anna both just missed out on the medals, coming fourth in the WJ16 and WJ15 ergo. Darcy took gold in the WJ16 individual run by over a minute, with Alice doing the same in the WJ15 individual run, with Evelyn coming in second place even though she was racing up an age group!

Well done to everyone who participated and a huge thanks to the organisers for making it happen! We all had a lot of fun racing against other clubs again, though it was in a vastly different context to usual side by side racing at regattas. I can’t wait until next season when racing as we know it will hopefully have returned.

Hannah Trevelyan-Shipp

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