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We swapped WEHORR for unofficial East of England champs!

The 2019 / 20 season will be forever remembered as the one that got lost to a global pandemic. But that’s not entirely true. The winter was mostly lost to global warming.

We are lucky at the Lea. Our 7km of canal is probably the most sheltered stretch of rowing water in the UK. So, while other clubs were forced indoors by wind, flooding and dangerously strong streams, we were doing hard miles on flat, predictable water.

And, when the wind was a little more forgiving, we made the most of the portion of our fleet that we keep at London’s only 2000m rowing lake, in the Royal Docks, next to London City Airport.

Photo: Copyright Guy Beauchamp (Cantabs). Twitter: @gbeauchamp

When poor conditions led to the last-minute cancellation of the Women’s Eights Head of the River (WEHORR) on the tidal Thames for the second year in a row, our women’s squad moved fast to ensure that those hard miles were not for nothing. A few phone calls and the plan was set: we were to host the (unofficial) East of England Championship.

Our friends at Cantabrigian RC and Nottingham RC redirected their trailer drivers from Putney to the Docks. Head coach Sam started to hatch complex racing plans. And four Lea crews donned orange lycra, ready to prove a point.

Sam’s plans were much more interesting than a 20-minute slog down the Thames. Four rounds of side-by-side 2000m racing, beginning with rate-capped battle paddling, and culminating in a multi-lane mega final. The Head of the River is meant to be the last race of the head season, but this felt more like the first race of the regatta season.

It would have been great to do the Tideway, and clock a time against the best crews on the national stage. But this was a decent substitute. And it proved that we’ve got a fast squad, with depth and hunger to win. What more do you need?

Photo: Copyright Guy Beauchamp (Cantabs).

The results:

Junior women

The warm-up race was a Lea senior/junior derby. While this didn’t go in their favour this time, our girls put in some stonking pieces which marked them as a crew to watch over the coming season. We’ve produced some excellent national rowers from our junior squad, and you can see why.

Club women

Our Club squad’s masters eight was only really using Women’s Head as the warmup to their big focus of the season, the Vet’s Head. You might wonder why, as they spent the day demolishing crews with an average age half theirs. 4th in the mega final ain’t bad.

Second eight

Both men’s and women’s second eights this year spent the winter with a single goal: keep the first eight rowers on their toes. This led to a few training results which had coaches questioning their selection procedures. And this attitude paid off. In the first race Cantabs II’s liberal interpretation of a 20 stroke-per-minute cap meant we were left for dust. The crew wasn’t fazed, and spent the rest of the regatta beating them easily, and overtaking other clubs’ first eights for good measure.

Photo: Copyright Guy Beauchamp (Cantabs).

First eight

The Cantabs coach has been spotted online saying that Cantabs I was his fastest-ever crew. A strong claim, especially as they’ve had a Henley Women’s win in the past few years. Suffice to say that the race results might raise a few eyebrows. All of it was close: and with the depth in our second eight, anything could have happened over the summer.

Matt Pooley (Lea R.C. Cox)

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