The regatta begins tomorrow, and the mood in the boat tents has slowly shifted.
The casual and mostly terrible banter has ceased between rowers. It has been replaced by a quieter, tenser vibe. Meandering coaches are now the sole torchbearers for half baked jokes and quips. Most oarsmen have begun to wear their hoodies up and avoid eye contact. Post-outing debriefs are whispered as discussions focus in on chances in the first round and how to make the most of them.
The peacocking is over, until Sunday afternoon at least. Qualifiers dealt with the first batch of hopefuls way back on Friday, and everyone is now sizing each other up.
Now that the draw is out, crews have begun to offer each other out for pieces over the course. Eights versus fours, fours versus pairs, women versus men. For crews that have a fair idea of how far they’re going to get, other crews from the same can be used to test each other to the barrier. As long as they’re not on the same side of the draw that is!
This always presents opportunities for a bit of fun. The video below shows our four doing a piece against a handy Leander pair of Solesbury and Ritchie. This is my favourite way of racing against Leander crews: with 2 men more than they’ve got.
Lining up against oarsmen like that is always good fun for the club rower, even if they’re in a different boat category. While the banks aren’t as littered with international rowing superstars as they usually are, it still makes for a pretty special week.
While most of us love racing at Henley partially because we get to line up, or at least boat alongside, crews and oarsman of the higest standard from all over the world, the regatta kicks off tomorrow with Curlew A versus Curlew B. The groan that went around the hall when Mike Sweeney pulled that one out of the bag on Saturday could be heard back on the docks, but as I said in my last post: it’s quirky to say the least, but I doubt there’s one of us who’d change it.