Race Day!!!!

And what a day it was!!

I got picked up at 7:15 to be at the rowing club for 7:30 – got there to discover the entry code had been changed and no cars could get in!!

After that minor stumbling block we were in and getting boats rigged for the day.

We were introduced to our extra rower, Karen, from the Masters squad. She’s only rowed one race before so not sure whether that inspired us as she was pretty much on our level or made us more worried as she was as inexperienced as we were…..

The structure of the races were that the winner of the first race for men/women/mixed is the overall winner of that category. Then there’s a semi-final where the remaining boats re-race and the winner of that goes into the final. The final has those 6 boats in and whoever wins that wins the overall prize.

Also there is a handicap procedure – you get a certain number of seconds added to your time for each experienced person you have in a boat – this was anyone who had done a Corporate Season before or someone who rowed as a Club or Masters member. This meant we got a handicap for Karen. It also means that even if you cross the line first you may not win the race – all depends on how the handicaps affect the overall times

First round of racing

As stroke I got to pick our boat – Shelly and our lane number – 2

Our coach described the Shelly as ‘adequate’ and we soon discovered why – it was designed for tall skinny school children – not all of our crew (including myself) are the skinniest – the boat is rigged very low so we discovered that our legs got in the way when trying to get the oars out of the water unless the boat was perfectly balanced. Also the boat was narrow – there were hip/thigh issues when trying to reach the front of our strokes……

However, we made it as a crew to the start line (our cox was Tim, one of the guys from our Men’s team – he had no ‘cox box’ (microphone/loudhailer) which we came to realise made  a massive difference.

Once all lined up and ready to go (you get shouted at from the shore to straighten up/move forwards a bit until everyone is level) we were off! It was crazy, not being able to hear the cox I just had to set the pace and hope for the best. We were racing just over 500m – not far you might think, but it hurt, a lot. Karen’s feet came out of their straps which caused us a bit of drama, but we held it together and carried on. We heard the hooter and relaxed – over the line!! Er, no, we weren’t….. after much screaming from the shore we realised and we had to row another few meters before the hooter went for us

Embarrassing and painful experience – after handicaps we’d lost the race by 1 second (we lost to a lovely team though). Lesson learnt, we moved on, got coffee and watched the men’s race. They raced so well, but again missed out by 1 second (to an awesome crew – was great to come so close to them)

Next up was the mixed as a team the decision had been made to put our ‘best bet’ in one crew and then others in the other. I was in the best bet and we went in the first heat (not that we knew it but there was to be no semi final, just the winner from each heat that went through). Coach had warned Tim in stroke that we girls weren’t going to be able to keep our ratings as high as the men, so we agreed to turn it down a notch (for the boys anyway!) We had a great row, but we should have gone at a faster rating – we all finished feeling like we could do it again but faster and were planning that for the semi-final (the one that wasn’t to be!!). The second crew had an awesome race – rowed their hearts out – helped by having Nick in stroke seat who has no control of his rating/timing and just goes as fast as he can….. it paid off as they came first and so were through to the final (there were 3/4 other crews with equal times to us but as we won our heat we got through)


Boats for this round were decided by Joe who was in charge for the day. His method was based on ‘who had done nice things for him that day’. We were lucky as I’d carried his coffee back for him when we’d got ours to save him waiting. It meant we got 2nd pick and a much much better boat. We also managed to get a cox box so could hear Tim shouting at us!

The row was amazing, the boat was balanced, we rowed together, Tim encouraged and we rowed our hearts out. We finished to massive cheers from the land and with a lead of over 20 seconds!!!!! So proud of us we sat, laughed, breathed, whooped and watched the other crews row towards us and finish – such an amazing feeling.

A snapshot of our row – v close to the end – it’s our coach you can hear

The men also had a great row and finished first in their race too.

This meant we could have 3 boats in the final, but not enough of us unless we cloned the rowers of the mixed race. It was an easy decision all round to agree to scratch the mixed boat and row as our men and women teams in the final.

The finals

We drew lots again for boats and lanes – somehow I managed to draw Shelly again and almost cried when I had to tell my crew…… Our coach was great and as we’d had feet falling out issues swapped our boat with the men’s boat (they had the 2nd worse boat!!)

We had to find a cox for our boat as Tim was racing with us. Finally we found a lovely girl whose name escapes me for now, but she’d coxed for us before when we practiced at Petone. ERIN!!!! I remembered before finishing typing this post

Not sure what happened to us between the semi- and the final but we S U C K E D

We couldn’t balance the boat at all, it felt that we were on a rollercoaster for the entire race, just couldn’t get it together, timing was terrible, balance was non-existent. We came a very poor last, were very glad that our coach had coxed the men and so he hadn’t seen our performance……

Once we were back on land everyone was asking what had happened, we told them we’d hit a seal! A lovely lady from the OMV crew said we’d be surprised after the handicaps etc were applied how well we’d done, but our coach was extremely honest and said even then we didn’t stand a chance!!

The results of the race weren’t to be announced until the prize giving in the evening but we knew it would be close between the men’s crews – handicaps would decide it.

Final race of the day

Was a ‘fun’ eights race. I was so glad we got to do this as our finals race had been so horrendous – the whole team in the boat together – couldn’t think of a better way to draw things to an end.

Once we’d worked out who was sitting where we climbed into our boast – the first time we’d been in an eight for ages – it felt so spacious – we laughed at how scared we’d all been back in May climbing into one of these for the first time, how wobbly it felt, but now it seemed so stable!

Back to the start line and we were off. We had our coach as our cox, so there was no slacking and no time to think how tired we were. I manged to catch 3 crabs on the way (my only ones of the day). We crossed the line and it was a dead heat…… I felt so bad, if I’d not messed up we’d have beaten them. If I’d only got 2 instead of 3 crabs we’d have won. The elation of joint first against a far more experienced crew was completely lost on me. We rowed back and our coach made the comment of ‘if it hadn’t been for catching those crabs we’d have won’ (although he denies he put it quite like this, it’s what I remember!!). He meant it to have been an encouraging statement about how close we’d come, I just took it as ‘if Emma hadn’t been useless and caught those crabs…..’ That was me in tears, so disappointed in myself…… We got out of the boat and I was carrying oars to the club, tears still rolling and a lovely lady (whose name I have to admit I never knew, but we’d always chatted) took them from me and told me to breath!! What a donut (me, not her, obviously).

And that was that, racing over, Corporate Challenge done- what an amazing experience it was

Rowing back after winning the semi-final
Rowing back after winning the semi-final

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