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RACE REPORT - Henley Winter Series, 2010


Mens Race Report

Like all great ideas, this one had its genesis in a pub. It was November 2009, somewhere in Henley when, I believe, the ladies challenged the gentlemen to a race within a race as part of the whole Henley Winter Series thing. Henley then promptly went and cancelled the rest of the series (too many red boards), but the challenge was still out there. The GRR proved that there are sufficient Hurricanes daft enough to do these long paddles so when the call went out management quickly found itself with 20 ladies and 17 gents.

Now it was always going to be the case that the gents would win, but could they win by enough to overcome the Henley Handicap System? Well yes, as Henley scrapped the handicap. We negotiated a private settlement so the ladies were to get something like 3 ½ minutes start; that is a lot to make up over 35 minutes.

As the day drew near it seemed like there was a bit of a cull going on with 4 ladies failing to make the start line for reasons of illness, injury etc, whilst the gents only lost one paddler; more robust or just luckier?

The norm at Henley is for cold with plenty of damp under foot, but no rain and we were not disappointed. What was odd though was the state of the river, which despite the heavy recent rainfall, was pretty much stationary. Could this mean a fast time for one of the 12 crews on show?

Well organised as ever, Hurricanes had their boats on the water first and headed off to chat to mates in other crews, drink tea and for some eat burgers and cake. There were some rumblings about the rights and wrongs of paddling for the scratch crews when club crews were available but that washed over our heads, all the Hurricanes had committed to the Hurricanes.

The two teams had their team talks and one was clearly more confident than the other, the gents were finished in no time and got into their warm up routine whilst the ladies were still fretting about tactics and trying to psych themselves up. A few joined the gents in their warm up, obviously wishing they were in the winning crew. It could never be said that we lack etiquette in the Hurricanes so when the final words were due we circled up in a very polite boy/girl pattern disturbed only a strange blue haired apparition smoking a small cheroot; a subject for animal vegetable or mineral? No it was the ladies helm!

On the water the ladies seemed very happy, all of them were laughing as they set off for the start line, even Mary and Kelly for whom this was their first race. The gents weren’t laughing but were very relaxed. One minute after the ladies set off the gents got going. Within 100m we were looking at each other marvelling at how smooth and quick the boat was; maybe we were going to be able to merge brute strength (ok a modicum of muscle) with technique and put in a good time.

Jim called us up, we hit the start flat out and immediately we were reeling in the ladies. Its easy to go off too fast in these races so praise to Robert and Daryl for capping the rate and Dave for not calling the first push until we were through the bridge and properly warmed up. And what a push, the boat jumped out of the water and we sped along despite the strong headwind. A second push took us quickly past the ladies (doing 14.6kph at the time) and the hunt for Typhoon was on. The Typhoon helm had said at the start “see you soon, but hopefully not too soon”. It was close to being too late for us. As we approached Temple Island there was still clear water between our two boats and we ran the real risk of being held up through the turn. Another power 30, with a few extras at the end got us that all important overtaking line and to the credit of the Typhoon helm he made a gap for us to race through.

A typical excellent Jim turn saw us into a negligible current with a strong tailwind, we were all convinced that we would fly, but something odd happened, the boat just would not accelerate no matter how hard we tried. Maybe the current was stronger than it looked or maybe we just had conditioning issues but as half the crew had rested on Saturday it couldn’t be the latter surely.

Ahead of us were three boats, unless we overtook another boat on the way to the island and I forgot. The 10 man boat of Secklow paddlers was the next target, smoothly dispatched. That only left the Excalibre team in front. We have never been the first boat back, and the way the seedings go I doubt if we will have such a good chance again, so we were heavily incentivised to give chase. It was disturbingly hard work but everyone stuck to their guns, pulling them back stroke after stroke, desperate to close what must have been a 4 minute head start. A few more pushes through the channel past Top Island and we were accelerating into the corner. Jim likes nothing better than a fast sharp turn and he got his wish; we were almost too fast and sharp as the water got very, very close on the right hand side.

And then we were racing. A full BDA 500m start, into the reach, a power piece and the push to the line. Where this finish comes from I don’t know, but it happens every Henley as “better” crews have found to their cost. Sadly it wasn’t quite enough to catch Excalibre who won the prize for the most improved team, an achievement in itself as they must have passed Secklow quite early and been out on their own for ages. We finished in 33:50 which I believe is our fastest ever non-adjusted time at an average speed of 12kph. Very good work indeed, though we all knew that we could and indeed should have done even better on the upstream leg; we know what to do next time.

A quick disembarkation and the gents were stood on the bank to clap and cheer the ladies as they sprinted over the line. They looked like they had worked very hard, but they held on to their technique and looked vey fine as they crossed the line in 39mins and some change. Four more paddlers would have made it a much faster and more comfortable journey.

We deadlifted the white boat out of the water, hardly scrapping it on the mooring points at all. It would have looked much more impressive if we had taken the cox box out rather than tipping it into the river; maybe not our finest hour.

The race was won by a Prem Open crew in a course record, a Senior/Grand composite crew came second, Tao (who started behind us and had us as their pacemaker) came 3rd, 21 seconds faster than us, the second Prem Open crew were 4th after a time penalty for naughty cornering with the gents in 5th.

Then it was off to the pub, where this all started, to dream up the next adventure.

Ladies Race Report

As I slowly wake up after a bad nights sleep (Must have been worried about my first ever DB race) with a sore neck and shoulder from the previous days training……….I was thinking this is not a good start……..

It is the first HWS and we have for the first time two boats entered, in the competition….Ladies V Gentlemen ( I use the latter loosely) lots of leg pulling and good humoured banter between the teams, the men are all talk…they are seriously worried.

It is a lovely sunny day for my first race if not a little chilly, 12 teams entered and a really good atmosphere, everyone friendly and up for a laugh.

When I went up to Preston with Nigel to watch The Hurricanes for the first time the team were a little hung over and a trifle tired, it was a long cold rainy miserable day, Cheryl said “ you might as well paddle and get involved “ and she was right …. I THINK…… felt good being part of the team.

Both teams got together to warm up, we all wished each other good luck, the ladies being far more sincere than the men, then we met separately, our coach Kev D was very encouraging and gave us our boat positions and final instructions. Pam was our captain and Lyn would be pacer with Pam, I thought I would be at the back, then at least I would only splash Nigela who deserves it for all the shouting he does !!!!!! But I wasn’t..I am sorry for Helen who was sat in front of me and Jenny who was sat behind…..I know it’s a water sport and you are supposed to get wet…….BUT……….

Nigel being the ladies helm played the part and dressed up …..Should I be worried …… Nigela looked the business ( Marge Simpson springs to mind ) in blue wig , grass skirt , garland round his neck , with much leg pulling from not only our men’s team but the other teams and the spectators on the river bank we cast off.

There was no official time advantage for ladies this year, we were the only boat with a full ladies team, but it was decided between ourselves that we would get a 10 second advantage per lady paddler which meant we had 2min 40 sec advantage us having 16 paddlers to the men’s 17.

What a race… 8K…….the men completed the race in 33:50 and we completed it in 39:40 without our advantage……….so well done the men, but in the ladies defence ……. Yes of course I am going to defend the ladies we had only 16 paddlers and 3 of our most experienced paddlers had to pull out at the last minute, 2 inexperienced paddlers myself included, who had only been training for a few months …… and trust me racing non stop flat out for 39 mins is much harder than a training session…….I thought I was fit…I struggled ……thank you Sue Menzies who kept encouraging me to keep going and BREATHE, and Kelly who had only been in a boat for the first time on the Saturday prior to the race……Well done Kelly, and 4 of our ladies had done a hard GB training session the day before. We had tried to get a ladies boat out in training but it never happened (we had to subsidise the men’s training session) so first time all of us in a boat together. The men on the other hand ( I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong ) had 17 strong experienced paddlers, no newbie’s, who had all raced before and had not undergone a strenuous GB training session the day before.

Also as Jim managed to loose the Cox box / headpiece, I don’t know how Nigela managed to keep his on, and he was wearing a wig, I think it only fair that the men should suffer a further penalty of 3:10 due to carelessness and lack of attention to detail and time wasted looking for it so I think that makes the times equal and therefore a dead heat (inclusive of our allowance) ……..I am sure you will agree that this is only fair.

Joking aside well done everyone, the men came 4th missing 3rd by just a few seconds much to Rob Tighe’s utter annoyance, it must be so frustrating to get that close to a medal.

The ladies came 11th out of 12 so not last, in the warm down Dave our esteemed club captain thanked everyone and agreed it was good that the club had managed to turn out 2 teams on the day and hopefully the next race might be a re run of Breath & Wind GRR race or as Malcolm suggested (mind you this was in the pub after a few drinks) that we have an Oldies V Youngsters race, but what would be the age cut off point??? I think there might be a few white lies on the answer to this question (it will be birth certificates to the fore on this one)

I am looking forward to the next HWS 5th Dec weather permitting, Sue M suggested that if it does not go ahead then maybe as we have committed to racing that day we might have our own private race on the day at the lake.

On a personal note I would like to thank everyone at the club for making me feel welcome, I had never heard of Dragon Boating before I met Nigel, and the first time I came down and watched you train from the comfort of the club house with a glass of wine in hand I thought how easy it all looked ………..the reality is somewhat different……it is much harder than it looks, now for me a romantic Saturday night in ( after training ) is Nigel with mop in hand ( paddle is in the car )I am to knackered to go and get it, is trying to show me how to paddle,



Mary Mead

Breath Race Report

Wednesday 1st December – don’t worry Kelly it won’t go ahead
Thursday 2nd December – Phone call to Les – Is it still going ahead
Friday 3rd December – I am now being threatened with violence for making the house paddle in this weather
Sat 4th December – 4 hours at Westfield – Henley is going to be easy
Sun 5th December – 7am – I am now the least popular person in Ruislip
Sunday 5th December 9am Henley – warm as always – not

AND then it went Pete Tong

I was not aware I was running Breath’s Boat so did not have a boat list – oops Doh Panic, Blah Blah, more panic, look like you know what you are doing.

Can you do the warm – oops panic
Henley Official: Can i have your team list. Robert: Yes – can you tell me who is in my team.
Breath Paddler: So what is our race plan. Robert to get to the other end intact – I had it under control – maybe
Calm exterior – Gerbil’s wheel in my head
Boat loaded. Right now what happens – pit stop by the bank for a brief on the race plan.

Race Start:

Blasted out of the traps with Secklow (built for comfort) in front of us. Clearly the screamer motivated us to get past as soon as possible. Seklow – Done them at a cruise. Temple Island: We have still not been overtaken and boats running good. Temple Island to Henley Bridge – Posh Rowers tell us to move over – 2 tonne boat, skinny 4 man boat – I don’t think so. I think she was a decendant of The Fourth Earl of Loneliness. Batchworth attack and overtake: And we stick to our race plan. It’s what we do in our boat not what they are doing.

At this stage I have to say that the plan of Nigela calling if someone is attacking from behind and I do the race calls appeared to go AWOL. That or Nigela thought we were in Bagdad and under constant attack. Motivational speech from Malcolm about how crap the men boat were at this point in the last race and the women were saving us this time. Obviously hoping Santa is going to be nice to him. Power 30 to the bridge and we are in the home straight. Pete F decides a bit of Gaelic input is required. It has the desired affect and the boat lifts. Power 30 into the last turn – and then we are straight and in the home run. No panic no upping the rate. Just more of the same. Paddle hard – paddle right. 250 to go and empty the tanks – flew across the line. Stop – turn around – Cheryl and I boiled the kettle for teas – discussed Xmas arrangements and paddled back to the Jetty. STOP PADDLING – Wind were coming across the line – We had forgotten they were in the same race.

And then the result

Wind beat breath – Jim swallowed his cigarette. Wind smugly cheered and Henley corrected their error – Breath won Sundays challenge by a country mile – better know as a minute.

Jokes aside. It is a massive compliment to the effort and commitment of everyone who gets up in this rubbish weather to ensure Hurricanes are the only club putting out 2 boats in the first 2 events. Although the better crew clearly came through and proved that the time keepers at that other long race were wrong, it is a great reflection on the club that we can put 30 plus paddlers out on a chilly Sunday morning. It is also a great reflection on your club coach, who despite being related and being a reasonable paddler in his own right has had a lot to do with the fact that we had 2 boats out today.

Top effort by Cheryl for having to listening to me calling and nagging all the race. Seat 2 – well done for keeping the boat under control when it all got a bit excitable. Seat 3 to helm – thanks for the response to the Catch calls and the power 30’s. Malcolm – I hope Santa is good to you. Nigel – for a safe journey out and home and keeping everyone focused whilst clearly under attack from both Ira. Rebecca – Its cold up front – cheers

Finally – I have already said no to January – problem is that Kelly just told me how much she enjoyed today – dammmmm

To Wind – It is not the winning it is the taking part .................mmmmmmmhhhhh !!!!!!!!!!!!!


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