With the promotion of the continually improving Worcester, the re-emergence of Batchworth and removal of Stockton from the schedule (Hurricanes supported the BDA league by attending this event for the last several years and gained some sneaky extra league points too) Fifth has become the new Third.
For the Hurricanes this has been a season where we have seen some excellent peer group racing with 5-6 teams, including the soon to be promoted Excalibre, all capable of beating one another on any given day. We have benefited from the arrival of several shrinking ladies (keep up the excellent work), indeed I don’t think we have started a race with less than six ladies on board all season, and the improvements in the guys who have committed to the GB team for the first time. And most memorably, we won our first event ever by taking the honours at Nottingham where an emotional Les S presented the trophy to an equally emotional Kevin D. This is the first season where I can remember more than two teams winning an event, actually four teams did, so open has been the competition this year.
The aim for RAD was to protect our fifth place from Raging Dragons who, on their home water had to beat two of Amathus, Bachworth, Kingston and Worcester to leapfrog us. That was a fairly tall order but then we heard that Amathus had gone to the seaside for the weekend, despite being in a shoot-out for the league title with Batchworth and the normally confident Kingston had arrived with a sub-strength team and only “should” be able to beat Raging. If we wanted that fifth place then we would just have to earn it ourselves and not rely on anyone else.
Coincidently we faced Raging in the first 200m heat and were beaten by almost 2 seconds. The Hurricanes were desolated but the mood changed when it was pointed out that we were third fastest in the heats and our time would have won three of the five heats. Kyle, who had not drummed for a while had been almost silent during the race as he hadn’t realised how much we have improved and speed of the boat was such that all his focus was on hanging on and hitting the drum; normal service was resumed later with lots of reminders for kick and length. During the break we spoke to some Raging paddlers who wondered if we were holding back in the 200m to save ourselves for the 500m. Well, we did do the third fastest time which is some holding back and anyway, we are not that smart/cunning, but were there shades of doubt in the minds of Raging? – we certainly hoped so. Ok then, off to the semis. Another good performance, after 15 mins of back and forwards on the start line. where we were much closer to Raging but in other races teams had upped their game and we were only fast enough for the Minor Final. Hurricanes came second to Kingston, Raging came second to Batchworth in the Major Final. This is not a good omen for the 500m but Thames Taniwas, who have not raced to their potential this year were also on home water and looked very good in that final – maybe we have some black clad assistance after all.
The mantra within the Hurricanes is that we don’t really do 200m, the 500m suits us better, so we were up-beat going into the first heat. We knew we had done well and were all pretty bubbly but half way through the warm down we were silenced by the announcement of 2:03.x, a PB for the Hurricanes; forget the warm down, time for a team hug. Laura M, who had sat out the race with an injury was suddenly leaping around telling Captain David that she was all better and ready to race; everyone wanted to be in that boat. Talking of PBs, I guess that having to stand down six paddlers was something of a PB too, certainly we have not had to disappoint so many people in the last eleven seasons; a few more members and that elusive second boat will be on the cards.
How did other teams do in the 500m? Batchworth had an ominous time very close to, or maybe even below 2 minutes; nice to see the Beasties racing after such a long break. Raging were several seconds behind us.
The semis gave us a chance to have a close look at Batchworth, though in these wide, marked lanes they didn’t get as close as the adventure at Caldicott. Not that I was looking out of the boat, but I hear they looked very tight as a unit despite having had to pay several £2 transfer fees. This race was billed by Captain David as the most important race of the day and I think we all agreed. We finished with our second fastest time ever, we didn’t make the Major (the runner up in the race involving Worcester had a 2:02.x and I won’t know who that was until the results are on the BDA site) but Raging didn’t either so our fifth place was secure.
Batchworth won the Major, also in a PB of 1:55.x from Taniwas, Kingston and Worcester in that order and in doing so clinched the league title. Congratulations to them, it always encourages me to see a team with so many Grand Dragons doing well.
The Minor Final saw Tao (a composite of Bristol and Wraysbury who have performed very well despite rarely training as a unit and their ongoing policy of blooding new paddlers, which augers well for next season), Hurricanes (enough said), Raging (were they deflated by not quite making the Major or determined to sign off the season in style?) and Excalibre (it would seem that they too must have been under-strength – that said, the transformation within Excalibre this year has been remarkable and despite their huge journeys they are putting out two teams regularly).
Now for a bit of bragging and I mean no offence to the other three teams, it was just a very good day at the office for the Hurricanes. From the start the teams to our left, Tao and Excalibre were left trailing, it was a two boat race. Raging, who had blitzed us on the start of the 200m had started more conservatively, we were neck and neck. As we approached the 250m mark Nigel called for a power piece and then it was effectively all over as a race. The Hurricanes were ahead, paddling with excellent form and relaxation while at the same time giving it full beans for effort. Normally when we cross the line in a final we have to look for our supporters for our position, not this time, the margin was significant. What a way to close the season.