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11/16 2011

NRC results

NRC’s went well.

The hotel, more aligned with it’s cheaper cousin the motel, did not have WiFi that worked longer than 3 minutes. Someone with less racing experience could potentially find this uncontrollably frustrating and allow that frustration to impact their results… obviously I don’t fall into that category! That’s my excuse this time for not keeping my blog up to date.

The first night at the (h)otel I was visited sometime after midnight by an 8 legged friend. I survived – he became my proof that the sheets were never changed for the duration of my stay.

I told you before that there were 25 boats triggering quarterfinals. No one wants to race quarterfinals in a three-day regatta. Well, one of the training center pairs was injured, preventing that boat from racing. Unfortunately that boat did not scratch until the hour before the first heat, almost preventing a redraw. Fortunately Scott and I know a thing or two about standing up for ourselves and we forced a redraw. Scott had been dealing with a cold, and one less race could make ‘the difference’. All 8 remaining training center boats knew the changes and adjusted accordingly.

The heats changed from ‘five heats of five boats, with four boats advancing directly to the quarterfinals’ to ‘four heats of six boats with only the winner advancing directly to the semifinal’. The difference was significant because it meant that we woke up thinking we were walking into a low pressure situation when actually we were in a ‘must win’ situation.

With the redraw the boats we were racing also changed. We went from having one of our group’s pairs that we thought we could beat to having one of the other group’s pairs that we knew wanted to prove themselves – and what better way to prove yourself than by beating the guys who raced for Canada in the summer?

Add to the mix serious cross-head winds and the ‘fairness committee’ decided to place top crews in the shelter of lanes 1 and 2.

Scott and I got off to a clean start and pushed out to an early lead in the first 200 meters of the race. Then, due to the heavy winds, the other training center boat got their port oar wrapped around a buoy line and came to a full stop. From that point on we had the race under control and were able to flush our legs for the majority of the race course.

The unfortunate thing to note about all the changes we faced with the redraw was that all the national team boats, with plenty of experience, were able to find out what the changes were to the race time and lanes, but the provincial crews did not. As a result, each of the 4 races were slightly delayed due to provincial boats not knowing that they had to be at the start.

The four heat winners advance directly to the semifinal, while the rest of the boats had to race a second race Friday night in order to advance.

The semifinal was drawn for 2 PM on Saturday, which allowed for a luxurious sleep in. Scott’s cold hadn’t worsened, but the extra sleep certainly ensured that remained the trend. By the time we arrived at the course for our pre-race routine the wind from the day before made a turn for the worse. The gusts were so bad that the lightweight women’s singles – heading out for their races just before ours – seemed to be moving sideways faster than they were moving forward!

Once we got onto the course we realized it wasn’t as bad as we thought and that all crews would experience the same conditions (cliche, I know). As luck would have it we drew the boat that we suspected to be the best of the bunch from the group of national team guys training for the 8+. We got to the start line of the semi and vaguely noticed that one of the guys from this possible top boat was wringing out a shirt. Odd – but I was thinking about how perfect my first stroke was going to be. The starter started the race and we were off.

We had a clean start but they got out to an early lead of about 2 seats (6 feet). I was making supplemental calls to our race plan to ensure we didn’t tense up, or worse, hit any water. As we went through the 500 meter mark a gust of wind blew my blade off the square and I caught the water half-caulked. Scott could feel what happened as soon as our legs started to drive and he backed off to allow me to regain my oar. We finished the stroke together only losing about a foot on the other crew through the mistake. A few strokes later I could tell that the momentum was shifting and I called to Scott that we were “INCHING”. Over the next little bit the lead reversed and we had a boat-length lead. We pushed out and were able to control the race all the way to the finish.

Later that night we discovered that the other boat had flipped in the chilly waters of the Welland Canal about 10 minutes before the start of the race. The water that was being wrung out was from the accident. Understandably the other crew was thrown off their game and felt really bad physically at about 2 minutes into the race – about the same time we started to move on them. Scott and I went to bed expecting a whole lot more from that pair the next morning.

The regatta shifted the start time of our race to 8:28 AM because the winds were supposed to pick up throughout the day. The draw had us in lane 4. We expected the two pairs on either side of us to try to take an early lead and hold it as long as possible. With the following wind the waves on the course built as we moved down the course. We were prepared to race from behind, but we also knew that we couldn’t let go of too much because it would be harder to get it back in the rougher water.

We took the lead on the first stroke and we never gave it away. By the finish we turned the lead into 6 seconds. We put ourselves into a great position in which the other crews had to try to make up ground in the roughest portion of the race course. We relaxed and rowed over the conditions watching as the other crews tried to mount their attacks. It couldn’t work.

Thanks Scott for racing so well! It was a great weekend of racing. I felt like we built our momentum over the three days and had a series of races that we can be proud of, and use to build towards the Olympics.

I’d like to put a special thanks out Andrew Berk, Sean Payne, Heather Griffiths and Mike Wilkinson for getting my knee ready to race.

Dave

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