UEABC made an encouraging start to their regatta season with a strong showing at BUCS Regatta in early May. With 4 boats each racing in a different category over all 3 days of the event, there was a lot of close racing on offer at the National Watersport Centre in Nottingham. This year saw a changed format as all the competing crews had to complete a 1500m time trial in order to determine which final they raced in against 5 other crews, side by side over the full 2000m regatta distance.
Saturday saw both the Men’s Beginner 4 and Intermediate 8 take to the water in some truly dreadful conditions. With waves often coming over the top of the bows and a strong headwind to contend with, posting a fast time became an uphill struggle. The Beginner 4, which consisted of a crew who only started rowing last September, put in a valiant effort, but the conditions proved too much as they managed to qualify for the G final. However, they more than made amends by providing one of the tightest finishes of the day in their final. They powered past a Warwick crew and hung on to the bow ball of Worcester University’s faster finishing boat to finish second.
Conditions for the 8’s time trial weren’t much better as racing was soon suspended after they finished. With huge waves and a strong wind again proving a challenge, the 8’s cox Charlie Marriott’s voice was only just audible over the boat’s speakers as they rowed themselves into the D final. Perhaps the lack of training time meant that they weren’t prepared for what bow-man Tom Wilkins described as “rowing through treacle”. It’s safe to say all eight felt they had more to give but just weren’t able to convert their strong rhythm and power into effective boat speed. As conditions settled down, more of the crew’s ability began to shine through as they enjoyed a tough three-way scrap between Warwick and Cardiff to finish third and within the top 25 8’s in the country.
Sunday was UEA’s blue riband event, with the silver medal winning intermediate 4 looking to prove themselves on a regatta course. Conditions were much improved from the previous day, as Tom Pedelty, Mitch Johnson, Leon Bailey and Ben Mason, with Lucy Ysselmuiden in the cox’s seat, aimed to replicate some of the form which put them second at BUCS Head two months previously. The quality of their competition shone through over the 1500m course, but they still managed to sneak in to 12th place and claim a spot in the semi finals.
The 4’s marginal qualification for the semi final served as great motivation to push on for a top six finish at the event. However, a lack of regatta experience appeared to rear its head as they slipped behind off the start, meaning that, despite rowing with plenty of power and technique, they weren’t able to use it as effectively as some of the other crews. This resulted in a sixth placed finish and a spot in the B final. Their final was one of the last events of the day and, as the light faded, all four rowers gave everything they had left to try and finish the event as well placed as possible. They pushed hard for fourth place, only to slip back in the final 250m and come home a comfortable fifth place; 11th overall in their division. It was a good row from a crew with plenty of power and technical ability, although they were unable to utilize it fully.
Monday brought the best conditions of the event for the Women’s Beginner 8, who were competing in their first regatta. The day got off to an auspicious start as a photo of the crew appeared on Twitter with the caption “what program are they running?” in reference to their kit. They quickly silenced their critics by balancing finesse and rhythm to finish the time trial 6th overall and put themselves into the semi-finals. However, a lack of composure from the start meant that they quickly slipped back and couldn’t make up the deficit over the two kilometers, resulting in another B final for UEABC.
The start of the final was one of the more dramatic events of the weekend. The marshal dropped her flag and failed to say go, meaning all five crews went off at different times. Unsure if a false start was going to be called, cox Matt Everett started frantically waving at the surrounding marshals in an attempt to get them to restart the race. Fortunately, whistles started to sound as the crews were ordered back to their stake boats. At the second time of asking, all the crews got away cleanly and the Girl’s 8 seemed much more composed as they fought off an attack from the fast finishing Warwick boat to come home fourth, resulting in a tenth placed finish in their first regatta.
Overall, UEABC can count the BUCS 2013 regatta as a success, despite competing against strong universities with much bigger funding. The results the club achieved are certainly something to build on, although more coaching time and management would have been welcome. However, as it stands, the club is punching well above its weight.
If anyone was looking for another positive to draw upon, then they could look in the direction of both Olivia Cook and Lydia Ryan of the Women’s Beginner 8, who were scouted by British Rowing at the event. This would suggest that a UEA alumni presence may not be out of the question at Rio 2016.