Junior Men's Report

HENLEY 2003 - MEMOIRS OF A WICKED STEPMOTHER

In terms of spectator participation, and especially for those of us who spend a good deal of the rest of the year damp and cold on a range of otherwise unremarkable river banks, Henley is the height of the non-rowing year. Champagne, strawberries, a new hat - (especially if your darling kitten has taken to using the feather in you last years version as target practice), more champagne, new shoes (blisters but that's a side issue), old and new friends, rain - after all this is England and we would be upset if it didn't - more champagne and the odd spot of rowing if you are lucky. In other words - a week to look forward to.

The quad. I should probably mention them - good chaps apparently won a cup, Adam Pennock (Bow), David Read (2- Henley) Dan You-know-who (3), Zac Purchase (stroke - Kings Worcester).

Those of you who know Chris and I will probably remember that we allowed Ben and his quad to have our house over Henley week 2 years ago - it only seemed fair - apparently, that we extend this gesture of support and cat feeding to Dan and his crew. We therefore dutifully left the house on the Thursday of Henley week 2003 amidst promises from commendably straight faces of said cat feeding, no girls, early nights and good wholesome food - hmmm. I don't know what the rest of High Wycombe was eating that week as most of Asda was in my cupboard/fridge. I had cleaned, washed, tidied, made beds, shooed out cats & hidden anything unrecognisable or suspect, just in case. What would Adam or Zac tell their parents? - I didn't know them then, next year the boys are being farmed out and the parents are coming here, cat feeding, no boys, good food....

The chaps had managed to be pre-selected, despite a bit of a run in with the lurgy at Marlow International which would have been their chance to qualify in the normal way - this let us off the hook as far as the Fawley Cup was concerned until the Friday. We filled the car (in lorry mode) with food, drink and the aforementioned hats, kitchen sink and a spare just in case (did I say there was Champagne?) I won't go into details about the palatial accommodation but it was an experience - and a good one, this missive is supposed to be about the rowing after all, and descriptions of our weekend abode would be an essay by itself.

Friday dawned - one race. What do you mean it's at 09.15? - I'm not conscious until about 11.00 and then only after strong coffee and nicotine (yes, yes - I'll try to give up soon) So there we were, a posse of nervous parents and me, a nervous step-parent. A mother who shall remain nameless once commented that I couldn't possibly understand how desperate she felt at the loss of a race since I wasn't 'a mother' - well I have news for her, I am a mother (to Sam) and although I can't condone her tears in front of the unlucky rower, I do understand her disappointment. All that feeding, washing, driving, standing on banks, more feeding, late night chats when things are not going so well and so on and so forth. If anyone deserves to cry it is the washer of rowing kit - regardless of blood ties! And so they raced - hearts in mouths we watched from the Upper Thames slipway and by the time they reached us were looking reasonably comfortable - having said that I was glad I couldn't see any chickens. There are so many things that could go wrong - a broken blade, catching a crab, hitting the boom, being disqualified for useless or non existent steering, broken steering.. the list is endless and the night isn't over till the Fat Lady sings. They crossed the line first - always a good sign and thankfully we retired to the bar.

Saturday also dawned, very beautifully, it was looking like a scorcher - have they got cream? they will drink enough won't they? Did we leave them enough food? (Ye Gods) another early race - one of two and the moment of Leander truth was approaching. Now is as good a time as any to confess a certain amount of Internet surfing in the chat room department. The other parents were all doing it and I was beginning to feel I was missing something, it even looked suspiciously like some were joining in - I draw the line at that. Suffice to say that most of what I read - and I certainly didn't read it all - seemed to revolve around the question of who was the better quad - Marlow or Leander, with Leander looking confident that they had it 'in the bag'. Now I know Andrew and Tom who were in this Leander quad as they had also been in the GB quad for Munich with Dan and Zac - nice chaps, but when the chips are down you have to recognise your priorities. So when Leander were knocked out in their heat on Sat morning I can't say that I was anything other than delighted. I couldn't help feeling that it is very unwise to claim victory before the event, after all, every dog has his day and these rowing mongrels are an unpredictable lot. Our crew were lucky - if you can call it that - the opposition had a nasty run in with the barrier at the end of the island (a truly spectacular flying blade can be seen on our video) and were very effectively smashed out of the race before it had really got going. Thankfully no one was hurt and those on the bank were heard to say that it seemed a shame as an extra hour in bed could have been had! Our chaps carried on looking very strong, looking determined, looking in fact straight ahead, didn't they realise?- we only learned later that they were after a good initial split time for reference.....

The second race of Saturday was billed as kill or cure - the Aussies. The Americans were through to the final and this was IT. We all went to the loo and then went again, Heather (Adam's Mum) felt sick - well, to be truthful she was the only one honest enough to admit it. Jez looked like thunder as went up in the launch - and a bit green. Camera, lights, action! They rowed beautifully, we yelled dutifully and then of course since we were at the Marlow enclosure we waited, didn't hear much and waited some more - and then we squawked and jumped about (since there is no rhyming adjective that comes to mind at this ungodly hour of the morning and it definitely needs something), embarrassingly! Text messages flew - they were through to the final - thank God.

Phew - I must admit we were feeling buoyant at this point - Leander out, the communal 'us' in, alleged main competition beaten - watch out Pinsent and Cracknell! Yes we all gawked at them too!

Sunday - hell I need a new hat for this (read: shoes/dress/handbag). Unfortunately, Oxfam couldn't oblige and the old (brother's wedding) version was resurrected for this auspicious occasion. You may have noticed a cat nibble if you looked closely enough, but then you shouldn't have been looking. We arrived - a special pitch at Old Blades had been reserved, a large picnic assembled (yes, Coronation Chicken again for anyone who remembers last year), the gazebo raised, champagne and cake consumed in deference to the only slightly less important occasion of Heather's birthday, voices sang out - briefly, and then we legged it to Stewards. That was the last we saw of Old Blades, picnic, Coronation Chicken, birthday cake etc until about 8pm.

To be truthful it is still a bit of a blur - but this is what I remember of the race itself - someone else will probably tell you the facts.

The island - ....at 38 ahead by a canvas of Marlow stroking 36 - "Oh ****" ", read, "Golly Gosh" or "Fiddlesticks" whichever you prefer (Thanks goes to Nick Purchase for that quote!).

200m - still ahead by 1 foot blah blah - heart still in mouth: will they/won't they?.
At Fawley - Marlow lead by 1½ lengths - "YES", I can't write that all wobbly but the shout was accompanied by much hopping about - as much as is possible in legal Stewards attire.

The enclosure – 3½ lengths and the gap was growing. I almost dared to give up the habit of a lifetime and count those chickens.

The clapping was thunderous and everyone seemed to be shouting for 'our' boat. We even persuaded an American couple next to us to shout for Marlow/Kings/Henley - in retrospect I don't think they realised at the time that the opposition were their countrymen, but to us it seemed like a coup. And across the line they went - five lengths, verdict easily. We launched ourselves towards the boat tent, where much just tolerated kissing occurred, hankies were dampened, blisters forgotten, photographs taken, more photographs taken, videos whirred and most people seemed fairly pleased - the opposition excepted. This is the champagne bit with a more than perfect excuse. We definitely had lots. Jez finally looked like someone had given him happy pills, the beam on his face went from ear to ear and only matched the ones on the faces of the crew - his was still there on Monday afternoon. Then there was prize giving, more photos, more champagne but in the cup this time and, although the cup had to be given back, we are apparently allowed to borrow it on special occasions - roll on Club Supper. We eventually staggered home emotionally drained, slightly shocked and pleased as punch.

What a day! Anyone for Coronation Chicken?

Jenny George

WINTER 2003

I am pleased report that, following long distance trials at Boston and Peterborough, 4 of our athletes have been invited to attend the Great Britain Spring Trials in April; they are Dan Tipney, Adam Pennock, Jenny Forrester and Helen Brewer.

At the Boston trials, Dan had a good weekend by coming second in his single on the Saturday and winning with Andrew Walker of Leander on the Sunday in the doubles. Jenny and Helen came 6th and 7th on the Saturday in their singles and came second in the double on the Sunday. Adam did not have an invitation to spring trials after Boston, where he finished 16th on the Saturday and 5th on the Sunday in his single, so he had to go to trials at Peterborough. There he earned his invitation to Spring Trials by finishing fourth. Also at Boston, Nick Fox was invited to trial in the J18 event; alongside Dan and Adam he come a creditable 20th and 10th.

In December, the juniors travelled to Wycliffe and came back with 2 Gold, 2 Silver and 5 Bronze medals. The Golds came in Novice Doubles for Stuart Heap and Richard Hewitt and in Women's J18 doubles. The Silvers came in J18 4x, J16 2x and Bronzes in J15 1x, J16 2x, Novice 2x, J16 1x and WJ18 1x.

There was no racing in January or February, but we were back for the Schools Head in March. We had entered 6 crews, but only 3 were accepted due to the large number of entries. The WJ18 4x came third in their event, only a couple of seconds behind second place, the J16 4x were second by 8 seconds to Kingston GS, and the WJ16 4x came 12th.

The juniors are now looking forward to their training camp in Belgium from 19th April to 25th April, and a good summer of racing.

Russell Peacock