In preparation for the Head of the River Race M2 entered Kingston head, which was rowed over a 5.2km course on the Thames. After our joyful Lent bumps results we were eager to show our prowess yet again.
The number of entrants was large, sporting all levels of rowing talent, and we did not quite know what to expect of the race. It was definitely going to be a long fought battle testing our mental and physical toughness. A challenge we all relished. We were also blessed with beautiful conditions, almost no wind, and even the sun came out just before the race, guns out time.
In our paddle down towards the start we enjoyed the width of the river, and did some higher rate pieces both to set ourselves up for the race, and to overcome a couple of motorboats upsetting the water. At the marshalling area we had to wait for quite a while. Whilst trying to keep our focus, we also got to observe some of the talent in the race.
Finally, our turn came, and we were all eager to seize the moment. Our rolling start was perhaps not as good as it could have been, but the important part was done as we got the boat speed up and settled into a nice rhythm around 34 strokers per minute.
We were happy to see the Imperial College novice boat behind us disappear into distance, and we soon engaged on our first overtake. We moved solidly through the Molesey boat in front of us, despite losing our form a bit, and some minor crustacean appearances in the six seat.
After our early overtake we were well set for the race, and began putting on a steady pressure. After coming around the big bend on the course, we began our second overtake, which we managed just before Ravens Ait. We pushed away from the crew we had overtaken, but soon some worrying signs started to appear. We lost some of the power, speed, and balance, which we had enjoyed so far. Even the rate began to falter. However, Catherine made some timely calls to wind up our rate a bit, and legs on pushes. These calls worked for a while, but the fact that Catherine had to repeat them several times before the finish is something we need to work on before HoRR.
However, we were embarking on our final push coming towards the two bridges on the course. The rough water under Kingston Road Bridge upset our balance a bit, and Catherine performed some eurosteering, snapping our rudder string. Remarkably, Catherine kept her cool, and still managed to steer us under the second bridge neatly. From here on, it was a push to the finish line. Our rowers were a bit unsure of the distance to the finish, and I feel that we could have pushed a bit harder, emptying our tanks completely.
All in all, a very satisfactory race result. We managed to beat most of the opposition in our category, and were also faster than Pembroke M2, the only other second division men's boat from Cambridge. This definitely served as good practice for Head of the River Race, as we have now gained some confidence knowing that we can manage longer distances. Also, thanks to Chris for subbing in for Rob!