It may have been the day of the football world cup final between Holland and Spain, but for Henley Dragons there was a far more important sporting event taking place - the BDA league event at Exeter. The racing at Exeter is easily the most popular one of the year for Henley paddlers. It's the event many club members want to participate in. With the day's racing taking part on a stretch of the River Exe just a stone's throw from Exeter cathedral who could ask for more! Today Henley put out a crew of 19 paddlers. Three more than our last outing to Nottingham. As in previous years several of Henley's crew chose to travel down the day before and spend saturday night at a local campsite. Once the sun had risen it was time to eat a hearty breakfast, washed down with a mug of tea, pack away the tents and make their way down to the quay, near Exeter city centre, for the day's racing.
Henley first saw action in heat 3 of the 200m event against Amathus and Kingston Pretenders. Due to it being the first race and a good number of the crew still feeling the effects of sleeping under canvas the night before, it was a bit of a mad panic to get the boat dressed, loaded up and out onto the water in time. Henley paddled straight up to the start line with no time to sort out any timing issues or to practice any race starts. For the first race we would just have to go for it! As soon as the race begun Henley pulled away from the competition but the Amathus boat came back at us. In the end Henley finished in second place.
Our race start had gone perfectly but we didn't have enough to beat Amathus over the line. Henley's time put us straight into a tail race against Notts Anaconda and Exeter Canoe club fighting for 10th to 12th places in the 200m event. For this race Henley was more prepared and had time to practice a race start before lining up against the competition. Again Henley made an excellent start and the boat felt powerful all the way down the course. But the strength of Exeter Canoe Club was too much for Henley to see off resulting in us claiming 11th place in the 200m event.
We now had over a hour before the 500m racing so it was a good time to break for lunch. Bananas and pasta dishes were on the menu for many club members, washed down with more cups of tea than you could shake a paddle at!
The first 500m race was against Kinston and Worcester Dragonflies. Again our start was rock solid, beating the competition over the first 100m but Kingston crossed the finish line ahead of Henley. Our time put us into a plate rep against Exe-Calibre Blades and Worcester Dragonflies. Henley just about finished in first place putting us into a plate semi-final with Exe-Calibre Blades and Notts Anaconda.
Boosted by winning the last race and the chance of bringing home some silverware Henley won it's plate semi-final to secure a spot in the plate major final against Exe-Calibre Blades (again!) and Raging Dragons. Henley beat off the competition to take 1st place in the 500m plate races.
It felt really good to finish the day by being awarded a plate trophy for the 500m event. For Gemma, Sarah and her brother Ben it was their first taste of racing with Henley Dragons. Let's hope they enjoyed themselves at Exeter and will come along to the next BDA league event held at Caldecotte.
Riding high on the crest of a wave from our success at London Henley Dragons were full of confidence. The next BDA league event took us to Nottingham. A day of competition lay ahead on a stretch of the River Trent in the heart of the city.
An eventful first race of the season with high winds, big waves and the cancellation of the 500s gave us more time to celebrate the hard work of the Henley members representing Great Britain at the world championships in Tampa Bay, Florida. We also said good bye to last year's captain who will be paddling (and working) in Australia for a few years.