A glorious sunny day, peaceful lake and a picturesque windmill, greeted us at Caldecotte, Milton Keynes. After pitching camp and slapping on the sunscreen, we made ready for the 200m race, which, due to wonderful support meant we had a full boat, plus extras! As we made our way to the start line it was obvious that we were a 'heavy' boat - I think Isobel made a comment about the right being heavier than the left - but after our helm, Derek, had shifted his now infamous wallet from one pocket to the other, we were slightly better balanced. Up on the start line, we eyed our competition. Amathus; Crusaders and a team called Plastic Fantastic. Whilst it was remote that we would win the heat, our plan was to stick as close to the leader as possible to secure a good time. The good news ? Our time was 53.80. The bad news ? The everyone else in the heat was faster.
Over the next few heats, our wonderful Captain/Crew Manager/Drummer, Isobel, swapped and shifted the crew around, trying to find the optimal racing configuration over this short sprint distance, but alas, before we knew it the heats, semis and finals were over.
Many of the mornings races had ran to time (and even ahead of time) which gave us a welcome lunch break and time to recover and regroup before the 500m. Over lunch however, we became very popular, with a little queue of small children forming on the perimeter of the Henley camp. Future Henley paddlers? Alas no, just all wanting to see our furry supporter, Boris the rabbit!
Onto the 500s. Up at the start line, we eyed our competition. Tao; Exe-Calibre and Pershore. Despite a great start and good calls down the course, Tao and Exe-Calibre edged forward throughout the race, leaving Henley in 3rd place and as a result in the Plate Competition. Whilst not quite the result we had hoped for, there was still the opportunity to repeat our success in Exeter by winning the Plate, but with close times during the heats this wasn't going to be easy.
A confident win in our 500m semi final saw us in the 500m Plate Major Final against Notts Anaconda and Plastic Fantastic, with all three crews having qualifying semi-finals times within fractions of a second of each other. Any one of the crews could win this race.
Down on the start line and ready to go. We knew we had a chance. We shot off the start line, this was going to be close, but we held our own. Henley edged forward. Notts edged back and then in front. Henley edged forward again. Notts edged back again. All the way down the course, it was like cat and mouse. With great calls, excellent helming, fantastic drumming, brilliant pushes and huge support from the shore (yes, we could hear our supporters cheering us on), Henley put in a final push. With my heart now somewhere in my throat, we crossed the line and judging from the gasping and heavy breathing (and silence) I knew everyone in the boat had put in a 100%! But what was the result ? Did we win ? Had Notts won ? No one was sure. It was too close to call.
Back on shore Isobel greeted us with a downcast face. She informed us that it was a very,very close finish (0.19sec difference!) and that YES WE HAD WON!!! (never ever play poker with that girl!)
So, a brilliant end to the day and the best trophy ever - a lovely Milton Keynes cow (who was promptly named Boris, in honour of our furry friend), complete with a paddle !
A huge well done to all who came to the event, especially our first timers, Phil, Dominic, Simon and Tom - we look forward to seeing you all in future! It was really great to see lovely Caralyn again too! And well done to all the Henley women, who joined in the last race with 5 teams entering the ladies race!
So, Henley, in the words of the famous Buzz...TO WORCHESTER ..AND BEYOND!!!!
For more photos of the event, click here.
Race Reporter: Jeni