HotY 2017

We started our journey in the men’s eight, in earnest, around September of this year. A “Head Season”, with unremittingly long distances, curves, bends and crashes was a completely new concept for me. Basil brought a new fiery intensity to the club; putting us through our paces with some grueling ergos and a new weights program. As well as some killer (literally) circuits. All the joys.

To think 12 weeks ago, I would go on to actually ENJOY sustaining a 28-30 stroke rate for over half an hour seemed laughable and virtually un-doable! However, I genuinely enjoyed every last minute of this year’s Head of the Yarra.

I’m a nervy race-day rower… as my team-mates will confirm from excessively detailed body-workings on our WhatsApp group; “Morning Glory”. I arrived 4 hours before the race; keen to revel in the atmosphere, cheer on other crews and wind down the nerves. However, the nerves quickly turned to an astute state of focus once I watched a few boats taking off from the judges’ box.

Tim gathered us together as a crew at 12.45 with a final few words of wisdom. “Lengthen” would be our call. Lengthen to tidy up your last stroke and reset. Lengthen to ensure a full and strong finish. Lengthen to get your body over for a tender catch.

The starting line announcer sounded mechanical and almost haunting. Boat names were being called out like the quelling from the Hunger Games, with one simple instruction; “ROW”.

“Boat 206… row”.

The race itself feels a little like a blur. I remember the relief of getting around “big bend” (I was sitting in three seat) and then faintly thinking about tanking up for the next corner…

Stef was clinical in her calls and coxing. She put in a stellar performance, driving her crew on for pieces and navigating a difficult course in what can only be described as a coxswain’s race. We managed to hunt down and pass a crew around the 3km mark. We had drawn blood! There was a hunger and a freshness in the boat, perhaps Basil’s intensity was finally beginning to rub off. We wanted more… Tim was screaming from the bank; ushering us on to take another boat down. He wanted the “bumble-bees” from Balmain… The rush of passing another crew lifted us. We soon entered a crash site. Argonauts, were the casualties, missing a bend and lodging themselves in the middle of the river. Quick thinking from Stef and an “oar”esome save from Club President Jon ensured we sailed past our rivals unscathed. We were still hunting right to the finish line; pressing Balmain on the line and perching ourselves right up the pecking order.

Our hard work seemed to be answered in the overall results. Although the results posted on the day had us in 4th place, further inquiry and clarification had us ultimately with a quality 2nd place finish from 12 D Grade Crews. Our time of 33.25 placed us into 90th place overall. Even without knowing the result, I felt an exhilarating rush of joy! We’d finally come together as a crew to put in a solid row. We drove hard right out to the end and we had the shared euphoria of a team’s effort. A beer well earned!

We couldn’t have put a Richmond men’s eight together without wider help from the club. We cannot thank Tim, Dave and Keith, Ray and Kimmy enough for stepping in during training sessions and keeping the momentum going. Special mention to Matt Ebbatson on this front, for stepping up on about a week’s notice to fill in for Tim on race day after Tim succumbed to injury. We also lamented the losses of Laurent, James and Cam to injury at earlier points in the campaign; watch this space! They’ll be back. And an extra special thanks to Basil, Tim, Dennis and Ger for driving us on as coaches. The feeling of vindication for all the training and mileage off the water made me feel like a proud, proud man!

And of course, the men’s 8 was far the only Richmond presence on the water at this year’s HoTY. First off the mark from the Richmond crews was the women’s masters A-C 8 at about 11.15am, coxed by Mike Numa. By all accounts they made a great start, pushing off strong and swiftly passed several crews through the first half of the course up to big bend. Although the coaching observation had to turn back after that, the crew pushed on to finish in a solid 8th in category in a time of 37:01. This is the first time Richmond has entered the masters category, competing with some very strong crews. They’ve now set the benchmark for those to come!

Just shortly before the men’s 8 was to kick off, the women’s D grade 8 made their dash down the course, starting at about 1.20 and coxed by Derek Begg. Again, some strong crews were amongst the competition. The reports are again that the team pulled down the course strongly. They ultimately finishing 8th in category in a time of 41:51, improving on their overall placing from 2017. Ed has passed on her take on the girl’s tilt: we made a good start, the boats who were going to pass passed and then we had a steady row down to big bend. The bend was tricky in shallow water and rowing started to get difficult. With no other boats in sight it almost felt like any given Sunday row. We got a second wind going pass Scotch and eventually make it over the line, exhausted. Once we’d cooled down with some beers in the shade, the pirates rowed the eight home, and the highlight was cap’n Derek who did not give his pirate voice a break the entire 8.6km back. Thanks for keeping it fun Derek!

In addition to those full crews, Tigers were on the water in other boats. Gerry Goss, as well as coaching all of the Richmond crews at various times, scorched her way down the course in a composite Nagambie boat in the women’s masters F-K category. Her crew won their category in a time of 33:55! Ray Dennis also competed in a composite Banks crew in the men’s masters I-K 8, which crossed the line in 35:15. And we can’t forget Basil of course, who ended up scoring a seat in a masters Argonauts crew at the last minute.

There were also Tigers on the water in the coxswain’s seat. Shern Timmins was on the water early, coxing a composite Year 10 MLC/Tara schoolgirl’s crew from Sydney – Shern’s second HoTY in the cox’s seat! Nicole Stupka also steered an Adelaide crew down the course. And Lindsay Brown added an international element, taking control of a mixed crew from New Zealand.

Although some names have already been mentioned on the coaching front, it never hurts to say them again and to make sure that everyone is included. All the coaches put in a huge amount of effort and time, which is almost entirely out of their dedication to the club and their passion for rowing. They also fulfil multiple roles, as Derek (coach/cox), Mike (coach/cox), Tim (coach/rower) and Dennis (coach/rower) all demonstrate. We’d like to say again thanks to Basil, Tim, Dennis, Derek, Mike, Gerry and Barry.

With all that, another HoTY down – bring on HoTY 2018!

John Carey (telling the story of a first HoTY experience) and Andrew Yuile (doing the round-up on all RRC involvements)

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