The race start time for Quintin Head was 12.15pm. This lulled us into a false sense of security, as we thought we could relax on race day with a lie-in. Not so. Instead, we got up at the usual break of dawn to head across London to Putney Town for a pre-race paddle. Which, in fairness, was probably a good idea – our crew had only had a couple of outings together prior to the day. Post-paddle, we headed inside to get warm and raceready. I didn’t feel too chilly, and thought I would be fine with just a unisuit and t-shirt under my splash jacket. How wrong I was. Later on, marshalling for the (inevitably late-starting) race, I sat in the 2-seat and realised I had made a grave, grave error. The sky was thick with clouds and a stiff breeze had picked up, which resulted in conditions which were, to use the technical term, effing freezing. In an effort to gain some distraction from the cold, we had a look around at the other crews’ race preparations. The cox of the masters crew next to us had an interesting one: vaping! (one way of staying relaxed I suppose). Finally, we got to turn for the start of the race. It was a little strange heading in the opposite direction to the usual head race course, but we carried out the race plan as usual and wound up to race pace coming through Hammersmith Bridge.

The City of Bristol crew following us really pushed the boundaries of race etiquette (and safety) by starting only half a boat length behind us, and we immediately started a battle with them and City of Oxford to be the first women’s crew to overtake the Team Keane Masters E crew ahead (who appeared to be taking a very chilled approach to the race – maybe it was the vaping). We came past Chiswick Eyot four abreast, and at this point my decision to forgo long sleeves really came back to haunt me: I couldn’t feel anything below the elbows, which made holding onto the blade rather more challenging than usual! We stuck with Bristol for much of the rest of the race, which, along with Rosie’s excellent coxing calls, gave us the motivation to keep pushing through right to the finish.

We were exhausted, but it felt like a solid race – especially for what was essentially a scratch crew. Most importantly, we had definitely earned ourselves a good helping of my homemade chocolate brownies! Words by Kat Blomberg

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