Sydney Uni Women?s Head Coach, Alan Bennett, who took charge of the high performance program in late 2004 has led a small contingent from SUWRC to some notable success at Women?s Henley in the UK last weekend. Two crews from SUWRC competed in the regatta - Laura Polin and Yasmin L'Estrange in the Women's Elite Pair and Renee Kirby and Alex Handley in the Women's Junior Double Scull.
Rowed on the famous Henley Royal Regatta course, the women?s regatta is held over three days and raced over a distance of 1500m.
The course on the River Thames is constructed by piling wooden uprights into the river bed at approximately 25m apart. In between these uprights, wooden booms float forming a solid line of timber outlining a dead straight course. making a dead straight course in which both boats race inside.
The format is one on one match racing with the winner proceeding to the next round and the loser going home.
To get used to the format of match racing, both crews raced in the local Reading Amateur Regatta two days after arriving and a week prior to the start of HWR. Apart from racing one on one, steering around two bends made the racing very different from that encountered back at home. The double won their event whilst the pair were eliminated in the first round.
The effects of jet lag then struck and took until the Thursday before the regatta started for both crews to bounce back to full speed. This along with the weather being wet and cold made training difficult. However by the start of racing and a temperature rise to 30degC made conditions more to our liking.
Renee and Alex raced and beat the same crew that they had raced at the regatta the previous week in their first race. This crew from Reading Rowing Club contained an athlete on the "World Class Start" program, which selects potential elite athletes and fast racks them through the system.
Laura and Yasmin in the pair raced a crew from Nottingham Boat Club. Off the start they veered across towards their opponents and were warned by the umpire for steering. In the time it took to correct their course and still being warned by the umpire, the crew from NBC played by the rules (a bit like English rugby!) and came across and hit them, therefore getting them disqualifed. A very unfortunate lesson was learnt by both girls, but that was the start and finish of their regatta.
The double next raced against a crew from Gibralter and won, moving them into the semi finals the following day against Maidenhead A crew, which contained a girl who had just been selected into one of the British Junior crews. A good start saw our crew dominating the race and move into the final against a crew from St Peters School, York. The stroke girl of this crew had been a GB representative in the 2004 Junior team and looks to do like wise this year.
In bouncy conditions caused by a strong headwind and an excess of water pleasure craft, the superior skill level of Renee and Alex saw them lead from start to finish to win the event overall. Having raced four times over two days they had performed better and better each time they raced and were worthy winners of the event.
Alex Handley's father Steve rowed in the 1980 Australian Eight in Moscow.
SUWRC also had another win, albeit under the guise of Nottingham and Union Boat Club. Bronwen Watson who was rowing and coaching at SUWRC before moving to the UK won the Lightweight Women?s Pair.
Overall the trip was successful for both crews. The reasons for the tour are to make the athlete aware of how to deal with situations that arise during their career and to put procedures in place to deal with them. Along with having fun, the following are the main points that highlighted the tour:
- learning how to deal with long distance travel and the preparation required to perform at a high level having recovered from jet lag.
- coping with the pressure of match racing and how different it is from multi lane racing.
- coping with the disappointment of not attaining your goals.
With the experiences from above the girls are looking forward to next season and can't wait to start racing again.