Saturday, 13 August 2016

Cool Rowings

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Friday 12 August 2016 at Canada Square Park, London Docklands
A double victory for Thames Rowing Club.  Very respectable team and individual times for the Firefighter Challenge Team.
Invesco Perpetual City Regatta
First regattahop for the blog.  I am here to give moral support to elder son Matthew as he is in the Firefighter Challenge Team.  They have a respectable pedigree as a non-specialist team, having taken a team relay bronze at last year’s English Indoor Rowing Championships.
Pre-regatta preparation
Teams of four will compete head-to-head on Concept 2 indoor rowing machines linked to a virtual 1000m course with a big screen for spectators.  The teams will be placed in order of average team member split time.  It is not yet clear whether an element of tactics will be required – in particular whether to conserve energy in the first round.  The winning team will have to race three times – heat, semi-final and final.
This event in one sentence
A very enjoyable evening watching lots of other people suffer intense pain.
So what?
Everyone seemed happy enough to do something similar again.  Matthew and I spent a fortune on healthy food (honest) back at St Pancras.  The team will be back at this year’s English Championships in December.
The drama unfolds
Warwick Boat Club won the first men’s heat by a virtual mile.  The second was much closer, with the Royal Navy’s Drill Power team narrowly winning by only 0.1s on the average time.  The third was even closer – the big screen showed an astonishing dead heat between Crossfit Thames and the Nonesuch team, and it was not until later that Nonesuch were declared the winners by a virtual 55cm.

In Heat 4, the Firefighter Challenge team (Harrison, Mayo, Phillips & Yapp) gave Thames RC a good contest and came in second by a virtual 10m but with a very competitive time.

At this point, it was evident that the event was taking shape on the hoof and it became clear that several pre-registered teams had not turned up.  The remaining men’s heats were set aside and the women’s competition began.  The teams from Warwick and Thames Boat Clubs again made the best impression.

An anticlimactic men’s Heat 5 then took place with only two teams and the aptly named Lastminute Dot Com had a relatively easy passage into the semifinal with the slowest time of the heat winners.  The organisers then announced that there would be two semi-finals of three teams and two teams respectively, followed by a two-team head-to-head final, meaning that the sporting outcome had definitely been influenced by non-sporting factors.  Given that the rest of the event was extremely slick and professional, and all of the technology involved worked almost flawlessly, this particular partisan spectator felt that it suddenly all looked a bit amateur.  If the organisers want this to be an annual event, and they want teams to incur the expenses of entry, travel and time off work, then they need to protect the sporting core of the event alongside all of the corporate image.  Especially as the teams included some former Olympians and Henley Regatta medallists.  (I am saying this constructively in the context of an enjoyable evening with great potential for future seasons.)

The first men’s semi-final saw Warwick hold off a late surge from Nonesuch, with the Royal Navy team in third with another competitive time.  The line-up for the first women’s semi-final was then arbitrarily changed because one of the teams had had insufficient recovery time.  Two out of three went into the final, Warwick leading the way over the Rogue Regatta and Lansons Ladies bowing out at this point.  In the second men’s semi-final, Thames RC cruised to victory over Lastminute Dot Com in their slippers whilst smoking cigars and passing the port from left to right and back again.  The second women’s semi-final saw the University of London Boat Club and Thames RC get through to the final at the expense of the hardworking Fitness First team.

In the men’s final, Thames proved too strong for Warwick as they were able to hold on to a lead that they established early on.  The result of the women’s final was in doubt for longer but Thames came through to see off the challenge from ULBC followed by Warwick and Rogue Regatta.  Here's a video clip (sorry about the shake).

The Firefighter Challenge team took consolation in their respectable average and individual times, in particular for FF Mayo who was second overall on the night in the individual rankings at the end of the heats.  FF Harrison also came a very creditable fourth in the last event of the evening, a 500m virtual sprint for individuals from the competing teams.
Arena Pix

Competition Pix

L to R: FFs Yapp, Mayo, Harrison & Phillips

What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  I am heading back to the Midlands tomorrow and I may have to make a pragmatic groundhopping choice rather than a random one.

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