By Simon Cawthra
BUCS events are few and far between for Cardiff University Rowing Club, so when a race does appear on the calendar, the club sends a strong and substantial representation. With over 60 athletes making the trek to Newcastle, everyone was looking to make as much of an impact as possible.
The course itself was a 5k slog into a headwind, with little protection from the elements and crews of four or eight completing the distance. The event is called a head race and is in the format of a time trial, unlike the six-lane racing seen in the Olympics, making for a long race with little motivation from surrounding boats.
The event has novice racing (less than one year’s rowing experience) on the Saturday and senior races on Sunday. After the novice day being cancelled for the previous two years, event managers were keen to avoid a repeat. This led to some gruelling conditions for the novice day and, with a headwind gusting over 40mph, the race will have felt much longer for those taking part.
This created a real test for the Cardiff novice squads, who normally train in sheltered conditions on the River Taff. With this in mind, the performances produced by the inexperienced squads were superb; the Novice Men first and second boats finished 11th and 22nd respectively. And the first boat finished 20 places higher than the Swansea novice crew. The fours did equally well with the top boat crossing the line sixth in a category containing 39 crews.
The results of 14th and 16th from the Novice Women demonstrated good technical ability to deal with the conditions and still come away with a strong result – in this category, the girls finished 10 spots higher than Swansea. The Novice Women’s squad also fielded boats in the fours category, with the top boat securing 11th in a category of 27.
Winds were much lighter the following day, though still slightly gusty, allowing Cardiff crews to produce some strong results. The Senior Men secured 22nd in the category containing nearly 50 crews. Indeed, an even more competitive result could have been shown but, unfortunately, damage to their boat prevented them from racing in their usual one. Putting it into perspective, this is the equivalent of having to play a game of football in boots that are three sizes too big – you can never be expected to perform as well. Nevertheless, they still placed higher than the Swansea crew.
Meanwhile, the Senior Women’s squad produced astounding results, with both crews finishing in the top 10, and within 12 seconds of each other. Equally in the fours, the Senior Women secured top 20 positions despite incidences with other boats. This shows a large amount of depth in the squad and positive signs for when the squads go to race on the Thames in March in what is the biggest head race of the season.
That isn’t all for Cardiff University Rowing Club at the moment, though. The squad are completing a “Row to Rio” to celebrate the Olympic Games and to raise money for Heath Hospital. This will see a total distance of 9,139km rowed over the course of a week. The club completed a 24-hour row last year and raised just under £4,000 pounds, with money going towards Anthony Nolan. Hopefully an even greater amount will be raised for a cause that is close to Cardiff University student’s hearts.