Reading Amateur Regatta is Reading’s best rowing event held on a beautiful stretch of the river Thames. The races are held over 1500m on a buoyed two lane course, this provides a real testing ground for all crews: every race must be won to reach the final! Taking place 1 week before Henley Women’s Regatta (HWR) and 3 weeks before Henley Royal Regatta (HRR) this is a popular event and is known to attract a number of international crews.
On Saturday 14th June Exeter Rowing Club’s women’s senior 8+ (Kirsty Barker, Kerri-Ann Upham, Rebecca Kelly, Ellie Dodd, Susie Howells, Jane Stack, Lisa Cocks, Nadine Levin and cox Dani Wall) were in Reading competing against some of the best clubs and universities in the country at IM3 level. After a stormy night the girls and coach Pete Cork woke to bright sunshine and light winds – perfect conditions for head to head racing. The first race of the day was against Curlew Rowing Club. At 8.30am the girls paddled to the start line taking in the spectacular views of grand houses and pristine gardens. The course is not a straight run, so the start is staggered, for all of their races Exeter were on the far station, this meant they would be half a length behind their opposition before the race had even begun. After a nervous start Curlew rowing club were up by one length following their advantage at the start and a bend in their favour. Maintaining focus on their own rowing the Exeter crew began to edge towards Curlew, then coming out of the bend in favour of Exeter the girls had the lead. Approaching the final 500m straight the Exeter crew were powering towards the line finishing 3/4 length ahead of Curlew and posting the second fastest time of the first round.
A 3 hour break between the first round and the quarter final allowed the crew to relax and refuel. The next race was against Birmingham University. Exeter again were starting on the far station and after the first 250m found themselves a length down. With first race nerves out of the way and having the confidence that they could row through a crew the girls began to take inches out of the Birmingham crew with every stroke. Cox Dani Wall steered a competitive line edging closer to the middle of the river to stay in the stream. Coming into the 500m straight the crews were level. The crowds from the bank had grown and Exeter had acquired a number of new supporters. With 250m left there was still nothing to separate the two crews and Kirsty Barker in the stroke seat called for a final push. Inspired by the roaring crowds and desperate to give justice to all of the hard work they had put in the girls gave it everything. The final verdict was a win for Exeter by ½ length; as they crossed the line the Exeter crew let out cheers of joy and relief, it was a thrilling race and Exeter Rowing Club were through to the semi-final!!
Between races the crew relaxed in warm sun soaking up the atmosphere and watching top crews race down the course. The semi-final would be against Manchester University, this crew had posted exactly the same time as Exeter in the quarter final so there was everything to play for. Nerves were running high and the final was in touching distance. Manchester were ahead off the start. With cheers of encouragement from coach Pete Cork cycling alongside the Exeter crew worked tirelessly to claw their way through the Manchester University boat. Heading into the final 250m Exeter were still down, the girls put down everything they had in a final push for the line but it wasn’t quite enough, the final verdict was 0.6 length to Manchester University. Crossing the line heads dropped as the disappointment and frustration of being so close to reaching the final set in. But as they looked over to their opposition the Manchester crew could be seen grimacing in pain and they later said that had been the toughest race they had rowed all year. The eventual winners of the WIM3 8+ was Wadham College who beat Manchester University in the final by 3 lengths.
This was a fantastic achievement for Exeter Rowing Club and great learning experience, especially for novice rowers Kirsty, Rebecca, Ellie, Susie and Jane who only started rowing last year. The next event for this crew will be Henley Women’s Regatta. The crew are travelling to Henley on Wednesday and their first race will be against Worcester Rowing Club on the evening of Friday 20th June.