Today started off with finding out that I would be racing both the 4x and the 8+ in the semifinals today. Not something I expected to be doing at Henley, but also a great experience and what ended up being two really great races.
In the eight, we got a lap on the course during morning practice to row together, and after about 500 meters, I felt ready to race as part of the crew. I then jumped back into the quad and we got in a paddle together. After a quick trip to Starbucks, it was time to start warming up for the 8+ race at 11:30. We had a solid warm-up and went into the race feeling good and excited to race. The rest of the boat set the course record yesterday--to Barrier, Fawley, and overall--and we went after it again today, managing to beat the 2006 record (this time in a headwind) by 3 seconds. It was a good piece, but also one we felt we could build off of. It was a good step towards the final tomorrow at 12:20 against Leander (the G.B. eight).
It was a pretty quick turnaround from cooling down from our 8+ race (there is no cooldown area on the course, so crews either jog or erg to cool down) to warming up for our 4x race. Luckily, the showers are FREEZING, so there was no need to locate an ice bath! Refreshed, we headed back out into the lunch break madness for our 4x warmup. After passing a gentleman who'd overturned his kayak in the middle of the racing lane, we made it through our warmup and to the starting line. The umpires were a bit late getting back from lunch--we discussed it with the Aussies and decided there must have been some really delightful cucumber sandwiches at tea--but otherwise the race went off without a hitch.
We had just gotten into our base strokes when THWACK!!! My starboard oar hit what I thought was a buoy, until I realized that there are log booms at Henley, not buoys...and regardless, the hit was on the racecourse side! We all looked out and saw that I had in fact clobbered a duck, which I would like to think then righted itself and swam away, but which Elle (2-seat) confirmed was not doing very well after the hit. However, we did get a big kick in the pants from the incident, and found another gear. We ended up with a win to advance the boat to tomorrow's final at 3:40, again against Australia (we raced their 4x today; tomorrow will be against what we've heard is their W2x combined with their LW2x, and who set the course record today).
Our teammates in the other USA 4x had an extremely challenging race against the other Australian quad, who threw down some very high ratings--from what the announcer said, "striking a 38" for much of the race--and in spite of also breaking 2001 course record, they did not advance. Some other USA crews today also had great but challenging races: our M8+ finished just 2/3 of a length down on defending world champions Germany in their first race together, our M4x was back the same distance on the G.B. quad, and our M2x was back 3/4 of a length on the 2010 WRC silver-medalists G.B. However, our M4- advanced with a 3/4 length win over Australia, and will race the final tomorrow at 3:00 against G.B. Gevvie Stone, who is preparing to try to qualify the 1x for this year's worlds, advanced to race against Knapkova tomorrow at 11:50.
All in all, it was a great day for racing. We decided in our boat meeting after the 4x that the duck helped power us along--Elle: "Really, there were five of us rowing that race." R.I.P., little ducky, but we're on to the final in the 4x and the 8+ is ready to race as well. Time for bed here. Go USA--good luck to all crews racing tomorrow!
***Photos courtesy of row2k.com***