Thursday, June 23, 2011

OTW with Matt Miller, Part III: First Impressions, Henley and London

Causing a stir in South Kensington (Photo: Matt Miller)
Matt and the UVa boys have arrived in England, and are now training at the course as the boat tents begin to fill up and crews from all over the world come pouring into the little town of Henley-on-Thames. Miller describes a little bit of the work they have been doing on the water, and gives a sense of the atmosphere around the regatta venue in the days immediately prior to the event. In addition to training, the UVa squad has enjoyed a trip to London, which they finished off with dinner at the London Rowing Club (my former home away from home) on the Putney Embankment. Here's what Matt has to say:

Apart from long lines at Dulles Airport, travel to our new home in Henley was uneventful. The red-eye put us into Heathrow around 8:00 AM Monday, and immediately there were a number of adjustments to be made to our new surroundings. We anticipated the exchange rate from dollars to pounds, but were surprised by prices, particularly food prices. In most cases, $3 of food in the US costs £3 here. I’m just glad not to be paying for gas!

UVa with CUBC oars, near the Angel on the Bridge (Photo: Matt Miller)
For me, the jet lag wasn’t bad; I slept better than most on the plane. Some of my teammates spent the afternoon napping, but we all rallied Late in the afternoon to make a trip to the course for our first practice in England. The Cambridge oars we will be using were delivered to our house, so we had an interesting walk through the streets of Henley with twelve sweep oars, much to the amusement of several passers by. We spent hours assembling and rigging two brand new Hudson boats to the specific rig of our boats back in the states (an 8+ and 4+).

The course and surrounding areas are unreal. All grassy areas are maintained like putting greens, and the boat tents and locker rooms are better than most permanent collegiate rowing facilities. Even the grass under the boat tents feels like a golf course. It’s hard to believe that the area is a field the rest of the year. The river has been particularly windy the past few days, but otherwise I love the weather, with highs in the 60s (F) making for great training weather. Unfortunately, the narrow waterway is starting to get crowded as more teams show up for Friday’s time trials or the main event next Wednesday.

Practices have generally been short. The V8 is adjusting to high rates in a headwind, while the V4 begins to taper for their Friday time trial. Pieces against other crews have broken the monotony of laps of the course on our own. Tuesday afternoon, Leander asked the V8 to provide competition for a 40 stroke start. On Wednesday morning, the V8 raced another Leander boat in 2x750m pieces. Both were a reminder of the high expectations and fierce competition of European rowing. The V4 got their own competition in three 500m pieces against Brown’s women’s eight. Both crews looked good, and our four feels prepared to qualify Friday afternoon for races next week.

London Rowing Club (Photo: Matt Miller)
The excitement of Wednesday morning pieces was only the beginning. The team took buses into London just after practice for some sightseeing. The team split into groups to see the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, London Eye, Harrods, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The night ended with a dinner at London Rowing Club in Putney. It was great to meet the LRC coaches and rowers, some of whom are Olympians. Virginia will be cheering for them as they race in the Wyfold, Visitors, Thames, and Britannia Challenge Cup events. The team will continue sightseeing on Monday as the team visits Warwick Castle. -MM

The Henley Qualifying Races take place tomorrow, so the UVa men will get their first test and taste of racing on the course in the time trials. We wish them the best of luck and look forward to more news from the Thames!

Upcoming: RR Picks and Predictions for Henley Royal Regatta, and Championship Regattas and Automatic Qualifiers – Potential Pitfalls 

-RR

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