By Garrett Speers
Of the original 24 men who turned up to the first training session, only 17 withstood to form the core squad, of whom seven had rowed before in one form or another, either at school, university, or on the Vesta Learn-to-Row course. Under the watchful eye of our coaches Wendy and Deckchair, we were broken down to basics and rebuilt as what would become one of Vesta’s most successful novice squads in recent years.
Why? Why were we doing this to ourselves? Subjecting ourselves to this willingly? This, and many more expletive-laden thoughts, would cross our minds when confronted with a 5K erg, or long steady state rows on the Tideway, seeing snow settle on the shoulders of the man in front of you…
The answer would come at the first head race, when in an VIII at the Remenham Challenge we would chase down crews in the thick fog, pipping Twickenham at the cusp of the finish line. We would take them in front of the other proven Vesta crews at the last second. It was then that we were truly hooked; we had all caught the bug. Out of the window go your NRFs (non-rowing friends) and in come your crewmates – a band of brothers. United by the same love of racing, propping up the Vesta bar, and avoiding death at the hands of the Putney Pier (all survived, minus one blade…) you’re hooked! This is why we row.
With many strong performances of the Head season behind us, we embarked on a tough training camp in Totnes – where our proficiency in drinking, rowing, and capsizing boats of all sizes increased drastically. Our time training down on the Dart gave us the crucial experience and fighting spirit for the Nov. VIII, stroked by Tom ‘Champion’ Wormold, to promptly win and collect the first Vesta silverware of the season at Hammersmith Regatta.
Throughout the regatta season, the number of water sessions increased in an attempt to rid us of ‘the rush’, bed down some decent technique, and build upon our early success. Many of us would be competing at IM3 level. Across the regattas we entered, strong performances ensued (in the VIIIs, IVs, 2x, and 1-), with us chasing down and putting the fear into the senior crews on a couple of occasions – with experience only just paying off – maybe we weren’t as bad as we told each other?
We finished up the summer season with a spectacular win in the Novice 2x by Matt K & our Saffa Leo at Putney Town Regatta, and with the IM3 VIII at Kingston Regatta. It has been a truly rewarding and satisfying year for us all, not just in the silverware department, but in the great experiences had and lasting friendships forged. None of this would have been possible without motivation from our coxes Jack and Cat, guest-coaches Uncle Nick and Uncle Ben, Coach Deckchair, and ultimately – Coach Wendy. The 2017/18 novice squad certainly have a lot to live up to, on and off the water.
Next year will see many of us return to Vesta to bolster the Senior squads, to train hard and play harder. But even for those not returning, whether in Australia or closer to home, we shall all remain a crew for life – brothers in arms (then body and legs).