By Paul Corby
A few of us had been here before. More had not. HORR: the culmination of a tough winter’s work, of countless thousands of metres on ergos, of seemingly endless paddling up and down the Tideway. The biggest race of the season. To a man, the Development Squad had given their everything in the months leading up to this race. Recently buoyed by some PBs in the previous weekend’s 5K tests, the crew was quietly excited in anticipation of a hard-fought race.
The morning started slowly; no pre-race paddle, no huge psyche-up in the gym with loud music, no thundering war-cries. Just a bit of innuendo and some special porridge today. Then, after boating, the paddle up. Finally, a chance to see those who would be racing around us. Sighting crews with similar numbers to ours, we warmed up with a few bursts, appreciating the sun and flat conditions the rowing Gods had gifted us this day.
As we mustered with the hundreds of other crews, watching the Elite category fly past, the sun faded and the wind began to return; first the Gods giveth, then they taketh away. Jack the Cox kept spirits high, before the moment came to turn and face down those crews around us. Familiar with some of the clubs, we knew we were in good company and would have to earn every inch in this race. Winding up, the usual Power Tens were called. The Powerhouse of middle four was called forward to give 10, immediately followed by bow four being called for the same, immediately followed by three and four internally crying “WHAT!? WHY US?!” We were chasing 208 and 209, with both crews seemingly forever half-a-length ahead, before our bowman finally caught a glimpse of white in his starboard peripherals. Simultaneously we were being pushed from behind by a strong Christchurch crew, who were holding us tight along the seemingly unending length of river. This was the driver we needed as we raced three-abreast past Hammersmith Bridge and all the way through to the Black Buoy, helping to push us onward through the final third of the race.
Coming away from the water, there was a feeling of a good job well done, with room for improvement as we head into the shorter, and warmer, summer races. Congratulations were passed between crews and coaches. Only when we saw the times were we truly made-up. 20.20.4. We had defied expectations and come in as a respectable third Vesta crew. Wendy, squad coach, was potentially seconds away from erupting, before her joy was controlled back down to a happy boil with a well-timed gin & tonic. At this point, the clarity fades as the afternoon became evening and the Vesta bar churned out seemingly endless pints of various liquids.
Now we have all been there, the notorious HORR, and all will hopefully return to do so once more in the infamous Crimson & Black.