Last weekend was Thameside 2 (19 miles, 8 portages) and to all intents and purposes it was free of incident (for us anyway). My frontman Thor Harley and I (in C2) started on the first start and were conservative in hanging back and letting the carnage take place in front of us so we could pick our way through the other boats and generally take things cautiously. Our main competition were Alan Farrance & Shirine Voller from Hemel, Tom Batchelor & Tom Fryer also from Hemel, and Richard Parrott & Matt Short from Paddlesport. We saw the other three crews in front of us from the start but I was concentrating so hard on the boats directly in front of us that I almost didn't see us about to overtake Alan and Shirine. In fact, there were so many other boats in front of us (mostly K2s) that I couldn't see the Toms or Matt & Rich at all. We overtook Alan & Shirine on the first portage at Caversham, as well as A LOT of other boats. We didn't see the Toms or Matt & Rich so we assumed they not only had a much better start than us, but they also had a better portage. We made good progress after that and kind of settled in for the long haul. More good portages followed, and the weather steadily got worse. Choice of kit was definitely a decisive factor given that the rain that preceded the race was getting heavier, and the air was getting colder.
Just before we got to Henley we could hear the distinctive heavy breathing of Tom Fryer as they came steaming past us. What happened to them? It turns out they were capsized by another boat on the start and had to wait for the carnage to pass before swimming to the bank. Shortly afterwards we then heard Rich & Matt. They had the same problem, only a little further down after the start. We had been leading the whole time without even knowing. No wonder I couldn't see them after the start, they weren't there!
Tom B was feeling the cold and stopped off at Henley Dragonboat Club to borrow a jacket to continue the race in, which meant we overtook them, they then took about another ten minutes to overtake us again. Richard & Matt stayed just a little behind us when we realised that once again, the race is on!
The Toms have much better boat speed than us so we can't realistically race them, but we know that Matt & Rich are about the same as us, so we upped our game. The next portage was Hurley and we immediately followed a K2 on the best route. Matt & Rich were making noises and trying not to let us get away. We passed the lock entrance and Thor said "in here?" and I said "No, too high", so we joined the short queue of other boats waiting to get in lower down. A good move. Matt & Rich went for the 'too high' option and Matt fell in. I only saw this once we got in and checked whether they were about to overtake us or not. The rest of the race I was checking to see if they were about to catch us again, or not. Apart from that the rest of the race was pretty uneventful, but it did start snowing when we got in to Marlow. We had a bit of a race on with Peter & Tanya, who were in a K2, just after the last lock and we crossed the line in a creditable time of 2:51:33. Only two and a half minutes behind the Toms.
We learned afterwards that Matt & Rich retired from the race at Hurley because of Matt's second swim. He was in a pretty bad way when they got back to Longridge. We got second place. Next weekend is Waterside C.
Posted by Webby