"Whole crew... from backstops... full pressure... GO!!!"
It's our first journey to the Thames of the series and we start with 286 crews of women rowing the wrong way up the river. Well, in fairness to the majority of oarspersons it's really the right way, 4 miles and 374 yards (or just under 7 kilometres) from Mortlake church to Putney Bridge. It's just that the most stratospherically well known contest over the same stretch of water is one of only two major championships (and the only eights event) to row in the other direction.
The male Germano-Canadian postgrads of Oxford and Cambridge set off on the flood tide on April 7th, but tomorrow current Women's Eights Head of the River champions Thames Rowing Club A, coxed by London 2012 medal prospect Zoe De Toledo, lead off on the crest of the ebb ten seconds ahead of Leander at the head of a "processional" time trial and hoping to better last year's winning time of 19 minutes and 23 seconds. The lead crew has the advantage of clear water, whereas everyone else faces the inconvenience of endeavouring to overtake other boats around bends to try to get on with the job of beating the clock. Anybody who's watched just the two Oxbridge crews battle over a few prime yards of water will know how awkward that can be. Imagine another 284 crews carefully graded from elite internationals to plucky novices in hot pursuit line astern and you have a reasonably accurate picture of what will begin at 2:30pm this Saturday on the Tideway.
Londonist, a number three bow side once upon a time, reserves a soft spot for the boat with only four starting behind it and wishes all the very best to its alma mater, the University College of North Wales. Mind you, after guiding a flimsy hunk of fibreglass round whirlpools and rocks while navigating the differential tides flowing from each end of the Menai Straits, rowing with the flow towards the sea should be a cinch.
Photo via winkyintheuk's Flickr stream.