For the first time, Putney Town entered this year’s Allom Cup; a sprint regatta run by the University of London for all of the university college boat clubs to mark the end of term. One eight from each of the development squads entered the “beginner” category as invitational entries, to race against others who had started rowing in September. It was a chance to see how they were progressing, and the answer was “pretty well, actually.”
In contrast to many of their opposition, both Putney Town crews were racing for the very first time, and both suffered from first time nerves as the umpire’s flag dropped. The girls, in their race against UCL’s top beginner crew, recovered after about 10 strokes and hit a solid rhythm and roughly tracked UCL’s speed over the first half of the course before slipping away as technique failed to finish 3 lengths behind. The boys were beaten by ICSM in similar fashion, going down by 4 lengths.
The format offered a second chance in the Plate event. The boys didn’t have a lot of time to digest the race before returning to the start, this time to face a UCL crew. There was, however, a bit of time to calm down and think about how to tackle the start and come out unscathed. Whatever cox John said during the the return clearly worked – this time the boys started smoothly, if a little cautiously, and despite a slight deficit from the first 10 strokes soon began to move out to a comfortable lead, which was never really threatened.
The girls, having watched the boys make amends, and had significantly more time to think about it and watch video of the first race, set out to emulate that success. This time racing from the UL boathouse to Putney Town, the girls lined up alongside a RUMS crew and, starting as strongly as their opposition slowly pushed out a lead of over a length to join the boys in the plate final, managing to survive a fairly heavy if not disastrous crab a few lengths out from the finish.
Having restored confidence with the win over UCL the boys now lined up against a Royal Holloway crew in the final. The start didn’t live up to the start against UCL and the Royal Holloway start was impressively sharp to put the university crew up a length from the start. The Town’s cruising speed matched that of their competitors, but wasn’t sufficient to recover the start.
Finally, it was the girls turn to race their plate final against another UCL crew. This race required all the lessons of the first and second races as the crews eased off the start together and battled stroke for stroke down the course. As they left the home noise for UCL into the quieter middle section of the race, the Putney Town crew began to squeeze out a small advantage, which moved out to half a length as the noise from the Putney Town steps beckoned them home. Responding to the noise they finished impressively strongly to a winning margin of just over one length! Cue celebrations, team photos, bubbles in the bar and some time later the arrival of some medals!
All in all, a fantastic day. Both crews got three chances to race, both learned the hard way about how to handle nerves on the start, and both enjoyed a taste of what winning feels like…