And the big one… Sunday!
A bright, warm Sunday morning brought on a tense mix of adrenaline, anticipation, and agitation, as the club arrived down at the beach for 8.30am to unload the boats. We joined a flurry of other clubs on the beach, each as anxious as the next to get their gigs down before the crazed rush for beach trollies began…
The ladies took to the water for race 3, our A and B crews sitting fairly comfortably within their heats. Luckily, they rowed well and maintained their positions in race 3, to keep them firmly in their heat for the finals. Well done girls! Many in the B crew were experiencing their first Scillies, and first big weekend of racing – some were rather concerned about the appearance of blisters in strange places…only to be reassured by the hardened elders of the group that it was ‘normal’ and they weren’t as bad as back in 93′, when real rowers didn’t use cushions, grips, suncream, or apparently any sense!
Next up were the men. For the C crew, they were racing to maintain their position in their heat – mindful that in each heat of 12, the top 2 go up, and the bottom 2 go down. True to form, the guys pulled through strongly in Melusine, keeping their cool in the penultimate race and securing their berth for the final. The B crew in Azook set off, having a huge start, sitting at the front of the pack. Coxed superbly by Vicky, the guys did well but started to slip back during the final stages of the race, yet still nipping at the stern of the lead boats. A close finish yet again.
Then, for the A’s – the small fish in amongst the sharks. With the pre-race shakedown and nervous jogs done, the only thing left was to row it. The boys had done well, but in the back of each mans head was the faint hope and quiet determination that something more was to come. A relaxed row out to the start line saw any nerves shaken off, bodies loosened, warmed and raring to go. With the slower heats going first, finally heats A and B are left waiting on the start line. 138 gigs in the mens race, and here sat the fastest 24. Our men had a good mid berth. In an instant, the flag was down. Coxed by Phil they had a favourable position from the off, and started strongly. Eventually some boats started nudging ahead, our boys were one of them. Zawn of Flushing & Mylor began to take a lead about midway through, along with Cormoran of Mount’s Bay. Arveth lay a clear third, being pushed by Grace of Charlestown and Emma Louise of IOS each stroke – it had taken a while to pull clear of them but a strong lift saw the door firmly shut on them. A further lift coming into the harbour saw Arveth put distance on the boats behind, and brought the crew about a length of clear water behind Cormoran. Then call was made for the last 60 strokes. Quite what happened will remain a mystery. But it happened. The warcry was made, and Arveth started gaining. And they kept gaining. A cacophony of screams could be heard from the spectator boats – what looked like a done deal was about to be undone. Arveth was gaining stroke for stroke on Cormoran, each man leaving nothing unturned. For a brief moment, the entire harbour took notice, and started to shout for Arveth. Bowside could see them, but no one knew the result. The race ended. Uncertainty lay ahead. Our fate was in the balance. But whatever that outcome, the message had been sent. Hayle just did what had seemed to be the impossible. To gain 2 boat lengths, in the final stages of a race, against a crew pushing so hard, knowing so much was at stake – is rare.
After a tense, tense wait – the scores were up. The Men’s C had maintained their heat and were in a good berth. Men’s B had again maintained their heat and were ideally placed for their final. The Men’s A – despite the heroic photo-finish in one of the arguably one of the best races seen in recent years, had retained 3rd. No matter, for the final heat was yet to come.
Then for the finals. The ladies races came in, and boats started to moor up in the harbour, and as it customary a few beverages were consumed! Our ladies came in with 65th and 130th, respectable results for the weekend. The ladies A final then commenced, and Falmouth Ladies A yet again put in a well-deserved convincing win. With that, all boats back to the beach for the men to file in and get out to the start line. First up were the Men’s C. After a steep learning curve in the previous 3 races – with the 3 Hayle rowers getting to grips with their first Scillies – something clicked. Because sure enough, 3 minutes in, Melusine crept ahead…and there she stayed. Convincingly, the crew won their heat and got themselves a place on the stage as group winners at IOS 2014! A great performance, and potentially some strong club rowers for the coming season having proved their worth over the weekend. Next up, the Men’s B. Yet again, a strong performance, and an outstanding start, which saw them sit comfortably in the pack for the rest of the race and gain 91st out of 138 overall. Finally, in the B heat, the Men’s A. Another tight heat – again doing battle with Grace from Charlestown, and in a similar finish, were inches off of winning their heat! Sitting on the finish line, the growing realisation of what had just been achieved – 14th place – began to set in…spirits were high! The clubs highest result in around 20 years – a moment to be proud of.
What went on from there, will remain on the islands! The club had a meal in the Mermaid in town – secret Scillies presents were given and far too many drinks were had. Memorable speeches by Club Captain Rupert, and Ladies Captain Vicky topped off a truly fantastic weekend.
Thank you to all those involved; the rowers, coxes, supporters, sponsors, parents, understanding partners and spouses, and club members who have all helped in the build up to the start of this season. A proud weekend for anyone associated with Hayle Pilot Gig Club.