Camilla Aylwin (UVI MSH) is the first Salopian girl to have coxed our 1st VIII, a role that she took on only a few weeks earlier....
After an intense couple of weeks of training, on Friday 24th June, the 1st VIII made the 2 hour journey down to Henley. As the first girl to cox the boat, not to mention the fact that this was the world’s oldest regatta, it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I got onto the mini bus to make the short trip down south.
We arrived at the ‘Henley House’ in the late evening and were welcomed by a lovely family who were clearly prepared for us with fully stocked cupboards of malt loaf and snacks. From day one they made every effort to make us feel at home and we could not be more grateful to them for having us to stay for the week. From Saturday to Tuesday we trained on the course every day to get used to the setting of the over populated river. Slowly the river traffic became more and more dense, and it was all too clear that the regatta was approaching very quickly. The draw was released on Saturday, and for a non-selected crew we managed to get a pretty fair draw yet it was still going to be a tough couple of days.
On the Wednesday we had drawn Winchester College. As our race was at 10:40, we were up at 6:45 to have breakfast, yet the adrenaline was pumping, especially for those who had not raced at the regatta before - Ollie Antcliffe, Max Kimpton-Smith, Rob Morgan, Kris Blake and myself - so the thought of going back to bed to make up for the early breakfast didn’t seem to cross any of our minds. We were glad to have a comfortable win, setting us in good stead for the next day and adding a bit more confidence to the crew.
On Thursday we drew St. Joe’s Prep, an American school who, it had been commented, could be the ‘dark horses’ of the competition. For us, we were determined not to let them kick us out on the second day of the competition so a focussed shrewsbury crew sat on the start line, ready to kick out a crew that had been selected over us. A gritty performance from the boys earned us a win by ¾ of a length, and it is a race that I will never forget as St. Joe’s most certainly didn’t go down without a fight.
On Friday we raced Radley, a crew that we had knocked out on exactly the same day the previous year. The determination of the boys was clear on the start line, yet unfortunately despite everyone’s best efforts, Radley proved too strong and the final verdict was a length to Radley.
Although we were distraught at having our Henley dream crushed for this year, the crew stuck together and we were determined to not let it get in the way of the fun of a barbeque we had that night back at the house with parents.
Despite the regrettable end to the regatta, Henley was probably one of the best rowing experiences I could ever have had. The boys welcomed me into the boat straight away despite the late swap of coxes and, apologies for the cliché, but I could not have felt more honoured to be part of the crew.
So one week, three races, no crashes up the course and some very memorable moments both on and off the water, I feel sums up Henley pretty well - oh, and the pot of Ben and Jerry’s each every night, of course!