As the only time in the regatta when hope, no matter how fragile, still exists for all competitors, there was a positive buzz around the boating area this morning, as crews busied themselves before the start of racing.
For those not used to the format, side by side racing can be brutal - it leaves no room for error, and crews more used to multilane courses can easily find themselves at a disadvantage if they haven't realised just how much importance tactics and psychology counts in knock out events. Ultimately it often boils down to who makes the least mistakes rather than who is the faster crew, which is what makes it so entertaining to watch.
The Stewards' usual hard line approach to heat waivered this year, as gentlemen were allowed to remove blazers at around 11:30 this morning as 'elf and safety' finally got the better of HRR. The last time we had temperatures at this level was 2006, and the command to remove jackets wasn't given until 7:09pm on Sunday (i.e. after the medals ceremony).
Apart from the heat and humidity, conditions have been almost perfect for racing and a number of course records were toppled or equalled during the day. In the PE, Eton set new records for the barrier and for Fawley, just missing the overall course record by a few seconds. In the Temple an impressive crew from Queen's University Belfast, beat an aggressive Cambridge lightweight crew by 2/3rds of a length equalling the record to the barrier in the process. Queen's are being coached by Mark Hall who used to coach the CUBC second boat. Princeton University also equalled the barrier record in their heat of the Temple against the University of Bristol.
That said, Wednesday racing is rarely close, though there were a few notable exceptions. Vesta put out a selected crew from Mosman RC, Australia in the Brit this morning (it's a long way to come for one race), also in the Brit, there was an epic battle between Thames and Glasgow, where the leading crew changed on several occasions during the race, Glasgow however came back to win by 1/2 length. And the Kent School came back from being down by 3/4 length at the Barrier to advance in the Temple. Kent School head coach Eric Houston had this to say of the come from behind win: "We've never had the lead off the start all year so the guys are pretty comfortable with racing from behind. They just get to their base pace straight away and go from there. I'd rather they be ahead at the finish than after the start!"
Twickenham had a tight race with the ex-Yale lwts rowing as Four Score and Four in the Thames cup, holding them to a canvas until 3/4 mile.
On the other extreme, there were a couple of seven man finishes due to equipment failure - the most impressive of which was in a heat of the P.E between The Kings School Chester and Monkton School. Monkton took an early lead but their bow man caught a huge crab half way up the island, breaking his gate. He gallantly picked his oar up in both hands and held it aloft, for the rest of the race.
US crews through the first round are:
Four Score and Four
Belmont Hill School