What a great Great River Race it was. For a start, the weather was nearly perfect. The forecast had been particularly depressing for most of the week, showing high wind and rain. Surely the heat wave could continue for a couple of days? How unjust!
As it turned out, the front stormed through a little early, bringing in its wake a cool but mostly sunny day that was perfect for rowing. Not too hot, not too cold.
The race started with the usual chaotic milling about, but somehow all the contestants reached the start line more or less on time. This year there were only three Clayton skiffs, our own Gladys (crew: Geoff Shilling, Alan Robinson, Chris Penfold, Mike Gilbert and me), Witchoar from Manningtree, and the other Langstone Cutters boat Mabel.
The first part of the race is always the most challenging, with lots of boats in a concentrated space and the notorious lumpy water in the Pool of London. Once past Blackfriars Bridge, however, the line lengthened as the faster boats pulled away and the water got calmer. We left Mabel behind but Witchoar was still ahead.
We caught her somewhere off Battersea, but then disaster struck. A dirty great log got lodged under Gladys's rudder, forcing us to stop and take the rudder off to release it. Putting the bloody thing back on took an age, allowing Witchoar to pull ahead.
That situation could not stand. It took us ten minutes or so, but we had them and they gradually dwindled into the background in that very satisfactory way that gives rowers a pleasure denied to, say, cyclists or runners (for an alternative view of this incident click here).
We must be getting fit or something, because the usual mid-race slump didn't seem to happen. We were putting almost as much power in at the end of the race as the beginning. And we romped home in 2hr 51m 51s, a time described by the master of ceremonies at the prize-giving as 'going some in a Clayton'.
We retained our Veterans Over 60 and Fastest Clayton trophies (again), and came 30th out of 324 overall.
Witchoar was 65th at 2hr 57m 51s and Mabel was 90th at 3hr 03m 46s. Times in general seem to be faster than last year - Gladys by about 7min and Mabel by a lot more, a tribute to the training her crew put in.
For another dramatic picture of Gladys with some old bit of stonework behind, see Captain JP's Log (and read on down to take in his great story of his recent voyage along the coast of Greenland). Search on 'Great River Race' in Facebook for lots more.
Provisional results of the GRR 2013 are here.