Mortlake to Putney
11 March 2017
Leander athletes reigned supreme at the Women’s Eights Head in London last Saturday, when they completed the 4¼ mile Championship Course in just 18 mins 13.1 secs, more than four seconds clear of second-placed Cambridge University.
The Light Blues, in their final days of preparation before the Women’s Boat Race on 2 April, were always going to provide the main opposition to Leander, after a GB squad composite pulled out of the race at the last minute.
With Olympic silver medallists Vicky Thornley and Karen Bennett on board, the crew also included world champions Fi Gammond, Holly Norton and Holly Nixon, as well as former junior world sculling champion Jess Leyden.
“It was good to have so many GB athletes available to record our first win in the event since 2011, especially since they had just come back from a particularly gruelling cycling camp in Majorca” said their coach, Jane Hall.
Despite having had just seven session together on the water, both in Henley and London, the crew gelled very quickly.
“There was a great bond in the crew, but the race plan was all about simplicity, doing the basic things really well, and they executed that perfectly” said Hall.
Following Leander’s success in the composite crew which won last year’s Women’s Head the club will this year boat nine of its own athletes hoping to replicate that success on Saturday.
Racing over the 4 ¼ mile Championship Course from Mortlake to Putney the Leander crew will start down the rankings, behind the higher qualifiers from last year’s race, and will hope that the ebb tide is still strong enough to give the edge over more than 300 other crews.
All the Leander athletes now train as members of the GB national team and have just returned from a gruelling training camp in Majorca, where the regular routine of cycling up and own mountains is a far cry from the more leisurely pursuits usually found on that island.
The Leander crew includes several Olympians, such as silver medallists Karen Bennett and Vicky Thornley, who have already committed to the next four years leading up to Tokyo 2020. Also on board the Leander boat will be former world junior sculling champion Jess Leyden, who added the world U23 double sculling title last year in Rotterdam.
Leyden won’t be the only world champion on board, where she will be joined by Holly Nixon, Holly Norton and Fi Gammond who won the gold medal in women’s fours at last year’s world championships.
The crew is being coached by former world champion Jane Hall, who has led the women’s coaching programme at Leander for several years and has recently been announced as the new high performance coach to join the GB international team based at Caversham.
The Leander eight has been training on Henley Reach since Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s race, which kicks off at 3.30pm, with the prizegiving at 7.45pm outside Thames RC at Putney.