While the 28th February and 1st of March held the GB freestyle selections it was also an important date for the Rafting calendar with GB R6 Selections being held at Lee Valley White Water Centre.
Leading up to selections, being a new team for this year, we were keen to put in a strong performance but aware that there are some good teams in the UK at present pushing for the GB spots. The selections were lined up with 10 teams competing across under 19’s, Under 23’s, Seniors and Masters categories.
Saturday morning started with the time trial. The time trail consists of one run of the course ranking you in order by time, the fastest sitting in first place. This race is used to rank all teams for the head to head. for this competition the race was being held on the legacy course, finishing at a buoy in the lake meaning a sprint finish on the flat out of the white water.
Sitting at the start line for the first time as a team was a great feeling, knowing everyone was fired up to start racing. By the end of first event we had picked up the 100 points on offer and were sitting in first position but with two strong teams close behind us, which with each event being worth more points it was all to play for.
The second event was the head to head taking place on the Olympic course and worth 200 points to the winning team. This event is similar to a boater X or knock-out event. Two teams are set off from a held start down the course, with the fastest team from the time trial having lane selection. The first team down wins and then second is knocked out. This process is repeated until there is a winner.
The top 3 placed teams after the time trial gained a bye for the first round leaving the 4th and 5th placed teams to fight it out in round 1. That then left us with a maximum of two races to take home a total of 200 hundred points.
Staying with the Olympic course we then moved onto the third event of the competition the slalom, worth 300 points. Exactly as it is in a slalom boat, a full slalom course is laid out which the raft and all team members need to pass down through the green poles and up through the red. Any touches of poles while still making it through are 2 second penalties; any missed gates are 50 seconds.
A selection process is designed to test every team and the slalom definitely did that. A tight 18 gate course was set on the Olympic course with some very quick staggers.
After our first run, which involved a number of touches and missed gates, there was no time to dwell on the run as it was back up the conveyor belt and time to get our heads together and focused on the second and final slalom run.
The second run was better but left us not knowing where we would be sitting for the event, and with 300 points on offer to the winners it could all change for the final event as we were sitting with 300 points with the second and third placed teams not far behind us.
That evening the results were presented and to our surprise we had managed to pull it back on the second run to sit join first with the mens masters team. The fastest run of your two attempts is used for the final time but in the event of a tie the decision is made by the times of the second run, our first!
It turned out that the masters had also not had there best run getting caught on a feature on the way down the course meaning we had taken first place by a wisker and bagged the 300 points.
Sunday morning saw the forth and final event in the competition, the downriver. The downriver is an endurance event, usually sitting between 30 and 45 minutes of racing and will be made up of both white water and flat water sections. It is a mass start event with as many boats as possible being set off from held starts where the aim of the game is to have the quickest time over the set course distance. the downriver is worth 400 points so any teams close on the scoreboard this is the event that can make a big difference.
The race would be 5 laps on the legacy course and lake, starting and finishing on the lake outside the reception of the white water centre.
As a team we felt that this was our preferred event with a lot of our time being spent on the flat and legacy course. sitting in first place gave us lane choice and the start to the race definatley had all teams fighting for the top positions. as we rounded the legacy course for the first time we were sitting in second place. We knew we couldn’t rush making a move so it was time to get the air in and sit on their tail ready for the flat lake section. as we hit the lake and approached the buoy the call was made to up the speed and overtake on the inside. It was a great moment as it felt that the time training as a team was paying off being able to all respond to the call and accelerate the boat at the crucial moment made the difference to the outcome of the race.
It was a brilliant result after an awesome weekend. A huge thank you to everyone involved in British Rafting and special thanks to the rafting committee for making the selections happen.
British Rafting has had an amazing history of athletes and competitive teams and it is now time for the hard work to be put in so we can head out to the European championships in Bosnia this May and the World Championships in Indonesia this November and continue the achievements of British Rafting.