Report #2 by Nick Floyer
Race Report: Sunday 15 July 2018: ‘Play-Off’
“I know it’s the play-off of the play-offs. And some teams like London Corinthians
really couldn’t be bothered – preferring to watch France and Croatia on TV, rather
than compete against us. Or maybe watching Wimbledon? And eating strawberries
with cream? And enjoying a glass of cold champagne? But it’s a measure of the true
spirit of the SGSC home team that we’re absolutely determined to work out the rank
order we stand in – even right to the bitter end. Even on the hottest day of the year.
With no wind.
And so it’s a question of facing the old enemy again on home ground with its familiar
tricks of wind and tide. How do you think the team will respond?”
The truth is it’s an open match; it’s always a game of two halves; there and back
between two buoys. And always the chance of that there’s bit of magic mid-field, the
sudden wind shift that opens things up – and lets the opposition know there’re up
against an experienced side.
How did you think the start went?
The OOD, Ina, made a really good decision to referee with her very own VOR and a
stopwatch on the Zoffany line; couldn’t be better placed to see the whole action.
And they all went straight across the line all in a row – everyone was charging full-tilt
Except Chris. Maybe it’s because he’s been in the Caribbean League for so long –
and they play with different rules out there; like always heading westward; heading
for the setting sun, determined on adding to a rich suntan. Anyway, he found he was
headed that way for far too long. And he was right at the back; heading for Brentford.
So did the rest of the fleet even get to the downriver buoy, so well placed by David
Jones before the grid – which I noticed was being steered to by a narrow boat! How
did the fleet respond to that potential pitch invasion?
The truth is, they’ve all seen this downstream buoy before. And they all know how
tricky it is to get far enough up to – and, crucially, beyond it, before even thinking
about a turn round it. But they all did; first James, then Rob, followed by Lev, then
Nick, Alex, and John – and eventually Chris, who had found that without the satnav
and automatic pilot turned on, the tiller actually steered the boat perfectly well.
Even so, did he perform as he usually does at this level – what do you think?
I have to say that on this occasion he’s out of form. For instance, coming up to the
upstream mark, all he had to do was round the buoy. It was sitting up for him; a
really nice pass. But he took his eye off the ball – and it just bounced into him.
Almost a hand-ball. We thought of holding up a yellow card. But in the nick of time he
performed a 360 degree turn round the buoy – and he was away and clear.
By about the third lap, it seemed that a regular procession had formed; first James,
then Lev, Rob, Alex, John, but with a dramatic move outflanking Nick on the
upstream tack, Chris actually overtook him and, right from the back in seventh
position, he slotted into sixth position!
So how did that look as part of the whole team formation game plan?
This squad has rehearsed so often their back four formations with the three
Enterprises in a forward position it was really difficult to adjust to an Enterprise at the
rear – and it lead to a very tight battle for the three around the upstream mark on
their fifth lap. An astonishing sliding tackle by Alex against John saw him earn a
corner at the buoy which by two seconds put him in front, and only just behind Rob.
Suddenly shifting to three at the back was a masterstroke. Plaudits are due for what
was one of the biggest factors in reaching this stage of the game; we’ve seen too
often before that sticking to the rigid back four doesn’t play well.
And did the action quicken up after that?
Absolutely! It brought more pace into the backline. The team were getting into good
crossing passes and set pieces at the buoys. And then a big gust of hot air came in
from nowhere. And suddenly there was pandemonium: real racing started to happen.
A total surprise for everyone!
Lev was completely stunned by an incoming header of wind that momentarily
knocked him over into a near-capsize. He had to think of going through his Long
Distance Race routine of repeated capsizes all over again; which he hadn’t thought
of ever doing again. But the crowd on the bankside terrace were relentless in roaring
encouragement: so he performed his amazing backwards overhead foot kick in the
air, with an all-hands grabbing of the gunwales as the boat heaved sideway – and
the boat hit the buoy. There was a Mexican wave of alarm amongst the crowd as the
boat then hurtled towards the Bell and Crown – saved at the last moment with a
dramatic 360 degree turn, and he managed to return to the buoy. It’s exactly the
magical kind of shot we expect from him.
So how was the overall finishing; did it live up to expectations?
At this level, you have to expect real quality. And I have to say that James performed
exceptionally well. His eight laps, and his lapping of both Lev, and Rob – who, it
must be said, performed so consistently well in their second and third position
respectively throughout the entire race, finishing with seven laps each, shows that
this is a team that can really go far in future.
And I also think it’s fair to say that team SGSC has created an identity which gives
them a platform to get their game into higher positions. Their distribution across the
pitch has been good. And they have risen to the occasion. So long as they are
respectful of their mid-field discipline and they close down the other side fairly and
properly, these lads have a chance to make history.
So what of the future, how do you see the team developing?
It’s a case of Nominative Determinism. It’s the hypothesis that people tend to
gravitate towards areas of work that fit their names with a focus on causality.
You’ve heard of the urology researchers named Dr Splatt and Dr Weedon? And
there’s a Professor Kneebone at Imperial College. Has anyone ever met a Mr Sailor?
Well, they’ve actually got a Tim Young on the team. And although he was out on the
subs bench today and not called up in today’s game he’s clearly in the new young
generation up-and-coming squad. We’ve seen how Lev can levitate that boat! And
there’s the amazing flyer down the wing [Floyer], and the ever challenging raging
Bull that any team needs to be very beware of. Greenwood is such an experienced
and flexible and resilient fellow to bend an arrow with, while Adams genuinely
testifies his originality and authenticity and Pape adds that papal air of lofty certainty
and clarity of direction that really makes the difference – and it all clearly works well
with the wise and wily Armitage, coming out from his hermitage beside the river.
So when is the next match with Corinthian’s?
Sailing’s not coming home to Strand. That’s for sure. At the end of the day, many
players would have just buckled under the heat and stress. But SGSC has done the
country proud today. When they had to perform they gave their all. They did their
best. Give them their due; they kept their discipline, and their good manners. The
team held together like a tight-fitting waistcoat, not to be undone by a fickle wind and
tide. And they all know that the game is bigger than the team – and it’s a shared
belief in the spirit of the game that matters when it comes to overcoming decades of
hurt and disappointment, often against serious opposition. It’s fair to say that they
were competing today against an opposition from time to time was full of hot wind
and strong currents, but just as the Prime Minister says; what matters is not just the
taking part – but having a united determination of winning with a commitment to a
Common Rule Book.
So, Corinthian’s, you’d better look out! Serious negotiations are going to begin!
© Andy Ross