Racing Q&A with HRR Winner Darla Matthews

Posted on Tue, 26 Sep, 2023

Bryan Brown caught up with Fulham Reach Boat Club Coach, Darla Matthews, on her summer experience racing and winning Henley Royal Regatta 2023.

1. What was your pre race warmup? 

Our pre race warmup didn’t vary too much from a normal water session warmup. On land we will warmup for 15-20 minutes, with ergs/bikes and mobility. We would also make sure to do a few minutes of core as a group before each race, as we have done before every water outing this season. 

2. Did you ever change your race plan depending on your opposition? 

Yes. We approached each race with a different race plan, so we could strike a balance between getting in some good race practice and conserving energy. This was until our final where we raced the whole way. Unfortunately, the conditions weren’t very good and made for a more challenging row than the previous days. What we never changed was our start. We always raced that as hard and as fast as we could! 

3. What’s your preparation advice on race day? 

Try to treat it like a normal day! I try not to do/eat anything I wouldn’t normally do. If I am racing early, I will make sure I have woken up at least 4 hours before hand. All of my Henley races were around 7pm so we did prepaddles and walks during the day to stay mobile. 

4. Did each race go to plan or where there any hiccups? 

Fortunately no hiccups! Was nervous for our plan for Thames D to hold them off at such a close margin, but in the end it was fun to try and control a race that way. 

5. How much did the cox help to push and encourage you? 

A lot!! Having a good cox is really crucial in an 8, as it’s a lot of people to sync up! 

6. Is it difficult to judge when to ‘empty the tank’ at each race? 

The way I like to race a 2k is to go off pretty hard at the start and then red-line it the rest of the way. We do usually have a ‘tiers’ call at 500m to go, at HRR this was at the humpback bridge, where we start our push to the finish. Fortunately we didn’t need to do this until the final. 

7. What’s your advice about post race recovery? 

Lots of food! Either a walk or a cool down erg/bike with a protein and carby snack. 

8. What does it feel like crossing the finish line? 

Like a big relief! A very fun and unique feeling - I luckily have a lot of pictures to remember the moment!

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