Sara Helin


Height: 180cm

School: Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School

International rowing record: n/a

Year started rowing: 2014

How have you coped this year?

I found focusing on what I could control at the time helped me cope. I can eat well, sleep well and keep on top of work to help my stress and training performance. This was particularly useful when I got ill or was not feeling my best. Having a training routine helped give my day structure and boosted my productivity, especially in lockdown when I was at home all day.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

It was a lot more difficult this year, but I still went on walks or jogs with one other squad member. We also had Zoom calls, for training but also socials. One struggle was Wi-Fi. So, if the poor connection on the Zoom got too painful, sometimes I got my housemates involved with the work outs like circuits, this built such a fun training atmosphere at home.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

The extra time I gained when I did not have to travel to all the sessions was valuable, but without always having a set time to start, it meant that I did some of the sessions quite late (although this had unexpected heart rate benefits). Isolated training was harder than I expected at the start, but when I figured out a routine and kept in contact with my teammates, it got a lot better.

What was your lockdown training set up?

I usually had to erg in the garden, this was because it was cooler and so my housemates did not have to eat dinner with the tune of an aggressive erg fan in the background.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

I usually try to keep my routine the same, so I feel like it is more of a normal day, which helps calm me down. Before race day, I try to mentally prepare for different outcomes.

The biggest challenge?

Usually, there would be a lot more water training and fixtures. Though this is a challenge, it will make for an even more exciting race, as we do not have any idea how the Cambridge boat races. We have also not been able to access and practice on the Ely course or experience the possible conditions other than for Trial VIIIs.

The toughest session?

There are some tough sessions, but I am not sure anything beats a 5K erg test because of the added pressure.

The best day, so far?

We had a funky kit day; it was fun to see everyone in bright colours and fabulous prints.

Only the Blue Boat races on the 4th April 2021: What’s it like splitting the squad?

This was very upsetting. Of course, we are so fortunate to be able to row, but I wish the water time could be shared with the rest of the squad, who have trained equally as hard and are just as deserving. However, I do understand that it is a necessary measure for safety.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

Yes, I really enjoyed having such a large squad.

How did it feel getting back on the water?

So much better than staring at a fence on an erg on my own. I really enjoy water time and there really is no other feeling like pushing with your team.

Why do you want to beat Cambridge?

I am naturally quite a competitive person, and the goal of beating Cambridge has kept me determined. Winning would show that the hard work has paid off.