Sarah Portsmouth

Club: CUBC

Height: 185cm

School: Yarm School

International rowing record: 2018 Coupe pair and eight

Year you first started rowing: 2015

How have you coped this year?

Certainly, with some difficulty. I think it is very easy to focus on how different things are from normal/how we expected; but we have been really open as a team about how we are feeling or coping, as well as viewing the uncertainty as an opportunity we can respond to better than our opponents.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

Definitely. I think the team this year is so close, especially because this is such a unique experience and we have been able to support each other through it. The team calls and Zoom ergs have been great, as well as the socially distanced cross training sessions –anything that helps us keep connected. We also have a CUBC writing group which has really helped when my academic motivation was low.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

I was expecting it to be not ideal, and it delivered. I missed the squad atmosphere and the tunes, but it was an interesting opportunity to focus on my body and learn more about myself and what works for me.

“We have been really open as a team about how we are feeling or coping , as well as viewing the uncertainty as an opportunity we can respond to better than our opponents.”

What was your lockdown training set up?

I had my erg set up in our utility room, so family members frequently made some Zoom erg appearances on their way to do some laundry. There was an unfortunate incident where I forgot to turn off the electric heater during a 5k test.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

Honestly, I’m still figuring out what works best. I usually get super nervous, so chatting with teammates to take my mind off things helps, as well as listening to music. It’s really important to me that I’m around my teammates.

The biggest challenge?

For me it’s been the time off the water. I just love being outside on the water and feeling the boat move, refining my technique and working with the team.

The toughest session?

Probably one of the many 5k tests during lockdown.

The best day, so far?

The one when it was pouring with rain during the session and we jumped in after.

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

It’s tough. It is not a situation we were expecting, and as a tight squad we miss the others; they’re an essential part of the process.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

Very. Having two eights side by side is always fun and pushes us to do better, but it’s equally motivating to know that we owe it to them to be at our best on race day.

How did it feel getting back on the water?

Absolutely amazing.

Why do you want to beat Oxford?

In such a clear cut win lose scenario, I want to experience what it’s like to win with some of my best friends.