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It’s all very well having a lovely stroke, but however elegant your rowing you can totally, utterly ruin the effect when you get off the water if you’re attired in dodgy kit. Whatever anyone might try to tell you, what you wear on the river MATTERS. If you don’t believe me, just take a close look at the people who tell you it doesn’t. Precisely.

Luckily, I’m here to tell you what not to wear, so if you need sartorial salvation look no further. My thoroughly scientific research on the subject (asking around on Twitter) has unearthed horror stories of coxes in skirts (honestly), gimp suits (shudder), on-board rucksacks (eh?) and cashmere scarves (worn with precious little else – don’t ask), and I eagerly await photographic evidence to back this up. Until then, here are my top five fashion no-nos.

1. White

So many reasons not to wear white. It gets instantly dirty as soon as you get anywhere near the clubhouse and grubby clothes are never appealing. It becomes see-through when it gets wet, and remember, ladies and gentlemen, rowing’s a water sport.

But by far the most important reason to avoid white…

See what I mean?

 

 

 

well, I think in the interests of decency I’d better illustrate this with a picture instead of a description… (probably best not to click on the photo for a full-sized view. Seriously, don’t.)

 

 

 

 

2. Novelty all-in-ones

You know the sort. Roman centurions. Skeletons. Storm troopers. Dare I say it, animal prints? (whoops, guilty… I got carried away at a regatta…)

Now I canvassed opinion about this and the general view is that these are just wrong, wrong, wrong. My Twitter pal, @scullinggirl, expressed the commonly held view that novelty suits are suitable only for charity events or Christmas, and I’m inclined to agree.

But maybe we’re being too grumpy. Is there room in our lives for a little lycra-based humour? Or is it as hilarious as a repeat of the 1995 Les Dennis Christmas special? Tell me what you think (post it below) and if enough of you post, I might be persuaded to add a pic of me in the said leopard-print all-in-one. I said might.

3. Gloves and pogies

Boy, I hadn’t expected this to be such a controversial topic. Mention handwear and people get really quite cross.

“Pogies are for wimps. Man up!” cried one hardcore opponent.

“We do a sport that means going outside when it’s cold”, said another. “Pogies just make you look silly”.

Now I’ll have to confess here that I am an unapologetic winter glove-wearer. They keep the blood supply connected to my fingers, so I wear them. End of. But that is me and this is you, and I have never claimed to practise what I preach. The truth is that gloves (and even more so, pogies) do make you look a bit soft. You have been warned.

Oh, and as for the gloves worn all year round just to avoid blisters (particularly favoured, as one world-weary veteran noted, by novice men when they start out)? All I’ll say is that even I don’t wear those.

4. Status kit

Does my bum look big in this?

Look, if you’re a GB rower and you turn up for the Olympics wearing a pair of tatty old trackies and a wife-beater vest, that’s probably taking modesty a little too far. What I’m talking about here is perpetually advertising your status as an elite rower. Especially if:

(a) you aren’t an elite rower;

(b) your elite rowing career was so long ago that the kit doesn’t fit any more; or

(c) you’re a member of Take That and can’t actually row anyway.

Now, I’ll acknowledge that the kind of high quality kit that uber-rowers get to wear is pretty special and probably looks and feels pretty classy. I’m sure I’d look lovely in the Leander kit (and now that the boys there are practically my best friends it’s only a matter of time before I’m invited to join them and try it for myself. Cough.)

But until that day comes, you won’t find me sporting the pink hippo. Sorry, folks, but it  just wouldn’t be cool.

5. Nothing

Put it away, boys

“When the sun comes out, the guns come out”. Or so a teenage rower told me as he peeled down his all-in-one at a summer regatta to reveal what his mother had no doubt assured him was a fabulously muscular physique (bless).

I’ve heard all sorts of explanations for this behaviour. Some say it unnerves the opposition when they catch sight of the tremendous six packs on show. Hmmm. Others claim that they just find that thin layer of lycra suffocatingly hot. Again, hmmmm.

The truth is it’s just vanity. I’ve seen those same teenage rowers flexing and admiring their muscles when they thought no one was looking. And then, even more so, when they thought someone was.

Now, I’m not immune to a finely turned ab, but context is everything. And here’s the thing. Vanity is not hot.

My advice, then? If in doubt, cover it up.

So there you have it. You need never destroy your cred again by wearing the wrong kit. Just by rowing badly, and I’m afraid I can’t help with that.

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I know it’s unlikely. Me, pint-sized, featherweight and spectacularly unsuccessful novice rower, firmly in the Masters *cough* category, rowing the Tideway with two of Britain’s finest U23 rowers. Has to be a joke, right?

Well, actually, no. Today I joined GB U23, Olympic hopefuls Ben Duggan and Nick Middleton in a mixed quad for a paddle out of London Rowing Club in Putney. You can look out for us at Henley next year (OK, now I’m joking).

It was all thanks to the good people at Oartec who were there to showcase a selection of their rowing machines (of which much more in my next post – together with photos, technie stuff and even a shameful confession on my part).

Ben and Nick, together with fellow Leander member Alan Sinclair, told us all about what it takes to cut it as an international rower (a whole lot of work, calorie counts to die for and an attitude to alcohol that would put the England rugby team to shame – and again, more of all of that in a later post, too). We got a chance to try out the ergs (actually fun when you have an international rower supervising it – must suggest that to our club captain…)

And then our boat arrived.

Admittedly, it wasn’t the finest or fastest craft in the world – a “virtually unsinkable” tubby rigged as a quad – but who’s complaining when you’ve got internationals at bow and stroke? Nick took the bow seat, fellow journalist Dominic Hart (sports ed at the Daily Mirror) was at 2, I sat at 3 and Ben at stroke.

Now then. Remember what I said in a previous post about everything melting down when you’re rowing in front of the clubhouse and wanting to impress people? Now imagine that the people you’re wanting to impress are not the club captain or even the mocking juniors, but the best rowers you’ve ever met and are ever likely to meet. Exactly.

Needless to say, the Little People got a fair amount of revenge in. Struggling with a sticky gate on stroke side that made feathering a challenge (yeah, yeah, blame the boat, why don’t you?), I certainly reinforced my novice status, catching several crabs and generally rowing my worst.

But it was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world. How many people get the chance to practise their sport with their sporting heroes in actual, real life? OK, so I may have rowed like a beginner, but I was rowing like a beginner with Britain’s best.

So a massive thank you to Oartec. A massive thank you to the Leander boys for being so patient and generally amazing. And despite their best efforts, a big yah-boo-sucks to the Little People.

GirlontheRiver 1,000,000: Little People: 0

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