Posts Tagged ‘regatta’

The first symptoms appreared as I lay in bed last night, wide awake and twitching. My mind was racing, my heart was thumping and every few minutes my stomach lurched. Thump-lurch, thump-lurch, thump-lurch. I could feel the adrenalin coursing around my body. Exactly a week before my first regatta of the season, I had my first bout of regatta nerves, and it’s not going to get any better until the siren sounds and the first race is over (at approximately 3.21 p.m. next Sunday).

I’m a little shame-faced about the depth and intensity of my fear. I am, for goodness’ sake, a grown woman who’s had her fair share of life experiences and prides herself on being fearless and feisty. Heck, I’ve even given birth twice so it’s not like I can’t handle pain.

But there it is. Thump-lurch, thump-lurch. Thump-lurch.

The fears crowd in.

What if I mess up the start? Thump-lurch.

What if I come off my seat? Thump-lurch.

What if I … oh, dear God… catch a crab? THUMP-LURCH!!

If it were just me on my own, I could probably cope with the potential for disaster and humiliation, but the thought of messing it up for eight other people… thump-lurch-thump-lurch-thump-lurch.

So be gentle with me this week. And someone please tell me I’m not alone in my suffering. Think you’re immune to the fear? Here’s a handy little test to see how you’re doing…


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Picture this. We’re fit, race-ready and have planned our start. We’re a bit older (OK, a lot older) than our opponents, but we’re a good crew and we’re quietly confident that we can beat them. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the sea, for a start. Just getting into the boat involves an awful lot of water, a tippy, slippy, lurching boat and some distinctly unladylike moves (probably time to stop picturing it).

When we’re all finally in our seats, we take a few tentative strokes, and the shrieking begins. The wind blows my cap half off, but I’m more interested in how to persuade my flailing blades to make contact with the water, which is there one minute and gone the next as we’re tossed around on the waves. The race plan, so carefully devised in the car an hour ago, is blown away along with my cap. “Just keep rowing until someone tells you to stop?” is the new plan.

Welcome to coastal rowing. It’s wild, it’s windy, it’s a lot of fun and it’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever done in a boat before. Here’s what I learned about it:

1. Anything can happen. Even the most controlled, elegant rower can come to grief when a wave crashes over the boat.

2. However many changes of clothes you thought you’d need, triple it.

3. By changes of clothes, I mean everything – socks, underwear, the lot. One cox from another club – who, needless to say, shall remain nameless – had to go commando for one race. Just imagine. Actually, don’t.

4. Maybe it’s the sea air, but I was more tired after four shortish races on the briny than I’ve ever been after a regatta on the river. Stock up on your sleep before and aftewards.

5. Nothing tastes as good as the first drink after coming ashore for the last time. Luckily, Penarth has a lovely bar.

Big thanks to Penarth Rowing Club for an excellent day out and a steep, if choppy, learning curve.

Taking to the water. That's me at 3, pulling faces...

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There are certain things in life that are bound to provoke arguments with your kids. Teaching them to drive is, I’m guessing, right up there.  Choosing a playlist for pretty much any occasion. Offering thoughts on what they’re wearing.

But what about rowing? Well, we put this to the test at our latest regatta, with a Mums and Sons’ mixed 8. The sons ranged between 15 and 19. The mums ranged between ** and ** (cough… no need to be specific). The combined points (everyone else’s, that is; I was the only novice) took us into IM2. We put the boys in the stern and decided we’d just sit the boat and let them do all the work (just kidding).

As with most scratch mixed 8s, we only managed one outing before the big day, and the bickering was … what you might expect.

“You need to assert yourself more”, No. 2 shouted to the cox.

“Mu-um, stop bossing everyone around”, moaned No. 5 at No. 3.

Thankfully my boy and I were too far apart (with me at bow and him at 7) to communicate.

Despite the squabbling, we soon noticed that having our well-coached boys in the boat immediately raised the bar. The mums warmed up first, neatly but without much panache, but when our offspring took over we realised what it really ought to look and feel like. Suddenly we started rowing better. Crisper at the catch; faster at the finish; slower up the slide.

And the outcome on the day? Well, we lost, but only by 1/4 length, and it was one of the best races I’ve had. Our opposition looked gratifyingly exhausted at the end. And the arguing afterwards? Actually, I don’t think there was any.

So would I recommend family rowing? You bet I would. I’m already planning next year’s line-up.

Mums and Sons (girlontheriver at bow; sonontheriver at 7)


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So Ross Regatta has been and gone and my shelf is still empty. It was a bit of a rollercoaster of a weekend; I’m not going to go into the gory details, but if I say it involved my firstborn, a couple of coxing errors, a crash and a disqualification, you’ll understand why I don’t want to relive it all. Anyway, they say you learn from defeat, so here’s a round-up of what I learned this weekend:

  1. I love my children more than I love rowing. Of course I knew that already, but it’s good to have a reminder every now and then.
  2. My fellow club members are amongst the nicest people you could ever meet. I knew that already, too, but hadn’t realised quite how amazing they were. Go Monmouth!
  3. The ladies at Royal Chester are incredibly lovely, too.
  4. When your opposition comes to talk to you and you get a crick in your neck craning up to see them, you get a tiny inkling of what the outcome of the race might be.
  5. A good race against a better crew makes the defeat more bearable.
  6. The fake tan was, on reflection, a mistake. White legs in all-in-ones are not a good look. Brown and white, streaky legs in all-in-ones are an even worse look.
  7. If there’d been a pot for prettiest, club-themed nails, I would have won hands down.

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