Adam Bird


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Monday, 8 August 2011

In Awe of the Foursome

In recent years, a group of my friends, organised and skippered by my good friend Will have taken part in the Great River Race, an event which takes place every September on the River Thames and sees a large quantity of boats, of varying classes being rowed by crews of varying sizes from Greenwhich to Richmond, a course that meanders through central London for more than twenty long, hard miles.

Last year, I participated for the first time. Not as a rower, but as passenger, which all boats entering are obliged to carry. “What a great day out!”, you might think, “aboard a boat sailing up the river Thames, taking in the sights and relaxing serenely on the river as it heads west past Fulham and the leafier, greenier parts of the London waterway system”. Except it isn’t quite that comfortable. Magog, which is the name of our boat, isn’t really suited to carrying a passenger. The oarsman and the coxswain are suitably accommodated for, but any passenger is asked to perch precariously on a triangular platform at the bow of the vessel, leaning up against a broomstick which acts a flag-pole carrying our rudimentary insignia, whilst also ensuring that your legs are suitable positioned and not in the way of the last rower who needs to be given plenty of room to do what it is that he needs to do.

All in all, the experience last year was very much an eye opener. I had started to go out with the guys during their training sessions from near the sea school at Gravesend and once, twice a week they would row up river, or down dependant upon the tide, whilst I coxed, itself being something I’d never done before. But these training sessions were never particularly long or strenuous affairs and I hadn’t realised just what importance the coxswain role is to the team. Rather than just steering the boat, as I tend to do whilst dodging other maritime vehicles and having a nose around at what is happening along the shore. The cox acts as a rhythm keeper and a morale lifter as was perfectly demonstrated by Mark during last years race who constantly counted to ten at the top of voice and screaming “come on”, “you can do it” to the team - something which I’d not be able to do as nearly as well, preferring to keep quiet and watching the world go by.

Having seen the guys row for what amounts to just over three hours, without stopping, the effort, the determination and guts required to break through the pain barrier of fatigue on more than one occasion was pretty awe inspiring. I’ve never been much of a sportsman, preferring less strenuous sports such as Pool perhaps or PlayStation and tiddlywinks, but this year, somehow, I’ve been included into the party again but as a passenger stroke rower instead - meaning that once one of the crew has hit the physical wall of pain, I’ll be taking over and relieving them for a mile or so just whilst they recharge their batteries and can get going once again..

Now as I say, I’m not quite sure how this came into being, I thought that I was helping out from time to time again during their summer training and that any rowing I took part in was just an experience of saying that at least I’ve tried it, but I now I find myself having a month to get myself into some kind of sporting shape - which to put things mildly, will require a rather large miracle!

For the past two weeks I have been running (yes, running), from the house to where our boat is moored and rowing during part of each training session trying to get some kind of grip on the technique, rhythm and more importantly stamina required to make sure that I’m not letting the side down come race time. If there was one thing that stood out last year was that each of the crew to a man rowed for the team and not each other and there is no worse scenario in my mind having to row even a short distance and letting the whole crew down - so I have lots of work to do over the next few weeks or so!

Still, whatever happens, if I fall overboard or row like Steven Redgrave it can only be a good thing, a bit of exercise and fitness has never harmed anyone and if I can reduce some of the excess pounds which have applied themselves to my waistline since I stopped smoking and got married it can only benefit my long term health and vitality!

Find out more information about the Great River Race right here.


Anonymous said...

Burt Seedling - good blog mate. Skipper

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