March 27, 2004

Veteran's Head

At least the race took place, albeit half an hour late (during which time the tide rose and the wind, naturally, rose with it) and shortened to Hammersmith. It would have been nice if somebody had taken the trouble to inform us of this shortening of the course like they did the first time I rowed in the race. First clue was some crews returning to Putney rather earlier than we might have expected to see them. Second clue was the umpire's launch anchored below Hammersmith Bridge. Third clue was an official in it with a megaphone telling us to keep rowing through the bridge - why would we be stoppping? Fourth clue was a stationary crew ahead of us, adjacent to the ARA HQ telling us to stop.

We were all still fresh of course, having saved ourselves a bit when we could have made an all out commitment. Still, who cares. We had a pleasant row. My old firneds from Bewl Bridge were all extremely polite ang grateful to me for turning up at all on such a miserable day and I discovered that the normally shy and retiring John Witty has a very keen sense of humour. I enjoyed myself anyway.

It's amazing how the body remembers how to row. I hardly row at all these days. I scull a quite a bit and I coach a lot. But I cannot remember the last time I rowed. Maybe two years ago. And the last time I rowed with Bewl I was stroking the eight. This time I was thrown into the bow seat of a beautiful Sims eight. The previous bowman must have been exactly my size as no stretcher adjustment was necessary. And it felt like I had been rowing there all my life. Easy peasy. The crew was rowing considerably better than the last time, when I had rowed in it and everything fell very naturally into place. What a treat.

And the Sims boat took very little water compared to the longer Empachers that seemed to be quite abundant on the river that day. I remarked to a Dutch crew about the German engineering of their boat, which had been half full of water, and the bowman laughed back that it was the English weather that was to blame!

As for the crews that sank, they will probably dine out on the story for years to come and become crashing bores in the various club bars that they frequent. There was plenty of safety cover.

Posted by Stephen Walker at March 27, 2004 05:40 PM