Bedford 4s and 8s head report 2010

A Row-Mantic Day at Bedford (with massive apologies to Jane Austen)

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single sculler in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a sweep crew. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a rowing club, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding rowers, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their crews. Getting said single scullers to commit to a sweep crew however, appears to take quite a bit of effort.



There are demands (cake), strangely unbalanced moments (pogees on or pogees off), plus from some single scullers (James!) a note-able list of demands of places they like racing. And then the crew decided to go ski-ing at different times of year, so they can knock out as many possible weekends. It is not as if the people involved don’t like each other- they shared a bed in Vienna after all. Which is why, on a day traditionally reserved for romance, not rowing, the SWIFT four found themselves going to Bedford. Again. And did I mention we were doing this on valentines day?

For those unacquainted with the SWIFT phenomenon, the Super Winning Impressively Fast Team (thank goodness no-one has had us under the trade descriptions act) is normally made up of 6 rowers and a cox- David “from the block” Lodge (DLo) strokes, Stephen swaps between the 3 and 2 seat, and the Commodore sits at bow. Mighty Ben, one of the founder members is currently busy else where (apparently small babies are a bigger priority than rowing), and we have Chris “Petal” Barker and Julian “Grumpy, moi?” Paillard sitting in the 2 seat depending on the time of day etc etc. Oh yes, and we have been known to briefing borrow Guy. I generally try not to screw up and hit anything, and basically tell DLo what he wants to hear. Now you would think with six rowers, getting a crew to race that might have trained together at least once, wouldn’t be tricky. Wrong. A dodgy Curry later, and suddenly we are looking for a sub at 10am in the morning the day before we are intending to race. Surprisingly there were lots of volunteers (who says romance is dead?). One man stood out. Each member of SWIFT has raced Bedford many times, but to be honest our wins to races ratio is, well, quite low. What we needed was a member of Team Win. What we needed was Mr Tickle. Tickle on board, the boat on the correct trailer and we were all set for race day.

Arriving in Bedford at 12noon, subs were made, the boat rigged and we boated at 12.30, just in time for a practice paddle- a bit of pairs rowing, some whole boat paddling, a burst, a practice start and then some very light paddling in the marshalling area. The boat appears to sit. We appear to be able to move in time. No equipment has broken- except the shoes. Which are too big. But we don’t have any tape. So we are just going to have to row properly.

And then we see what we are going to go off behind. Women’s novice eights. Excellent. Thankfully none are from Milton Keynes, or in very old Empachers that they have had since they were 16, so all of the things we normally hit at speed are not going to be an obstruction. Even the birds were getting out of DLo’s way (his reputation proceeds him, but if you will go around clobbering geese on the head during races what do you expect?). Sadly ability to move out of any-things way was not something the crew going off ahead of us actually looked like it could do. Now I would never judge a cox by their lifejacket- but it was one of those large stripy ones. And he didn’t have the cox box turned up loud enough so his bow four could hear (5 and 6 were relaying) and he kept letting the stream take the bows so he span across the river. Ok though, no need to panic just yet. And then James and I saw the 7 girls hat. This wasn’t going to be a surprisingly fast novice womens’ eight. Risking the marshalls ire we sat for a while taking meaningless taps to go straight. Then we pulled out our patented, top secret, start. Hitting 37 and we went under the bridge, settling to 36 as the starter shouted go. Its leggy, the catches are crisp and DLo is setting up a strong rhythm. 45 seconds in we settle again, to race pace 34, swinging the bodies together. Loose catches off the first bridge lifts the boat speed again, then we lift off the second- Stephen and Tickle drive their legs down and we sprint past Star Club. Into the chop before Town Bridge and the experience of outside pair begins to show, with James’ skill at bow we keep a platform through the waves, and we keep the connection- though the rate comes down a couple of pips and the finishes get a little sloppy.

Up 2 off the bridge, again powered by middle pair, and the boat speed picks up again. We are beginning to hit the wash of the Christchurch eight- a rock call to consolidate the rhythm and the boys lift the boat speed once again. It is not tidy, and our catches aren’t as sharp as they could be, but the connection is still there. It is still powerful and the boat speed has not dropped off dramatically. The wash begins to disrupt us now, and the temptation comes to switch to guns (rowing is all about the gun show right?)- as Bedford rowing club disappears of our stern we refocus on the drive. I call them to hold the backs- and like a well oiled machine the change comes and suddenly the boat speed lifts. Still rating 33 and now we are coping with the wash as we close down Christchurch stroke by stroke. A lift at the Bandstand and then we move for home from the Schools boathouses. The time is good on the clock, and we still have legs. Pushes off the bridge and now we are almost on top of the Christchurch eight. The marshalls instruct them to move left and us to move right- they move right with us (I blame the 7 girls hat). I tell them very politely to get out of my way. (Really, I was very polite). Last twenty and we move along side. The finish horn sounds for them, then for us- and Christchurch stop rowing. Thankfully DLo and Tickle are switched on enough to respond very quickly to ‘hold it hard, blades in stroke side’. Job Done- a good row, a solid time- but is it fast enough?

Some tea, some cake, and a brief interlude when DLo and the Commodore go off together to “get Coffee” (well it was valentines day, traditionally in Ancient Rome, young men would get naked and spank women’s bottoms. I can only assume that was what they were doing) and the results are in. Well they are in apart from one crew. We are winning. The other crew should have raced already- so Commodore and Tickle head off to find pots. The crew is apparently racing in division 6.

We wait. We watch. No school boys. And time is running out- Commodore has to go dancing this evening, and so we have to leave soon. Will we have to leave without pots? Is this to be yet another trip to Bedford when we leave empty handed? Middle pair decide to take things into their own hands. Stephen threatens to audit them and Evan threatens to make them coach our beginners. Bedford phone the school- the crew has indeed scratched- the victory and the pots are ours! Possibly the nicest Valentine’s pressie I have ever been given, thanks Boys


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