After a bit of on/off drama on Friday, with the river state going from red to yellow, we finally got the “go” for the planned Ladies’ squad training weekend. This was at, for us, a new location at the RAF Rowing Club at Danesfield (courtesy of Steve’s contacts).
After normal training on Saturday morning (good weather for a change!) we loaded up and headed off. No dramas with the towing this time until we got to Danesfield – the turn into the club is a very sharp left hander, not possible with the trailer, so we had to go all the way into Henley, round a roundabout and back. Still, got there OK and offloaded boats for the first training session.
The first session comprised the eight and the quad. Steve, Paula, Steph and Charlene were in the quad (Steve and I being honorary girlies for the weekend) with the other girls in the eight with me coxing. Really annoyingly, I checked the cox box before moving the boat to the river – almost inevitably by the time the boat was on the water it had a fit of the sulks and wouldn’t work. Oh joy, coxing an eight without a cox box. For a long distance row.
The river was high and the stream running very fast. This made the first big corner extremely interesting – it’s almost 90 degrees and has an awesome cross stream. Getting round this was a bit hairy, having to stop and back down, spin, back a bit more and spin a bit more (all the more difficult with coxing directions having to be relayed down the boat as my voice didn’t carry). Still, we got round in the end and carried on. It’s a nice bit of river here and we reckon around two miles uninterrupted stretch with virtually no traffic on the Saturday (I guess sane people were still staying off the water).
It was really good for the crews to get in some good, long and hard practice – a run of well over 3k without stopping compared to our usual 1k on Caldecotte lake. We managed to get in two return trips before calling it a day. On getting back to the club we then did some work in the fours, with Steve compiling a video nasty to watch later in the evening! Parking the boats was an even greater challenge, with the stream determined to carry us off.
After finishing for the day, we then set up the barbie and cracked open a few beers. Everyone had chipped in with food, so there was loads to go round – still don’t know who got the burgers that dropped through the grill…
Following dinner, we watched the video of the earlier sessions, picking out some interesting styles and tips. Best one was a start with Laura – she’d never done a start before and Lindy was explaining what was involved when the “go” was given. Chaos ensued but she picked it up well on the second time. Paula then followed the family tradition of duck battering, whacking one round the head as it came up from a dive, neatly causing Charlene to catch a crab. Showing the competitive spirit in the club, we settled down for a quiet game of Rapidough afterward. Shall we say the rules were being bent to the maximum with very liberal interpretations of what was allowed…
So to the Sunday. Again the quad and the eight although different combinations this time. I managed the first bend much better this time, actually getting round without stopping. The session was a hard one this time, four minutes at half pressure, two at three quarter pressure. This was certainly starting to tell, mainly on hands (and my voice – the cox box still not working). It showed how fast the stream was, comparing return runs to the upstream ones.
After a quick lunch, time for the afternoon session. And time for me to stop being the shouty one at the back and get rowing (well, sculling actually). Steve and I headed out in the double, with two fours also going out. Great fun in the double, having to go at half pressure just to keep moving. We took it down to the far end of our stretch before spinning and coming back at Head Race pace. This got very interesting as the river traffic was picking up and we got hit by a couple of really big wakes. The first one of these caught me completely by surprise – this led to a major crab and this spun us into the bank. After extricating ourselves, we carried on to the end with no further mishaps. We did catch another couple of big wakes and by the end we had an inch of water in the boat an I looked like I’d been in the river.
At the end of this session we all headed back in. Although we’d planned to get another session in, all the girls were pretty much done in (mainly sore hands) so we decided to call it a day. In the end we’d got in some serious water time and long distance, high pressure work. It was a very worthwhile weekend and we all agreed it was a great location and stretch of water – definitely worth doing again.
I’ve written this from my perspective – how about one of the girlies posting their thoughts???