7am: rigging boats!

The final day of competition for me in the Masters Games, thank goodness. It has been a tiring week. Four 2:5 hour drives, work in between, and 9 races in 5 days. Today was regatta day. 

I was down for 6 races.

  • Women’s four
  • womens quad
  • women’s double
  • mixed double
  • womens single
  • club 8’s

It’s the last one that I was screaming about! I have never rowed a single. I am game for anything, but it was a blustery side wind this morning, I wasn’t feeling the love for an extremely unstable single in race conditions with absolutely no prior practice, so I scratched that race. Still in the other 5.

Women’s four

First race up, for me. We have spent most of the time since 7am rigging and preparing boats, as they all have to be taken apart for transportation. None stop work for sure. Off we set in the four. (Four people, four oars, ‘sweep oar’)  We have had some training with the sweep oar but it would be fair to say we are all more comfortable with two, not one!

Lined up on the start, I feel a bit nervous. This is unusual. But there’s medals at stake here! Don’t get me wrong, I have set no expectations but you always want to do your best, and I know that our women’s four is a pretty good team. If I can hold it together and not mess up!

To avoid losing the grip I have cycling gloves on this time, which I am hoping will work better. And we’re off. Calm structured start, we have been practicing NOT panicking. We set off well, and build speed. I can see two boats beside. Two behind us have crashed. This could be our chance. We are still rowing strong. We feel good, put on the squeeze and slowly gain the lead. I try not to think about it and remain focused. This isn’t a skill I can rely on wi out 100% focus just yet. The finish line seems ages away but we hear the horn, WE WON! I am dumbfounded.

Then the BUT.

Finish line end of the course
Finish line end of the course

Theres an argument, we didn’t have a cox, we might be disqualified. The results are still pending. Our club captain argues that wasn’t the deal, but there’s more races, we can’t worry about that right now.

Boat out, re-rig, set up the next one. In between, cheer, help our team mates in and out with their boats. And stay warm!

Women’s double

I have to say I am a bit concerned about this one. I am in the stroke seat (rear seat, facing where we have come from) and I am with a woman that I have not actually rowed with that much.

I know that the ‘swing’ is important. We need to slide, and stroke together or we will lose speed. The timing isn’t there, I do my best to set a steady stroke. We are veering off course. The bough seat (not me) should do that, I start to shout instructions. We lose it a bit. I shout more, encourage, hard right we need a hard right… The other boats? Who knows. It’s a miracle we get to the end. But guess what? We got silver! I have no idea how! Well done to both of us, it’s all a learning curve.

Women’s quad

This is the one that we have been practicing, the one we won in the southland champs. Quietly I have high hopes. But I don’t know who the other crews are.

I require lots of focus here. It takes all my strength to keep this one together, I was gasping by the end. I can see we aren’t leading, it’s hard to focus your emotions mid race when you can see that. We push on, we keep pushing. We shout to motivate each other, push push. Silver. Not quite a Win but fairs fair in love and war!

Mixed double

I am not one to do new things under pressure, but today I was rowing in another clubs boat, ours were all out. I was also rowing with a very good male rower from our club who I don’t really know, I really don’t want to let him down.

He’s a pretty good navigator leaving me to focus on what I am doing. Which takes all my might! I’m in the stroke seat again. And we’re off. Theres another Invercargill boat in this race too, they are away well ahead. I know we aren’t doing too well, I try and focus. I catch a crab. Damn. Robin stops rowing, I wanted him to carry on, I could have caught up again. We get it back together. He is really calm and reassuring back there. I’m a wee mid mad with myself. We come in fourth, or fifth, I’m not sure. I don’t know about him but I’m pissed off with myself. But come on Mel. There were ten, and we werent last I don’t think, so give yourself a break girl. You have only been doing this a few months!

Regattas are none stop, you are either rowing, carrying or rigging, almost all the time, it’s hard work, way harder than when you are host club!

One race left.

Club 8’s

and then the drama begins.

This boat comes in two pieces, it’s so long. It’s so long that you can’t see or hear anything from the front four rowers. In a club 8 its sweep oar, one oar each. I’m in no 2 seat. There’s four boats in this one, and the umpire boat asks for us not to crash, like the last race did. We laugh it off. 3 boats, plenty of space. Each has a cox, and they are responsible for steering.

And we’re off. Immediately we take the lead, the stroke rate was planned in advance, we are going well, pulling out the lead. Then suddenly I hear the umpire boat shouting at lane 2. We are lane 3. They are heading towards us. He yells again. They seem to have taken a strange right turn. The four yell for a hard ten strokes we work hard to try and get clear, our front 5 rowers are all clear as the stern hits our bough side head on. We are so so angry, but we need to get this back together, the lane 1 boat calmly continues to row past and take the lead. The rear 4 continue to row, to try and get the boats clear. The other boat is stuck under our rigging. We get clear eventually, and crack on, heading for the chase. Screw the 28 strokes, we have a race to win. Higher stroke rate, hard effort, we are gaining on the lane 1 boat. We draw beside. We just need to get level. They notice and put a burst on. We are doing well to get this back to here, but we are angry. Very angry. Hard effort to the end, but we just didn’t have enough water left, another 1000m and we would have taken back the lead. A it was we had to settle for silver. The other boat gets some more stiff words from the umpire, but actually, they sustained damage when they hit us, and finished in lane 8, they started in lane 2.

Great work team, we should have had it, it was stolen from us! Great work anyway.

What happened about the first race? We had no idea. We had to wait for the medal presentation to see how it had all turned out.

Result? We WERE given the gold! Way to go team!

Thoughts and reflections

I set out today with no expectations whatsoever. If I got a bronze, I would be amazed, but it would be ok if I didn’t get anything, because at the end of today I extended my racing experience by 1/3, my third ever regatta. I continue to learn so much, I have so much still to learn.

What actually happened? 3 more silvers and a GOLD! statistics wise I did better than the track cycling, and in my opinion it was more competitive and I was less experienced.

Sadly, i one silver medal missing as the organisers ran out of medals, so didn’t award any for the 8’s race.

I am sooooooo pleased I cannot put it into words. Mum, bet even you didn’t expect this!


What’s next?

There’s already talk of the South Island masters regatta, which is in June, and the world masters regatta Later in the year in Australia.

Honestly? Well, the sky’s the limit!

2 Comments on “GOLD GOLD GOLD!

  1. Fantastic results, well done! Your mum would have had bragging rights about this for months, if not years. As it is that honour falls to me.

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