Archive for April, 2010

Call in the Marines

“She got legs. And she knows how to use ‘em!”

So sang ZZ Top back in the days of yore. Silly me, I thought the bearded warblers were referring to the shapely pins on the ends of the models in the accompanying video. After Sunday’s river race, however, I now realise that, in fact, the hirsute crooners were referring to the ladies in the Bude Runners boat.

I had been at a loss to understand quite how they rowed away from the fleet while rating appreciably slower. It turns out they had a little help.

“We’ve been in the gym with our ex-marine trainer concentrating on legs, legs, legs!!! …oh and arms! And three of us trained and completed a half-marathon this spring,” revealed Sue Roper.

So there it is, the secret of success…with a little help from the week-end’s double gold winner, sweep Mark Bannister. “The start of the race was more important this year due to having to fight for position and getting through the yachts. That was down to Banny.”

So, ladies there you are. All the excuse you need to seek help from a muscly man in uniform. Form an orderly queue…

And they’re off!

Congrats to all who helped out and took part in Sunday’s river race.

A full report will be up on the main site drekkly together with some hastily taken images at the start of the Ladies race. I was going to take some action shots while sweeping but, having steered the Rebels approximately half a mile off line in a forlorn attempt to catch the Runners, I feared drawing a camera from a trouser pocket and saying “Smile” may have led to summary keel-hauling.

As it is the Runners were hugely impressive taking about two strokes a minute and still pulling away from the following fleet. No less impressive (if rather less photogenic) were the Barrs from Bristol. Even with two River Race “virgins” in harness (Ben Curry in stroke and Evan Bickmore in bow) they finished well ahead of the chasing pack.

“Delighted with the result given that ‘s the first time we’ve rowed together,” said Rus Crofts. “Now bring on the lumpy stuff!”

Fine sentiments indeed.

Bude Runners – The Sweep’s Cut

Last week end found me cruising the highways and by-ways of North Cornwall. The kids of a friend were involved in a rugby tournament and she had organised a surfing lesson for them afterwards. In April, at low tide. Good job there was next to no surf.

Anyway, we decided to find a pub somewhere to hole up in for some Sunday lunch and that got me thinking of a hostelry overlooking Widemouth Bay. Four years ago, one round of the Summer Series was involuntarily delayed for several hours while the whole membership of UKSRL squeezed into a single room to watch England do their best to be eliminated from a football world cup. When the event finally started, it ran in about 25 minutes from start to finish but still ended in the darkening shades of dusk.

Widemouth is a glorious spot especially when the sun is out and the wind off-shore as it was last Sunday. If the surf had been 3-4′ it would have made epic conditions for a boat bash – it would also have frightened the life out of the tourists doing their best to drown themselves in the absence of seasonal lifeguard cover.

I had the good fortune to sweep the Bude Runners at Saunton last year and let me tell you they are a damn good crew. So good that even with me struggling to keep the boat straight on the inside we still won a heat. They’re not only good rowers though, they’re also good people. Here is a first profile from one of the crew.

Name Sue Roper

Crew/Seat Bude Runners bow & very novice sweep

Rowing background There was a vacancy for bow in the Bude Runners and my friends knew that I could swim in surf. (Which was apparently important.) So I went along in the February of 2007 and nearly froze to death. I couldn’t wait to be invited back for the summer… (I’m still waiting for the summer weather!)

Day Job I support adults with profound learning disabilities to live in the community.

Favourite beach Biarritz for thrill seeking.
Saunton for endurance.
Bournemouth for timing.
Harlyn Bay for bodyboarding with my two children.
Plastic Beach by Gorillaz

Can’t live without Red wine

If I ran the world it wouldn’t go well.

Most embarrassing moment Catching a huge crab (octopus?) whilst training and splitting my head open on the bow. Phil had to pressure wash the boat while I got stuck back together… a big learning curve!!!

Favourite memory Winning Truro River Race last year without getting sunstroke.

Endless Wait for Summer

This blog has a smile on its face.

Today started with a row from Falmouth to St Mawes and back. Technique on the way out, no-holds barred racing on the way back. Two competitive ladies crews – the Rebel and Fallen Angels – going stroke for stroke for the thick end of half an hour. The wind was still, the sun was warm, the company as good as could be wished for. It was one of those mornings that granted reaffirmation of a decision to live in Cornwall.

Yet it wasn’t the prospect of Perran being able to field two competitive ladies crews this season that caused the corners of my mouth to tug northwards. Nor was it the prospect of those unforgiving six miles of the River Race in a fortnight’s time. No, dear reader, it was the prospect of what lay just beyond that caused my spirits to soar.

Today brought the first taste of summer. And with it the anticipation of the rolling seats of winter being consigned to a dark shelf at the back of the garage to be replaced by dust-laden fixed ones. That means only one thing: an imminent return to the north coast. Back to the surf, back where every boatie longs to be, back on the beach.

Surf and sun. Roll on summer.

Getting to Know You

As promised, here is Rus’s profile – if you have a tin shed to sell he’s your man.

Name – Rus Crofts

Crew/Seat – 2nd Stroke, The Barracudas

Rowing background – 8 yrs as a flattie at City of Bristol RC, followed by a couple of years in the surf with The Barracudas

Day Job – Industrial and Warehouse Surveyor – travelling the SW buying and selling crinkly tin covered buildings. Sounds a bit dull… but there’s nearly always something different in each one. In the last 12 years I have had a free run at all the ice cream in the Walls factory (made me very sick!), been in amongst 54 million bottles of wine (eventually made me very sick!), and been helicoptered around some of the World Rally Championship by a logistics firm. Not that dull after all!

Favourite beach –
Toss up between:
Putsborough, North Devon. Beautiful combination of “well kept secret”, wide open beach, and good waves (most of the time!);
Sennen Cove – that amazing turquoise water.

Too difficult!

Can’t live without – The thrill of the chase…

If I ran the world – Beer wouldn’t hurt so much the next day!

Most embarrassing moment – The first time out in public in a lycra all-in-one – it all seems so natural now!

Favourite memory – Bouncing round the Rond Point, Meribel going flat out at the après, whilst watching my wife crowd surfing back from the bar with another bottle of toffee vodka!

Don’t forget the Speedos

Continuing the theme of “Trade Secrets” here’s an insiders view of what it takes to convert successfully from flat water racing to surfboats. Rus Crofts is second stroke for the Barracudas, our current European Champions (his profile follows.) These boys earned the title the hard way, taking one of the wipe-outs of the decade at Biarritz and getting back up for more. Rus gives us his top 5 tips. Feel free to disagree…

1) So what makes riding those waves so different? Well, we’ve all seen the
photos of the boats up in the air, and the interesting facial
expressions of the crews, but nothing prepares you for the the most
shocking part of getting into a surfboat for the first time… the
speedos! There was an air of “this is a wind up” when I got the first
email requesting that we bring speedos (they are more difficult to buy
than you’d think!), but that was magnified tenfold when we were told to
“wedge up”. As we stood on a fairly busy part of Portreath beach, there
were distinct elements of amusement and embarassment amongst the crew as
we mooned the public at large.

2) Once you’ve got your head round that, starting from outside the boat was
a whole new learning curve. Gone was the predictably tense feeling of
starting from front stops with the blades buried, and we found ourselves
stood in knee deep water waiting for the surf to roll through. Tom from
Porthtowan has already told you how the experts do it, but most of our
efforts involved different combinations of the crew making it onto our
seats – it took plenty of practise to get us all to where we were
supposed to be going!

3) So you’re in the boat and heading out to sea… As the waves build up,
you need to look squarely at your blade – the one thing you’ve been
trying not to do for years! On the face of it, it all looks a bit
untidy but you soon learn that the troughs between the waves offer ample
opportunity for an “air stroke” and the waves themselves make quite a
mess of your recovery! A couple of unexpected whacks from Neptune will
serve as a useful coaching reminder.

There are only meant to be 5 points, but as an aside, prepare yourself
for the “clunky kit.” The boats weigh a ton, there are no seats (use
the skin on your backside to slide), the blades are easily twice the
weight of what you are used to (and are macons), the riggers look
distinctly unsophicated, and the sweep (cox) stands up. All of this
suddenly makes sense when the sea shows its teeth, and the boat gets you
through it!

4) You’ve spent years searching for that final percentage of
togetherness, for that wonderful feeling of poise and balance that feels
sublime when it all gels. Forget it, you can throw all that away – well most
of it. The sea gives you very little option to deliver a race plan (as
a flattie would know it). When the waves are flat you can start to put
one together, but there are plenty of days when just getting over the
next surge of water is your main concern. This exaggerates the loss of
any togetherness. Surfies are much less fixated with catching and
finishing together, and whilst it is preferable it is not always

5) Finally prepare yourself for a swim. In a decade of flat water rowing
I’ve had maybe 2 capsizes. In a season of surf rowing you will end up
in the drink – guaranteed! Nothing prepares you for the feeling of
being rolled around under the surface when you were already gasping for
air before you flipped. Luckily for all us flatties the events are
patrolled by excellent life guards who are there in the blink of an eye
to pluck you to safety.

It is a whole new world of fun at the beach – doing all the things you
enjoy doing with the added dose of adrenalin and unpredictability.

So come on you flatties – dare to live a little!

Council in “Wedgie” Ban Shock

Usually reliable sources are today reporting that Cornwall Council is to introduce a bye-law this summer to outlaw the practice of “wedging up” at surfboat events.

Brad Biscuit, a Maybe Kernow spokesperson, said: “This is part of a bigger problem. It’s reached councillors’ attention that the practice of budgie-smuggling is rife on the Duchy’s beaches. We’ve spoken to interested parties and intend to put a stop to it.”

When approached for his view, Tarquin Twitter, of the RSPB (one of the interested parties) said: “First I’ve heard of it. Sounds to me like a load of bo**ocks.”

Biscuit, however, was unrepentant. “We’ve checked how much money we’ve saved by converting to a unitary authority and we can fund enforcement officers on Saturday 17 July from 13:35 until 13:38. It’s an excellent use of rate-payers’ funds.”

When it was pointed out to him that it was perhaps more important for councillors to encourage bathers to swim in the patrolled area Biscuit responded: “You don’t fool me. You’ve been warned. We’re sending our best people. They’re crack inspectors.”

UKSRL members were asked for their thoughts.

Petra Gassford said: “Crack inspectors? Oh, deep sh*t.”

Shelford Dutch said: “They can shove it up their ar*e. Wedgies are a rower’s inalienable right.”

The pair, rumoured to have advised UNITE in its recent spat with a well known airline, subsequently issued the following joint, press release.

“We are working hard with our fellow stakeholders in the council to resolve minor disagreements blown out of all proportion by irresponsible sections of the media. The fact Mr Biscuit rows a gig is completely irrelevant. Honest.”

More to follow

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