With the Moon Row only a few weeks away, getting in some quality training time on the water and clock up some good miles in a boat is vital, I had been training on a bike and ergometer but up until a few weeks ago I was yet to put in serious water miles.
Happily there was a solution, fellow Moon Row teammate Nick Middleton had managed to find a rack at Henley Rowing Club where I could keep my boat for the couple of weeks I anticipated being around to photograph the crews and life of the regatta.
One complication being I had not used my boat in some years (!) and Henley Royal Regatta is a major event that I attend to photograph so I was staring at a challenge but not being one to shy away I dived in head first. So, in the week before the regatta started I took my boat out of storage (parent’s garden!), loaded up the car and headed off for Henley to meet Nick at Leander Club for what would turn out to be the first of several training sessions.
The first outing was going pretty well, a few wobbles as expected but I was enjoying the feeling of being back in my boat after so long. And then something that I was not expecting happened…both shoes, usually fixed into the boat, came away from their attachments. Not exactly ideal when you are some way from where you launched from.
Sometime during the years of non-use the base of the specially designed rowing shoes had perished and become relatively inflexible, so much so in fact that the action of rowing caused them to completely tear away from their fixtures. Luckily the only harm was my pride as I turned the boat around and paddled the 2km-ish distance back to the landing raft…I was quite keen to avoid a swimming lesson in front of the top crews practicing for their races!
With shoes fixed the next day, training resumed and Nick and I started to clock up some good miles on the water 16km at a time. I even squeezed in a cheeky 24km when no one else was around.
Come regatta week and training for us moved to getting on the water early before everyone else turned the place into a trampoline, higher volumes of traffic cause quite a bit of wash and when you’re in a boat only a few inches wide the wakes caused by their passing can make it quite bouncy – not to mention the school boy quads charging up the course, both fast and with little sense of steering! Regardless of this, the weather was great – even at 6.30am the sun was up and beating down – great practice for Africa I should imagine.
Racing at the regatta began on Wednesday 2nd July at 8.30am…our tactic of early outings was paying off but with racing continuing until 7.30pm the days were long, particularly whilst spending most of it on my feet photographing. 5.30am wake-up calls to go rowing were met with marginally less enthusiasm with each successive day but no doubt good practice for what lies in store in Zambia.
That said, the benefit of doing long distances together was paying off, my body was remembering how to move a boat and Nick (4 time Henley winner and GB oarsman) was now spending his time trying to catch up(!)…apparently. He might have been saying that to cheer me up. Every stroke gets us closer to the Moon Row!
On Thursday we entertained the Zambian High Commissioner, His Excellency Paul Lumbi, Matthew Cundy, from Parmigiani, and John Irwin, from Village Water, in Leander Club for lunch and what better place than Henley Royal Regatta to show our guests the pinnacle of the sport and discuss what we hope to achieve whilst in Zambia.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting back on the water, not in the least that I was able to do it on the Henley stretch, and around regatta time when the whole place is decked out in tents, grandstands and paddle up the dead-straight world famous course. I am very grateful for the members of Henley Rowing Club and Leander Club in allowing me to use their facilities for the past couple of weeks. Without them getting any training in at all would have been virtually impossible. I’m really looking forwards to getting out to Zambia for the Moon Row now!