Sunday, 11 January 2015


Several people have asked me recently what expedition rowers do in the Winter. Despite partly subscribing to the maxim "There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing", there's no getting away from the fact that rivers flood, locks are closed for repairs and the days are much shorter. So, whilst I do go out on the water (including with lights at night), and also spend some time on the erg, an important wintertime activity is planning next year's expedition rows. The first of these will be the 100km OC&C Ringvaart in Holland, which is previewed here using the medium of Lego.

People of all rowing abilities (as far as I can tell from the photos) on the race website take part in all sorts of boat classes, of which more later. After some debate, I'm going to do it in a touring coxed double (C2x+, often known as a C2x because I don't think you don't get coxless touring doubles) with my friends Sandra and Rachel, both much better athletes than me, who are fortunately, from my point of view, happy to be "organised".

We have no intention of wearing pink leotards, by the way.

The Ringvaart is, I believe, quite a well-known route, just south-west of Amsterdam city center, along some canals. People cycle it. The astute amongst you won't be surprised to hear that it's ring-shaped. If you think rings are roughly triangular and wiggly, that is. With the addition of a one-way bit at the end, it's more like the outline of candyfloss on a stick. You start at the point where the sugary fuzz joins the stick, go round the candyfloss and back to the point you started, before proceeding down the stick to the end in Delft.

The Ringvaart: A rowing event in the Netherlands.

At 12km to go, there's a lock, where the clock is stopped for 45 minutes or till you start again on the other side of it, whichever is the sooner. Apparently you can get a massage and/or a meal at this point, both of which sound like awful ideas, and we'll probably just avail ourselves of the facilities and press on.

It's organised by students. Extremely well, by all accounts. 

This year's edition takes place on Wednesday (strange, but true), 3 June 2015. Why a Wednesday? "Because it's always the Wednesday after ascension Day." OK, that doesn't really answer the question, but never mind. Quirky is good. Perhaps it's that University thing of "Wednesday afternoons are for sport" just extended a bit?

The tulips will be over by June, so it'll probably look more like this, actually.
Each crew must have a "voelgploeg" (following team), and we wouldn't be doing this event if it weren't for my British friend Adrian living nearby and always being keen to find opportunities to get out on his bike. He will refill our waterbottles and deliver bananas at key points.

Rough calculations show that the banana that the voelgploeg man is holding
here would be the equivalent of 2'6" in full size. 
According to the organisers, you're not allowed to swap who coxes. But if a crew did that, it might look like this:
Note that the person not swapping is grabbing the
 opportunity to have a bite of a giant banana.
And they would very much hope the swap doesn't end up like this:

Last year, my friends Martin and Marcel, both top ranked Dutch marathon rowers, did the event in the "single wherry" which could also be described as a wooden touring coxless single. Like this:

This is Marcel rowing. He doesn't have much hair.
They set a new record for the event, and later commented that "You spend half the time resting and eating, so what's not to like." I'm considering this boat class for 2016 once I've recce'd the course this year. Surprisingly, there is currently no Women's record for this category.

Naturally, a full report on how the event goes will be posted here in early June. But in the meantime, I'd love to hear from anyone interested in expressing expedition rowing in the medium of knitting, felt, origami, plasticine, pipecleaners or even cake.


  1. Eeuuhm, if the person not swapping isn't keeping the boat stable whilst eating huge quantities of bananas and yelly beans you will probably need:

  2. Haha! I wonder if Lego lifeboats would create Lego waves?

  3. Good to see you guys come over to The Netherlands! You'll enjoy this race for sure. Will greet you guys when i slowly overtake you :)
    Greetz, michiel

  4. hilariously good Helena! I just love the last caption :)groet, Linda

  5. There's another nice set of lego rowers here I have added a link to your blogpage to our club Facebook page - along with your lego skiff. Hope that's OK.
    New Year's Wishes - TonyS

    1. Now that Row2k picture is SERIOUSLY impressive Lego work. Wing riggers and everything. And many thanks for the link on your Club FB page - it's always good top share the long distance rowing love.

  6. Replies
    1. It was like this!
      What was YOUR Ringvaart 2015 like in the 8*?