And so it was that around 36 hours after I first got that email (and the lack of preparation was a guilty pleasure), I met what I was expecting to be a bunch of complete strangers under the clock in Waterloo Station on Saturday morning, only to discover that one of them was F, who I've known for nearly 20 years. Although, let's be honest, using rowing to prove the six degrees theory is no more scientific than using kittens to prove that wool tangles.
|I don't know what PWR stands for but |
I liked the Ratty on its flag.
Great River Race BASICS
The GRR is a race for boats powered by at least four oars or paddles, which must be coxed and have a separate passenger (although crew members can change rules during the race). Neither riggers nor sliding seats are allowed (although OUTriggers are permitted on Hawaiian canoes which also get a special dispensation regarding coxes – the classifications are sufficiently complex and extensive that they would be more than adequate as a Specialist Subject on Mastermind), but fortunately there's nothing in the rules banning Lycra, Lucozade or GPS devices, three things that I can't contemplate an expedition row without.
|A LOT of boats.|
|These Dutch rowers may have regretted their choice |
of headgear when practically the whole race
turned out to be into a screaming headwind.
I'd only taken part once before – in 1999 – and had quite forgotten quite what a wonderful experience it is. Here are only the 12 most salient reasons why:
- You have just never seen so many different types of rowing boat.
- Flying a flag is COMPULSORY.
- In the "Historic ships" class, additional points can be scored for "authenticity and turnout of boat and crew".
- It is MONSTER choppy off the start. Really good fun. So long a you're in a boat with substantial freeboard (our cutter was ideal but I heard later that the dragon boats were seriously worried about sinking).
- My winner for the dressing up category was the "British Oarways" crew who managed to row whilst apparently dressed in pilot's or cabin crew outfits, with a "tailfin" flag on the stern.
- A close second was the crew of cows, with painted faces,
- There's a type of Irish boat which is rowed with "blades" that don't have spoons. They rate ferociously high and go impressively fast.
- GDBC (if you've watched True Blue you'll know what this stands for, otherwise I'm not saying as my dad reads this) had to have a bigger flag that everyone else in their 1829 replica boat Cam.
- Lots of crews decorate their boats or people with flower garlands. Including male people.
- There are more spectators than you get at the major eights heads.
- This year, we rowed past that wooden model of medieval London which was then floated down the river and burned that evening to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire. It was HUGE.
- Boats are set off in reverse speed order with a handicapping system so the overall winner is the first one to reach the finish, making it more exciting than your average head race. This also means that if you're in a fast boat class (like the Thames Watermen's Cutter I was in, having become an honorary member of the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers for the day), you should be able to guarantee overtaking fun all the way up the course.
|"Sixteen hundred and sixty six: |
the fire burned out for lack of sticks"
|Cows: presumably the one in a life jacket is a heifer as "milk floats"|
|A design that needs no bailing: this extraordinary craft is apparently made from old cooking oil cans.|
|A Roman. Obvs.|