Lunch with OUBC/OUWBC, La Commanderie, Temple-sur-Lot, 3rd January 2017
A brief personal account by Greg Hawes (Captain, CCC BC 1975)
We are fortunate that the OUBC come for their winter training session to the Lot valley and doubly fortunate that they meet with us. Trebly so this year, as the men’s crews were joined by the OUWBC.
I met several members of the crews before lunch. All I spoke with agreed that the facilities for training at Temple are very good. This year the men’s crews include more undergraduates than in recent years, including several freshers. The Women’s President, Katherine Erickson was a champion equestrian before turning to rowing “as a part of the whole Oxford experience”. She told me the women are tall and wiry, rather than beefy like the men. I suggested that, in rowing, technique and leverage are just as important as raw power and Katherine graciously assented.
At lunch I plonked myself down between two members of the OUBC staff and found I had luckily chosen a seat with Head Coach Sean Bowden on my right and Boatman Austen Dorey on my left. Both were extremely informative.
With the Lot in early flood, conditions here are far from ideal for training this season. I suggested the rough, fast-flowing river might be handy preparation for the rigours of the Thames Tideway and was gently told that at this stage of training better conditions are needed. Avoiding debris has been a special challenge this year and repairs to blades, rudders and so on have kept Austen busy.
I asked about the impact of technology on modern boats (not having sat in an Eight since Oxford). Having started by saying that apart from materials, things had not changed much in recent years, Austen told me that sensors in the gates can now provide real time feedback to a rower in training including his or her power of stroke, angle at the catch and recovery, as well as timing information. As a former Stroke with a chronic tendency to overreach at the catch, I was enraptured.
The coxes were being taken aside after lunch for a video training session. I knew of the importance of the role of the cox, especially in the Boat Race, where the line taken is so vital and the rivalry with the Cambridge boat is so intense. Sean enlightened me further, explaining that one small mistake by the cox can cost the crew minutes of hard rowing beyond the “lactate threshold” to make up the lost distance. Anyone who has rowed in competition knows what that feels like.
Time passed all too quickly. The crews returned to their training and the staff to their duties. I certainly hope the Oxford crews will keep returning to the Lot each winter. Everyone was charming. Their welcome to us is thanks to Jeremy James. May he rest in peace.