Greg Hawes: OUBC Lunch, 2018

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.

Brilliant Biac

Member Tony Asseily and his wife Youmna gave 28 members and friends a wonderful welcome to their exceptional chateau on 1st September. We are quite well used to chateaux visits and degustations, but Tony’s urbane commentary and tour were both absorbing and informative even for the most accustomed: a demonstration of a long-term passion for wine and for the special terroir of the Biac amphitheatre, with its magnificent panorama over the Garonne.

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Their almost accidental acquisition of the Biac property echoed that of many who have come to settle in our region but at a grand level. Without the cachet of the main Bordeaux appellations, Biac’s unique situation renders it capable of the finest wines, a capability restored by the Asseily family.

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With everything accomplished to the highest standard, we saw the timely westerly de-leafing of the vines – Biac has six varietals in less than ten hectares, possible because of the difference in soils. This allows the wine-makers to achieve the desired quality by varying considerably the amount of each used each year.

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We came to understand the meticulous attention paid to every grape at the ‘right’ time (pips are tested!). Top-class wine-makers control the creation of each vintage. We heard how important malic fermentation takes place before bottling – most leave it to take place in the bottle.

A tour of the immaculate chai preceded our testing of Biac’s two main reds and white and the ‘party’ reds and white. A generous lunch (including Youmna’s chocolate cake!) followed and we left quite late in the afternoon with very special memories and great thanks to our hosts (and of course to Marion and Pip for organisation).

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(photos Tony, Pip, Branka and John).

A Brexit Lunch in the Gers

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On 12th August and courtesy of our member Simon Cole, long-serving former Chancellor and Gers-resident Lord Lawson gave a full dining room a lucid exposition of his view of Brexit.

He had been an early advocate of leaving the European Union, having experienced the way in which British membership impeded the reform of the British economy in the 1980s.

He was anxious to stress that, living permanently in France, this position was in no way anti-European but was simply against a political construct designed eventually to lead to a complete union. Britain had been half-in and half-out, having, in his view, correctly avoided the disastrous euro, itself designed to accelerate the political union.

We were able to ask Nigel a number of questions, some reflecting agreement with his position and others concerns aligned with the ‘Remain’ position or simply a fear of impending disaster.

Our chairman, John Baylis concluded this cordial lunch in the Hotel de Bastard in Lectoure by thanking Lord Lawson for his speech. Thanks were also due to Marion for her excellent organisation and to Simon for making the whole event possible. It was indeed a very worthwhile occasion and one to remember as Brexit advances.

John was pleased to see more members and hoped to see many of them (and guests) at the forthcoming AGM.

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Simon’s introduction
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Question Time

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Our Tenth Anniversary Lunch

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Marion writes and will be sending further details to members:
The Annual General Meeting of the Branch, which will be held on Tuesday 12th September 2017 in the verdant surroundings of the Villeneuve-sur-Lot Golf and Country Club. Treasurer and keen golfer Pip Kirby has kindly made all the arrangements.
A shady terrace overlooking the course is available for guests.
As this is the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Branch, it is hoped that the meeting will be well attended !
An important technical note!
Your webmaster writes:
The old web address http:ousswfrance.co.uk will cease as of the end of August and will no longer be redirected to this site, which is now at: https://ousswfrance.com.

The Lot flows with Malbec

A group of 20 alumni and friends ventured into the Lot to enjoy a morning of wine tasting followed by lunch, all organised by Greg Hawes. Greg’s devotion to duty had involved a rapid trip to his daughter’s graduation in Durham and a return at 5 a.m. home the same day, so great thanks are due to Greg, one of our many new members!

The excellent wine tasting at Château Famaey was conducted by Maarten Luyckx, son of the proprietor and main winemaker, assisted by Florence. Maarten exports successfully to 26 countries – and provide wine to BA’s lounges (first-class only of course!). We enjoyed  hearing about the complexities of wine-making, exporting and barrel varieties and left with a significant selection of wine demonstrating our very varied tastes.

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Maarten and Florence
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Attentive!
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The bar graced by our founder and our chairman’s wife!

2017 events update

Our 2017 programme is up and running and members have been sent, or will be sent, details of the following future events by email:

  • A tasting visit to a local member’s chateau (Château Biac) with an on site buffet lunch, on Friday 1st September.
  • Our AGM on Tuesday 12th September at La Suite restaurant, Villeneuve sur Lot Golf & Country Club, 47290 Castelnaud de Gratecambe
  • A lunch on 4th November in Le Temple sur Lot organised by Jeremy James EDIT now postponed until Spring 2018,

As usual Marion will communicate details of these events as they firm up. If for some reason, you have not received the details please contact her.

Any member prepared to organise a lunch or other event of interest in his / her local area is of course welcome to do so or put forward ideas; with an influx of ‘new’ members recently joining our list, new opportunities for enjoyable social contact are just waiting to be explored!