Captain’s Log No04 : November 2012

Last time I suggested these logs may become just postings on the website. Apparently that was not such a popular idea so I will continue to email them out – and probably post them on the website too (once I learn how).

Club Dinner
A huge thanks to Kay Insley for her mammoth efforts in getting the dinner organised and yet again I think I can report it was a great success – and seeing a true cross section of the club membership mingling and enjoying themselves is always great to see. Well done Kay.

A bit of a downer was the music arrrangements! That was the one thing I had to sort out and I arranged some playlists in keeping with the theme of the evening (I still have them and they will be part of the music library in the new Club Room.

  • No boots or wet kit permitted in the Club Room or Gymnasium.
  • No smoking on club premises.
  • Only suitably dressed members and their guests are permitted in the Club Room after Midday.
  • Juniors (Under 16) must be supervised by an adult at all times.
  • No music is permitted on the balconies.
  • Noise must be kept to a minimum
  • Waste/Litter to be placed in the bins provided. Recycle where possible.

Electro-swing is the way to go!). Before the evening got underway I checked everything worked with the restaurant staff and we had music coming out of all the speakers in all the areas. Then when we actually wanted to dance it came out only in the dining area – not where we had space to dance! It was very annoying and I do apologise for that.

As we see yet more events cancelled because of the river conditions I am swiftly coming to the conclusion that our sport is at serious risk of permanent damage – certainly at the grass roots level where local organisers do not have the funds or facilities to set up events they then cannot run; they will simply stop offering them.

Anyway, hopefully that is a weather trend that will change back eventually. In the meantime some events have run and we were representative at many of them. Results below.

We have recorded some good performances here – a couple of bona fide wins and a few first out of one! Well done all. Pics and race reports should be posted on the website – fun reading for all!
Our next race is the Remenham Challenge (16th December) where we have potentially eight eights to enter (subject to some availabilities).

That’s an impressive fleet of eights by any standard. The organisers have asked us to provide volunteers to help on the day. They want launch drivers, timekeepers, number and rules issuers and people “to look after the umpire catering”. I have asked the coaches for some of their squad members who didn’t make the cut this time – anyone else available please let me know.

What with the draw-off and red flags I think it is unlikely we will be running any more rounds of this. After the six rounds we have run, Debbie Dorling comes out as the points winner; Jordan Sirmon as the fastest overall sculler; Rachel Woolf as the fastest woman and James Traynor the fastest rookie. I believe this is a clean sweep of new winners in the various categories – more evidence that we are building strength in depth across the competition squads.

In the (new) crew boats section Berend and Paul in their double/pair amassed the most points (and the most near misses and the first recorded altercation with the PLA launch during a round!).

Thank you everyone who took part and well done to all those who scored a win. If I can find the trophy and some other goodies there may be some prizes handed out at the Christmas party – otherwise I sense a Handi-curry coming on!

The Building Works
If you’ve been down to the club very recently you will see everything finally taking shape. Martin F and the building team have done a wonderful job keeping the builders on track (despite our best efforts to distract them with trying to run ergo sessions when the river is out of use!) and Keith is keeping everyone informed with his update letters.

Right now the most important date is this coming Sunday – 2nd December – when we are going to do a major clean up and lay out the rooms. I have arranged with all squad coaches to suspend training for this day so that we have maximum bodies available (and with over 200 paid up rowing members I really do hope to see an army of helpers on Sunday!). With that many hands we should make light work of it and will have a club house to be proud of for the next 150 years.

Club Room Etiquette
Once we have the place cleaned up we need to keep it that way. I am in discussions with some cleaners (the previous cleaners have resigned) but they would only be coming in once or twice a week. In order to maintain the place as a clean and pleasant training/social environment we need everyone to take responsibility all the time.

To help, we have drawn up some simple rules (or bye-laws, or whatever they need to be called). These are effective immediately. Please read them, understand them, and follow them!

In order to manage this we need to keep the two doors at the top of the old entrance stairs (from the gym and bar) permanently closed to serve as fire EXITS only. So the route to/from the boat bays, tank room and hard is via the old stairs into the back of the boat bays. Phil Banerjee is making up signs to indicate what doors/corridors lead where (I hate going to other clubs and not knowing where anything is or how to get to it).

We are also starting to look at venue hire – a serious income stream if we get it right. The clever layout upstairs ensures we can hire out space without curtailing access to the boats and river.

Water Safety Section
The Draw Off ends on 9th December. Don’t ask me when the river on our reach will be safe to row on! All that flood water has to go somewhere and a lot of it comes down the Thames. At least with the club house straight there is plenty of opportunity to perfect your ergo technique.

We did have a crew manage to collide with the immovable object they call Steven’s Ait up on the Kingston Reach recently – amazing; it’s been there for years and never moved as far as I am aware! Other than that we have managed to navigate safely so well done all for being vigilant.

I was discussing water safety with an “old stalwart” of the club the other day – how in his day we never had red or yellow flags and we didn’t have any drownings or incidents then. He’s right in one respect, that we didn’t have any more incidents; but the sport has moved away from being for the privileged few who learnt at school and have had their watermanship instincts honed from an early age, to reaching out to a much broader church of participants who haven’t been steeped in the ways of the river in quite the same way.

With so many people now enjoying the sport and starting at different times in their lives from school right through to forty-something newcomers, of course attention has to be turned to ensuring their safety and looking after them. I think that is a duty of care we have as an open club and I embrace it.

Captain’s Rant
That said – I do sometimes wonder how seriously some people really take their sport. I’ve ranted about looking after the equipment previously.

Today (and see what a neat segue that was!) it’s about learning to look after yourselves. True, I am one of those “privileged few” who started at a silly young age and I have made life on the Thames my lifestyle – I even live on a boat! But I have never found myself in a situation where I have not known what the river is doing or felt unsafe (correction – I have, twice: once queuing for the Eights Head in the seventies and watching crews going off the start only to sink straight away – just waiting to be instructed to turn and do the same! And once (also on the tideway) finding even the calmest place to turn was like the North Sea and once broadside to the conditions wondering if we would make the rest of the turn still on top of the water – we did, just).

So I see crews (not just Twix but everyone’s) who clearly haven’t thought things through! I suppose the rant is that people appear to be abdicating their responsibility for their own safety – no flags being interpreted as it’s safe to go out so they do; without considering the conditions. Or they couldn’t work out which way the stream is running, or whether the prevailing wind will have more effect than the stream anyway. All sorts of “watermanship” skills that are very much part of this sport (favourite is watching crews battling down the head course on the “fastest line” when it is so rough a dive for shelter would be a) safer and b) a lot quicker!).

Please, we are a big club with more rowing members than we’ve seen ever before. Everyone has a responsibility for their own safety – it starts with the equipment working properly, it also includes learning about dealing with the varying river and weather conditions. Even the worst weather is a great adventure if you know what you’re doing!

And seeing as we are set for some rubbish weather for a while yet – let’s learn about it and enjoy it!

That’ll do for this month. See you all on Sunday!