Video: Reporter learns to row at regatta centre
PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:09 21 April 2015
My only experience of rowing is watching the boat race on television, and while I always thought it would take quite a bit of effort to cover the distance, it never looked as if it was excessively difficult.
So when I found myself sitting in a boat at the London Regatta Centre, one oar wedged into the wall and struggling to keep both of them at the same height, I realised I’d got it all completely wrong.
My coach for the afternoon was Jenny Cooper, who works for London Youth Rowing and had spent that morning training a group of elite teenage rowers.
I knew I wasn’t going to be anywhere near that standard, but I was determined to put my best oar forward and give it a go nevertheless.
Before I could take to the dock, Jenny put me in the tank, an indoor room designed to simulate a boat but without the waves.
She showed me how to get in and out of the boat then put me through my paces with a few different strokes, correcting my technique along the way.
I managed to get the hang of it pretty quickly, and I was keen to get in the water.
While it was warm, it was a bit choppy in the dock and despite Jenny’s best efforts to persuade me otherwise, I wanted to give it a go in a single boat.
A rope was tied to the end and off I went, paddling slowly along and struggling to battle against the waves.
That was when my oar got stuck and it all went a bit downhill from there.
It was hard to hear Jenny’s instructions over the roar of the planes at London City Airport and I kept forgetting which way my oar had to face.
Eventually I found myself back on dry land, but I was still determined to prove I could become a rower.
Jenny and I got into a triple boat and she rowed us out deeper into the dock, away from any walls that I could get stuck in.
Then it was my go and while I was slow, I was steady and managed to keep my concentration to go a fair way.
Attempting to synchronise our strokes was much harder, and it was then that I realised just how difficult crews of eight must find it to keep in time – it was tricky enough with the two of us.
It’s a real workout, having to stretch your arms and legs out completely, but when you’re out there on the water, the sun beaming down, it’s actually quite relaxing at the same time.
While I don’t think I’ll ever reach the standard to compete in the boat race, lack of an Oxford or Cambridge education notwithstanding, rowing is definitely something I’d like to keep on doing.