I'm about to row (tomorrow!) in a regatta for the first time in eight years. Eight fucking years. I'm totally excited. We did a race piece on Wednesday and, of the three eights on the water, mine was the fastest. We, seven women and one man, easily outpaced an all men's boat (admittedly one that was down a rower). But seven women and one man spanked seven men; that's pretty good. At the end of the piece our stroke (lead rower) turned around and said, "Who is in this boat on Saturday? 'Cause that was a good piece!" As a perennial race loser, even doing well in practice was a mighty good feeling.
I don't expect things to go quite so smoothly on Saturday. I'm in two races, a women's master four and a mixed eight. ("Master" means rowers age 27 or older.) The four poses a problem—I haven't rowed in a four in more than eight years. Many more. The last time was in a regatta where I was stroke and I did a lousy job. This time, I'm not stroking, thank goodness, but I'm worried because fours are harder to set (balance) than eights and I don't know how it's going to feel. I hoped, hoped, hoped that I'd get out in a four before the regatta, but no such luck. I've rowed with two of the women in the boat before, but never behind our stroke. But I'll tell you this—the other women in this boat are strong and intense. It's something of an honor to be in the boat with them—I hope they are not disappointed in me.
Now, the mixed eight is a funny thing. As a former collegiate rower, it's hard to take a mixed eight seriously. You might throw one together for the last race of the day—a 500 meter sprint (that's something like 2 minutes or less), but they are not serious boats. You don't practice in mixed eights—you practice in men's or women's boats. It's hard to get it together with that much height and strength disparity. (Even in this low-key regatta, the mixed eight is the last race of the day.)
In my new club, though, we usually go out in mixed eights. It can be mighty distracting when you keep your eyes on the back in front of you, like you are supposed to, and that back belongs to someone with the most beautiful neck you have ever seen.
Ahem. Back to race stuff.
Our eight is really mixed:
8 (stroke): Man
7 seat: Man
6 seat: Woman (me!)
5 seat: Woman
4 seat: Man
3 seat: Man
2 seat: Woman
1 (bow): Woman
You will notice that we are by same-sex pairs—that is no accident. Since it's one oar per person, you want each part of the pair to be of similar strength so the boat will go in a straight line without steering. Steering slows you down. Ideally, you row in one straight long track in the water. When you cut your track, you lose time.
If you are interested in a more systematic description of the sport, this wiki is quite good .
In case you've been waiting on it, I'm still working on the story about my crazy friend, Stella. It will go up this weekend, so you will have plenty of time to read it.
Grateful for: racing.
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