Aug 29 2016
Rowing related activity: Driving the “small” trailer to Břeclav.
Břeclav is a small town in the middle of the Moravian/Austrian wine region. It has a long rowing history and the club is very active and successful. Lukas Helesic of the Czech Pair who came 7th in Rio, winning the B final, rows for this club. I drove the trailer there with Romana, then we headed for the nearest “Vinoteka”, where we found one of the local rowing coaches in the middle of a wine tasting. So we were welcomed and “were forced” to taste a few different bottles. The Czech Republic has a zero tolerance alcohol and driving law, so as the driver, I had to do the wine tasting proper, so just tasting and not drinking (ok, two sips), but we bought a few bottles to take home.
My first race was the Men’s Masters. There were a few entries. The race course has only three lanes, so the race was divided in an “A”, “B/C”, and “D/F” race, with two boats in the A race, three boats in the B/C race and three boats in the D/F race.
The race is on a river. The 1k course is actually 850m long, and there are big differences between the lanes. Lanes 1 and 2 are close to the middle of the river, so they profit from more current, but lane three is on the inside of the turn. Lane three also has a trap, where in the final straight part the river widens and then gets narrower again, so if you follow the bank on your right hand side you end up in the reed.
The organizers try to compensate for the turn by aligning the boats diagonally at the start, but I am not sure if this is really done well. I would have preferred to race in lane 2, but the draw put me in lane 3, against two younger rowers.
Still, I was expected to win this easily. Tonda in lane 1 had rowed 4:10 against my 3:46 a week ago and Michal, who is from the same club as I, is roughly in the same 4:10 area as well.
The weather was hot. The race was at 12:24 and I estimate it was about 35 degrees. At least there was a quite strong headwind, especially on the last straight bit of the course.
We spent some time aligning the boats at the start and I tried to get my bow in the right direction. Then it was time to concentrate for the start. Being in lane three, I was aligned behind the two other boats, and my plan was to try and get them before we would go into the turn, and then the rest of the race would be easy, because I would have the advantage of the inner turn.
I also didn’t want to hug the bank too much because of the stream, so I would push as much towards lane 2 as the turning buoys would allow.
That was the theory.
I executed a very good start and was doing nice high stroke rate.
Bang. I banged my scull into Michal’s, and lost it. This is where perception of time made everything go slow motion:
Grab handle mid air.
Tonda rowing away from us.
Left blade stuck in the water.
My single started to turn towards Michal’s.
My single starting to capsize.
The force on the blade being to strong for me to hold the handle.
Me managing to not let lose of the handle, but the scull now being almost parallel to the boat.
Me capsizing more.
Me somehow recovering from that.
Now I was expecting the umpire to stop the race and re-start. The clash was probably my fault but Michal had a right to a re-start.
No red flag. Nothing.
Having come to a full stop, I did a race start as soon as our boats were disentangled, and started to sprint to catch up with Tonda.
Somehow I managed to do that at half way through the turn. I continued to row hard to get a lead, which I had by the “500m” point. Now rowing into a strong headwind and the water becoming more choppy, I lowered the stroke rate and just controlled for the rest of the race. I clashed my blade on the final turning buoy and started the final straight part. I had to look around a few times to avoid going into the “pocket” and ending up in the bank.
Looking at the data, I think I was running at around 500W in the sprint after the clash, and things were hurting too much to continue rowing any decent race pace. Luckily for me, Tonda didn’t manage to speed up and I passed the finish line.
I was expecting a red flag or a disqualification, but to my astonishment the umpire waved the white flag indicating that according to him the race had been regular.
So I landed the boat, apologized to Michal, and went on to pick up my medal.
In the afternoon there was a boat christening of the Břeclav rowing club’s new Empacher eight, followed by the Masters Men’s 8+ race. Břeclav’s Masters team, with an average age of 70 years, rowed the new Empacher, and I rowed in “the other boat”, consisting of eight random Masters picked from 5 other clubs, rowing a 1987 Hudecek (a Czech brand).
The average age of our eight was around 40, so it was clear we would win. At the start line, it was secretly agreed with the other crew that we would row next to each other through the turn and then just speed up a bit during the final straight part in front of the crowd. This was more an “exhibition” than a race, and for the local crowd (and the members of parliament and local politicians who had been invited) it would be nice to see two eights “racing” next to each other.
The plan was executed as agreed. We rowed next to each other, and at the start of the straight part the cox of the local eight shouted “go” and we took up the stroke rate from 25spm to 27spm. I think we still pushed a bit too hard because we won by a length.
In other races, Dominik picked up two medals. One for a singles race where his opponent didn’t show up, so he just rowed the course and got a medal. The second one for a quad race where they won by half a length (over 500m).
In the evening, our local friends took us to an open air cinema in a nearby (wine) village, so we had a great evening tasting wine and watching a movie.