Hradiště Head Race and a Wooden Eight from 1934


No training. In the evening, Romana and I made the program for Hradiště, i.e. the instructions where everybody would be at any given point in time. It’s not easy.

There’s a small bus with all the rowers at the start. One by one they do their warming up, get ready to race, and row the 6km race. Somebody needs to bring their shoes and some clothes to the finish, especially when it’s 9 degrees and chilly. Then there’s three singles that are used in the morning and in the afternoon. So at some point in time we have to drive my small trailer from the finish back to the start for those three singles. Then Romana wants to be at the start to help her girls with warming up and race prep. And I will spend the morning on the bike cheering various athletes. One thing is easy. Head coach will be in the big turn half way with his stopwatch, a pen and a note book. He will record all times and give key info to the guys racing, how they stand respective to their competitors.

So our day was planned from 7am to 5pm with 15 minute precision. Well, it’s an important race for the youth. Their 6km OTW time is measured against a standard, and each participant who scores more than 100% will be invited for a 6k erg race and some further testing. If successful, the youth will be part of the “Youth Sports Center” for rowing, and the club will receive state funding for covering training costs.


So alarm clock at 6, leave house at 7, drive to rowing club to get small trailer, drive the 70km to Hradiště, park trailer. Then Romana takes the car to the start and I hop on the bike.

My first task was to cycle with one of the juniors, cheer and give steering instructions. Mr Cermak had the luxury of having his parents on the bike, so I chose to bike with Mr Kuncak. (Sometimes the parents’ steering instructions are counterproductive, but Kuncak is our biggest Ace in the juniors field.)

On the right bank you can cycle the entire 6km. On the left bank you can only do the final 3km. I chose to cycle on the left bank with a better bike path, because I didn’t want to spend my race energy cycling through a stubble-field on the right bank. Picked up Mr Kuncak with 3km to go and started cheering and steering. When I passed head coach we got the information that he was rowing in 2nd place with 2 seconds loss to the fastest guy. So I cheered and cheered. Shouted at him to just keep rowing the same 30spm stroke and hoping it would help.

When Mr Kuncak finished, I cycled back to wait for the race of my daughter Lenka. I saw Mr Cermak in passing, with his father cheering.

Had to spend more than an hour on the 3km point. The autumn sun disappeared and I did a few kilometers of cycling around the local villages just to stay warm.

Lenka arrived on our single. I measured the distance to the girl ahead of her. With 1 minute between starts, Lenka arrived 50 seconds behind that girl, so that was 10 seconds to the good. There was a big gap behind her, so a very positive situation to cheer and steer. Lenka was rowing 26spm, but that didn’t bother me as I knew she had been ill a week ago and the 26-27spm reflected her fitness. I  think I cheered her through the tough part between 4km and 5km, and then got her rating up in the final km. Today, she told me she didn’t hear me well, and she didn’t understand what she heard. OK, so far for the coaching. 🙁

Mr Kuncak finished third in the Junior’s field, 5 seconds behind our club’s Mr Cermak, who surprised us all by coming second, just 0.5 seconds behind the winner. Lenka finished somewhere in the middle of her field, but her final time was good for a >100% score, which means she is still in the game!

Our club also won the Men’s single, the Boys 15/16 pair, and got a third place in the men’s lightweight single. Because of the points earned for all youth categories and the U23 rowers, this was a huge success in a race with very strong competion.

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It was time to return to the small trailer. Three singles (including my single “Dolfijn” which was rowed by Lenka) were prepared. Romana arrived just in time with the car, and we drove to the start, where we unloaded the single, rigged them, and then drove back with the trailer (and some bags with shoes and dry clothes).

Then we took the car back to the start, and it was time for me to get ready for my own race.

Two years ago, I won, with a few seconds lead. Last year, I lost. Mr Polasek gave me 5 seconds. Unfortunately, I had found out during the morning, that Mr Polasek had cancelled. He had a cold last week and didn’t feel like it. At the start, I also found out that the two guys from Ostrava had cancelled. This kind of reduced the tension of the race. My club mate Eduard was the next fastest guy on paper, with me being the fastest. The other participants were three guys from the rowing club in Hradec Kralove, who looked like newbies in the Masters Rowing field, and Mr Bejbl from Brandys, who I estimated to be slower than me.

I found out it is good that I have  pre-race routine with a lot of reserve time. Only when I put the single in the water, I found out that I had forgotten to move the footstretcher from Lenka’s position to mine. That is a problem, because one of the nuts is normal one, and you need a tool to unscrew it. Luckily, Romana was still on the bank collecting our slings, so I could get to the car and get the tool. I still had time enough to do a 2km warming up drill on the water.

Here is the full race video:

I made a terribly bad starting stroke, which made me smile and shake my head. Then I was off. After a few start strokes I dropped to my well-tested 27spm and didn’t dare to go higher. I think I made a wise decision. Looking at the power plot, corrected for the river’s current and the headwind, I more or less rowed a flat row in terms of power (Watt).

Pace helped by the river current, but in a slight headwind from 12 minutes onwards.

The guy starting 60 seconds before me was a 68 year old Masters rower. Just a year younger than my father! I passed him in the first kilometer, and then I had enough space to focus on my own rowing. I think I steered well. Perhaps the big turn at the beer brewery was a bit wider than could have been, but the river was really the fastest in the middle. Whenever I got closer to the banks, the pace numbers started to worsen.

After the big turn I was rowing into a light headwind, and I had to tell myself that it was a headwind, and not worry too much about the pace creeping up above 2:00 minutes per 500m.

In the final 1000m I started counting strokes, and in the final 500m I had company of our friend Ludek on the bike, which was very good because it helped me rate up to 28, 29 and then 30spm.

I did a 1km cooling down and when I was taking the single out of the water, I heard the speaker announce the results. I had won!


Second place was for my club mate Eduard.

It took us about 30 minutes to get the boats ready for transport, and then we walked over to the club house to receive our medals:

A (slightly obscenely looking) cup, a medal and sweets. What more can a Masters rower wish?

We arrived home around 8:30pm.


Around 2pm we drove to the rowing club. We unloaded the trailer. I washed my single, and then we watched something very exciting.

Our club was founded in 1912, and in the old hangar at the river club house we have a few very old wooden boats. A few of our older club members have made it a project to restore these old boats. Their first piece was a 1944 clinker eight, one of the few left in this part of the world. Today, after more than 50 years, it was the first row for a 1934 clinker eight, a lighter and faster boat than the 1944 one (and made of better quality wood).

This was no easy restoration. A big part of the middle of the ship was rotten and had to be replaced completely.





It floats!


By the way, 1934 was also in the time when Czechoslovakia, in the middle of a worldwide economic crisis, warmly welcomed German refugees, antifascists and jews escaping Nazi Germani. A bit of a contrast with the political climate of today. 🙁

My workout of today was cycling home from the rowing club. It was rainy and cold, but it was a nice recovery workout: