08 Jun Scillies 2017
Just to put this in perspective, these are the World Championships. There were about 144 boats competing mostly from the UK but also from Holland, Ireland and America. Last year, our Ladies A crew finished 90th and our Mens A crew finished 102nd.
This year we had new accommodation. There was a girls’ house right on the Porthcressa beach with Debs, Terrey, Rosie, Nina and Cath – hair platting and rum! A boys’ flat, Craig, Andy (rowing for Rock in his favoured seat3) and Stuart – how they didn’t kill each other we still don’t know. A sensible flat, Len, Kate and Sean. Steve staying in a studio on his own, Leiza staying with her sister who rows for Salcombe and Jerry and Anne/Viv staying with a Bristol crew.
For 2017 we decided to enter a Mens Vets crew on the Friday evening.
Logistics were tight for the Friday evening. Sean was catching the Scillonian ferry over and was on the last crossing to allow him to arrive in time for the Vets race. Craig booked a little late and was catching a late flight from Newquay but was also getting an earlier lift with Len and Kate. We were only taking 12 people to compete for Clifton so bearing in mind each crew has a Cox and 6 rowers we were doubling up coxing and rowing and had no one spare at all. The girls were primed to meet Sean on the Quay side, sort out his luggage and guide him to the correct beach where we would launch from to kick off our second World Championships.
Perhaps, not the best timing from Craig to run an almighty wind up about missing his flight. Lesson learnt I suspect but this did set the scene for generally winding people up all weekend.
As the boys rowed to the start line it was clear that there were nerves. We had Stuart, Steve, Craig, Len, Jerry, Sean – in fact the same crew for the whole weekend. There was a decent swell and a slight chop on top of this. Debs did her best to calm us by pushing us to get to the start line! All good practice! Craig kept us laughing all the way to the start line; mostly at Debs expense. Eventually we were given the countdown to the start and we were off. Off in fact to a flyer and it just kept getting better. We pulled together as a team and had a fabulous row. Special mention to Stuart and Debs. Twice, Stuart caught a crab and both times Debs caught his oar mid-air and placed it back in the pins without even a break in her fierce instruction to us all. We all loved the row. We came 26th from 42 and were chuffed with that. Off to the Atlantic then for a pat on the back and a few beers. A few badly chosen words from the Clevedon captain set us up for some serious revenge rowing the next day.
This is normally a lunch time start so plenty of time to get prepared and recover from the Atlantic excesses. We were launching from Porthmellon beach where the Scillonian gig sheds and Spiro’s restaurant are located. There was lots of banter from the boys and the girls ahead of an exciting day whilst getting Avona ready. Cath was just warming up when Craig, short of vocabulary, found a unique way to shut Cath up!…Nuff said! Jerry produced the ‘broken pin award’ the night before which was unanimously awarded to Craig for his wind up efforts that day. He was desperate to give it to Steve but somehow that didn’t quite happen.
The girls were up first to blow the cobwebs away. The crew were Nina, Terrey, Debs, Rosie, Leiza, Cath and they were coxed by Steve. The weather was terrible. We reckon it was blowing a force 5 and certainly there were no cobwebs left by the time we reached the start line. We prepared well for this and got a fantastic position on the start line with no boats close by. We got a good start initially but within the first half a dozen strokes a gig from our starboard side swerved right across us for no apparent reason. We had to take avoiding action and we narrowly missed clashing oars. The girls were great in such testing conditions. Every time Steve asked for some extra power they supplied it and this allowed us to stay out of trouble especially around the notorious right hand dog leg two thirds of the way down the course. As the race progressed the water flattened out a little and we were able to pick up the pace once again. The girls finished in a Group H position which was a fabulous effort.
Then the boys had their first main competition row. With the same crew and Cox as the previous evening we knew the water by now. Craig had us in fits of laughter once again recounting the shenanigans in the boys flat! Apparently, Andy was heard to say “I think there has been some sort of Misunderstanding”. We didn’t really know what all this meant but it did set the scene for Craigs’ new film trailer to unfold over the next two days. On to the racing then. We fought the waves valiantly but alas the crew found them hard to cope with and we finished in a Group I position. We had higher hopes than this so were a little disappointed. Not to worry; we had beaten the Clevedon crew which was rowed by their club Captain. We now had bragging rights and thought a few well-chosen remarks might redress the comments he had made the night before.
The girls were next up, this time on the shorter course from Nut Rock. The weather had turned quite nasty and it was even difficult work rowing to the start line. The biggest difficulty was trying to stay in position for the start of the race. The wind was continually trying to push us away and down the start line. It was quite exhausting work. Some gigs from the earlier races had to be towed back as they just didn’t have the strength to deal with the conditions. Eventually we were called to the start line and as usual hit the front very early on. The girls got hauled back a little as the race progressed but were able to consolidate their position by staying in the group. That was good work and a good days work all around for the girls. Exhausted, they were looking forward to a well-deserved meal in Dibble & Grub later that evening.
The boys were then up to finish the rowing for the day. The weather got fractionally better, thank goodness, but was still testing. Craig of course updated us on his film trailer on the row out. This was going to be a classic. We were all hoping that it was indeed a misunderstanding! We rowed valiantly once again but ended up having a race for the line to avoid the bottom two positions in the group that would be demoted to group J. After a fantastic come back we narrowly missed out and were in fact second from last and got demoted. So the next day would bring a head to head against the Clevedon crew in group J. After rowing back to shore the girls were nowhere to be seen. The boys dealt with getting Avona out of the water and up the beach. We were just finishing dressing her for the evening when the girls appeared. Happy and giggling Rosie, Cath, Nina and Terrey appeared arm in arm walking down the beach. Something was afoot but like naughty school girls it was so obvious what they had been doing. They were named the Rum Club for obvious reasons. A small membership breakaway club. This wasn’t to be the last breakaway!
The evening brought a meal for all of us together in Dibble & Grub. We had some fantastic laughs and retired to bed exhausted. What would Sunday bring?
This is normally a morning start as there’s a lot to fit in the day with the winners’ presentations at the end of the day. As usual the girls row first. Despite the weather forecast being terrible we awoke to slightly improved weather than the Saturday. This was to suit us with all our flat water practice. Avona was prepped once again and off the Nut Rock start line the girls went. Steve asked that the girls just concentrate on the simple things. The aim was to do the simple things well and we hoped that this would in turn serve us well. Those girls were amazing. They nailed the race right from the start. Again hitting the front early on they had to consolidate this position. The girls were calm and professional with full on concentration. After an absolutely amazing row we finished second and then got promoted up a group to group G. Well done girls that was just brilliant. There was a little confusion after the finish line as other boats blocked our way away. The umpire was apparently screaming at us to move or get disqualified. Thankfully he didn’t have his tannoy on and we heard nothing so nothing came of that incident. Lucky for Steve! Looking forward now to the final in group G which meant that the girls would definitely beat their position from last year.
The girls rowed back to the beach to change over with the boys. On arrival at the beach the tide was giving a few unusually large waves on shore. A little hesitation from the boys rescuing Avona saw two huge waves crash over the stern and soak Steve to his pants. We had to take Avona out and drain her of a few gallons of Atlantic water.
So the boys then launched for their penultimate race. Having gone down a group we were going directly against that Clevedon crew again. Obviously we had the customary comedy sketch from Craig but the only thing on our minds was rowing well. We were determined to row better today. The race is now a complete blurr bar from the finish. From about 600meters out we found ourselves head to head with Blackbird from Clevedon. It hurt all of us, really hurt but we dug so deep and there was no way we were going to allow ourselves to get beaten. We didn’t get beaten and won that particular battle by maybe half a boat length. That was very pleasing.
There was a small break and the girls regrouped. We were in a higher group now and needed to really concentrate. The same mantra again – ‘let’s do the simple things well’. Off they went, this time Avona stocked up with plenty of bubbles for the final rafting up after rowing. Her new wicker drinks cabinet was well stocked. The girls, as always were amazing. They rowed like demons and finished 9th in this final. This put them in 81st (last year 90th) position out of 144. An amazing physical and mental effort. It was all very emotional at the end for all involved. Well done girls; all at Clifton are immensely proud of you. The rafting up saw all alcohol on board consumed. Steve had to be careful as he was rowing in the men’s final shortly after this. I think the consumption started something off though; more to be revealed shortly.
Lots of laughs and much giggling saw Avona take to the beach one last time to pick up the boys for their final. I can remember this one. This was an epic race. We came off the start line right on the B of bang taking the front slot for a long time. We had the Weymouth gig Isolde way inside us and as the race unravelled they started to ease away. We worked hard and then the Portrieth gig Gull Rock started to come at us. Debs called for big 10 after big 10. We were neck and neck for quite a while but we slowly pushed them away together with the rest of the field. That was one hell of a battle. The boys rowed the best they had done all weekend. At the end of the race with maybe 200 yards to go Defender tried to come at us but we pushed them back too. We finished second behind Isolde. A fabulous row and a real high to finish on. In case you were wondering Blackbird was last in that race; tired apparently their cox told me afterwards. The boys were 110th (last year 102nd) out of 137. Slightly down on last year but that final row made the weekend for us.
The final matter of the boys rafting up came around. Once again Avonas’ basket was full of bubbles and other goodies. We had a ball. The girls were also having a ball on the Quay side. The Mexican wave went around time and again and then the Clifton girls came out with their pièce de résistance; the whole of the gig community were treated to some Clifton Mooning on the Quay side, not once but twice! They were to be known as the Bum Club, an exclusive membership break away of the Rum Club from Saturday. The membership was now down to just two, names withheld for legal reasons! They were to become infamous when we got back home. Meanwhile our amazing cox Debs had got stuck into bubble for the second time. I don’t think she was that restrained on the girls rafting up and almost certainly would have been drunk in charge of a gig even before the boys rafting up. As we rowed back to shore cox instructions were random, incoherent and hilarious, often with no end game at all. This resulted in marker bouys rope snagging on our rudder. Debs attempt to release had us in fits as she dived over the side of Avona with abandon, legs only still in the boat.
Special mention has to be made for Leiza. She was always there, always on time and amazingly organised all weekend. Thank you Leiza. Thank you too, to Kate and Viv for your support throughout the weekend.
Craig’s film trailer was released to only a few. “I think there’s been a Misunderstanding” was a huge success in a small community but once again for legal reasons had to be destroyed. Perhaps funding might be found one day for the full length film to be made. It was all worth it though Craig. What a giggle.
Andy had an amazing weekend with Rock. They finished in the same group as us but of course a little way back in the pack. It was all down to a freak clash apparently.
Then the final part of the weekend. Terrey (Bum club member – oops sorry, will edit that on final draft) had organised a meal in Juliette’s Garden for all of us. We had our own room and as we do at Clifton had a fantastic sing along. Stuart made up yet another Clifton anthem Avona, Avooona, She’s rowed by Clifton and carries us home. Stu was joined by Leiza, Lennie and Andy showing that they all have amazing voices. We were lucky enough to be joined by our friends Brian and Ginette Nobbs for pudding – The Pudding Club, not to be confused with the Bum club (other member Rosie – oops, sorry will edit that out on final draft).
An amazing weekend……bring on the season.