Last week I travelled to the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and paid a visit to Guernsey Rowing Club, where I experienced offshore rowing for the first time. I'm still on recovery so I didn’t participate. I watched all the action of the GRC Havelet Buoyed race from up on the sea wall, through my trusty new binoculars (big thanks to the really helpful guy in the local camera shop). For those who are not too hot on geography, Guernsey is an island in the English Channel. Although it is a Crown Dependancy of the UK, it is closer to France than it is to England.
I think us river rowers can learn a lot from our coastal counterparts. In comparison we are like babies wrapped in cotton wool. The river rower gets upset when he has to wade in, ankle deep on the Tideway. In contrast, the coastal rower doesn’t think twice about jumping in, chest deep on the slipway to get their boat back on land. And then they return back to the water to help the next crew dock. They seem a hardy breed.
Another observation, A rough day on the river would be a calm day on the coast. And if it is a bit choppy, even by coastal standards, there is no complaining. You just get on with it. One athlete I spoke to even seemed a bit disappointed with the calm conditions. He told me he would have liked a bit more surf, and that it makes it more exciting. Crazy critter!
I’ve also heard things can get a bit heated in the racing. Due to the racing course collision can happen, and apparently its not unusual to exchange a few angry words. But whatever happens, It seems to be left out on the water. Its brilliant that each race finishes with everybody coming together for a couple of beers in the yacht club. There is a real social feel to sport.
I have a lot of admiration for the coastal rowers. I love the ‘go out and get it done’ attitude. Im looking forward to returning to Guernsey Rowing Club later in the summer and hopefully get out in a boat (Maybe a pair with Dolly? ;-)
To put it simply, offshore rowing is confronting the open sea in a rowing boat. This is not quite the same as Olympic river rowing where the requirement is to row in a straight line, preferable on very flat water and with very little wind typically over a distance of 2 kilometres.