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Choppers’ Corner: Back in Business

Stefan von Rotengraben muses over the beginning of a jam packed rowing season.

Welcome back everyone. I trust you’ve followed your summer training programmes religiously and you’re ready for a big week of going from the club to your outings, the grips of your third boat blades ripping the skin off your butter smooth hands, and somehow convincing novices that what we do is fun, chill, and definitely not a cult. If you’re a fresher reading this, please ignore the above and do consider signing up for your college boat club. You and I both know you’re in desperate need of a personality, and rowing comes with some added benefits like being able to eat unlimited amounts of food and an above-average looking dating pool. 

As much as we need them, training novices is truly a character-building task. It never fails to amaze me how this country’s best and brightest can manage to turn sliding back and forth on a seat into something resembling a rodeo ride. Maybe they’re just overqualified – to quote one of my coaches, “rowing is a stupid sport for stupid people, that’s why Oxford Brookes do it so well.” Indeed, what would college rowing be without this factory farm of Team GB rowers, willing to bless us with their coaching expertise for nothing but £15 an hour and an opportunity to sleep with our coxes. 

Putting your freshers on Olympian training programmes in hopes of securing victory at the annual Christ Church novice regatta is a tradition that was threatened with a sudden end when Christ Church announced they would no longer host the competition. Whether this was because the college intends to mourn the death of Her late Majesty for the entirety of Michaelmas, or because they spent all their funds paying Blues to prop up their Summer Eights campaign, thankfully Linacre stepped up to the task and will host the regatta this year. They’d probably already promised the naming rights to some Vietnamese billionaire.

While everyone that’s actually any good at rowing is off to trial for the Blues (or the Lightweights, for those who God hasn’t blessed with tall genes), there are a few competitions coming up this term that might be worth training for, I guess. If you’ve spent your whole summer in the gym in pursuit of vanity and lost your entire aerobic capacity, the 800m distance at Nephthys Regatta should be just right for you. If, on the other hand, you’ve already gotten dropped from the Blues, don’t despair as you can still row the entire boat race course without any of the glory. Just enter the Head of the River Race and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of the Brookes second boat beating their first boat to the headship trophy.

As the river gets busy this week and we partake in the ritual humiliation of start of season 2k tests, remember to be kind to your coxes, patient with your novices, and don’t bring your nice shoes to a crew date. 

Image Credit: Gillie Rhodes/CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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