We headed along to Port Seton today for the first regatta of the season and a little light espionage. The races are probably the shortest in the coastal rowing calendar comprising lung-busting, head-to-head sprints between the two adjoining harbours with a couple of buoy turns thrown in for good measure (see my earlier post for a video of these races). There’s also a longer relay event which takes the boats out onto the open sea and involves a crew change at a neighbouring harbour which is great fun.
This year Boatie Blest (Cockenzie and Port Seton Rowing Club) decided to mix things up a bit and rather than have clubs competing against each other draw names from a hat and randomly assign rowers to boats and crews. This was really good fun and meant we got to know our fellow rowers from around the country a lot better. The main advantage for us is that we got to try out different boats and see how their oars and oarlocks compared to the NB ones that we’re used to. Both Frazer and I got to row in Queensferry’s “Ferry Lass” as well as our own “Skiff John B” and I got to stroke Anstruther’s “St Ayles” on the final leg of the relay. I would have taken some photos of the setups but it was a packed programme of events so didn’t have any time.
It’s amazing the difference the oars make in terms of weight, length and oarlock. Ferry Lass has fairly short but extremely light oars (made of douglas fir I think) which took comparatively little effort to pull through the water. They were well suited to the thrashing, high stroke rate required in the sprints but I need to ask Frazer what he thought of them on the open water in the relay. One aspect highlighted by Ferry lass was space between seats which is much smaller than our NB boats and causes much hitting the rower in front of you. Longer oars would be no good in this situation as the length of stroke is limited by this seat layout. The oars each had three possible gears depending on which hole of the beautifully crafted oar plate you hooked over the gunwhale pin – simple and effective.
St Ayles was a very comfortable skiff to row thanks to fixed cushions on the seats! In the rough stuff it felt smooth and strong which makes sense given the number of medals they’ve accumulated over the years. The oars had just one gear in their plates but to me felt a better length and weight to deal with choppy waters. We didn’t have time in the relay to muck about with footrests but for just jumping in and getting going St Ayles felt great and we won which is surely an endorsement!
Of course we’re well used to our own Skiff John B and getting back in after trying other boats I was reminded how much work our bosuns have done to make her so nice to row. The new element for this regatta was the oars. A new set of oars had been made over the winter which are a foot shorter than our other sets with the idea that they might be a better gearing for some of the women’s crews (although they’re more than capable with the big ones!) and for sprinting. They’re made of douglas fir and were certainly lighter though I felt, as with Ferry Lass’, that I don’t get as much power through them as our big ones, particularly at stroke position. Having said that they felt really nice on the sharp buoy turns and we got up a good turn of pace in the Mixed Open. Frazer’s a fan but we agreed that we’d prefer a longer oar for the long slow stretches we’ll be doing where efficiency is king.
Well that’s quite enough of that for the moment but lots to think about!