Rowing camp can instil a dreading fear in the best of us and I hesitantly left Melbourne on Friday evening with a h’anger and exhaustion that manifests after a hectic week in work. Challenged with the insight that I was likely to be rowing in a pair, I ensured to pack my goggles, banana hammock and trusty life-jacket…and planned for imminent hypothermia.
Much to my delight however, I arrived to a toasty cabin 42. Considering my previous experience of camp accommodation was a mouldy mosquito-laden bunked shed in (very) rural New Zealand, I’d fallen into 5 star camp conditions! I was sharing with a potential dream-team for box-biting; Rens, Cam, Keith, James and his partner Lizzie. We quickly commenced a (sober) practice session of box-biting in anticipation for Saturday night and enjoyed Richmond’s thumping of “so-long Geelong”.
We awoke to an awe inspiring view; with a peaking sun, clear skies and silky smooth waters. W.B. Yeats’ would have been proud, so we quickly (slowly) took off to arrive at 6.15am for camp initiation.
We were welcomed by a tenacious Tim and dangerous Dennis, who informed that rowing in pairs would form the morning session. Much to my own and Allan’s delight, we managed to stay afloat and zig-zag our way down the 2km course.
The mid-morning session consisted of a 7.2km row down the Goulburn to the forbidden fruit; a vineyard. Unfortunately the docking spot beside the sacred ground was occupied, and a merry Masters crew waved us past from the shoreline. Maybe next year…
Other crews were busy at work too, with over 50 of Richmond’s finest rowers weaving their wave down the Goulburn and Nagambie lakes park.
The long row did not go un-noticed though and we were rewarded by the “the roll that had it all”. Never in my wildest dreams did I envisage a roll so packed with wonderful surprises; beetroot, the finest cheddar cheese and crunchy ‘slaw… DELICIOUS.
The afternoon was sprint session of speedy proportions as we continued to knit as a 8 man crew. Stroked by “Usain” Allan Randall, we worked our way through a pyramid piece which fizzled the mind to the point of “just row, don’t think”. We left the water optimistic of our potential as a crew.
Next to the good stuff; the barbeque and box-biting… The food committee outdid themselves with ample supplies of coleslaw, potato salads, vegan options and bbq-classics. Rens was in dream land and gloried in a food coma induced by his first Australian barbeque experience.
Box-biting was hilarious from the outset. Coopers Ale kindly supplied a box worthy of all our saliva and the chief umpire Dave was on hand to meticulously shave off 3.75 cubic centimetres from the box per round. Box-biting legends, Barry and Dave whispered invaluable tips on how to overcome the beastly box. “Avoid the soggy bit”, “aim for the opposite side”, “get caught beyond the catch” and choose the “right side to bite” still echo in my ears.
Much to my dismay, I bowed out during round three. The competition was far from over at that point though, as 4 heroes of the box entered a new realm of awesome. They really did demonstrate how to bite a box. Allan surprised us all in his flexibility skill-set and demonstrated the importance of active wear. Tina, 1 year on from delivering her first born was on hand to serve up sizzling single leg squats. Meanwhile, Keith and Edwina were at lager heads to become champion; stooping to new levels and re-writing the box-biting history books for good measure. There were shouts for the sport to be endowed as an Olympic event, as it went to the wire and 12 nail (and box) biting rounds. It led to a new box-biting record of 8cm from the floor to crown a winner. Keith rose above his bronze placed finish from last year and ousted Edwina off her biting throne to claim victory for a revering cabin 42.
The final day consisted of 2 further exhausting rows.
I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge set by the pair and can see the carryover back into the 8. I’m hoping my wrestling match with the oar is over and I’ll be more graceful in avoiding over-muscling the blade in such a sensitive boat.
What a winning weekend for Richmond Rowing Club! Huge thanks again to all the organising committee, coaches and participants.
I’m tapping out for now (or not). Looking forward to seeing all of the now familiar faces in training over the coming season. Let’s go Tigers!
John Carey and James Attenborough