Loughborough Boat Club has returned from a vintage performance at the World Rowing Masters Regatta which was held in the Bordeaux region of France on the eight-lane rowing lake at Libourne.
Seventeen rowers and an equal number of supporters travelled across France by train, plane, automobile and ship, with Tom, Vicky, Mike and Keith towing a trailer packed full of boats. Mike’s secret retractable 8 metre lightboard extension kept the Gendarmes at bay and Vicky’s strict carnet control impressed even the Douannes. The perils of visiting a foreign country were thus avoided and there was the added satisfaction of collecting a pretty stamp in new blue passports. It felt just like the good old days, even though Acquitaine is now no longer ruled by the Monarch of England.
Sandra had discovered the ideal campsite accommodation for the majority of members, just a mile outside St Emilion, complete with water slides, pedalos and a pirate boat. However, newlyweds Emily and Paul decided that they needed to rent their own Chateau where they could (ahem) honeymoon in peace whilst avoiding a knock on the door from Keith who was busily sofa-surfing from chalet to chalet.
With the grape harvest underway, those who knew their Chateau Cheval Blanc from their Bellevue-Mondoc got stuck into the local produce, in particular the adjacent Clos Trimoulet. The rest of us enjoyed the local lager, mainly in order to be amused by hearing Keith trying to order it in schoolboy French, especially after the barman had taught him unknowingly to say ‘I fancy a big Blonde’.
Five days of racing against some of the better crews in the world saw Loughborough boats finishing in excellent times albeit generally towards the back of the field. It was encouraging to note that in most cases the equivalent LBC boats finished in faster times than in the previous WRMR in Hungary in 2019. Experience gained at that last event had clearly been taken onboard with crews better organised and trained, in spite of the lack of practice races caused by a disappointing UK regatta season where cancellations, lack of opposition or the divisional format had prevented entry.
Stand-out rows came from the Mixed Eight, the ‘Termin8oar’ with a time of 3.44, just 10 seconds behind the Club’s Open Eight which finished in a creditable 3.34. Meanwhile, the Open E Coxless Four achieved the Club’s highest finishing position of 3rd place, albeit in a slightly below par time of 3.45. Keith and Jerry in the Open F Pair managed 4th place, and had the satisfaction of finishing just 10 seconds (4.3%) behind the winners, with the Womens E Coxless Four also achieving 4th.
Keith and Charlie in the Open E Pair unfortunately suffered a breakage of their steering cable at the 500m point which put them out of the race, a similar fate to the Women’s C Double Scull of Natalie and Sarah who broke a blade just after the start. All credit to Natalie for finishing solo in a time of 5.47 whilst carrying a passenger – possibly a course record for that particular combination!
All good things come to an end and the Regatta saw the Club bidding farewell to Tilda, who is leaving us to start a prestigous new job in London as a Rowing Coach at LYRC. Although we could not win her a WRMR coxing medal on this occasion we were delighted to be able to present her with a personally engraved and very loud megaphone. so that she can shout at recalcitrant teenagers instead of recalcitrant old men! Good luck in your new job, Tilda, and don’t worry, you’ll be a Master sooner than you think!
A notable event that occurred during the week was the death of Her Majesty the Queen. It felt strange to be disconnected from the events in the UK but rowing continued regardless for all the British crews, with the exception of the Royal Air Force who were immediately recalled home in order to prepare for the State Funeral. Which was a shame because the RAF is a club that LBC can sometimes beat!
Unlike every other rowing event in the world, the French seem to have decided that bacon butties were not essential consumption. Instead, the first food stand that one came across at the venue was a tent selling ‘Huitres’, perhaps not the best thing to eat before a 1,000m sprint. Next to it was the main food hall, where a sit down three course gourmet lunch was served daily on white tablecloths, with local wines available to taste. This all contributed to a relaxed but well-organised and thoroughly enjoyable regatta, in a beautiful region which created the perfect combination of competition and holiday. Merci Libourne!