Erfolgreichster Ruderverein Österreichs

Der Erste Wiener Ruderclub LIA wurde 1863 gegründet und ist damit der älteste Körpersport treibende Verein Österreichs. ...

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1.8.2017 Rowing in Central Europe

Anlässlich des LIA Besuchs in Chennai, Indien, lernten wir einen sehr symphatischen, hoch intelligenten Ruderer kennen der in der Zeitschrift seines Ruderclubs, des Madras Boat Club, einen Artikel über seine Rudererlebnisse in Bled veröffentlichte. Da der Beitrag äußerst witzig ist, fragte ich den Autor ob wir ihn auf unserer Homepage veröffentlichen dürfen was er uns mit der den Indern eigenen Freundlichkeit gestattete.

Viel Spaß beim Lesen :

 

Rowing 101 in Central Europe

Dr. Arvind Parthasarathy, LA 043

This May we took our annual vacation in Central Europe, covering the countries of Austria, Slovenia, and Czech Republic by road.  We have been doing 10-day long road trips in Europe for the last five years. If one gets used to driving on the right side, has a good navigational system, and has the ability to accommodate some level of uncertainty in itinerary, driving allows incredible freedom.   

Though our port of landing was in Vienna, Austria, we only spent the evening there and took to the road early morning towards Slovenia, a tiny country south of Austria.  Renting a 4x4 out of Vienna airport, the drive to Slovenia took us along Alpine meadows, long tunnels, and sparkling lakes.  The border crossing was only a formality thanks to Schengen.  The objective was to reach Bled or popularly known as Lake Bled at least by late evening.   I first heard of Lake Bled when the rowing blog that I follow announced an International Master's regatta was to be held in September this year.  On reading a bit more, I came to know that Lake Bled was a popular training ground for Olympic rowers as its Rowing Club offers facilities to "elite" rowers from all over the world.  

I was somehow hoping to pitch the idea of MBC's 150-year long history in rowing as part of "my experience".  I was keen to try rowing in some water body other than the Adayar.  I shot off an email to the Club to this effect and was given a glimmer of promise that I could row as a guest.  With less than a year's experience in sculling, I had fallen in love with the sport.  Thanks to links provided by Aparna, I continue to follow learned articles on the fine art of rowing and witness some of the thrilling races on youtube conducted worldwide.  Rowing on pristine Lake Bled would be a dream come true.

The drive into Bled skirts around the oblong lake that stretches out like a sheet of glass, nestled between hills and measures about 2.5 km x 1.5 km.  A part of the lake is used by tourists who come to visit the tiny island on one side of the lake.  The island has a church and is accessed by tourist boats that are propelled by muscle power.  On one end of the lakeshore is a pathway leading to a castle.  On the water, a rower beholds fern-covered hills, a castle, a charming church with its regular church bells, cyclists and walkers briskly going around the pathway around the lake.  Do you need any more inspiration?

The Velaski Rowing Club has taken an eight-lane path measuring 2 km x 125 m.  Of the 8 lanes, 3 lanes are used for rowing each way, with the centre two lanes being used only for stopping or for training purposes.  A battery-powered training boat plies in the centre lanes and monitors the rowers at close quarters.  Motor boats are prohibited on the lake as leaking oil or fuel may contaminate the pristine water.

Though it was past closing time (7 pm) for the club, we decided to walk around the Lake and do a reconnaissance of the Club and its facilities.  I was going to approach the Club for permission to row the next day but then I did not want to miss the opportunity to at least to pour the holy water of Lake Bled over my head  in case I did not qualify their entrance criteria.   A banner of the Olympians that the Club has produced is proudly displayed and was enough to make me abandon a hope of qualifying to even enter the Club premises.

However, the next evening I picked up courage and went to the Office and showed my email that I had sent from India.  Just outside, near the raft, was a Coach who was directing rowing students with their warm-up stretches.  I gaped at the flexibilities of their toned bodies and my inferiority complex grew immensely.    Being a guest, I was spared of the need to do the warm-up routine and was shown the way to the Boat House where there were about 40 boats stacked.  Most of the boats did not have rigging.  The coach pointed out to one of the boats and asked me to take it. He showed me a rack which had the rigging and gave me an allen key, spanner, and measuring tape.  I stared at it as if it was some contraption from outer space.  Not only was I expected to rig the boat, I was also expected to take the boat to the raft, set it on the water and get onto it by MYSELF!  I took the coach aside and explained to him about British history, the colonial past of India, the lives of Maharajas and the like and we are not accustomed to such menial tasks.  He looked a bit annoyed and told me that rigging a boat is part of ROWING 101.  I swallowed hard and prepared myself to reveal my next level of incompetence - carrying the boat to the water.  Fortunately a kid walked in to meet him and he directed him to help me carry the boat. 

After the boat was placed on the water, I managed to get the oars locked in.  No mean feat this, as the boat was bobbling up and down due to the choppy water.   Next came the task of getting onto the boat.  The situation reminded me of scenes of the antics performed by Mr. Bean or Laurel & Hardy.   I once again waited for the Coach to come up to the raft.  When I requested him to hold the boat, he asked me severely:"Are you sure you have the experience to row?  I mumbled something to him evading the question.  Being a Coach at heart, he generously taught me the technique of a) bending at the hip to catch both the oars with one hand, b) placing on leg at the centre of the boat, c) swinging around with the other foot with the grace of a ballerina, and d) finally to seat yourself precisely onto the seat.   I think I managed all that because all of a sudden I found myself seated on the boat and moving away from the raft.  While I was trying to find my balance on the boat, he asked me one more question:"Do you know how to swim ?"  The question was loaded with the doubt he had about my capabilities of sitting on a single scull - after all he was asking this of a guy who had not passed Rowing 101.  I wasn?t sure that even knowledge of swimming would have helped.  The water was 10`-12 degrees Celsius and the distance to the shore was at least 500 m / 10 minutes of non-stop swimming.  Did hypothermia come to mind? Thank God, no.  By the way, as part of Rowing 101, one is supposed to know how to get back onto the scull by oneself, should you fall into water.

From the shore, the water had looked calm.  However, on the lightweight scull, I was being tossed up and down like a feather.  I remembered all the words of wisdom taught to me at our good old MBC - how the backstop was the most stable position of the boat, how one must keep the blade feathered when our lascars create a wake with their motorboat, how one must never let go of the oars etc .  Paddling out of the backstop, I managed to go from the raft to the edge of the first lane.  The question was now whether I could get into mainstream traffic on the lane or whether I should just stay outside of the lane.  I decided to do the first course outside the lane and watch the other scullers and give myself to gain some confidence.  It turned out that most of the rowers were in pairs or on double sculls and they were in lane 2. The first lane, reserved for single scullers, was free. 

The rest is history.  I completed the first 1000 m almost entirely at the back-stop, the next 500 m was spent in trying to press down on the handle to recover the blade clearing water.  Every wavelet struck my recovering blade like a slap on the face.  Between losing stability due to a higher blade height and being buffeted by waves on recovery, it was better to push down the handles almost to the gunnel every time.   Rowing in choppy waters teaches you another important lesson.  Getting a lock of both blades at the catch position is so vital.  Remember the pause after the catch ! You don?t have a choice but to lock !

I managed to do 8 km at Lake Bled, actually breaking into a sweat due to exercise and not due to fear.  It was a great experience.  Coach Robert welcomed me back with a very cheery voice - You made it !  as if he didn?t expect me to.  I was thrilled but I was also made keenly aware of the inadequacy of all the basic skills required to be a rower.  We do have our limitations because of the polluted Adayar to do the skills expected from Rowing 101.  There is however this side to Rowing that we must be aware of and should there a chance to learn these skills we must seize the opportunity.

The next morning we left Bled to continue with our travels.  For me, rowing on Lake Bled was a tick of one more item on the bucket list.


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