Rowing Ruminations Part 11
(Contains insignificant reference to the book “Flat Water Tuesday”)
In my second year, I was on a varsity knuckle again, but with an almost completely different lineup. My old number two seat was now my stroke. I was finally on a boat with someone in my year. One extra cool thing was that the first varsity cox from the year before decided he wanted to row again, and he was on our boat. Any time I needed to know something, I could ask him. I think having him on my boat for a season is the reason I’m not afraid of stake boat starts.
(Stake boat starts: A race official sitting in a fixed boat holds your stern until the start. The race official might be an older friend of a local chapter chairman of the Japan Rowing Association who rowed when he was in college, or a first year high school student who didn’t make the third boat this year. Pro: you don’t drift away from the start line even if there’s a current. Con: you have to back the boat into the official’s hands. Keep in mind your boat is about 12 meters long and your steering mechanism is a rudder the size of a credit card. Solution? Use your rowers. Tell them to row harder or lighter depending on which way you want to go. And never use more than one rower on each side.)
We held a boat meeting immediately after the lineup for the season was announced, and the ex-cox, our de facto boat captain, suggested we practice on a shell until around June. No one protested. Like I said before, a four is much more technically demanding than a knuckle, and we were up for the challenge. It was also lighter to carry from the boathouse.
Launches presented a new problem, but only for me. When we launched knuckles, we set it down on the beach, with the stern sticking out into the water. We didn’t worry about scratching or putting a foot through the hull, because it was quite sturdy. I just stepped into it from the beach, walked to the coxswain’s seat, then stroke, three and two followed with their oars while I put the rudder in its place. Then bow pushed the boat all the way into the water and climbed in, I’d make the call for stroke pair to back row, and we’d be on our way.
The shell reminded me I had short legs every time we launched (as if I didn’t know already). We didn’t have a dock, so every day was a beach launch, which was a lot of fun because to get the boat far enough out into the water not to scratch the hull, the water had to be deeper than (my) mid-thigh level. I’d roll my pant legs as far up my thighs as I could, but it was a good day when I got into that coxswain’s seat with dry pants. It didn’t help that my thighs were (are) heavy and I couldn’t get the cuffs all the way up my thighs the way the others could.
The other day, I watched YouTube video of a beach launch. If you watch the video, at around 0:25 or thereabouts, one of the rowers picks up the cox and carries her to her seat.
I was almost as shocked as when I realized Ruth Anderson in the book Flat Water Tuesday used a microphone to cox a sternloader four. Almost. Wusses. Here, take my wet pants. Don’t worry, it’s just lake water. On second thought, I need them back. I’m not wearing (knee-length) leggings underneath today.