World Rowing Coastal Championships, October 2017. Lake Geneva. Thonon Les Bains, France.
...Ben's wrap-up from the World Rowing Coastal Championships
Final B: Focus on that course!
Prelude--The course wins again: In one of the women’s races, I watch an entire group go so far off course that the officials step in and correct them! This is unheard of in coastal rowing – where FISA officials are required to not assist any crew with navigation. OK. Final B coming up for me, and I’m resolving to row a good course.
Today is another dead flat calm. In the opening ceremony, FISA attempted to justify the venue choice by reminding us that this lake is a “true inland sea” where the “wind never sleeps.” Well, the wind also seems always to wake up in a very good mood – the whole week I’ve been here every day has been the same: Beautiful, gentle, calm, mirror-like water. Not my favorite conditions!
At the start, I line up a better course to the first buoy. I get another sweet jump off the line. I’m real careful about my course, and arrive flawlessly at the first turn, which I take well. Not super fast though through that stretch, I’m mid-field.
At the next turn, a good line allows me to pass Japan. I’m happy about that, actually passing people on turns.
Somewhere along the next stretch, media and official vessels have approached close to the course, generating a whole bunch of powerboat wakes. Instantly, my body comes alive as I start sensing the heart of the water. I feel the nuances of wave direction, and subtly shift my boat to get in synch with the waves. I touch my course to a bit more of an angle – there – perfect – I’ve joined a wave and am now surfing. Within a few seconds of rowing in these wakes, I have gained 5 or 6 boat lengths over the rowers behind me and have blasted into the next group ahead of me. I afford myself a little sarcastic inner chuckle – just give me a few waves, even artificially created, and I start to feel at home.
Following the brief wavy interlude, the rest of the course is back in the flat. No one passes me. I’m close behind a boat from Ireland. At the very last turn, I whip my boat around the buoy, taking a tight inside line. I hold water with my left hand to pivot the boat. Lost speed, but gained a new point quickly. I accelerate out of there. Short, quick strokes to make the boat jump. I’m free of Ireland’s shadow, having gained an inside line to the finish. He’s still a couple boat lengths ahead, and there isn’t much time left. I decide somewhere deep that I’m going to pass him. I pull out a crushing sprint. I pull even, hope there is time left. I pull ahead, rowing through him real fast now, feeling a great flex in my oars. The horn beeps for me, then a few seconds later, for Ireland.
B final, 7th place. Yesterday, in my heat, I rowed aggressively and even quite quickly in spots, but followed a ping-pong confusion around the course. I rowed a good course today, but simply wasn’t fast enough for better placement. Gotta row faster and a better course, together. More work to do.
That afternoon, the A finals take place. The women’s finals aren't particularly close, with plenty of open water between each boat. There is, at best, half the number of women as men in the event, across all classes (C1X, C2X, C4X). Let’s get more women in this sport! We’ll try to get our upcoming Rebel C1X into some female hands.
The finals for the men's C4X are ridiculous, as described previously (in Part 1 of this 2-part blog). Very fun to watch. They are wickedly competitive and stay very grouped-up just about all the way through. That’s a heck of a crowd of big boats to fit through a snake-like course!
I was particularly interested in the men’s solo (C1x), of course. Simone Martini from Italy showed us how it's supposed to be done. He got ahead early and stayed ahead, nailing his turns in the clear water his lead allowed him. He looked so smooth coming along the home stretch. Big, long, strokes (well, he is pushing 6’6”) – making it look easy with his uncontested claim to gold. Unhurried, connected, strong. Hold that image.