6,200m 1:30:00 (NOMAN Ibiza to Barcelona, row session 4)
*41 days until the race*
The sun was shining and the weather was sweet, however, I did not want to move my dancing feet! Rather, I wanted move myself up and down the slide seat of an ocean rowing boat for the first time ever!
I arrived at the London Regatta Centre about half an hour before the training session and took a look around – I couldn’t see the boat anywhere and I wondered if I was in the right place! But, shortly after 1830hrs, Chris Martin (Pacific x2) of New Ocean Wave appeared at the reception area to tell myself and Adi (one of my potential crew mates) to head up the gangway to the ‘Isabel’ who was waiting patiently in the water for us along with his friend Hugo (Atlantic) – they had rowed the boat down from the marina!
‘Isabel’ was riding high in the water as she has obviously not been packed with provisions for the race or much ballast and when I first set foot on her I was surprised at how light she felt underfoot. Once I sat down on the slider I could feel my heart rate increase with excitement. I could not quite believe that I was about to pick up an set of oars for the first time in my life and that I was about to row on water for the first time ever. I started off in the stern at stroke position as I didn’t much fancy having to co-ordinate the stroke with foot steering too! Well, this didn’t really work out so Adi and I swapped over and we (smoothly) changed over.
The wind was up and Chris (Pacific x2) and Hugo (Atlantic) told us that the Centre might close if winds picked up above 10 knots. The wind hovered precariously close to that figure for quite some time and with Adi and I being complete novices the wind pretty much dictated the course of the boat for our first half hour – very sorry to the dragon boat and sculling crews who we probably got in the way of whilst we got used to what we were doing!
After about 40 minutes the wind died down and Chris decided to unclip the foot steering to operate it by hand so that I could just concentrate on rowing in time with Adi. This was a great decision and within five minutes we had a decent rhythm going and I began to relax a bit and was able to converse with Chris, Hugo and Adi without totally messing up the stroke! Adi did a great job of calling out the stroke pattern until we fell into time. I enjoyed the team aspect of it which surprised me – I thought I’d much prefer being in the stroke position and setting the pace but following time seemed to work a lot better for me on my first time out.
For the next 45 minutes we rowed happily and watched the sunset over Canary Wharf and the city. We didn’t cover much distance but I guess that is to be expected as we spent the session getting used to rowing 2-up, as a team as well as learning about the intricacies of foot steering and managing the wind! After getting off the boat and taking a few pictures I really just wanted to jump back on and row until the Centre closed but schedules did not permit and I headed off, homeward bound, feeling quietly confident that with a little more time on the boat everything will fall into place.
I’m not sure if I’ll get to see ‘Isabel’ again before going out for the day, on open water, on June 28th off the south coast – I hope that the chance might present itself to go out one more time at the London Regatta Centre beforehand but if not, well, it is what it is!
I’ll sign off to day by just reminding you all that I’m not just undertaking this race to push my mental and physical limits. I decided to jump right out of my comfort zone to raise awareness of the HPV vaccine – this vaccination is gender neutral and if it was routinely given to both girls and boys across the world it could halt the spread of 5% of cancers! The NOMAN Campaign aims to raise awareness of this simple fact and lobbies governments around the world to follow the example of Australia in administering the vaccine, as standard, to girls and boys. NOMAN illustrates that no-one can fight HPV-related cancers alone, certainly not by targeting one gender in isolation when both genders are affected by HPV.