Friday, 24 May 2013
This amazing video came from the 2013 Vogalonga in Venice a few weeks ago. A racing four has got its bow caught between a pair of posts just the other side of a bridge, and the current has swept the stern to the other side of the bridge, wedging the boat helplessly across the channel.
The crew are helpless. They can't reach either the bow or the stern to push themselves free (the bow man tries but can do nothing). A forceful cox might have been able to get out by ordering vigorous backing down on bow side, but he does nothing. In fact, the whole crew seems paralysed.
Meanwhile, a queue of truly Italian proportions has backed up behind them, and none of the assorted gondolieri do anything to positive to assist either, just catcalls. The only help the poor sods get is from a couple of kayakers who manfully but slowly shift the stern back until they are finally released.
It shows that just because you can row a fine boat down the Grand Canal it doesn't mean you should. Fine boats are meant for racing in the highly controlled environment of Dorney or Henley. In the real world, the rowers can do little for themselves. Watch one going through a lock if you want a good illustration of what I mean. The cocktail-stick shape means they can't safely let go of the blades so the boat is effectively wider than the lock, and when they do let their blades trail the outriggers prevent them from holding on to the chains.
The lesson? If you want to row in the real world, use a real-world boat with a decent beam so you can move about the boat and ship the oars when necessary, fixed thwarts so you can move about while sitting, and a few fenders. Leave the racing shell on the lake.