Monday 31 December 2012

Rowing for Pain

An irresponsible friend of mine who shall remain nameless but is actually Ratcatcher John, has irresponsibly suggested that I buy this and enter GB Row 2013, a 2,000 mile row round the entire coast of Britain.
The main attraction is the prize, £100,000, which is a lot of beer vouchers, but the problem is that ocean rowing boats such as the one above (currently on eBay at a starting price of six grand) are totally unsuitable.
In a long distance slog like this, it is not possible to keep the boat above hull speed. Previous round-Britain rowers have achieved times that indicate an average speed of about half the hull speed.
That means length wins. A longer boat goes faster for the same power input. There is no need to use sliding seats because it is possible to keep a boat at hull speed on fixed thwarts.
So the best boat for the race would be as long as possible, with as many rowers as you can cram in while providing enough space for off-duty rowers to cook their grub and grab some sleep.
A Viking ship, say.
Anyone got a Viking ship for sale?

Thursday 27 December 2012

Going Coastal

It's been a while since I was in a boat this thin. It is a Janousek coastal single scull owned by Mike Gilbert of Langstone Adventure Rowing, which he keeps for people who want to do the Channel on their own - back in August it was used by Harry Uglow to become the youngest ever cross-Channel rower at the age of 15.
It took a little while to get back into the rigorous but relaxed balance control you need, especially in a gust that came up while I was out of the shelter of Langstone village.
The main problem was that I was a bit too big for the boat. It is rated from 50 to 100kg, and at 100kg pretty much exactly the boat was rather low in the water. This had two bad results - the self-bailing stern was down in the water and creating an lot of turbulence which was clearly dragging me back, and the oar handles were brought down towards my knees so the blades were clipping the tops of the waves on the returns.
Having got the boat out, people were queuing up to have a go:

Monday 24 December 2012

A Dreary Outlook

Apparently I can't go rowing tomorrow for some reason.
Tides are all wrong anyway.
And the weather will be horrid.

Oh gloom.

Sunday 23 December 2012

A St Ayles Skiff for Norfolk

At Norwich for the Carrow Cup last weekend we met Dr Victoria Holliday, the driving force behind the adoption of the St Ayles Skiff as the coastal rowing boat for Norfolk.
She has inveigled Blakeney Sailing Club to set up a rowing section called CraBlakeney and together with 'dinghy sailor and would-be rower' Ian Duffill has sponsored the purchase of a kit from Alec Jordan.
Construction has started in Ian's workshop, though the recent cold snap has forced them to transfer frame building into his kitchen (obviously). Here is Dr Adrian Hodge of Norfolk Skiff Club giving a hand. Adrian tells me that Blakeney is a great place to row, with lots of sheltered water.
It's great to see coastal rowing in fixed seat boats spreading round the coast - all good luck to them. I'm looking forward to beating them by a country mile meeting them in friendly competition in the Carrow Cup next year.
There are loads of pictures of the 2012 Carrow Cup race on the Langstone Cutters website, but my favourite is this one, showing us all leaning back in a way not usually still feasible for a bunch of 60-year olds and giving it some welly. We were more than half a minute faster than last year, and if we had managed to shave a couple more seconds off we would have come second instead of third.

Thursday 20 December 2012

More Viking Rowing

More hilarious rowing from historical re-enactors trying to be Vikings, this time on Waldemar Januszczak's series The Dark Ages: an Age of Light on the Beeb.
Kudos to the portly presenter, however, as he wasn't under any delusions about the cowhorn helmet he is wearing. He explained that it was invented by a Victorian costume designer for a production of Wagner.
But the rowers really need to sharpen their act - the timing was truly awful and everyone looks at their blade instead of behind the steersman as they should. At one point, one guy completely loses it and has to miss a stroke. Real Vikings would have chopped him in half with an axe where he sat.
The boat doesn't seem very authentic either. In fact it looks suspiciously as if it might be fibreglass....
The rest of the series is excellent, well up to the standard of the rash of programmes we have been getting lately on the 'Dark Ages weren't dark at all' theme. UK readers can watch it on BBC iPlayer.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Winter Rowing

Went rowing in Langstone Harbour yesterday as the sun dipped towards the horizon. A skein of geese flew westward. It was fabulous.
It's going to rain today.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Carrow Cup Norwich

Bembridge raced today in the Traditional Boats division of the Carrow Cup, which has been held in Norwich since 1813. Sunny and relatively warm, compared to last year's bitter cold, but this year we were forced into third place by a couple of crews from Lower Thames Rowing Club about half our age. And they were using carbon fibre oars.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Expedition Rowing in Finland

Ruud van Veelen makes rowing boats in Sulkava, home of Finnish church boat racing. His largest hull is a 40ft, 14-oared monster with a cruising speed of nearly eight miles an hour.
His latest design is an expedition boat intended to take you round the gazillion and one lakes that dot the Finnish landscape.
20ft long and double sculled with sliding seats, the Sinne 610 Expedition has built-in buoyancy fore and aft, a tent and detachable wheels for portages.
It was launched at the Helsinki Boat Show last spring and was taken out in the wilderness in the summer, where the sun never sets.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Clovelly Scull prototype on eBay

A prototype Clovelly Scull has appeared on eBay, apparently posted by the makers in Cowes, Isle of Wight. It failed to sell for the fairly obvious reason that no one wanted to pay £1,200 for it.
That is a pity, because the boat is lovely to look at, rows extremely well and is very stable and seaworthy. Its sliding wing outrigger eliminates hobby-horsing and the fact that the rower's body does not move fore-and-aft prevents the loss of momentum on the return.
However, Paul Zink, designer of the Clovelly Scull, seemed very surprised when I told him of the sale.
Manufacture of the boat has stalled partly because of the recession but mainly due to Paul's health problems. Happily, he seems to be recovering and expects to make some progress towards getting boats on sale next year.
Also on eBay, a punt made to a design by the great Percy Blandford. It is only 14ft long and divides into two halves so you can get it on a car roof easily, or even inside a larger estate. An ideal canal tourer. Bidding stands at £112 right now (Tuesday tea time) which is a bargain for such a practical craft.

Friday 7 December 2012

Watts cartoons and boats

"You might have upset the beastly thing
a bit further out, George. I'd rather
be drowned than look a perfect fool."
Arthur Watts (1883-1935) was a cartoonist with Punch, book illustrator, author and sailor - his books include A Three-legged Cruise (compiled from articles for Yachting Monthly) and The Scented Trawler (an account of his time spent at sea with the Auxiliary Patrol in WW1).
His cartoons epitomise the gentle, conservative humour that characterised Punch between the wars, and many are featured at The Art of Arthur Watts, a site maintained by his son Simon.
Simon himself is a boatbuilder now based in San Francisco. 
He has run many week-long classes that create traditionally-built boats, including this lovely sliding seat rowing boat based on a hull built in the 1920s and found in Petaluma, California.
The original was planked in red cedar on a frame of an unidentifiable wood, fastened with copper clench nails. Simon's new version is in sitka spruce on locust, fastened with copper rivets and roves.
At nearly 20ft long, she should be fast. I particularly like the traditional 'clogs' - shoes fastened to the stretcher rather than straps.
The plans can be bought from the site and various other outlets.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Teifi skiff brushes up nicely

Boat addict Brian Pearson has bought one of my favourite rowing boats, a Teifi skiff. After a bit of a disaster towing it back from Fishguard (one side of the trailer collapsed) he has applied some TLC and it is looking very nice. He writes:
"Very pleased with the boat. I think she is very pretty and remarkably good looking for a single chine two plank boat. Very much in the Oughtred style. I think we will have a lot of fun in her."
I think you will too, Brian. She goes very quickly without too much exertion and is seaworthy with it.
The carbon blades in Langstone Cutters' Teifi skiff Lotty are proving to be rather popular, once people get their heads round the overlapping handles and the need to feather. Anyone know where we can get some more?

Saturday 1 December 2012

Moon over Langstone

There seems to have been an outbreak of morning moonshots, with Max the BB and Cap'n JP both posting pics of the full moon in Bursledon and Putney respectively. Unfortunately their cameras are better than my mobile phone so I apologise for the image quality.
But they were on the bank. I was out rowing in an adventure gig (like a Cornish pilot gig only plastic and equipped for cross-channel rowing).
It was cold but worth it for the clear, cloudless sky and mirror-flat water.
And on the way back we passed a duck punt, complete with bloody great cannon on the foredeck, being rowed VERY SLOWLY down channel. It looked later I scrolled down Adrian Morgan's blog Something About Old Boats and there was one so similar it could be the same.