Saturday 30 January 2016

Sliding Seat Frustration

I almost went sliding seat rowing the other day. Philip Meakins is one of those people who accumulates boats (he says he has about 12 in and around his house at the moment), and we met the other day to take a look at a sliding seat coastal four he rescued because burning such a lovely wooden hull would be criminal boaticide or something.
Anyway, the idea is to take it to Emsworth and get a group of slidey-seaty people together to get it back on the water.
Afterwards, we went rowing up the Hamble in a small fleet including two of Philip's boats. One was the boat he built for himself, an Iain Oughtred Mole design called Kingfisher, and a slim, elegant skiff with a Piantedosi drop-in sliding seat/outrigger. That was for me.
I got in with keen anticipation - she looks quick. But on the first stroke my behind crashed on the back stop about an inch short. Damn. And on the recovery I had to slide my hands over my knees to keep the blades out of the water.
The boat was just several sizes too small. Not only are my legs too long, my weight pushes the boat lower in the water, bringing the handles of the blades down very substantially because of the leverage. Philip had to take her instead. I went in the Solent galley Avery A.
I get similar problems in Steve Woods' Virus. Because I'm at the upper end of the 100kg weight range, the self-bailing stern is always just underwater, so every time I come forward water is sucked up into the boat, dragging the boat backwards.
Which brings me to the boat in the picture at the top of the post, the new British-made GlideOne.
It is has got so much going for it. It is made of tough rotomoulded polyethylene providing low-maintenance hull at low cost - just £1,400 (plus VAT, plus blades). The hull is long and slim and has a proper little transom instead of a stupid self-bailer. It should be a hit as a training boat for clubs and schools, and as a leisure rowing boat for fitness freaks.
Unfortunately, rowers of average height such as myself will never own one - the maximum weight is a mere 75kg.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Titchmarsh's Folly

My book group has chosen Folly by green-fingered TV talking head Alan Titchmarsh for this month's read. Not my sort of thing as a rule so I was pleasantly surprised to find Chapter 2 opening with a glowing description of a group of friends rowing down the river at Oxford on a perfect April day in 1949.
It starts purple: "The long trails of willow wands were still unblemished by summer breezes and they sketched evenescent patterns on the water as the freshly varnished rowing boat nudged its way forward beneath them."
Two chums sit 'in the sharp end of the boat', Leo Bedlington reclining, trailing his hand in the water, John Macready sitting with his elbows on his knees. A beautiful girl sits "in the back of the boat."
"Harry Ballantine was on the starboard oar...alongside the stocky, sandy-haired youth who sat beside him and encouraged him to keep up."
Eh? What sort of boat is this? Two rowers side by side, each with an oar? I learned to row not far from Oxford and not so much later than 1949 and I have never seen any skiff beamy enough to allow more than one oarsman on a thwart (tell me if I am wrong).
What happens next is even more extraordinary. 
"[The rowers] glanced sideways at each other and, with a brief nod, changed the direction of their stroke. The boat stopped abruptly, and with the deftness of a seal slipping from a rock into the waiting sea, the Honourable Leo Bedlington disappeared over the side with hardly a splash."
What larks!
But how did they manage to tip a man lying in the boat over the side simply by backwatering? He would have to be standing in the bow like a human figurehead. 
Clearly Titchmarsh had limited time off from his talk show for research, so it came as no surprise to find the Hon Leo Bedlington describing himself as a 'Hooray Henry' a few pages on. In 1949? The phrase was unknown until the 1980s, according to Google N-Gram. Careless.