A GIG ROWER’S
Falmouth RC rower Mel Williams rounds up her gig season, which has been eventful to say the least!
Saturday 31st August It’s day one of the Ladies’ Newquay County Championships, and the sea is rough! Huge rollers are breaking across the race course on their way to Fistral Beach. After a three-hour delay, the decision is made to let the racing go ahead. We’re in the last heat of the first round, so by the time we finally get to race we’ve been waiting for eight hours – full of tea, fidgety and raring to go. The flag goes down and we fly off the start, smacking the bow straight into head-on waves which, once we have turned around the first mark, swiftly become side-on. Huge empty troughs appear beneath the gunnels, and our oars swipe through nothing but thin air. With no resistance on the blade it takes a lot of concentration to stay in time. In the catch position I can see the next waves coming – 6ft high walls of water that tower above our heads before scooping us up, giving us a precious five seconds of sea to dig into. It’s the biggest sea I’ve ever experienced. There were a lot of white faces rowing back into the harbour that day...
Sunday 1st September Day two and the sea has, thankfully, calmed down. The four rounds of racing go quickly, and we row hard to qualify for the final. After a tough race, we finish fifth out of the 90 – the first time Falmouth haven’t won the Ladies’ County Championships for several years. It’s a good result though for a crew that had only rowed together four times before. On the finish line one of the Caradon girls playfully shouts over to our boat, “So, that’s what your backs look like!” It’s disappointing, but a fair result – there’s no shame in being beaten by crews who’ve trained more than you!
Sunday 29th September It’s now three months since injuring my shoulder at the World Gig Championships, so I finally start strength training again. But loading my left shoulder with any sort of weight leaves it stiff and inflamed. Frustrated, I ask my GP to refer me to a physio who confirms that the lumpy scar tissue from the torn muscle lining still needs time and treatment to heal. Facing being out of action for even longer than I thought has left me with a huge gig-shaped hole in my life...
I CAN SEE THE NEXT WAVES COMING – 6FT HIGH WALLS OF WATER
Looking back it’s been such a crazy season – I could never have predicted any of it! Winter training was the most intense I’ve ever experienced, with its seat racing and monthly ergo tests, and then winning the World Championships with a virus – who knew you could get a virus in your joints?!? Suffering a shoulder injury left me not really knowing if I’d ever be able to seriously compete again, but then I suddenly found myself in a crew training for the county championships with only three weeks to go! And amidst it all I
made a totally unexpected career change – from painter and decorator to a job I now love as a gym manager and fitness instructor. One of the biggest positives has been learning to scull at Stithian’s Lake, something I would never have had the time to do if I’d been racing gigs throughout the summer. Who knows what the next season will bring, though I hope it’s not as eventful as this one! It’s been really fun writing this diary for R&R, and I hope that if you didn’t know anything about gig racing before, you’ve learnt something about traditional rowing and life in Cornwall. See you down the gig shed!
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November / December 2013 | Rowing & Regatta | 09