ROVING REPORTER GOES DOWN BY THE RIVER
One of our slightly more energetic groups is the Rowing & Sculling Group (2 groups for varying levels of competency). They meet on Mondays and Thursdays at the Peterborough City Rowing Club, located just round the corner from The Boathouse pub in Thorpe Meadows. This is a superb facility, and at 1000m in length is one of only a handful of purpose built rowing lakes in the country. They have a large boathouse to store all of the boats used by both the hard-core rowers of PCRC and those, like us, hiring the facility for a slightly more recreational use. This is not to say that the PU3A rowers and scullers are not competitive in some cases, as they do sometimes take part in competitions with one of the more recent ones being the West Norfolk Head of the River Time Trial Race over 2 kilometres
On a wonderful sunny Thursday afternoon in May I was welcomed to the gathering where I found there is a relaxed atmosphere among our waterborne members, whilst always being conscious of safety, as any water based sport has to be aware that the medium upon which you are having fun can also carry dangers. There is a great camaraderie, and they are a most welcoming bunch of lads and lasses.
The group has a membership of between 20 and 30 and includes quite a few ladies as well as the budding Steven Redgraves from the male side. Our fame must be spreading because one of the ladies hails all the way from California, but it should be mentioned that she has been a Peterborian for some years now.
Age doesn’t seem to be a problem either, with 3 of the chaps being 80+ and still enjoying the exercise that comes with the sport. One of the 80+ brigade is an affiliate member of PU3A, being a member up at the Stamford U3A, but they don’t run a rowing group, so we welcome him into our number once or twice a week. There is a feeling of total inclusiveness at the group and so long as you are able to get in a boat and paddle then you are welcome to give it a try. One of the coaches informed me that they are set up to enable those with varying disabilities to give the sport a try. There are 3 qualified rowing coaches who are also PU3A members in attendance to give you advice and technique tips should you need it, plus a couple of PCRC coaches available if and when needed.
Among our rowing and sculling members are 2 brothers, Eric and Nigel, plus the chap identified as “The Joker in the Pack – Rob. Two of the ladies who row are Elizabeth who does the publicity for the group in the PU3A Newsletter and Sarah who does similarly for the photo side.
On the day I was turned up, there were about 12 members out in 8 boats as either singles or pairs, but they also take out boats of 4 rowers and occasionally a full 8 person boat. Apparently, there are often around 20+ members gently rowing up and down the course
There is a vocabulary peculiar to the rowing and sculling fraternity and I learnt a few of the terms. The holders for the oars (see later for the right terms) are called Gates, and the gates are mounted on the end of triangular frames called Riggers. If a rower has an oar in each hand then they are called Sculls or Blades, but if the rower employs a single oar (therefore 2 people in a boat) the oar is called Sweep. There are 2 types of boats and a thin one is referred to as a “Fine” boat, with the slightly wider ones being called a ”Stable” boat
As the course is 1Km long then a round turn from start to end is roughly 2Km of rowing and the participants plough up and down at whatever speed they wish to go at for anything up to 4 times meaning they cover about 8Km or roughly 5 miles.
Whilst there, a new PU3A potential member arrived and Barry, the group leader, pulled over from his row to give the lady all the information she would need to attend a future session – she seemed very keen.
Once the rowing is done with and the boats have been removed from the water, cleaned and packed away, all of the group retire to the clubhouse for a well-earned cuppa and a nibble or two, which on the day of the visit consisted of sausage rolls and homemade cake. One of the guys even admitted that the PCRC, in the case of the U3A rowers, stands for Peterborough CAKE and Rowing Club, not Peterborough City Rowing Club. 😊
The Roving Reporter was surprised at how much fun there was to be had at what he thought would be a thoroughly energetic full-on morning. There are great benefits to be gained from this group, both in the exercise domain and the friendship area. So, if you fancy taking up a sport that will give your whole body a bit of a work out and some delightful views as you glide up and down the water then this may be the group for you. I would thoroughly recommend giving it a go if you feel it may be right for you, but are a touch nervous – they will give you a taster session before you commit to joining up and paying the fee for boat use and coaching fees.
See here for a photo gallery of the day
See here for a short video of the Rowers and Scullers from PU3A
See here for the Group Page