It Just Doesn’t Float My Boat

MATT BURNS explains why rowing leaves him feeling empty.

Ashley Cole bumps Cindies cox ergs morph suit novice Rowing Shit stash supervisions

I’ve never rowed, I’ve never coxed and I’ve only seen ‘Bumps’ once. Therefore I am qualified to have a moan about it.

Before coming to Cambridge, I had the preconception that rowing was elitist and a little bit pretentious. It was to my surprise that so many people sacrificed their mornings to go and have a paddle, and to their credit many novices do extremely well. But I’m still not convinced. The “let’s all have a go” charade doesn’t make it any less of a ridiculous sport.

They say anyone can row. This may be true in Cambridge, where second boats struggle for numbers almost as much as Ashley Cole struggles to come to terms with his sexuality, but elsewhere it’s not. A few other Universities do it, but generally it’s not a nationwide obsession.

Bollocks can anyone row. You hardly see under-sevens 5-a-side rowing teams getting up early on a Saturday morning to get to the river. It’s a sport that requires very expensive equipment, and thus requires its participants to have money. When was the last time you went to Sports World and bagged a MEGA DISCOUNT £4.99 rowing boat? Just like sailing and polo, it belongs to that elite league of sports that are understood and enjoyed by few, and ignored as pompous by others.

No wonder its one of the sports Britain can win at; if the Jamaicans could afford it they’d beat us at it too.

There don’t seem to be alot of tactics, either:  “Why did you lose the race mate?” – “Because we weren’t as fast as the other boat”. Eight weeks of training for that! Unlike spectator sports there aren’t any play-making passes or game-saving tackles. Even in running races there’s a chance of dropping the baton or running out of lane. The worse thing for spectators is that, unless you get on your bike and join what basically looks like the tour-de-France for pricks with megaphones, you don’t even see the end result. You see one boat, then another, then another. You might see a “bump,” but the lack of spikes or circular saws at the front of the boat makes that about as eventful as Stephen Hawking’s childhood.

I gather there’s some sort of skill involved but it’s foreign to me. It appears rather like a night in Cindies. You dive in unaware, flail your arms a bit and avoid catching crabs or getting too wet.

Worsening the appeal is the inconsiderateness of its organisation. I’m not up at half 6, nor do I want to be. I’d rather not wear an outfit that’s a couple of scissor-cuts down from a morph suit. And if I did, I wouldn’t then change out of it into 14 items of stash with crazy nicknames of my entire crew on the back, just to prove we’re human after all. Plus, if I do attend a lecture at 9am, I don’t want to be joined by some pink, panting specimen who smells like they’ve just competed in to world’s biggest game of soggy biscuit.

Don’t get me wrong, I quite like rowers. When they’re on their own. Not surrounded by any other rowers. Or coaches. Or coxes. I even row on ergs myself, as I will admit it is very good for fitness. But rowing chat truly stinks; it’s a certain way to alienate non-boaties out of any conversation.

Perhaps my biggest complaint is about the ‘Bumps’ themselves. Every other college sport has the decency to be played at more-or-less the same day every week. It’s the consistency throughout term that keeps league results and Cuppers matches very interesting. Rowing, however, has the audacity to whack all its races into 5 consecutive days at the penultimate week of term.

They don’t give a shit about practicals, lectures or supervisions, because everything comes second to rowing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a dissertation due at the end of term, because now’s the time to spend 4 days in a limited space of water, chasing another boat, being chased by another boat, smelling each others farts, drinking Cam water, being shouted at by a cock at the front and a bigger cock on a bike (the plural is cox) and generally having a ruddy bloody good time! Raa!