Would you Adam and Eve it? The ‘Lass’ in Laandon!
The cracking ‘Coigach Lass’ crew, whose gutsy performance in the gruelling 20-mile Great River Race on the Thames last weekend got them a magnificent 2nd place in their class of 94 boats, came home to this fine acknowledgement of their great Rowlympic performance – on the front of Achiltibuie Post office.
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The ‘Lass’ support crew (the job involves strenuous and throat-curdling cheering followed by the downing of a good few Vera Lynns on the spectator boat as it cruises alongside the racing boats) couldn’t believe their mince pies at the amount of boats at the Isle of Dogs start area. What a spectacle!
While the support crew got stuck in to drinkies and home-made chocolate cake on the
gin palace spectator boat as they waited impatiently for the start…
… the doughty rowing crew desperately sought un-engaged portaloos (there was a shortage!) for a final Jimmy Riddle before the off for maybe 3 hours of rowing… here they are in the pic below bravely sloshing through the Thames slime to launch the ‘Lass.’
Left to right in blue tops holding the ‘Lass’ are our hardy GRR crew members Dan Walton, Sarah Last, Grethe Walton, Ish Pendred, Mark Irvine and Will Irvine.
OK, they may look like reasonably chilled and relaxed Achiltibuie folk in this pic but the race results show they are about to transform themselves into the totally focussed and hardcore rowers we know them to be, once they take possession of the oars. (Talking about oars each of ours are made from £16 of cheap whitewood, glued up – ‘You can do it if you B&Q it’, as Dan said. Compare and contrast with the £500 a pair fibreglass racing hatchet oars of many of our competitors!)
Have you spotted Neville Gabie, artist and film-maker shooting from the railings above the slip in the pic above? This footage will become part of the film project he is working on with Coigach Community Rowing, as we start to build our second St Ayles skiff over the winter… Google him. Interesting work. He was the artist -in-residence for the building of the Olympic park.
Back to the race. Cannon sounded as various groups of boats had staggered starts. We supporters could see that the first few miles of water were pretty lumpy with a bit of a crosswind sometimes and some of the smaller boats like ours were being thumped about a bit with the mixture of tide, river flow and funnelled wind.
While the Lass’s gutsy and determined crew were wielding their oars with intent, we supporters didn’t just confine ourselves with cheering the ‘Lass.’ We ruined our voiceboxes and deafened other spectators on the boat with big shouts for the two North Berwick boats – one in the pic below being passed by the ‘Lass’…
…and Porty’s ‘Icebreaker’ which was on the Thames for the life experience rather than to race – and a very happy crew, Andres, Frances, Barbara, Nick et al, they looked! Great to see other St Ayles Skiffs on the Thames!
Various Welsh boats got the Achiltibuie cheering-and-encouragement treatment too, as one of our support number had bumped into some weel kent faces from a Pembrokeshire rowing club and their spiffy Celtic Longboat at the race campsite in Richmond and later in the live music marquee.
Standing out a mile with her big oar-decorated Saltire comes the ‘Lass’, oars blazing still after 12 miles! You can see the huge variety of boats – mainly the smaller ones in this picture, but we spectators, every now and then, would hear the awesome noise of a huge 20 oar Dragon boat, drums beating the stroke, roaring along the Thames. Every size of rowing vessel from 2 to 22 oars was there! Excalibur – a six oar Dutch boat rowed by what looked like 6 Aryan gods, even the Royal Navy had a boat out- though they looked less than pleased when the supporter’s boat regaled them with – ‘In the Navy’ by The Village People.
Spectators hung over the bridges all the way and, as we went towards Ham and the close packed commercial buildings gave way to a more suburban feel, the Thames-side pubs were thronged with pint-raising supporters.
Oars still flashing in and out of the water to a metronome beat, our tired heroes had a big fight on their hands for the last mile. They had to ward off a Celtic Longboat which threatened to pass them in the last few hundred yards! These Celtic longboats are lean, mean, racing dudes; 4 foot longer, lighter and with fancy oars – and by all the laws of physics should have overtaken the ‘Lass’ – but by ‘eck our crew weren’t going to let that happen! No siree! With a herculean effort, the fighting Achiltibuie six (four on the oars, one cox and the obligatory passenger all rowing in rotation) held the longboat off and beat them by just 3 seconds to take an awesome 2nd place out of 94 boats in their class.
Now. At the end of a 20mile race that takes guts and real character. What a crew!
For what happened at the Thames-side party afterwards… well that’s another story. I will leave you with a picture of our lovely ‘Coigach Lass’ having a well deserved rest out of the water at the finish while we all went to find a cold beer!