Captain’s log – Autumn 2015

by James Hawkins 

Familiar faces

Over the past month or so many a Vesta old hand has remarked to me that there has been a resurgence of the old Vesta spirit. What’s more, the eagle eyed amongst you will notice a return of some old faces. Pete Williams and Dave Clinton are coaching the Vesta senior men, Wendy Armstrong returns for another year in charge of the Vesta novice boys, and, ahem, I am making a reappearance working with Chris Clements coaching the novice girls. But while it is great to tap into some of that old expertise, the club spirit is driven by the rowers, and that’s what I really want to celebrate.

The senior squads

The four main squads are operating at near maximum capacity, including both novice squads. The senior squads have been bolstered by many new members, and with the top boats from previous seasons departing the scene, all seats are up for grabs and the squads are thriving with that new sense of competition.

While both senior squads train as whole units, they are each streamed into senior and intermediate components, allowing for a more tailored approach to the coaching, and also, which will become more apparent as we enter the summer season, with their own goals and targets.

As I said, while competition is fierce to be selected as the new top boats at the senior end, the intermediate components are laying the groundwork to ensure that our squads over the next few years have greater depth and breadth. Gratifyingly, the novices that graduated to the intermediate ends of the senior squads are amongst those who are impressing the most, which is a great endorsement for the efforts made in the previous year to nurture real home grown talent.

The novice squads

That same ambition, to sow the seeds of future squads through a competitive novice programme is back in full swing. Each squad has around twenty members, around half of whom started with the excellent summer programme which has meant that we were able to hit the ground running in September. Wendy, Ben and Zara (on the boys’ side) and myself and Chris (on the girls’) have been rather taken aback by how swift progress has been – and while we have had some interesting moments where you realise that rowing lingo at times is a somewhat different language (bow four sit the boat, two and four raise your hands…err two and four why are your hand in the air?… Oh right, mmm, not is not quite what I meant…) it certainly looks like we have around forty people who have got the rowing bug – certainly helped by not yet having a rainy cold weekend – which I have no doubt just jinxed.

The Vesta spirit

Enthusiasm for training, for rowing, making and rekindling friendships is the bedrock of what makes any rowing club a club, but at the outset I talked about the resurgence of the Vesta spirit which many have remarked on. It is not just that there are more people staying behind for a beer after rowing at the weekends, not just because Thursday club meals are as busy as I can remember them (and taking a lot more profit for future boat buying), not just that we have full squads, forgettable and eyebrow raising parties – I say forgettable because the next day I can never remember quite what happened and my eye brows are invariable raised when I learn about everyone’s antics – it is all of those things and more. A return to that quiet ambition which means that a great season and head races and regattas beckons and a knowing nod to that sense of mischievous fun – and with Harry Bond in possession of a bar key, well need I say more?

PS: if the novice girls squad is lacking in one thing it is a constant cox. If anyone is interested in coxing please let me know. My very bruised hips will thank you as I really don’t fit.

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