This means different things to different people: as a rower, I think of the back of the boat as the bow. This is in both a literal and figurative sense, since the bow woman not only sits behind everyone and is difficult to see and hear, but she also tends to fall victim to jokes of general uselessness and freeloading off of the stern three (at least in our group). To spectators and general non-rowers, the stern is actually the back of the boat–but the perception of it all is all very skewed given that we sit and drive the boat backwards.
In any case, no matter where you sit, I’ve spent some time in both the front and the back of the boat–or the back and the front as it were–over the past several days. Coming in to Lucerne, I was preparing to row bow seat in the lineup that we had set in our final days in Breisach. For me those preparations were not ones I was about to take lightly, since steering a big, fast machine like a women’s quad around a small and busy racecourse like the Rotsee is no cake walk. I have rowed bow in Lucerne a few times in the double and so am pretty comfortable back there, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are dozens of other boats on the water almost all of the time, who may or may not take it upon themselves to freestyle course traffic rules and/or forgo manners and common sense completely. In the five years I’ve raced at Lucerne, I’ve learned you have to be prepared for just about anything. And when you’re moving fast–quad fast–you have to be ready to make decisions even more quickly, without the benefit of being able to see traffic in front of you like an 8+ cox can. Add to this the task of running the boat’s workouts for each sessions (coxing), and it is a full time job back there in the bow. The only reason we ever tease bow women about taking a free ride is because we know that we wouldn’t last five minutes without them back there running the show.
That was Monday and Tuesday. But now that it’s Thursday, that feels like years ago. Since then, our stroke woman has had to withdraw from this weekend’s racing, and we’ve had to make some changes. The remaining three of us did our work in small boats yesterday, until we could hit up our recently Olympic-qualified women’s single sculler, Gevvie Stone, for a favor. Lucky for us, she’s agreed to row/ride bow with us and will be taking over Mission Control while I move back in to the stroke seat. We went out for a spin this morning and it was a glorious crowded session on the lake with lots of steering in and around traffic (I may be the only person on the Team who actually loves steering with the toe). And it was fine. This wasn’t the plan that we arrived with, but it’s ok. Just like 2009 when we were asked at the last minute to double up in to the quad; or in 2011 when I had to race sick. It’s fine. And we’re going to do what Tom coaches us to do when things don’t go as planned: do our job anyway. No excuses.
So, the draw is out for tomorrow and we’re in the second heat of the women’s quad with New Zealand, Ukraine, and Germany 2, starting at 12:44pm local (6:44am EST). You can catch the race tracker here. Though this will be my first time racing internationally with these girls, it’s not my first time racing with Gevvie. We had a great time racing the double together at the 2011 NSRII where we narrowly placed 2nd. A little more experience, a bigger boat, slightly different focus, but the goal is the same.
Let’s fire up the engines, it’s time to loose the big boat on the Rotsee tomorrow morning. Buckle up, Gevvie!!
Long Live the Dream,