In January this year the Christ Church women headed over to Njord University, Leiden, for their pre-Torpids training camp. With our huge novice intake, the girls were keen to learn more about rowing and to see how other boat clubs trained, and socialized! We were kindly met at the station by Jenny, one of our Dutch friends, and the most amazing car, which managed to swallow all our luggage. This was a sizeable amount considering the voluminous mixture of lycra and fancy dress items we had been encouraged to bring by Jenny and Paula, in preparation for a Moulin Rouge theme party at the end of the week.
When we arrived at Njord’s boathouse, we had a carbo-loaded lunch, Dutch-rower-style, and were taken to the room in the boathouse where we would be sleeping. Instantly sleeping bags and mats were thrown about to grab the best spaces, apart from Fern and Jo, who seemed quite happy to squash up together… After joining in with a pretty tough two hour land training/weights session that evening, we were introduced to a new concept of training food, which Karl took to most naturally: pancakes for dinner.
We slept pretty well that night, despite Fern’s insistence that she needed Jo to be her hot water bottle and Patty’s alarm going off around 3am for about 10 minutes! In the morning we went out on the river, or rather the canal system, whose numerous bridges and jutting pillars caused our coxes quite a few problems. We got the hang of it by lunchtime though, and were making steady progress in spite of the insistent cross-wind that kept trying to blow us into the bank.
With the novices at a very early stage of rowing experience, having been limited in Michaelmas term by flooding on the Isis, much of our time on the water was spent on technical drills and paddling. At times, this seemed almost worse than continuous steady-state rowing, as it was mentally tough without the redeeming rewards of hard, physical strain. Also, hearing Fran say “go” for the sixty-sixth time in a row almost made pause-rowing into a new torture art! We definitely learned a lot collectively, though, about how the boat moved and how each individual movement affected the other rowers and the other phases of the stroke. And, despite the deceptive appearance of technical outings, we found ourselves desperate for sleep at the end of each night.
We were warmly entertained by our Njord hosts every evening, from pancake trips to reunions with those who had also visited Christ Church. We also went into Leiden several times and took a wonderful trip to Amsterdam on the Friday of our visit, where we went on a boat trip around the canal system and experienced some of the nightlife of the Leidsplein.
Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse on the fourth day of the camp, leaving Karl no choice but to send us on a run worthy of boot-camp residents, whilst he cycled merrily alongside eating far too many strobwaffles. We managed to get out on the Saturday, though, and put all our technical work into some continuous paddling. It was far from perfect, but even the Dutch guys noticed how much we had improved as a crew. The Saturday night was an unbelievable event with over a hundred people crammed into the upstairs part of the boathouse, dressed as dancers and gamblers for their fancy-dress bop. With our costumes we fitted in perfectly, though we were amazed when carnage broke out as the heavyweight men began to demolish the wooden bar-structure that the Dutch lightweights had built earlier that day. We were told by the girls that this was all part of their club bonding rituals, in keeping with a running rivalry that existed between the skinnies and the heavies. This rang a few bells, as we thought of instituting a similar rivalry back at Christ Church, and it seems to have flourished somewhat in the women’s squad this term!
To sum up, the camp was thoroughly enjoyable, though tough for everyone involved, and it is definitely an arrangement that ought to be reciprocated and maintained in years to come. We would like to thank Njord, on behalf of the whole of Christ Church Boat Club, for hosting us so well and for showing us a wonderful time in Holland.
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