Rowing – what a weird and confusing language!


                                               Part One – red and green

So how often do you hear this in sport?

“I was last over the finish line but I still won!”

Well this is exactly what happened to me on Saturday at Warrington Regatta. I was sitting in the stroke seat of a double, a boat with two seats, with my team mate Alistair behind me in the bow seat but he was actually in front of me – I was just sitting with my back to him. I wasn’t being rude or trying to jeopardise our chances – that’s the way we row!!

“Warrington, Trafford, attention…GO!’

To cut a long story short we were brilliant so Alistair was first over the line and I was last, IN OUR BOAT, so we won. (That was just a heat so we went on the the final and again Alistair was first over the line – champions and another medal to add to the collection!)

Clever stuff with words hey? Well read on and you might not feel so clever just overwhelmingly confused!

Always Oarsome Jen and myself, Gill  run the adult Learn To Row courses at Warrington Rowing Club with lots of help from volunteer members. We start from absolute scratch and over the years we have realised that rowing has a language all of its own and most of it is nonsense in the best possible way. What’s worse is that Jen and I often forget that we are speaking a different language when our new recruits arrive and carry on regardless.

Usually until about the third week when a very brave soul will ask us something like

“What exactly do you mean when you say ‘tap down’?”

OK so let’s start with this.

There are two ends to a boat – a bow and a stern. The bow is the front of the boat but most people see it as the back because when you sit in the boat you will have your back to the bow (unless you’re the cox). It is easily identified by the bow ball. This is a small ball fixed to the front of the boat (if it’s not there you will be disqualified in a race situation). It helps prevent too much damage should a collision occur and consequently is often found taped on.

The other end of the boat is known as the stern – the back of the boat, usually thought of as the front of the boat because when you sit in the boat you will be facing it (unless you are the cox!!!).

It is easily identified because it DOESN’T have a bow ball. If there is a bow ball I’m not sure you’d be disqualified in a race but it’s probably wise to check you’re sitting in the seat correctly!!

Let’s talk about a quad boat (four rowers each having two blades/oars)

Each seat and consequently each rower is given a number so we don’t have to remember different names. The person in the bow seat is called Bow and also number one – the first person over the finish line, the front of the boat (often thought of as the back…),nearest to the bow ball.

The next seat is two, then three, then four.

The rower at the stern of the boat (the back but often thought of as the front…), number four is also known as Stroke.

Bow Pair are the two people sitting in the front of the boat, nearest to the bow ball (often thought of as the back…) and Stern Pair are the two people sitting in the back of the boat, furthest from the bow ball (often thought of as the front…).

Stroke side of the boat is the right hand side of the boat, the rowers right hand side, not the onlooker (or the cox). Remember the rower is facing backwards in the boat.

Bow side is the left hand side of the boat, the rowers left hand side. Remember the rower is facing backwards in the boat.

Stroke side blades will often have a red label and bow side a green one. A common command is “firm pressure on red” which ultimately means more pressure with the right side of the body so helping with steering and dodging other boats! (or green depending which way bow needs the boat to go).

Now for the really confusing part – Port and Starboard.

When looking forward, toward the bow of the boat (the front but often thought of as the back!), port refers to the left side and starboard refers to right side. These terms are often used by umpires and I’m pretty sure not many rowers are clear on the meaning.

Actually I am completely confused now which is not surprising as I generally get my right and left mixed up unless I can do a quick Brownie promise hand sign which I know is always done with the right hand!

So port refers to stroke side or the red blade and starboard refers to bow side or the green blade. The main problem here being the rowers are sitting looking at the stern of the boat (the back but often thought of as…) so to the rower port actually refers to the right side of the boat.

So I’m going park these thoughts here and head to a dark corner to contemplate some more weird terms we use in rowing.


Steady. Consistent. Synchronicity. Teamwork.

This weekend at rowing training, we did twice our usual distance on each day, and just rowed, steady state, no fancy bits, no drills.

Just rowed.


Steady. Consistent. Powerful.

No stopping.

Here is a quick video that our coach took of us square blading. (This is a technique which promotes balance and focus. This was about 15km in on day two so we were getting tired!

Oh and our coach isn’t the most technically proficient and so it changes from portrait to landscape half way through! Treat yourself to a lie down if you get that far 😉 )

This steady state, consistent rowing, getting extra miles on the water, helps a crew really get together. To work together to get the synchronicity that ultimately makes the boat go faster. It doesn’t happen straight away.

It takes hard work. It takes commitment. It takes hours and hours rowing together on the water.

Such consistency and steadiness is important in business and teamwork.

It’s important to take time to learn how to work together, get used to each other, understand each other’s styles and needs and get into the ha it if fully supporting each other and working together to achieve the common goal.

Wow we LOVE rowing. And we LOVE teamwork!


When Always Oarsome met Rowing The World!

Last week Gill and I had the absolute pleasure to meet Ruth Marr from Rowing the World. (Check out their website – it’s OARSOME!)

Ruth was visiting the UK to check out some new destinations for her amazing rowing tours.

It’s always fab to meet people who are just as passionate (aka bonkers!) about rowing and as keen as us to introduce as many people as possible to our fabulous sport. And especially when they are as lovely as Ruth.

During her time in the North of England, Ruth visited several rowing clubs (including Windermere, Lakeland and Runcorn), finishing off her tour at Warrington Rowing Club (Always Oarsome rowing HQ).

We were delighted to show her our clubhouse, fleet of boats and most of all, to introduce her to Mrs Mersey.

Due to time restrictions, we were unable to do this in a rowing boat on this occasion, but we took Ruth out on a launch to show her our beautiful stretch of water.

Check out our brief interview with Ruth (this was BEFORE her tour of The Mersey)

We can’t wait to continue to explore collaboration opportunities with Ruth and Rowing the World.

Watch this space folks!

Challenge NRC

26th September 1984

111 fresh faced 18 – 21 year olds, with a couple of mature students thrown in, arrive at North Riding College (NRC) in Scarborough to enrol on a Batchelor of Education Degree course with Honours.

I was very excited to be moving away from home – it felt sooo grown up. My dad took me to open a bank account and then left me to unpack. I was a tad wary at this point because I was sharing a room with someone – probably unheard of today, sharing a room that is!

To cut along story short my room mate and I got on like a house on fire and are still good friends today. Remember it was the olden days back then so we didn’t have mobile phones or laptops or tablets. We didn’t want to stay in our rooms contacting friends from home and comparing stories – we did this by writing letters!!!!!!! So we had to get out there and make friends.

Elaine (my room mate) and I did this by knocking on all the doors on our corridor as we went down for dinner. Yep fully catered, three meals a day plus morning coffee and afternoon tea!!! Also unheard of today. I’m sure we had the best deal.

So those girls (the halls were not mixed sex!) who joined us became our friends throughout the four years. You could say our team!

On graduating we moved to all corners of the UK and met up for hen do’s, weddings, Christenings, and big birthdays! We couldn’t all make every get together because we might have been giving birth, breast feeding or dealing with another major life event but we tried our best.

Once all these occasions were over we came to a decision – we would meet up every May Day bank holiday ( easy to remember!). We began by staying in hotels in various cities – enjoying the night life and convenience of travel opportunities. It then became apparent that we didn’t want to share the hotel lounge with others or maybe they didn’t want to share it with us hollering and screaming AKA having a good time so we began booking houses. We have this down to a fine art now – when we meet up we spend some time booking our next venue. It’s great everyone is there to agree with the choice.

We’ve all had traumas along the way and been there to support each other throughout the years.

Jump forward thirty four years – yes unbelievable -THIRTY FOUR YEARS!

Last weekend found those nine girls (uh um!) meeting up at Tom’s Barn in Cheltenham for our annual get together.

We arrive individually throughout the afternoon. Suzie arrives with dinner ready made – even down to the jacket potatoes being scrubbed and prepared! Pam arrives with home made cakes and enough eggs (from her chickens) to last a week! I’ve done the big shop with enough food to feed an army! Everyone else arrives with bits and pieces we might just need especially gin!

Our watering holes are all booked in advance – eating features very highly on our list of activities – in fact it’s only beaten by drinking gin. In fact they are the two main activities of the weekend!

And so it begins – one giant therapy session that lasts the whole weekend. You can’t beat it. We laugh and cry together. Our faces ache by the end of the first evening as we regale tales of the past year.

Most of our weekend was spent in the garden as the weather was magnificent. Those lazy days and me parping on about rowing (surprising – I know!) got us all thinking. Well I think it was Paula who started it, or maybe Michelle, or was it Suzie? Anyway someone said they’d quite like to have a go at this rowing malarkey and could I arrange it?


The next hour was spent with me coaching an erg session on the lawn – explaining some rowing terms and technique. When they get home, they’ll be joining a gym and practising the ‘arms, body, legs’ mantra – apparently!!!






It’s not easy to replicate the slide movement while sitting on a blanket on the grass! We gave it a good go! And I can safely say I believe that by the end of May Bank holiday 2019 my athletes will be Tokyo ready.

Later that afternoon we booked a house for next year in Chester – close enough to Warrington for our fast track learn to row course.

I’ve checked it out with the club and got the go ahead so here I am laying down the gauntlet to the class of ’84.


Warrington Rowing Club is booked, I’ve already got agreement from members that they will come and help me – only one thing left to do and that is to get a training plan in place.

Let’s go girls!

Each month I’ll send you some ‘homework’ and would greatly appreciate your feedback – in fact i expect nothing less. Comments, photos and videos will be most welcome.

So for June I would like you to go to our Always Oarsome blog and read the blog titled

Arms, body, legs, legs, body, arms’.
This will give you an introduction to our chosen activity.

I also think it would be useful to start doing some gentle stretching exercises in preparation for the big weekend.

Just fifteen minutes a day while you’re watching TV, marking books, covering playground duty, revising health and safety papers, cleaning out the chickens, waiting for your child to finish guitar lessons, demonstrating emergency crash landing procedures or demonstrating restraint strategies. I’m sure you can all find an appropriate time slot!

Good Luck and be Oarsome!!!!

Pure good fun and team work

BR umpire(TC) “ I could do with a pint of whatever they were on 🙂 They claimed to be sober… hmmm!”

Response from one of said WRC rowers “ …Not a drop despite what TC says. Pure good fun and great team spirit.”

Northwich Spring Head, Easter Sunday and April Fools day all in one!

When we think of Easter we think Spring and feeling the warmth of the sun on our faces. Well Easter Sunday fell on April Fools Day this year and we were fooled early in the day. The sun was shining and the landing stage at Northwich Rowing Club was buzzing with competitors ready to boat but we were warned at the coxes meeting not to be fooled “it was jolly cold out there on the water!”

The Masters Ladies from Warrington Rowing Club were out in force racing two singles and two quads. It was our first race in months and we were very excited.


A small glitch early on when one of our rowers got lost finding the club. Fortunately Northwich very helpfully delayed the start for a short time and with the help of team mates rigging the boat, and putting it on the water our Gloria took to the water and raced. Probably not the best preparation but she didn’t let that stop her. Straight up to the start, a quick turnaround and race back down. Bravo Gloria!!

Our other single rower – an experienced competitor – Sian had an oarsome race and came home with a medal. These were no ordinary medals but wooden ones made from the old boat house recently demolished to make way for new!

And so the quads took to the water. A healthy set of entries in our category – six in all.

What most people don’t realise about rowing is just how sociable it can be.There were about forty crews in our division so it takes a while for them to boat and plenty of time is given over to everyone getting up to the start (we basically row the course backwards to get there!) and then each crew has to turn around and sets off individually under starters orders as this is a timed race.

So as you sit at the start you are surrounded by your competition. You have two options here- either stare them out and try to scare them off or have a jolly good chin wag!

Obviously we chose the latter and by the time the umpires were shouting “Warrington Go!” we had a pretty good idea that the crew we were chasing down the river were going to give us a good race. It seems that this crew have trained and raced together for some years and were very successful but we gave it our best shot!!

We had a great race with a good start and we kept the momentum going all the way through. We didn’t let York get away. Head races are tricky as you can’t tell if you’ve won until the results come out unless of course you overtake your competition (which we didn’t!). Lots of support from the river bank kept us going.

Both quads were  buzzing when they came off the water, we had done our best and it felt good.

The results were out before we had even de rigged our boat and York had beaten us, the Smile quad so we came in second – no medals for us today!

This didn’t deter us. It was time for a bacon butty!!!! After bacon butties, cups of tea and scrummy cakes we went to watch the next division and the banter continued.

We were disappointed that we didn’t win but we had an oarsome race and on congratulating the York crew we had decided on a rematch at a future York event.

So to sum up the day it was “pure good fun and great team spirit!”