Shrewsbury School

Rowing camp at Brive-La-Gaillarde, France

Monday 15 April 2013

A total of 42 pupils and seven staff spent seven days in southern France training hard for the race season ahead. Max Kimpton-Smith (O UVI) describes their week.

L to R: 1st VIII, 2nd VIII, Girls' Squad

Having safely navigated two coach journeys and an EasyJet flight, it was a welcome sight to arrive at the lake. The stunning Lake Causse is nestled in the hills in the Limousin region and provided the ideal venue for some quality training and testing over seven days from the 3rd April.

The group comprised 14 J16 oarsmen, 10 senior girls and 18 senior boys.  The accommodation was basic but warm and suitably located overlooking the lake. When we boarded the plane we had hoped we had left the unseasonably cold weather behind us in the UK, but unfortunately there was little respite from the cold and wet. However the weather did little to dampen our spirits or the training as we racked up the miles on the generally flat water.

The 2000m course provided a great opportunity for seat racing, testing and work in small boats, which is often more challenging on the relatively fast-flowing and meandering River Severn.

Mr Lapage’s French and skills at treating blisters proved invaluable as the days wore on, and the hands wore down. The hire minibus was put through its paces doing shuttle runs in the rain between the accommodation and the catering block.

As the week went on, water sessions, weights sessions, video and telemetry analysis sessions and revision sessions all began to merge into one, as we all got into a routine of waking up in the morning and spending almost the entire day working ourselves to the limit. On Sunday, the weather was much better – a scorching 16 degrees – so we made the most of it, with four training sessions and a lunchtime swim in the lake. Many of the guys agree that some of the best and most memorable moments were the few evening sessions we had after supper, when it was nearly pitch black and eerily still by the time we got back in.

One of the aims of the week was to begin the transition for the longer, head race distances from earlier on in the year, switching from 5km time trials to 2km multi-lane racing – the same format as the Olympics. Whilst we were there, we built up our race profile, beginning with racing starts and then moving on to 250m sprints, 500m, 750m, 1km etc. This built up to the final morning, when all the crews – J16s, Girls, 2nd VIII and 1st VIII – got up early for a 2km race before breakfast. Pre-breakfast outings are tough, as it is crucial to have eaten enough beforehand so you have the energy to make it through the race. Everyone’s first 2km of the season went well, but the times reflected how hard we had all been pushed in the lead up to it.

Overall, the camp was a great success and all the crews stepped on and the atmosphere and camaraderie was highly entertaining. On our final night there, we awarded various ‘prizes’ to certain people… I should probably not go into too much detail here, but I’ll just say that it was a very funny evening. As we left the lake and headed back home, it was clear not only how tired everyone was, but also that there is a strong sense of eager anticipation for the races coming up in the rest of the year.

Many thanks to Mr and Mrs Wilson, Mr Williams, Mr Cooke, Mr Lapage, Mr Clarke and Mr Hundermark for all the time they put in to make the trip so successful.

Max Kimpton-Smith (O UVI)

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