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Learn to Row Regatta – Jun 2022

Things were different this year. As Loughborough had recently finished their own ‘Learn to Row’, the opportunity was taken to run a combined a regatta and give a bit more of a sense of competition to all of the new rowers. The larger numbers also helped to shape a fuller event with ranking races against the clock and then race offs to establish the overall winners.  With the formal(ish) races done in the Explore boats, there were some impromptu races in eights with some crews being a mix of both clubs. The rain came and went and came again but the racing went on and it was all finished with tea and cakes in the Devil’s clubhouse.

A Busy Weekend – Jun 2022

The Devil’s Elbow marked the Jubilee in their own way with a fun Saturday row involving the race squads, recreational rowers and even a brave member from our ongoing ‘Learn to Row’. The Octuple was was put on the water and we had some fun short races with an Explorer boat. A fuddle picnic was then held and we even saw a few, small glimpses of sunshine. It was far from sunshine on Sunday with three boats racing at Trentham. Our ladies double saw the super-sub Captain Michelle stepping in at the last minute (again). They won their first race but were pipped in the final. 

Our Single rower Darren had his first competitive outing and was held to about a foot length on the line – clipping a buoy might have cost the race, but he was very happy with form and performance as a debutant. The Men’s 4+ also had two debutants for side by side racing (despite their advanced years). A good start but were gradually overhauled and beaten by about a length. A very useful learning experience. We will also now be looking for 11 year old coxes!

Quadtastic: Leicester Regatta – Apr 2022

Saturday 7.15am: On paper this race was another disaster in a recent string of cancelled and missed races.

The crew had trained really hard but suddenly the day before the race 50% of them were unable to race due to illness/medical emergencies. I was in Dorset but travelling back in the day so I could sit in for Emma at stroke, and I could go down to practice race starts later that day, now we just needed a forth rower…

Saturday 4.30pm: Max agreed to sit in for Jo although she wouldn’t be back until the next morning. We now had a full crew and decided to make the best of it. 

Saturday 5.30pm: It’s not ideal to practice race starts for the first time the evening before the race with winds gusting in the high twenties and a male rower sitting in, but we had a quick try and then trailered the boat. 

Sunday 12.30pm: Race day the weather was beautiful and we met at Leicester with plenty of time to check the boat and carry it across a dual carriageway to the rowing club. I was concerned that we would not be able to row together and that things could fall apart at the start, I was fairly comfortable about controlling the rating at a mangable 26/27spm. To help with this I played the crew ‘Saturday night’ by Whigfield which is a good 26spm rating guide. They asked me to turn it off.

Sunday 2pm: We put the boat in the water and started getting in and quickly realised that mice had made nests in some of our shoes (overnight in Jim’s field!?) I have to admit, there was some squealing but we got them out and paddled off, spotting our opposition, a fresh faced young women’s Leicester crew.

Sunday 2.30pm: We marshalled for quite a while as we were last in our batch. It was idyllic on the canal in the sun – at one point a family of ducklings walked across the spoon of my blade! The boats immediately before us set off at speed and immediately crashed into each other so a restart was called. We hung around a bit longer…and then we were off. 

Sunday 2.40pm: The Race: We did a good solid race start and settled in well, although we were rowing at 33/34spm. I’m accustomed to rowing at stroke but I’m not accustomed to seeing the opposing crew in my peripheral vision and about 100m in I realised we were easing ahead of them! I asked Jim to call a lower the stroke rate and we settled at 32 spm and carried on. The crowd were cheering on Leicester the whole way but it felt amazingly focused in our boat. We managed to hold on to our slight lead and then amazingly we eased ahead of them for the last 100 m! It was suddenly all over and we’d won!

Sunday 3.30pm: We went to ask as many people as we could where we could find our trophies, had some photos taken and ate lots of cake. 

What went well? When it mattered it was a textbook race. The crew worked together as a solid unit, the timing was spot on, we weren’t put off by the proximity to the other crew, we stayed focussed and managed put 100% effort in for the distance.  The absent crew members really were part of the success as we knew how gutted they were to miss the race after training so hard and that helped us to focus.  And Jim the cox wins the “shell bra of glory” partly for amazing coxing but mostly  for manoeuvring the trailer across the dual carriageway roundabout onto a grass verge as there was nowhere to park in the rowing club!   Race report by Michelle  – Ladies’ Captain

A Very Good Friday – Apr 2022

Good Friday saw some of the Devil’s Elbow members joining other local clubs on a row from the centre of Nottingham, up the Trent to Newark. Using the ‘Explorer’ boats they negotiated multiple locks and beached them halfway along the route for a welcome picnic lunch. After that there was shuffling of the crews with with some swapping coxing and rowing. Some hardy souls rowed the full way and were especially appreciative of the catering laid on by Newark Rowing Club at the finish. See the pictures by clicking here

Individual Experiences May Vary – Apr 2022

Having arrived at the club by car, bike and our antiquated, volunteer powered ferry the morning went off in different directions for our Devils. The Recreational squad, having had an excellent outing in the sunshine in the Octuple – an eight seat scull – retired to the clubhouse. There they investigated the cake options for the day.  At the same time there were some of the Men’s squad who had to catch up the on the Erg ‘Workout of the Week’,  a delightful high intensity interval session suggested by one of the younger squad members.  Thanks Matt. 

On the ‘Boat Race’ Course – Mar 2022

Saturday 27th March saw the men’s squad assemble at Putney Town Rowing Club to take part in the Vesta Veterans Head Race over the famous ‘Boat Race’ course. Rather than two boats, this involved over a hundred, all 8s, 4s and quads setting off at intervals to do their best on the Thames Tideway. For many of the clubs this was basically their home water with the experience that comes with it.  We, as the country cousins, were there to work hard and beat our self imposed target based on previous, pre-covid, performances. The story in pictures can be seen here.

“On the Trailer – Off” Feb 2022

Here is the trailer that we loaded up on Saturday morning. Men’s and Ladies’ Eights, blades, riggers, trestles and the paraphernalia that goes with them.  The trailer was then repositioned for an early start on Sunday morning for the ‘Head of the Trent’ in Nottingham. Later that afternoon the word came through that the race was cancelled. Not a huge surprise – the rivers were full and indeed all the grass in the photo was underwater just a few days before. The late notice was frustrating. The joys of a sport that relies on the weather. Tuesday, we will unload the boats, re-rig them and get out on the water to train for the next race. ‘

‘Learn to Row’ course starting soon.  Feb 2022

Thinking of giving it a go but not sure? Have a read below with comments from two shiny, new Devils who took part in the last Learn to Row. 

The Reluctant Rower

It was May 2021, and I was reluctantly persuaded to attend the learn to row course. I wasn’t keen, I didn’t like open water, didn’t want to get wet and though it just ‘wasn’t my thing’. It turned out I couldn’t have been more wrong. After my first session and first outing on the water a seed had been planted. I was overjoyed I didn’t get soaked and intrigued by the skill and technique required and I wanted to learn more.

By the end of the learn to row course I could row in a very rudimentary way, but I was hooked. I knew I could improve and wanted more time on the water so decided to join as a full recreational member. Nine months on this was one of the best decisions I have ever made and eagerly look forward to every session, even when its wet, cold and windy. Some of my favourite rows are at night when it is so peaceful and when the moonlight sparkles on the water its magical. Rowing has changed me both physically and mentally by being not only fitter but being on the water and the rhythm of the stroke is great way to relax and unwind.  

Devil’s members are a super friendly group of people who are passionate about rowing. They are patient, skilled, encouraging and generous with their time. There is a culture at the club of wanting to nurture new members to develop their rowing abilities and for them to learn new skills. The great sense of comradery is bolstered by regular social events and plenty of cake!

I would highly recommend the learn to row course even if like me you don’t think it’s your thing or are fearful of open water. Who knows you may also be surprised and find it’s the best thing you ever did.  

The Reconnected Rower

I had often seen the boats rowing down the river whilst walking with my husband and family and thought it would be a marvellous thing to try.  At the time two things held me back, a fear of deep water and shyness! However, one day after a walk by the river and feeling particularly envious of the rowers, I went home and looked on the internet at the club. I saw they offered Learn to Row and then recreational rowing so I emailed the club about it before I could change my mind. 

That was at the beginning of lockdown, so it wasn’t until the early summer of 2021 that I was offered a place on Learn to Row.  As enthralled as I was with the opportunity to do something normal during Covid 19, I had started to suffer from and receive help for, almost (at times) paralysing anxiety.  This initially held me back, but something inside told me I should go for it. I am so pleased I listened to my inner voice!  The people at the club welcomed us all, everyone is lovely, approachable, and friendly. They really are a wonderful bunch of people who go out of their way to help, who persevere with us newbies, so we learn and develop the skills to row.  Rowing also has social events which are great way to get to know everyone better and really are good fun.

I have found rowing to be a wonderful, calming and rewarding exercise. It is a challenging skill to master, but the rewards far outweigh this. If I have had a stressful day, feel anxious or tired, rowing brings me back to the present, invigorates me and makes me feel good. It is wonderful way to enjoy nature, to see the wildlife at the river’s edge. From learning to live with anxiety I know concentrating the senses to be “in the present” is an excellent method to cope and calm. Learning this new skill has also given me purpose. I can say without doubt, that learning to row has been key in getting myself back to feeling me.

As for the fear of water?? To be honest you are too busy rowing and enjoying yourself to care!

You can see more on our Learn to Row page Here or dive straight in and sign up by emailing our Membership Secretary Here

Rowing for Health – An Insider’s Story Feb 2022

Sport is good for you. Trying a new sport can be even better and that is according to science. Many of the Devils at Devil’s Elbow have come to rowing as a second sport and perhaps are not always in the first flush of youth. Learning a new sport later in your career can bring even bigger benefits. Recent joiner to Devil’s Elbow, Louis, describes what it has done for him and how he sees it – time to get philosophical.

Key physical benefits of rowing include the facts that:-

  • It is low impact – better for for your joints after time spent running, playing football, cricket, netball and so on.
  • It is an almost total body workout, using 86% of your muscles, if you are doing it right.
  • It is a really good mix for promoting strength, cardio and stamina.


Less appreciated are the mental benefits including:-

  • The new actions and processes actively alter your brain, promoting new pathways and brain growth.
  • Learning new motor skills can be as challeneging as doing puzzles.
  • The brain learns to learn again – neuroplasticity (a good score in scrabble).


Doing all of this on the river, surrounded by fresh air, greenery and judgemental waterbirds is great for your wellbeing. Rowing at full pelt in an eight in the dark also improves you sense of self preservation and alertness.

Using all the muscles - including the facial ones. The Devils at work.

The Yin and Yang of Rowing

Rowing is simple, just jump in a boat, paddle like mad, somehow keep in unison with rest of crew, exhaust yourself and try to go in a straight line. Nothing to it… obviously the sport of choice for fitness crazy madmen and madwomen!

Or so I thought, how wrong could I have been? One year in, the truth about rowing has slowly been revealed, like a cosmic duality, I’ve discovered the Yin and Yang of Rowing.

To begin with it was all hard work, grunting until the lungs and legs refused to function, and alas with not a lot to show for it apart from handfuls of blisters, chapped skin and bruised ego.

Over the months of regular effort the physical side improved, the body became rowing fit, meaning muscle groups used in rowing toughened up and memory muscle kicked in, they actually did what was asked of them, rather than rebelling! It actually became a joy to ergo hard – certainly not during – that’s like someone tenderising your legs with a mallet whilst sticking a suction tube down your throat! But afterwards … those happy endorphins kicked in and suddenly, like magic, all the pain forgotten with the warm afterglow of achievement.

Rowing is a tremendous mental challenge, certainly in the early days, the coordination and precision to achieve a good rowing stroke is immense, like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Once that is reasonably mastered, it seems to come to nought, as like snakes and ladders – back down to the start point – as learning to coordinate at identical pace, equal effort and perfect timing in unison with whole crew as one, seems an impossible set of physical and mental tasks.

Practise, practise and practise, the crew shape up, working in unison with the timing and precision of a troop of synchronised swimmers. Body and mind of each individual morphs into a single functioning entity, we become ‘the crew’.

This is where Yin and Yang manifests, of competing and complementary forces of dark and light. The physical effort switches from full power to full relax as we cycle through each stroke. The effort needs to be full on, but it also needs to be controlled, pacing exactly with the technique where the body and hands are correctly positioned within a few centimetres at each point through the stroke cycle.

As soon as you actively think about hand position, body posture, position and timing, it all goes to pot, there is just too much to think about at speed. It has to be intuitive; the mind has to be in complete focus, but not consciously processing. Remarkably a state of mindfulness occurs. All extraneous thoughts are expunged, with only focus and concentration on the body mind coordination of ‘no effort, full effort’ rhythm within the higher state of the crew dance.

For those looking to exercise mind, body and soul – rowing is a complete sport.

Louis - Rowing Devil and Philosopher

Socialising Again Feb 2022

For the first time since Covid reared its head, we had a planned evening social event in the clubhouse. Friday the 4th was a Quiz and Pizza evening. The tables were rearranged so that everyone could see the screen. The sailing club provided a barman who knew what he was doing and we had a small team in the kitchen who turned out a remarkable amount of tasty food on a tight budget and still made a profit for the club’s coffers. The questions were tough enough to stretch the field and the teams, mixed up from the squads, showed their competitive spirit and specialist knowledge. We have some real chocolate experts!

New Year Full of Promise Jan 2022

We are starting 2022 not flooded out and with Covid-19 looking like it might be in its final flourish. Although technically still last year, mixed squad and recreational crews got out on to the water – in some sunshine – on New Year’s Eve morning.  

We are going through a period of more diligent self coaching, making better use of video and with a specific focus to our daylight sessions. This seems to have been adopted well and crews are enjoying the sense of purpose and the improvements that have been made. These technical sessions, combined with some good old hard work on power and endurance in the dark evening sessions bodes well for the Head season.