News 2023

The Great Tyne Row August 2023

A great weekend for two of our crews from Devil’s Elbow. Overnighting up North on Friday night then a race down the Tyne from Newburn, through all the bridges between Newcastle and Gateshead and finishing at Tynemouth 25km down the river, in amongst all the shipping coming and going across the North Sea.

As a tribute to this past year’s events, the theme for this year’s race was ‘The Coronation’. Our Ladies’ crew named their boat ‘A Treachery at the Tower’ to magnificent effect and romped home with the trophy for ‘The Best Decorated Boat’ but that’s not all. They cleaned out the Ladies’ award cabinet altogether, coming home with trophies for ‘The Fastest Women’ (don’t we know it!!) and ‘The Fastest Coxed Quad’. I’m so pleased I hardly know what to say.

Jo C (Raven No. 3) has written down some of her thoughts on the day which you’ll find a bit further down.

So what about our Men’s crew? They named their boat ‘Who let the corgis out?’ and named themselves after five of Her Late Majesty’s household. Competing with our prize-winning ladies was always going to be a difficult one from a fancy dress point of view though. So what about their row? All I can say is that ‘un-sung heroes’ might be a fair description because something seems to have gone awry with the time-keeping on the Tyne. Despite having set off 13 minutes after our Ladies’ crew and overtaking them on the way downriver, official records of events suggest that it took them 42 minutes longer to finish the course so we don’t quite know what happened there. The person with the binoculars and the stop-watch probably got all excited about something at a critical moment in the proceedings. However, our own on-board timing devices (watches) suggest that our Men’s crew were probably the second fastest boat in the event which is a pretty special result. We’re very proud of both our crews.


The day started with Louis eating my breakfast! But hey, I’d brought enough for 2..


It was really great to get on the river, we looked amazing, our costumes were fantastic, the boat was amazing! (We were dressed as the Tower of London, with a Beefeater coxing, four ravens rowing and various crown jewels arranged around the boat with a cardboard model of the tower of London on the deck and ribbons around the blade handles.) Thanks to Michelle and Abby for the superb props and costumes!

And there were some other great-looking crews too, especially the Killer Queens (a women’s crew all dressed as Freddie Mercury) and Coronation Chickens (chickens on heads, frills around socks.)

But OMG the rain, a tropical downpour, complete with thunder, us trying to shelter under a bridge that just didn’t work…!

We were all told to come back in, totally soaked

I was wringing my clothes out in the toilets…trying to dry my knickers -not very successfully- under the hand dryer! (Probably eating one too many baklavas!)

And then finally setting off again.


We had a really great start to the race, and it really pushed us being head to head with the Killer Queens for about the first 7k. Some of our crew finally saw off the Queens with some surprisingly loud counter singing (“Don’t stop me now!”) just when they were finally trying to get ahead of us, and of course Abby did some fabulous coxing to keep the Queens at bay until that point.

It was a great first 10k into Newcastle but I was gradually starting to feel sick. I think it started because my (bird) mask was falling in front of my face and I couldn’t see, and that made me feel a bit queasy. And I think the baklava and the cup of tea I’d had in the break came into effect…

But we rowed fantastically and Abby coxed amazingly.


We took the decision not to swap seats, I think it was the right one because I don’t think we’d have made up the lost time and it was fantastic that Abby was ok with that because it meant she had to cox the bit that she didn’t want to (cargo ships crossing the river and going into the mouth of the estuary)

The next section was long and lonely because we didn’t know where we were! We just had to keep going and it was actually really nice to see the Devil’s Elbow men gradually gaining on us, but then really lonely when they’d overtaken us. But then finally we saw the big ferries, and the big cruise liners and I think we knew roughly where we were then.


We finally crossed the line (YAY!) there was a bit of confusion about numbers (they thought we were a different crew!)

And then wasn’t it a LONG row down to the end of the Tyne, I can’t believe how long that was! I thought it was a couple of kilometers but it seemed to go on forever.

It was great to be on the beach, I really didn’t feel well, but great to have done it. Michelle’s hands were wrecked, the way all our bums feel the next day…it shows we really put a lot of effort into it.

We really appreciated the boys helping us with the boats and carrying them up to the trailer because we were absolutely done in. (Emma was lying face down in the sand for quite a while unable to move!)

And how amazing to win! Because there were lots of local crews, lots of younger crews than us, so I think we all did amazing!

And that sums up my day.

Jo C

Fastest Coxed Quad Award
Fastest Women Award

Work To Be Done July 2023

As nice as it is to glide majestically up and down the Trent, there are times when the housekeeping has to be done. The warm, but wet weather had made our already overgrown field go a bit mad. After the morning squad session, all hands were put to work liberating old boats from the grass so they could be cut up and disposed off. We also found the launch trailer, which was put to use in getting the launch off the water for a good clean and service. Well done to Boathouse manager Alex for organising it all.

We Can Rebuild Them July 2023

Results for the men’s squad have been OK this summer, but it was felt that the time had come to really have a focus on rowing better and not just harder. With much more filming and coaching from the launch by new ‘Devil’, Martin the work on rebuilding the stroke, crew timing, fitness and flexibility is starting to pay off. We rarely have exactly the same crew out – people do insist on having lives – so developing a house style that everyone adheres to will make the squad and the boat race better.

Home Sweet Home July 2023

We are having a push on technique and rowing ‘better’ with some of the more experienced Devils taking on a coaching role. To support this we have been doing more filming from the launch. The videos coming out of it are useful for analysis but also serve to remind us what a nice piece of river we have on which to row. Work hard and reconnect with nature – which often means being looked at in a judgemental way by herons standing in the reeds on the bank. Some video clips and captured still frames show off our home patch nicely.

Trentham Regatta June 2023

Devil’s Elbow embarked on a major campaign at last Sunday’s Trentham Regatta (Sunday 4th June). A heavily laden boat trailer can be a very stirring sight if you’re of a certain mind-set. It tells a tale of a concerted club effort and a great day out with your mates and when a crew comes home with a good solid win (in this instance our Ladies’ 8) it just slaps a nice layer of icing on which we can all enjoy.

Our crews competed in ten races throughout the day, starting with our Mixed 4x- at 8:45 and ending with our Men’s Open 4- at the end of a very long racing day. 

Our crews were (in rough order of appearance): Mixed 4x-  Erin (skipper at bow); Andy; Emma & Alex (stroke); Womens Masters D 2- Michelle & Clare; Open Masters A/B/C 1x Darren; Open 2- Brian & Philip; Open Masters G/H 2x Jim & Martin; Women’s 1x Erin; Women’s Masters D/E 8+ Erin, Jo P, Max, Emma, A lady from Trentham borrowed for the race, Abby, Michelle, Clare (stroke) & Jim (cox); Open Masters E 4+; Women’s Masters D 4+; Open 4- . The names for those last three crews is obviously a little sketchy so we’ll leave them blank for now but all three of those coxed boats were steered by Jim who, having set off from Long Eaton with the boat trailer at 6:30 in the morning and raced in a double between elevenses and lunchtime, spent the whole afternoon running from one cox’s seat to another without the chance of a feet up with a mug of tea. It would have meant a 13 hour round trip for him by the time he’d got the trailer back on home soil and hung his steaming trainers out to air. ‘Thanks Jim’, doesn’t seem quite enough somehow does it?

A mixture of results and experiences here. The fact that we had so many crews racing is a big tribute to both our squad captains Brian and Michelle for their drive and organisation. Some of our members were racing for the first time, stroking a race start in anger for the first time and, in one instance, winning a trophy for the first time (Jo P has written a few words on that subject a bit further down – Thanks Jo). Having come home from their last three events covered in glory, I think our Men’s crews might have felt a bit down about some of their races today but we’re not going to worry about that any more are we. Onwards and upwards. But well done to Michelle and her ladies for making our day.

Some thoughts on the day from Jo P.
My first win.
The day of the Sunday Trentham race, a nice location on the lakes and sunny weather. I was feeling fairly optimistic that this could be a win. Our training leading up to the race has been good, especially the race starts.
We were called to boat rather early, which meant we were melting in the heat on the water waiting for our opponents.  They apparently had a few problems with their crew but eventually turned up. 
It was a short 750m sprint across the lake. Our start was quick taking the lead by a good boats length, keeping the pressure on until the finish line.
After nearly 7 years of rowing and 15 entered races, I’ve finally won one! Glad I haven’t given it up too soon.
Rowing gives me something positive to focus on, especially training with a great bunch of like-minded people. 

Nottingham Masters and Club Regatta May 2023

I’m attempting to work off a bit of a back-log on our website news here, having just been through a fairly busy patch. This is going to be a bit sketchy pending further research on the detail but our club has taken crews to some local races at this early stage in the regatta season amongst which was the Nottingham Masters and Club Regatta held at Holme Pierrepont on Sunday 14th May. Some of Brian’s Men’s squad in particular came home covered in glory as the photograph of their happy smiling faces below clearly shows. A similar thing happened at Leicester Regatta in April and naturally our Ladies’ squad and various small boat crews were involved on both occasions. The details will have to follow at a later date I’m afraid, after I’ve done some more homework.

For this year only the winners prize was a commemorative Coronation medal. 

Our winning crew

Learn To Row Taster Sessions April 2023

Some of our members used to row at school or college, indeed some of us are still in that happy state of youth (though sadly that’s not me any more; not by quite a long chalk). Others have come to rowing much, much later in life and for all sorts of reasons: to learn a new skill; to get fit; to stay fit; to enjoy working with others to attain a personal goal; to maintain health and vigour; for companionship; to enjoy the great outdoors and wildlife on the river (fishermen and such like).

In competition around the country many have heard of Devil’s Elbow Rowing Club and when you consider how small our club is, we seem to punch well above our weight. Others, for whom competition is not their ‘thing’, row with us simply to enjoy this lovely stretch of the Trent. Our members come from as far afield as Ashby and the  Leicestershire Wolds, Chesterfield and even Long Eaton and we row the whole year round from our clubhouse at Trent Lock with occasional adventures in foreign parts (Italy and Lithuania, in recent years).

If you were ever wondering what rowing might be like and you fancied just having a go but were too shy to ask, we are running two Learn To Row Taster Sessions this April. Just contact our membership secretary Philip for further details. You must be able to swim of course; this is a water sport after all.

Easter Weekend April 2023

Despite their long, long haul the day before, many of our Good Friday rowers were back enjoying their own stretch of home waters again the following day. Kellie and Jooles took some great pictures whilst paddling across to the club from the River Soar direction for their early morning squad session. Being holiday weekend, there was loads of action on the water around Trent Lock later on in the morning with people on canal boats and cruisers out enjoying the holiday weather. It all gives us something to chase.

And a big thank you to Jim, Alex, Andy G, Andy T, Louis, Philip and Murray for all their willing help in moving our bit of the landing stage project along. Saturday morning saw the final profiling of the bank finished and the turves rolled back down, looking, it has to be said, a little the worse for wear after their prolonged, flood-induced holiday at the top of the bank. We were forced to disturb a lot of what looked like worm love-in festival-type gatherings in the process so I hope we haven’t broken up too many happy, loving relationships there. Hopefully a bit of rain, gentle mowing and trampling will put all to rights again but at least we’re not now holding the sailors back from getting on with their next phase of the work.

Good Friday Row April 2023

Our neighbouring rowing clubs downstream in Nottingham have been organising the Good Friday Row for the past few years. I don’t recall a single one that wasn’t blessed with fantastic weather and this year seems to have been no exception. The day will have started with an early morning bacon sandwich and a mug of tea at Nottingham Rowing Club and probably ended with chilli and baked potato washed down by a cool beer perhaps at Newark Rowing Club, 20 odd miles and 4 locks further down the Trent, with a picnic break half way down. A good long day’s row.

Erica compiled a nice little video of events which you can see on Facebook and TikTok but I’ve not managed to get on here yet.

Quiz & Curry Night April 2023

Last Saturday was April Fool’s Day. Odd that we should select that particular occasion to try and impress everybody with our incisive wit, flawless logic and breadth of education and knowledge (such as it is), but so it was.

Steve, a staunch member of our Men’s squad until he disappeared off on a rowing sabbatical so as to scratch a particular itch as a triathlete, had obviously put significant effort into finding interesting and amusing ways of putting our little grey cells through their paces. Whether the production of all the graphics for the slides forms part of his professional life or is simply something he enjoys doing, I wouldn’t know. 

A cheap one-liner like ‘You need a girlfriend mate’ (I got that one off ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’) is obviously irrelevant since he’s very nearly my age, happily married and far better-looking than me in any case. A very thoughtfully compiled range of questions took us through Sport, Film, Geography, Music, General Knowledge, Logic (drawn from 11+ papers – that made us sweat, let me tell you) and more. With a break half way through for a very nice Veggie Curry produced by our club stewards, Julie and John.

Many thanks to Steve for running his quiz, to Greg and his team of sailors for running the bar, to Julie and John for a lovely meal and to Jo P for organising a really pleasant evening amongst friends.

Oh, and who won? The sailors did. A very smart bunch.

Steve - our worthy quiz-master
Our winning crew of sailors

Soar Head March 2023

This weekend saw the Head of the Soar, our last race of the Head season, which had been postponed from the Autumn due to hell and high water and was very nearly postponed again for the very same reason. Happily, on Friday Loughborough Boat Club felt that the conditions were going to be acceptable and Sunday’s racing was declared to be a go-er.

Conditions early in the day were windy, wet and very chilly indeed. Darren, stroking our Men’s 4 in the first race of the day, declared it to be the coldest and most miserable he’d ever had the good fortune to experience – almost. Things improved a bit as the day went on though.

Our Men’s captain Brian put some thoughts on paper about our day’s racing. You will find his report in amongst the photos below which I think speak for themselves. It’s hard to imagine a more pleasant collection of people to pass the weekend with, even in weather like that.


This is waiting for a better photo of our two E’s, Emma and Erica. Photographs often find them not very far apart; rowing in the same boat probably explains that. It’s just that in this particular one the shutter went off when Emma was doing something ‘transient and weird-looking’ with her eyes that she didn’t consider to be all that flattering (and I do see her point so I am sorry for putting it in). It’s just that she often has a fairly comic expression on her face anyway and I  thought it was just a new one to add to the collection. Erica was wearing her normal pleasant, slightly enigmatic smile and using her eyes in the normal fashion so I think she looked alright in that photo.

But anyway. Ready when you are ladies.

Little and Large
Our Mixed Quad: Jo P, Andy T, Emma and Erica.

Men’s Captain’s Report

The Men’s 4+ was entered as Masters D, but didn’t have any opposition so we ended up racing against Loughborough Students in the Open. We won in a time of 13:17.6 beating LU by 37 seconds. Our time was slower than we usually manage on this course due to a strong stream (racing against the current). Our boat was nicely balanced and expertly coxed as ever by Jim. We overtook a couple of quads on the final stretch. We were the 14th fastest boat on the day out of 107 and also the fastest sweep crew beating some coxless fours.


Our women’s 4+ won their race against Loughborough Students in a time of 15:36.1.

Ed & Jo C beat Ed & Alex to pick up some more medals and a Mixed 4x+ featuring Jo P, Erica, Emma and Andy T also put down a good time with Max in the cox’s seat.

Martin won in the Masters G 1x rowing for Derwent, but I’m pretty sure this is all down to the training he’s been doing with DERC over the past month (!!?!).

What a great way to finish the Head Season !!

Our Men's 4: Philip, Darren, Brian and Andy G
Our Ladies' 4: Max, Abby, Michelle & Clare with Jim coxing (again).
Jim giving his emotions full rein
Jim and Max - festooned with our medals
Ed and Jo C's mixed double
Winner's podium back at the boatshed

What We Did When We Couldn’t Row    March 2023

Last Sunday, we were happily re-sculpting the landscape next to our landing stage whilst watching the river level rise out of the corner of our eye. Two days later our squads regrouped on Tuesday evening to have a rueful yet highly amused look at the river lapping the clubhouse lawns with all our weekend’s work submerged beneath the raging torrent.

‘ Twas all in vain, it’s sad to say. – All our work has washed away.’

Well it may have, or it may not. We’ll have another look when we go down again at the weekend. In the meantime, we must first congratulate Louis. Not only has he proven his irrefutable capabilities at removing turf but he has also, with incredible tenacity, ability and force of character, clocked up over 1000km on his rowing machine to become the first member of the ‘Concept 2 Million Metre Club’ I have ever had the good fortune to meet. And he’s still smiling, look.

So, back to Tuesday evening. What did our rowers do with themselves when they found the river lapping around their ankles? A rowing machine sprint relay, of course. Teams of three, 2 minutes on, 4 minutes off, see which team gets the the furthest. Highly competitive. The pictures tell their own tale. If they’re a bit blurred it’s because they’re moving too fast. What a great bunch.

Roll-up Anyone? March 2023

The sailors down at Trent Valley Sailing Club have been making good headway over recent weeks with their project to replace our aging landing stage for something less worrying and more robust before the start of their sailing season. The remaining section to be dealt with involves extending it slightly in the direction of the pub (not a bad ethos, in my view) which required a small amount of re-sculpting of the landscape before the final stage could be undertaken. Since there are now only three weeks to the start of their season and the sailors were rather hoping that moving soil from one place to another (and possibly back again) might be more appealing to us blade-wielding rowing types, we thought it was about time we did something about it.

Our team of volunteers rolled up at 9 o clock on Sunday morning, armed with wheelbarrows, shovels mattocks and rakes, to find that Louis (Most Improved Oarsman of the Year – 2022) had been working at it for an hour already and practically completed the turf removal on his own. What a guy.

The initial plan had been to deposit the soil we didn’t want any more out of the way beneath the landing stage but since the snows of the past week had swollen our river for us there was no landing stage to be seen.

Plan ‘B’, which I think was far better for several reasons, was to reclaim some of the flood plain a little bit further downstream. Murray, our resident expert in more or less anything you should care to mention, did a lovely job at icing the cake and making our new layout look nice and finished. While this was going on, we were all eyeing the river with a mixture of amusement and fateful acceptance though because the level was rising perceptibly all morning. Quite how much of what we achieved yesterday is going to remain where we left it after all that snow up in the Peak District has rolled on past us is anybody’s guess. At least we know where to look for spare topsoil if we find we need to fill any holes left behind by this week’s high water, which would clearly not have been the case had we hidden it beneath the landing stage.

John, our resident warden, came out to inspect the works at one point, saw our obvious need and emerged after a while with two large and very welcome pots of  tea. Thank you John, you life-saver.

Meanwhile, back in the boatshed, Jim and Alex were engaged in more intellectual pursuits preparing new timber edge protection for the concrete slipway at the lower end of the landing stage. It wasn’t possible to install this yesterday though, for the obvious reason that it was all underwater. They did emerge into daylight to enjoy John’s tea and also to inspect and cast judgement on our handiwork. Marks out of 10?


Women’s Eights Head of the River Race March 2023

Oh. So that’s what WeHoRR stands for. Now we know.

Last Saturday saw our Ladies’ 8 on a road trip down to row the 7.5km Head of River Race on the Thames. A long drive down, a long cold wait at the marshalling point waiting for their number to come up (236), a long race followed by a long drive home. Altogether a long, long day for them but just look how they did it. The photos speak for themselves I think but we do have a volunteer reporter  who has promised to write a first-hand account for us, once she’s recovered.

We are so proud of you.

Is it Better to Row or Run a Marathon? Mar 2023


Why row a marathon?

It’s quicker to row a marathon on an ergo, than run a marathon. A marathon length row at UT3 pace is great for building up foundational fitness across all the main muscle groups. And it’s fun! I’ll expand on that thought later…

How long is a marathon?

26.2 miles converts to 42,194.988m. Remember to round up to 42,195m. Dropping short by even 1m to 42,194m by not rounding up, is not the marathon distance and so doesn’t count! I found this out the hard way and had to re-row to the official distance!

Why such an odd distance?

Marathons run in the early Olympics were around 25 miles plus or minus. This being the distance from Marathon to Athens when a runner ran to Athens to declare a huge victory by the Greeks over the Persians at Marathon, for then the poor chap to promptly drop dead from exhaustion.

The organizers of the 1908 Olympic Games, hosted in London, had originally planned a 26-mile route from Windsor Castle to the entrance of the White City Stadium.


However, rumour has it that Queen Alexandra specifically asked that the marathon start in the gardens of Windsor Castle so the young royals could watch it, and finish in front of the royal box at White City Stadium.

This addition at the Royal’s request added 385 yards, hence making the event 26.2188 miles. So the first-ever 26.2 mile marathon was held on the final day of the 1908 London Olympics. 


So what are the key things to think about to complete the distance on an ergo successfully?

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Managing hydration will determine if you complete or not. A good hydration plan ensures the marathon can be completed. A poor, or no plan, will probably mean the marathon cannot be completed as loss of electrolytes will lead to excessive leg cramps, or in running parlance ‘hitting the wall’.

24hrs before the challenge, sip, sip away, building up sufficient water into the body. Water on its own is not enough. Salts and electrolytes are critical to avoid cramp. I use Electrolyte Drink Mix- All Natural Multi Strength Electrolyte Powders from Precision Hydration to combat cramp. ‘Other brands are available’, as they say, for me the taste is nice and is palatable to drink.

During the marathon…how much to drink?

Drink too much and you will need to stop for a pee. Everyone is different, I sweat a lot, and found I need two 750ml bottles to see me through. The key is to sip small amounts regularly and not to wait until you feel thirsty – by then, it’s too late and it’s much harder to catch up on hydration deficit.


I’ve learnt to continue pulling on the ergo single handed while I grab a sip, so not losing too much momentum or rhythm.

What about food, energy bars etc? I found I didn’t need them as was working to UT3 level. In simple terms, keeping the heart rate around 60% of maximum, or being able to breathe normally or talk as you row. Higher work rates would probably require either energy drink or snack to keep going.


The main issue with long distance rowing is the ‘pain in the butt!’. In the last quarter the gluts are tired and the continual contact pressure over 3 hours makes for a painful posterior, which if not dealt with could stop you in your tracks. A good resolve is to ensure the right padding on the seat, the ergo seat by itself will be too hard. Too much, or too soft, padding and you will lose connection with the seat resulting in loss of power transmission, i.e. wasted effort. Through trial and error, I’ve found a small hand towel folded over to fit the size of the seat works well.

Killing boredom

Rowing is as much a mental as a physical challenge. 3 to 4 hours constant rowing on an ergo in your garage or shed is frankly incredibly boring. It’s a battle for the mind to stay interested or sufficiently distracted. Everyone will develop their own distracting entertainment; music, podcasts, TV streaming, reading (not yet mastered that one…how to turn the page?), counting sheep, well, maybe not! Another option could be to get the ergo outside to engage with more interesting environment than staring at the shed wall! Or at the local gym, provided you’ve asked them if it’s OK to hog the ergo for 4 hrs, as well as, convince them it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do!


The key is to get yourself set up well before you start, pick your entertainment wisely as you have to live with it for the next 3 to 4 hours. When I tried the marathon row, for me, rock and pop music became monotonous and I then, surprisingly, discovered listening to a symphony concert transported my mind into a world of imagination and mindfulness – it really worked, and for much of the time I forgot I was rowing. The distraction needs to engage the mind more than the emotions. I guess we all float in different boats…


This is more important than I first thought, to keep good body posture and rhythm for smooth rowing. As soon as the body falls out of shape, the work becomes inefficient, so adding unnecessary duration, pain and discomfort to the exercise. Folk who have been rowing for years, will find the posture and rhythm required second nature. For me as a newbie rower, I had to focus on each stroke; checking hand heights, cadence, order of body movement, holding legs down, arms away, hip pivot, slow return etc. t

By doing so, not only ensured efficient rowing, but had the positive effect of ‘rowing in the moment’, and time passed away without noticing as I became lost in the mindfulness (some say mindless!) rhythmic trance of rowing. 

The resulting release of endorphins transformed the tortuous effort into joy and fun…yes, for a good section it was actually enjoyable.

Finally, the end crept up on me like a slow winter’s rising dawn, and I surprised myself that I had completed my first marathon row. It certainly was challenging, dealing with the butt pain in the last quarter, and managing my mental state to keep going no matter what. It definitely gave me a rewarding sense of achievement, as well as, a good step up in building base level fitness.

Having also run a marathon, I can say with certainty that rowing is much kinder to the body, I stepped off the ergo and carried on with day-to-day life. Running the marathon, when I was 15 years younger, I remember I could hardly walk afterwards for 3 days due to the relentless percussive impact on the legs and resulting stress on muscles, joints and ligaments.

Give me an ergo row marathon any day!!  Written for us by Louis – now a confirmed ex road marathon runner

The Devil in De-Nile – Notes from a Wandering Rower Mar 2023

I have been encouraged to write a piece about my overseas rowing adventures, although I was initially unwilling as I didn’t think there was much to say.  However, spurred on by the news that there is an inspirational title on offer, I have managed a few short paragraphs.

Firstly, I need to state how privileged I am to be a member of such an all-inclusive, drop in-and-out of, rowing club. Situated on a beautiful stretch of the river Trent in the English Midlands.  I must clarify at the outset that it is not this, or the members, that drive me to seek rowing adventures overseas.

I am extremely fortunate to have a job that takes me to amazing places around the world; most of which are old British Empire locations and therefore are home to long established rowing clubs.   On arrival on foreign soil, I usually seek guidance from the world wide web to see if there is a rowing club still active and open to visitors. Then I make a tentative contact via social media, and once I am in contact with what appears to be a reputable person, I can then book in a session. This then involves an informal risk assessment. To consider means of transport to and from the club, the water quality, natural hazards, wild animals and cultural expectations. So, it’s not just a matter of turning up with a wad of US dollars in my race suit.

You will see in the clip from the Nile, I am wearing a long-sleeved top and below I wear a cover-as- much as you can style legging. This is a Muslim country, so anything does not go.  I am rowing in a double with the club coach thankfully, well assessed on his part, as this helped us to avoid the churning waters, rats along the bank and the large bobbing speeding party boats.  It was Friday evening at dusk, and I had failed to factor in the party element into my risk assessments. .  These were small, old wooden craft heavily laden with dancing Egyptians, seriously partying to a loudly resonating Egyptian dance beat.  

Every boat decked out with flashing-coloured lights and a surprisingly small banister rail, over which later I presume, people fell.  The boats weren’t huge, but their wash was.  And something they were blissfully unaware of.  My Nile row was choppy to say the least. I also had a camera crew in accompaniment on this excursion, this was a surprise to me but ensured there was a rescue craft avaible if the speeding party boats danced into our path.

Karachi was another adventure altogether.  Here walls of a very well established old colonial club were still decorated in a smattering of English names and then Pakistani.  The club house sits alongside the mangroves in the centre of Karachi.  It is the only time I have travelled to a rowing venue with an armed guard.  And where the smell of the water hits you before you enter the clubhouse.  It was in these unique waterways of central Karachi that I learnt very quickly, within the first few strokes of the oar, how not to splash.  And how to savour the moment.  The views over the mangroves as the sun rose above the city, the stillness in contrast to a busy crazy city were striking and beautiful, and pungent. What a great start to see a city as crazy as Karachi wake up.  Truly amazing.

Recently as my work has thrown me increasingly into the UAE, Dubai has become a favoured rowing hotspot.  Here a rack of boats are rented out by one careful owner in one of the richest playgrounds in the world. For an hour you can row around The world, Palm or on Dubai Creek. What sights behold there.  Amazing,

Out on the water you can gaze back on the most impressive skyscrapers, a Big Wheel 80 floors high and on a Sunday morning base jumping crazy people.  There the waters are clean, calm, warm and salty.  There is a lack of any current, so the going is easy and the restaurants on return superb. But no bacon sandwiches, definitely no bacon.

Finally my most rowed destination is Colombo, Sri Lanka where an old club house is nestled between 1970’s decaying Bank of Ceylon buildings. The club house is a classic example of the Raj and the names on the teak panelled walls are testament to that. Up to 1948 the names are English with a sudden change to Sinhalese and Tamil thereafter.  The club thrives on schools now and almost every rower at the club is under 25.  I row alone as the only single, female rower over 25, very well over 25. 

 The boat boys in their regulation blue overalls regard me as a novelty. They are happy to help me into the single as I supply fresh chocolates from the UK intermittently. The waters there are similar to the Karachi Mangroves, slimy, slick and green. Dirty glass bottles bob up and down and fisherman in narrow wooden craft, carved from a coconut tree fish alongside me.

The politically incorrect large Chinese Lotus tower has been built up and overhead in the time that I have rowed on this stretch of the Beira lake. This lake and its macabre contents feature heavily in the 2023 Booker prize winner, The Seven Moons of Mali. The waters here are bright and colourful, the green is vivid and the noise from the overhead pelicans, parrots and other menagerie are lively and cacophonous.  Unlike the still slurry waters of Karachi.

My risk assessments in Colombo are simple.  Never expect the normal, Sri Lanka will always surprise you.  And at 6am one morning a water monitor or snake will furnish the bank and me and the school children, tip toe round.  Monkeys are not evident in a city centre location but cows on the road may impede your tuktuk journey. Gone are the days when I first arrived, after an early morning row where I would wander round to Galle Face Green, and watch the slimy green waters spill into the Indian ocean.  Then I could buy deep fried lentil wadi, fresh from the seller, and diced pineapple for breakfast after a warm early morning row. Now Galle Face is full of high rises and shopping malls – Burger King and MacDonald’s. That’s progress. But the clubhouse remains nestled amongst the changes. What tales it could tell.

Then back to Trent Lock and the old mock Tudor wooden panelled clubhouse with bunk rooms and boats. And I think how lucky I am to be alive. And rowing.  Written for us by Babs – International Woman of Mystery

Milestone to Success Mar 2023

Having come back to rowing after a gap of a mere 40 years, Louis has caught the bug and ground his way on the rowing machine to success. There is a lot of technique and skills that make a successful row and rower. There is also just the miles (or metres) that have to be covered on water and land to get that muscle memory and to alter your well established physiology. Its never too late to start and the rewards start soon – its  just a matter of how far you want to go with it – literally.

South Yorkshire Head Feb 2023

Saturday 11th of Feb saw  both our Ladies’ and Men’s 8s taking on the competition over a 4k stretch of the River Don at the South Yorkshire Head Race. Our ladies raced in the morning division, our Men in the afternoon with both crews coming home buzzing and one of them sporting a new trophy for their mantlepieces.

Our ladies bettered their previous time over the same stretch of river from the Head of the Don race in the Autumn and would have beaten all the crews they’d raced against previously. I understand that at the time one of the photos below was taken, there was still a feeling in the crew that they might even have won a pot. However, by some cruel stroke of fate somebody’s car from the University of York had broken down which meant that one of their Ladies’ crews transferred to the morning division at the very last minute and beat the pants of everybody.

A different ladies 8 from York Uni crashed in the afternoon division because their fin fell off and they couldn’t steer. One or two maintenance issues in York I think. Perhaps it’s the quality of their beer. Either that, or the quantity perhaps. Our Men’s 8 had a great race in the afternoon too and came home with a pot each. Our Captain Brian likes analysing the data and wrote quite an in-depth assessment for his crew to think about, so we’ll put that in further down. But first, Vicky  put some nice words together for the ladies.

The View from Vicky’s Bow Seat

On a beautiful Saturday morning in Doncaster the ladies squad competed in the Head of the Don (4 km). The ladies eight rowed extremely well with a good tempo and technically strong, maintaining between 28/29 strokes per minute and coxed beautifully.

They finished in an excellent time of 18mins 48 sec smashing their predicted time! Beaten by a university crew into 2nd place but what an enjoyable race and a lovely day out in Doncaster!

Race Report from Brian – Men’s Captain

Compared to Head of the Don our time when we rowed on 6th November 2022 was 16:02.7. That’s a 500m split of 2:00.3. Our split at SYH was 2:01.7. Stroke rate was roughly the same in both races. We started at 28spm, drifted up to 30spm and held it to the finishing line. Adam did an excellent job of maintaining consistent rhythm and smooth changes of direction despite the fact that his blade was stuck on the water at times. Anyone who has rowed at stroke will know this is the toughest seat in the boat to row well. When stroke is doing his job it makes everyone else’s life a lot easier.   

Boat speed was pretty constant throughout the race. The dips in speed were probably down to bends and overtaking. Great commitment shown as ever when it comes to effort by our crew. 

We did have to overtake 3 boats which meant dealing with more wash and bouncy water. The main difference of course was our new boat. We’re still learning the ropes with John Ruskin. Bladerunner was a forgiving club boat that let us get away with technical errors. John Ruskin is more racy but needs more focus to sit well.

Overall, it’s always great to pick up a pot. For a first race in a new and more technically demanding boat we went really well and there is, I think, a lot more to come. 

Thanks as ever to Jim for the expert coxing and to Adam for trailering. Wine and beer on the way chaps!

The Craft Philosophical Feb 2023

After much cogitating and watching the market for a good used eight, the men’s squad finally have a modern boat. Named after the polymath and philosopher, John Ruskin, it implies a greater depth of thought than is usually associated with rowing and rowers. This racy craft is certainly taking some relearning and sharpening of skills to get the best out of it. The fresh challenge is motivating in its own right and it will be interesting to see what the resulting improvement is, when it has been tamed. The previous boat, Bladerunner, served us well but its replacement feels much tighter and is feisty. Perhaps the philosophical lesson learned is to be careful what you wish for. 

Hard Work and Challenging Times Feb 2023

Our racing crews have been working very hard over recent weeks. The Men’s squad have been breaking themselves into their new 8. It’s new to them but is in reality ‘pre-loved’, which I think is the modern marketing term for 2nd, 4th or even 5th hand gear. They are currently in the process of ‘learning to love’ their new boat at the same time as preparing for their first race of 2023, the South Yorkshire Head Race at Doncaster this coming Saturday.

Getting out on the water at all has been difficult with the recent flooding so fitness and stamina have been maintained and honed using our magnificent collection of rowing machines in the boathouse (also, as it so happens, ‘pre-loved’ if that term can really be applied to a rowing machine).

Once the floods receded we were able to get back out there through this recent ‘invigorating’ weather. However, a much-needed refurbishment of our landing stage got under way last weekend with the removal of most of it (as you can see from the photograph). It makes loading up an 8 a little less straight-forward than usual but we’re a resourceful enough bunch (for the most part) and there’s always a way round this sort of thing. I’ve not seen anybody taking a running jump yet but it’s probably not the right time of year for that sort of caper.

Meanwhile, I haven’t seen very much of the bulk of our ladies (I might get into a bit of trouble for putting it like that – let’s see how sensitive they are). Our Ladies’ 8 have been putting in a lot of training with ergo work-outs every week and regular coached sessions on Saturday afternoons in preparation for this Saturday’s South Yorkshire Head race which is a 4k race along the River Don. Their longer term goal is to take their 8 to the Women’s Head of River Race (WEHORR) in March, which is run over the 7.5k boat race course on the Thames in London. The video below was taken from the coaching launch during their session last Saturday. Looking good ladies.

Our boat trailer is all loaded up and ready to roll, so the best of luck for this weekend to both our crews. We’re proud of you.

Fame at Last Jan 2023

Senior Devil, Paul was recognised in the Hansons internal newsletter for leading the way on keeping active as you get more ‘senior’. Having rowed forever, Paul has held key positions at a number of local clubs but has now washed up onto the shore at Devil’s Elbow where the work ethic and camaraderie are a good fit. His expertise is welcome and often used. If he is happy with a skills session then we can all walk a bit taller. 

The article, with some creative maths, can be seen below. 

The Devils Ride Out New Year 2022/23

In the gap between Christmas and New Year it is technically a 2022 story, but it felt like New Year so that will do.  Getting crews together over the Christmas period is always tricky so to burn off calories keep up some semblance of fitness, the Devils hit the road. One of the squad is on a rowing sabbatical to prepare for a long distance triathlon and this was a chance to share a ride out. The loop was a 30 miler with each Devil covering extra to and from the start point. The loop took them criss-crossing the Derbyshire / Leicestershire border on quietish roads and a variety of hills. The first half of the ride was easy going and pepped up after the tea and cake stop at the Melbourne Hall Tea Rooms. The caffeine hit some of the squad in a big way and this combined with a mix up in a long queue on Swarkstone Bridge led to our illustrious Captain getting separated and creating his own route home. All in all, a good ride out and something to try again the next time the club gets flooded out.