Sunday, August 31, 2014

FISA Rowing World Championships 2014

IAMSTERDAM welcomed us to the Bosbaan, where the 2014 Rowing World Champs took place. This course, meaning “Bush Course” is deeply dug in Holland’s rowing tradition and by ‘dug’ I really mean with shovels. Because of World War I, in 1936, this course was built by hand to give people work and it housed five lanes. In 1954 Amsterdam was to host the European Rowing Championships and widened the lanes to six. As rowing grew in Holland, so to did the Bosbaan, and in 2001 it underwent a huge renovation, to eight lanes and 2200m in length. This time modern machinery did the job.
Roger Barrow, our High Performance coach and director, informed us that the 2014 World Champs held the largest entries he had ever seen, and on such a narrow course, the crews boats made noticeable waves. From the outside onlookers it seems calm conditions, however on the water, we were bouncing around and complaining about the wake as only rowers know how to do.
We quickly settled in our pre-race training routine, and no cold weather and rain damped our spirits. The dutch news informed us that it was the coldest temperatures ever experienced in Holland for the ‘Summer’ month of August. One afternoon, our team doc, Danielle and I went for a brisk walk, which became a near run for home in pouring rain towards the end. Kirstin and I were left with wearing full long kit, tights and long sleeves, because the sun was not giving us any love.
Now on to the racing, the reason why we were there: Everyone had their heat on Sunday. We were all funneled down the lanes one event after another. The Women’s pair started us off well with a win in their heat. The Men’s pair followed, and so on with the Men’s Lightweight Double, then us (Lightweight Women’s Double), the Lightweight Women’s Single, the Men’s Coxed Pair, and then the Adaptives.

We continued on with another win in our semi-final putting us in the prestigious A-(top) final. But just like that, crews that were in the A-final in Luzern were now in B-Finals, and still to show how tight the field is, crews that were in A-finals just got the wrong side of the line and slipped into C-finals.
Six days from the first heat, we were now lined up to race our top final in the afternoon. All finals now laid out in the p.m. hours for tv coverage and static umpiring was starting to be introduced. A tv camera whizzed above us near the last 500m and crowds were building up on the grass and grandstands. We had Italy, Australia, then us (RSA), New Zealand, Canada and China. We had all raced each other in the heats and semi’s but the final always is a whole new game. Kirst and I were out and lead almost to the 1000m. We held on hard and fought and fought to keep there and hold. But in the last seconds of the meters, China sneaked past us, to push us into the wooden medal, (4th) and New Zealand claimed gold, Canada silver with their speedy end sprint and China third from the end lane. That lane seemed to be magic, with our Men’s pair winning bronze and the highlight being the Lightweight Men’s Double not only winning from that very lane, but also taking a new World Record Time! It was a moment of hands to the heart center, as Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica was played while the South African flag rised to commemorate the win.
I once again got to catch up with many of my Dutch friends made from racing in my first Holland Beker in 2010 where I got to meet Cas Rekers (inventor of the Rowperfect) and meeting his family. I got to spend time with Frans Göbel (famous Dutch Lightweight sculler) and Ineke as well as Robbrecht. I love the Bosbaan, and running the trails makes it my favourite course. Just being in the Netherlands, with stoepwaffels, eko-plaza, bikes, boats, rain, wind and its language so close to afrikaans, is almost home to me. Then it’s windy and rains one to many, and I’m ready to go home.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Racing in Henley Royal Regatta

I'm racing in the Henley Royal Regatta! This regatta was first held in 1839 and has been held annually ever since (except during the two World Wars). All races are held over the full Henley Course on the River Thames. The length of the Course is one mile 550 yards (2,112 metres) – upstream. All races are rowed two abreast and the winner proceeds to the next round. So its a knock out situation!

The Princess Royal Challenge Cup
Holders: I.R. Penney, Canada
 459   D.K. Flood (Leander Club)
 460   U.N. Grobler (Tuks Rowing Club, South Africa)
 461   R.F. Humphreys (London Rowing Club)
 462   K. Johnson (Leeds Rowing Club)
 463   M. Knapkova (V.K. Slavia Praha, Czech Republic)
 464   F.M. Rawlins (Mortlake Anglian & Alpha Boat Club)
 465   N.C. Spencer (Nottingham Rowing Club)
 466   V. Thornley (Leander Club)
 467   E.K. Twigg (Waiariki Rowing Club, New Zealand)
 468   L.F. Wheeler (Nottingham Rowing Club)
 469   P.J. Whittaker (Nottingham Rowing Club)
 470   M.K. Wilson (Imperial College London)
Total Entries: 12 (2012: 19)
To be reduced to 8 entries by Qualifying Races

We race under club colours, so I'll be racing for TUKS (University of Pretoria) where I obtained my BA (Information Design). I got fitted in a TUKS Blazer on Monday which was quite an honour, since I missed my graduation ceremony because I was already in Seattle by then. Another little catch... I don't have a dress with me. Who packs a dress when going on training camp? When I left Seattle to come train in South Africa, I did leave the high heels and dress below the knees at home. So Naydene Smith is lending me dress. I guess we don't have to do hats, but if I did it would have been stunning to get one from Madam Foo Foo Couture > who I do web work for. They dedicate profits to retired race horses!

It's my first time at this race. And touring with the SA squad. All the fun starts on next Friday! Thanks to TUKS for the sponsored gear!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Willem-Alexander Baan

There is a rowing course in Rotterdam, Netherlands, that is still fairly new, but has been in development for a while. It has been up and running for at least a year but what inspired me to write about it only now is that I was browsing though my pics and came across these moments taken on the course.

We met with the developers in the engineering building on the TU-Delft Campus late 2011. It was fascinating to hear how the course would help to solve the abundance of water problem that the Netherlands has. They are actually slightly below sea-level. The course is situated in a polder (dike) called the Eendragtspolder. Google maps has not yet updated that there it is now water-filled, so when I pulled up my GPS recordings from rowing on the course, it looked like I was going back and forth on land. Now Google Maps has Willem-Alexander Baan on it >

Driving directions to the course are tricky because there are moments you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, driving on farm roads. It is much shorter to get there by bike than by road! That's the Netherlands way for sure. But once you arrive at the open area the simplicity of it all is quite remarkable.

The boathouse plans, when I first saw them, were just too plain. I wanted to through in a little bling, a little Vegas. I guess still had the OKC boathouse in mind. But as it took shape and was revealed at the opening event in the Erasmussprints I took back my initial reaction and thought, wow this is really something.

I rowed in the Erasmussprints in a double with Marie-Anne Frenken. It was super fun. Just a 1000m. We got to row the whole sequence, which starts you at a channel on the side of the official race course. You launch away, or hidden which I think is kinda cool, as spectators only see the racing. Not us squawking and floundering on the docks waving oars around. You row about 1000m as warmup and can circle in this chanel or you enter the start and the racing course. Go down the course, and at the end simple keep circling round which brings you back to the launching area.

The boathouse at first glance looks like a long slab, but then the simple and smart details really make it a model of performance. Small brickwork meshed with metallic lettering; boat bay doors are painted with numbers nicely designed and many windows shape the slab. Boat racks are nicely designed and inside their is a large viewing area, and outside balcony overlooking the start. The boats on the bottom level are nicely racked and erg rooms has little windows that you can look out on the course. Makes erging and looking outside at rowing better than four white walls.

Opposite the course is a nice little restaurant and training area called the Landal De Koornmolen. They offer little bungalow style housing, have a heated swimming pool, full gym and I really enjoyed the food and dining experience at Brasserie 't Graanhuys >

So yes, there are windmills in the distance which means the wind blows more than I would like. I think this course is going to be a nice challenge when racing but definitely going to make a mark in your experiences and not a bad place to visit. The FISA 2016 World Rowing Championships are set on this course, (2012 FISA Congress) and this course will be part of future bids to have Rotterdam on the mark as an Olympic city.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dynamic Mommies

One late morning, after a little erg testing myself, two new mommies from Lake Union Crew got on the C2 dynamics behind me and starting to get back into rowing. The new additions to their lives would still enthrall them as every stroke was not without a glace down to see how the little hands and feet where moving. I'm a big fan of dynamic ergs and this was very special to see that in all walks of life, you can feel the floating of a rowing boat.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

JLRacing’s trusted fabric of corporate social responsibility

Through their leadership at JL, owners Joline and Ken have been able to align their two passions--performance and sustainability. Though only a small manufacturer, social and environmental issues are always considered foremost in the decisions. The dollar never overshadows human cost. Two great examples of this come in their recycled fabric line and their business portfolio.
It matters where fabrics come from.
Ken and Joline source as close to the factory as possible, choosing US-milled recycled fabrics when possible. When they do go overseas, they buy from companies that follow strict environmental and social standards.

Over the last two decades, JL has steadily been replacing their virgin polyesters with 50-80%
recycled fibers made by Uni, a global leader in sustainable textiles. Behind every mound of
post-consumer waste is a mountain of pre-consumer waste. (The waste created by manufacturers
when they make products for consumers.) Both are used to make Repreve® polyester offsetting
the need to use new crude oil.

Joline enjoying the solar panels at the California factory
On average, every pound of Repreve® yarn conserves the equivalent of half a gallon of gasoline. Additionally, an increasing percentage of JL's fabrics come from Bluesign® certified mills. BlueSign® facilities must prove that every step of their supply chain, and their own operation, are sustainable and non-polluting. The BlueSign® standard is based on five principles: resource productivity, consumer safety, air emission, water emission and occupational health and safety.

LUC designed JLRacing gear
As athletes seek to be the best they can be, JLRacing’s business is committed to do the same.
After all the mission/vision media-hype talk, it comes down to who crosses the finish line first,
right? This is the actual doing that is reflected in JL’s case as character, attitude, intention and
community. In this JL delievers with an 100% American made factory that even has solar
panels on their roof. All workers have fully paid health and dental insurance, retirement and
profit sharing benets. The employees repay JL's committment to them with consistant, quality

“Dedication with honesty and hard work--no shortcuts.” is stated on the JL website. As testament
to their continuum of seamless performance--quality is not compromised by doing
good. The gear continues to be at the cutting edge while aligning to corporate social responsibility.

In 2010 Joline and Ken meet with Ursula Grobler, and offered to help her make her
rowing sustainable. Joline made it clear that the gear be passed on to others from Ursula. “I
remember my first USA JL Uni passed on from Sarah Jones, how special I felt wearing it and
Abby Broughton shown wearing the JL Uni given to Amina
what it meant. I still have that uni!” Ursula says. In 2012 at the Holland Beker Ursula passed
on some JL gear with the signature neon yellow fabric to Amina Rouba from Algeria. For
Amina, being a female full time athlete in her country is tough. This gift created a bond on
many levels. It will be about what is given and what is given back — reflectively.

JUST OUT: released 2013 Rowing Meanderings

I have just finished compiling a fabulous rowing calendar, packed with amazing photos of great rowing venues all over the world! International regatta venues include Bosbaan | Netherlands, Roodeplaat Dam | South Africa, The Rotsee, Switzerland | Seville, Spain and tons more. Includes the Regatta Calendar for FISA and other local events such as Head of the Gorge in Canada and San Diego Crew Classic.
Pay on paypal and I'll get this in the mail to you right away! 

12 in (30cm) square 12 month calendar
Starting in January 2012

USD $37.00

Just Sayen... VOTE!

Today, good friend and supporter Greg Williams re-sent me an old email. Funny how all things are connected. I have in hand, ready to mail, my first ever US citizen voting ballot!

Head of the Charles 2012

This was my return to the Charles after my 2009 win. I was excited to come with the focus of less-race-result pressure (aka party), but still go a little faster than party speed! I really enjoyed being in a venue with so many people all doing the same thing. Walking with oars and riggers seemed as standard on Soldier's Field Rd as people walking with Trader Joe's shopping bags.

Thanks to Lake Union Crew (Lee, Martha...) who drove the trailer out early meant that on Thursday I got to have a great row from CRI, to Hudson's private dock (which was super cool) and then up and down the course. The buoys weren't up yet so when they finally were in place on Friday early afternoon, I had put a different course idea in mind that needed tweaking.

Weather was barely holding. Pictures were coming in of rain covered window-shields on Saturday morning. For my race that afternoon, 4:10pm, it was actually quite warm and the rain cleared. At about 1pm, the nerves set in. "Why nervous Ursh?" I said. "Supposed to be relaxed." But winning is really fun. So the anxiety was building.

We drove down to FALS, winding through the street of Needham to avoid the mass pike  (Boston traffic) with my special hosts, Mary Jane and George. Mary Jane helped get my number on and get me launched. Thank you! I was honoured to see Kim Crow and Mirka Knapková getting ready to race.

As I row down to the start, and got warmed up, I decide to take my long-sleeve tech shirt off. I got to wear super cool JLRacing gear that Ray from JL and I designed for the WAC. As I pull the shirt over my head, off comes my alice band*. Plop into the water it sinks. "Okay, now my hair is in my face. Can I row like this?" A few strokes, and I decide my sunglasses can be propped up as an alice band. A few more strokes like this, turning around to face the direction I will be looking while, and I know the sun is too bright. Not being able to clearly see the course would be worse. Looking out over my oars, I see the Hammer Nutrition stickers I stuck on my oars. Maybe those can be used to stick my hair bits in place. And that I did. So I was the crazy person, down the course with stickers in my hair.

The start seemed to take forever. Something to do with being seeded bow 14. I was disappointed with being so far down. Still not sure the seeding is as clear as the organization writes about. Politics. Say no more. A little bumpy from the basin wind but once I got pressure on, it was super fun. I cut the first turn a little too close to the shore. Didn't go over the buoys but didn't quite set up my rhythm. That's from training on Thursday without the buoys set up yet. Got used to being too close to the shore. Then through the powerhouse and stretch and I started to encounter my first passing who was not yielding as graciously as my 2009 competitors. I think that's why it is better to be way down the line, or in the very top seedings, if you are 'mis'seeded. Then you get to pass people quickly, or have the course open. In the middle, you have some guys with some speed and also guys who want to hold their position and line all too well. We started to come to the Weeks turn, and my competitor held her course through the bridge. I was passing, but pushed out. A classic- bad Weeks course! Cut back hard to get the diagonal for the next arch. "Okay"- good going from there onwards. Perfect course around the big bend. Then another unyielding competitor. She came at me also wanting to cut the course fine, heading towards the Belmont/Windsor docks. She almost sent me crashing into the dock. I have never yelled out in racing. Ever. But this was my first, as I firmly voiced : YIELD! Mary Jane and George were at that dock. They saw the spectical. Can't wait for them to send me their photos to see it from a spectator point of view. That's what the Charles is about right - bumper boats with carbon-fiber! There's and oxymoron. Anyway, so now you have just the last part of the race, close to the bushes and push to the end. A little gust of head wind was a little unwelcomed, but it makes for a gutsy finish. 4 Row2k Pics here >

Had to head back to the dock quickly to make my flight back to Seattle. Had two early back-to-back Netball matches the next day!

Wanted to add, a big thank you to Hudson Boat Works, Glen, Craig, Ruud and the team for being so cool! #shakeandbake is right! I wanted to thank Dick and Pat from Concept 2 for my oars. They were stationed right next to Hudson. Must be a good sign of a good combination! Thank you to all the people who cheered my name as I came through the course. I heard you, and smiled! Thank you Kim Kelley for helping me and being my friend!

I also got to chat to the people/businesses who have contributed to my path in the past. To Brendan Cotty from Wintech, and Maas from Shimano, Ed with Bat Logics. Thank you very much for all your support!

So that's a wrap. Hope to be there next year. Further up the seeing? One more highlight: On Friday afternoon as rain poured down and we sheltered ourselves under the Hudson tent, the US Women's Charles eight-team was getting ready to out. It seemed a member was delayed. Taylor Ritzel asked me to row with them. I looked down, in disbelief and loss of words. I had no business being their boat. Suddenly a flashback to the last time I was in an eight, which was the second time I had ever been in an eight. In 2009 racing for Club Natació Banyoles. I had no idea which way my legs had to go with this one oar coming through. And both hands participated in squaring and feathering, even though I have since read only one hand is suppose to do that. As a complete novice, I declined Taylor's request. (Who says no the the US Women's eight?!) Right time, right place is right! Anyway, being asked will go down as a highlight for me! Interesting though, the Romanian woman who holds the LW1x record went on to the next olympics to win gold in the Romanian W8-... 

*It's an SA colloquial term: Horseshoe-shaped headbands are sometimes called Alice bands after the headbands that Alice is often depicted wearing in Through the Looking-Glass.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Head of the Charles Draw is Up

I'm a little disappointed with the draw being so far down. Not sure why this is. Feel like its all about who you know... 

Event 30: Women's Championship Singles

Bow/LaneBladeTeam/ClubShort NameAbbreviationRankLine-upAvg Age
Cambridge Boat ClubCambridgeCBC
G. Stone  
VK Slavia PrahaVK Slavia PrahaVKSP
M. Knapkova  
Melbourne University Boat ClubMUBCMUBC
K. Crow  
Union Boat ClubUnion BCUnion
M. Gay  
Undine Barge ClubUndineUndine
K. McFetridge  
Riverside Boat ClubRiversideRBC
E. Huelskamp  
Unaffiliated (USA)Unaffiliated (USA)Unaff.
O. Coffey  
Potomac Boat ClubPotomac BCPBC
S. Kozuszek  
Riverside Boat ClubRiversideRBC
L. Schmetterling  
Craftsbury Green Racing ProjectGreen Racing ProjectGRP
E. Dreissigacker  
Leander ClubLeanderLC
D. Flood  
Unaffiliated (USA)Unaffiliated (USA)Unaff.
K. Walling  
Sydney Rowing ClubSydneySRC
T. Gerand  
Lake Union CrewLake UnionLUC
U. Grobler  
Wassersportverein OttensheimWSV OttensheimWSV
L. Farthofer  
Norrtälje RoddföreningNorrtäljeNRF
A. Svennung  
Oklahoma City High Performance CenterOKA HP CenterOCHPC
K. Bertko  
USRowing Training CenterUSRowing Training CtrUSTC
M. OLeary  
California Rowing ClubCaliforniaCRC
I. Penney  
Penn A.C. Rowing AssociationPenn ACPENNAC
E. Jorgensen