The Chronicle Eight will row today in the Billy Webb Corporate Challenge, with the added strength of two Cullinane College students, guidance from coxan Jessie MacKay of Girls' College and the extra manpower of Heremia Taputoro. Reporter Merania Karauria gives a view from number 2 seat in the boat.
I come from a long line of rowers.
My father "Mickey" Karauria was coached by Clarrie Healey who once hooked him around the neck with his walking stick because he had not turned up for rowing practise. My father had gone to the pictures instead.
My brother Eddie was a coxan in his school eight when I was a teenager, and I wore his "cool" yellow house rowing singlet.
And then I became a "rowing mother" and spent many years watching my son Pita, standing bank side on the Whanganui, Lake Ruataniwha and at Karapiro. In Pita's last school year his eight won the coveted Maadi Cup.
Now it's my turn to get out on the water in the Billy Webb Corporate Eight challenge. There's something about being in a boat with Chronicle work colleagues. It brings out the manager in two of them, probably because they are. I joined the crew in a moment of enthusiasm when I felt a pang of company pride, or was it the slogan - "I get it in the morning, do you?"
How could you not get it when you're out of bed at 5.30am to be down at the Union Boat Club at 6am? Crew member and "sometime farmer" David has to leave home at the time us townies are thinking about getting up. I live the closest, so I sometimes get to lie in as close to 6am before I spring out of bed.
Three of us are females and the canvases are blank with not a splash of lipstick among us, although there was bling in one set of ears one morning.
Those boats are heavy to lift, and there's a rhythm off and on the water between rower and boat, and "supposed to be", among the team of eight. Well, that's the plan, but we all know about what happens to "good plans". Some of us end up facing the wrong way, and sometimes we're on the other side of the boat. Just as well we're not on the water yet.
We've seen one of the corporate challengers. They just glided past - on land and on water, and disappeared upriver. We hope they don't make it back in time for the big race. But that was with just under two weeks to go, so that was a misplaced notion. An email came from one of our crew that an eight will be on the river at 5.30am. That's too keen, too early and we hear, too damned experienced.
Lifting, rocking, splitting; that's just to get the boat out of the shed and on to the dumps. Then it's down to the river where the ducks have left their large watery droppings on the pontoon. It reminds David of the farm where there's plenty of the proverbial. And we're off. I'm the newest recruit and there's plenty of instruction coming from fore and aft - I mean bow and stern. When I started, one of the managers who I'll call Adam sat behind me at 3. I was in 4, but we've since changed. He makes me laugh, a lot, as he sits behind me moaning. The boat is tilting to the left - the side he's rowing on. The manager again - he says he'll stop rowing until the boat's righted. I laugh more, and catch a crab. Just before the force of the oar slams into my stomach, I duck. My flexibility surprises me. We're practising a start. How do you work out halfway and three-quarters before the full stroke? You just do and you had better keep rowing.
After our session, the manager asks our seasoned rowing coach Rod Trott about health and safety on the river. The other manager, Gene Toyne, can't believe he's asking. There's muttering about someone not having a sense of humour. I've stopped laughing. Is the manager kidding?
The question remains? Are we competitive? Does it matter what our placing is? Without a doubt, the answer is yes. And I thought I was in this for fun and to get a little pre-summer tone on the necessary parts. I woke at 4am this week from a nightmare. I saw myself catching a crab in the 500m race on the day and crossed the line on my back.
One thing is for sure, on the day we'll be wearing our lipstick and it will make a difference.
- The Billy Webb Corporate Eight preliminary race for lanes will be at 3pm today at the Aramoho end of the river course.
- Tomorrow the 500m final will start at 11.25am south of the Chronicle building and finish at the marina. The presentation to the winning crew will be at midday.