What a difference two weeks makes. From the cold and grim Plym to the sunny banks of Bideford where the temperature and spirits were high. The Torridge is a Paignton favourite with ten wins recorded there across several events last year and this time we made the long trip with equally high hopes. Beautiful conditions awaited the crews and the low tide giving a timely reminder of the notorious sand flats that have slowed many a unfamiliar crew down. Split across two divisons the club had four in the first and one in the second. This week rigging of all boats was much smoother although Mike Lister in the novice single could not escape the customary rowing faff when he tried to set off in a boat borrowed from Bideford Reds that was missing a seat. After a mad scramble and a quick beg to Plymouth for a boat, Mike was on the water and steaming along the 4,250m to join our other crews at the start. This week our novice ladies swapped their sculling blades for sweep blades to make their rowing debut, the only crew change saw Laura Tucker coming in at stroke in place of Charlie Martin, who wanted to keep herself fresh for the second division. The WJ14 4x+ crew who have progressed well since last year were taking on their familiar foes Bideford Reds and Roger Philp, the oldest competitor on the day made his debut as a Masters Single.
All crews had fine races although it was the junior quad who stood out by passing their opponents on the water and winning their division in 22m 21s, a whole 3 minutes ahead of their rivals. The remaining 3 crews all came second in their respective races, with Mike the highest placed Paignton crew finishing 10th overall, out of 24 crews. For those unfamiliar with Bideford, boating takes place on the regatta course, north of the stone bridge and the head race takes place to the south of it. This requires some careful navigation through the bridge, the trick is to pick the right arch to go through. They are all different sizes and even the biggest only gives a little bit of room either side of the blades. In the excitement of finishing his first single race Roger forgot which arch to go through and found himself trying to thread the eye of the needle, and as you might've guessed by now, found himself taking a refreshing dip in the Torridge. This was not the end of the drama! With not all the competitors yet back off the water the safety boats and already moored up which meant there were none on the water to rescue Roger, fortunately Torridge gig club who had entered the race and were yet to pass back under the bridge rowed over to help him. After a change of clothes and a nice cup of tea I'm glad to report that Roger is fine and as far as I know hasn't been put off.
The second division saw Charlie Martin making her single sculls debut on the same stretch of water where she was part of a ladies South Coast Championship last year. Mike Lister, not content with one row went out for round two in the slightly tougher Senior C category. With both rowers starting at the back of the pack they were able to chase down the competition ahead. Charlie rowed well but was beaten into second by her more experienced opposition and Mike who took 2 minutes of his previous time thanks to the change of tide recorded a sound second place. Some good displays out on the water with everyone having an enjoyable row and feeling upbeat for the races ahead. Attention now turns to the three times longer Head of the Dart which will see gigs and ski*** racing side by side over 15km from Totnes to Dartmouth.