Saturday, October 24th, 2009...2:10 am
Outlaws ride again: World Masters Games 2009
Note: click on photos to see them a bit bigger, and email me if you want a photo file with better resolution.
It was great to have several of the Arizona (and formerly-Arizona) Outlaws together again to race – Paula, Ted, Kathy, Rebecca, and Iskra, with Iskra’s friends Nick and Teddy from Vancouver as honorary outlaws and Laurie as honorary Oar Wench / pit crew.
It was also pretty exciting to be racing at the rowing venue from the Sydney 2000 Olympics – the nicest course we’ve ever rowed on (and the only one with either spectators’ stands or enough toilets). There were 9 lanes across, which also makes it the widest course we’ve rowed on – good thing, with so many competitors.
Standing in lines turned out to be a feature of the Games; unlike the accreditation lines, the boat-hire lines weren’t long, but they also weren’t moving. Fortunately we were able to get most of that worked out the day before races started; then Rebecca and Iskra went off to register, which took them 2-3 hours – it had been five hours earlier, until they streamlined the process by not putting photos on the badge. Kathy and Laurie opted to wait until the next afternoon.
Despite the boat-hire lines, though, the race was incredibly well run, with a huge number of well-trained volunteers. They managed to maintain three minute centers (that is, races only three minutes apart) for the whole five days – this means there would actually be two races on the course at the same time. We saw no safety incidents, and the only times the races ran late were when high winds interfered.
Day 1: Ted and Paula left for the regatta while it was still dark out, under the misapprehension that he had a race in a quad with some guys from the Port Macquarie Rowing Club; unfortunately, he’d been looking at an old schedule and the race that morning was for mens fours instead. We stayed around, though, because Rebecca and Teddy were racing in Women’s A Singles that afternoon, and Nick in the Men’s D Singles. This regatta was so big that most races had heats, semifinals as well as finals, though some events went straight to finals just depending how many rowers registered for each event. The number of people advancing on also varied and could be anywhere from the top two to the top four – I think it was four for the Women’s A Single. The singles races were all pretty full, with the Men’s D having 12 heats. With so many competitors and such a high level of racing, it’s a big deal that all three made it to semifinals! Rebecca said that this was one of her best singles races ever – always good to time that for one of your biggest races ever.
Ted, Rebecca and Paula also figured out how to game the system at Penrith Panthers that night – it was Saturday, so there were big crowds, but instead of waiting in line for dinner, we placed a take-out order at one of the restaurants there, then ate it at the bar area’s outside tables. Much nicer than being in with the crowds, too!
First thing in the morning, Kathy and Paula got to race a double together for the first time in about 3-4 years. Unfortunately we were probably not warmed up enough, which probably didn’t help our speed since we came in last, though only by 0.3 seconds. (Most of our regattas are not even equipped to call a race that close!) This was the most crowded event any of us were in – 13 heats, with 9 boats in each, so only the top 2 advanced on.
Paula and Kathy had to get right back in the boat for a Women’s A quad less than an hour later (you had to launch 45 minutes before each race, to allow for proper staging). This time we were warmed up; Rebecca and Teddy had warmed up on the ergs to be ready too. Though the three of us from AZ had never rowed with Teddy before the boat felt good and solid. Unfortunately Teddy came off her seat shortly after the start and we lost some ground until she could get back on. Oh well, vicissitudes of racing – and to her credit she didn’t miss a stroke the whole time. We came in 4 of 6, nearly 12 seconds out of 3rd place, so it might not have made a difference. This was a “cooperatively-coxed” boat I’ve ever been in – Paula in bow steering before and after the race, Rebecca in stroke steering during, and Kathy calling the start and the focus pieces. Not a normal way to row, but it worked out OK.
Did I mention we were at the Olympic venue?
Iskra had her single race the same day, and won the first medal for our group, to no one’s surprise.
Nick and Ted also raced that day in a Men’s C Double – they were only 6 seconds out of first place, but it was a very close race – they placed fourth, with only the top three advancing to semis. More vicissitudes of racing – this was just an unlucky draw, as their time would have put them in first in any of the other heats.
Oddly, the Opening Ceremony was on this night, after we’d already been racing for two days. After our last race we headed out on the train to the Olympic Park, where they mustered us in one of the stadiums for our parade. The muster by sport was interesting, looking at the other sports and talking to the rowers standing by us. It also finally made sense of the feathery halos we’d seen in the airport a few days earlier – lots of people had costumes for the parade. Once the muster was complete, they called us by sport and we all walked over to the main Olympic Stadium for the ceremony. Unfortunately, once we got there, the walk slowed to a crawl and we spent about an hour in the parking garage under the stadium, advancing a hundred feet or so then waiting until we could move again. We am now in a position to report that the garage is decidedly not the most scenic part of the Olympic Stadium. The ceremony was nice though: welcomes, anthems, speeches, fireworks, constant references to the Sydney Olympics, and aboriginal dances. Once the concerts started, Nick and Teddy stayed to dance but the rest of us left to rest up for the next day’s races.
(Photos are the parade about to enter the stadium, some of the dancers, and us at the ceremony.)
We got to sleep in a little this day, as none of us had early races. This was the day of the women’s B doubles: Kathy and Rebecca raced in one heat, Teddy and Paula in another. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out well for Kathy and Rebecca with their boat – another crew had to race it as a pair (one oar each) shortly before their race, so they barely had time to rig it back as a double (two oars each), and weren’t able to make other adjustments before going out, so the shoes were way too big and the oarlocks way too high. They came in 5th of 8 in a fast heat, and since they’d been training together they were pretty upset, feeling like the boat was a big part of that. Teddy and Paula had some of the same issues with the boat being just too big for us, but there was simply no way to adjust it down far enough – at least they were able to lower the oarlocks enough and we were given better oars to race with than the ones we’d had in practice. (Also, it started raining just then.) Never having rowed together, though, and considering how little time Paula has been on the water this year, they were really pleased with our race and their 5th of 9 finish, right in the middle of the pack
Ted’s single race was also this day; he had the same issues with not having been on the water enough (though at least he’s been able to row during business trips to the Netherlands). He finished 4th of 5, mid pack in terms of all of the heats’ times.
This day was nice, too, because Paula’s online friend Anne, who actually lives nearby, came out to watch and brought her kids. The kids were great; they totally charmed Kathy and were completely engrossed by sorting through the river-smoothed rocks on the water’s edge. They were there in time to cheer Ted on, and seemed to enjoy learning about rowing, too.
This night we went to Luciano’s, an Italian place someone had recommended, and found they had most intelligently created a “rowers’ special”: garlic bread, salad, and three kinds of pasta for $20AUS a head. A good way to feed big hungry crowds and not have to keep track of lots of orders per table!
We’d originally expected to have this day off, but Ted’s quad with the Port Macquarie guys ended up being scheduled this day. They must have been impressed with Ted, because they put him in stroke seat, which is usually where you have your most experienced guy. The boat was actually only two Australians, filled out with Ted and a Canadian rower (more on him later). They were 5th of 7, once again not quite making it to semis (four boats advanced). It was a rough race, though; the wind predicted for afternoon came up early, and shortly after they guys had launched, the race officials announced that no more boats were to leave the docks due to high wind. They raced against a gusty headwind, and the day’s races were called after the heats, with no semis or finals being held that day.
Anne and the kids had come out to watch again, and we got the kids to try out some rowing machines to give them an idea how things work – the machines we had them on were a bit too high -tension for them though! Later after they left we also got to meet up with the sister and brother-in-law of another internet friend of Paula’s, whom we’d also met four years ago at the last World Masters Games in Edmonton. This turned out to be a real coincidence, though – what we hadn’t realized was that the BIL was also the Canadian who had rowed with Ted in the quad! One of the best things about traveling to regattas is being able to reconnect with rowers you’ve met elsewhere and this was no exception.
Last day of racing, and unfortunately the winds were not cooperating. The races were called off once again – but luckily, not until after the mixed D quad (Iskra, Nick, Kathy, Ted) got to race and won gold medals! Mixed events work a little differently from single-sex events; there are no semis or finals, so medals are given for each race. The times in different heats can’t really be compared, because the wind was getting worse and gustier throughout the morning – but their time would have won medals in all of the heats that raced after the wind began to kick up!