Louise Minchin - rowing on the River Dee

Louise Minchin

Louise Minchin - Credit: Archant

After seven years of living near the River Dee, our columnist Louise takes to the water to embrace a new challenge.

One of my favourite things about living in Chester is the mighty River Dee.

It is a mesmerising, integral part of the city and I love watching it meander past the meadows, tumble over the weir and slide under Old Dee Bridge seeking a path to the sea. During the hours I have spent running or walking beside it, or when I have felt brave enough to swim in a race in its dark and chilly depths, I have found its power hypnotic and humbling, and I have always been envious of the rowers who pass me effortlessly slicing though the water with their oars perfectly in sync, as if they were part of its majesty.

I have always thought I should try rowing but to my shame, in seven years of living near the river, I have never managed to get around to it until this month, when I was asked if I would learn how to row and race in a boat with eight others to raise money for Sport Relief.

My goodness, my first day of training was an eye opener. Watching from the river bank I had naively assumed rowing was easy, but I was entirely wrong, it's technical and slightly terrifying!

First, I had to learn basic rowing technique on the indoor rowing machine, and how crucial it is to get the sequence of movements in the right order. The next challenge was how to step into the skinny boat without going through the bottom and breaking it. Once I had done that successfully, I could hear our cox shouting at me and it took me a while to realise he was in front of me rather than behind me.

My inexperience was excruciating. I was out of rhythm, either missing the water entirely with my oar or doing what in rowing terminology is called 'catching crabs' by plunging the blade in too deep. Luckily, we had a couple of Olympic medallists on board to help and get us out of trouble, and there were a few moments of joy when I didn't mess it up and I could feel the power of our joint effort as we surged forward together.

I am a long way from making it look easy, but it was a fantastic experience and means the next time I am passed by the rowers on the river I will watch with a whole new level of respect and admiration.

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