Training Camp 2011: Each year ICBC jet off to “sunnier” climes for ten days of uninterrupted training in the run up to the summer regatta season. This year was no exception as more than 60 athletes, ranging from the entire novice girls squadron to GB competitors, made their way to France for days of glorious sunshine, banter and nakedness.
As the last few stranglers left the Head of the River celebrations on the embankment at 6am, they were confronted with the two ICBC trailers rolling down the road to start the long journey to Temple-sur-Lot, approximately an hour east of Bordeaux. With The Don at the helm of the Truck and Stu “Chocolate” Whitelaw in charge of the Shogun, the passengers (Sophie Clarke-Hackston and Simon Steele with Don, Samara Radford and Press Coordinator Richards with Stu) looked forward to an enjoyable, banterful, food-fuelled [if a little sedate/tired] journey. Once the channel had been crossed (Don on the Ferry with Fish and Chips, Stu on the Tunnel – much to his disappointment), the mixtapes provided by coach Dougie Thoms were put on the stereo and the joyful sounds of “Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler?” from the 70s sitcom Dad’s Army, emanated across the Pas-de-Calais. The British had arrived!
Luckily for the majority of ICBC, they had a day to recover from their hangovers before heading to Temple; some chose to pack, others decided to cox the Veteran’s Head of the River. Easyjet and British Airways were the lucky airlines taking the club to Bordeaux International Airport on the Monday morning [earlier for the budget airline obviously]. In a break with tradition, everyone who was intending on arriving at Training Camp actually did! Even Alex Gillies who took the train to Bergerac and then cycled over mountains to the centre (55km) made it in time for dinner. After the overnight stay in Tours (a bargain at €43 a room for 3 people) and a further five hours of driving, the Truck and the Shogun arrived shortly after the coach from the airport. No time was wasted in rigging boats and Imperial was out on the water before tea time in the glorious afternoon sun. The peace and tranquillity didn’t last long as St Paul’s School was also on training camp. Apparently London crews travel 1000km to get away from the wash of Tideway only to arrive at the same centre and wash each other down there instead!
As the first day of camp dawned, everyone was up and early to breakfast. For those who have been to Temple before, there were no surprises. The standard for the week was set as the Miel and Coco Pops were out in force and the desperate/frantic search for fraise jam was on. After breakfast, more boats were rigged including the two coxed and two coxless fours that (little to their knowledge) were to become the main instruments for “an indeterminate numbers of timed pieces with swaps”. In general, the plan was – breakfast; long distance session; break; technical session; lunch; afternoon to sleep/revise/row/play games/watch films etc; session with pieces; dinner; evening time to chill/revise/sleep. The training plan however “evolved” over the days and by day 3 the business of camp was well underway with the first round of seat racing [sorry – “timed pieces with swaps”].
On the first afternoon off, coxes Richards and Jess Johnson took it upon themselves to have a go at this rowing palaver and had a quick spin in a double, much to the entertainment of the boys “revising” on the apartment block’s balcony. As they returned to the landing stage, Johnson looked behind and whispered two simple words – “Oh No”. Coming towards them, walking in the river were Simon Steele, Wilf Kimberley and Will Todd who had decided the coxes deserved a surprising and refreshing swim. Johnson jumped out before the boat was unceremoniously capsized but Richards clung on for dear life before giving up and joining Johnson for a swim. A coach/cox double of Sophie C-H and Connie Pidoux were nearly given the same treatment a few days later but their superior skill enabled them to paddle away. The boys didn’t give up however, hurling oranges in their direction and eventually the pair simply (and voluntarily) slipped graciously out of the boat and into the water.
After the exploits of the Head of the River after party, the sound of hair clippers now strikes fear into the heart of any ICBC male with a decent amount of hair. One quiet evening, Simon “Mullet” Steele had Ali Hudson sat on his lap when the Banter Wizard, Tim Richards, decided it was time to trim the ‘fro. Richards [regrettably] sheared thin air; Steele ran his fingers through his locks in shock, jumped up and ran after the scamp, losing a flip flop in the process. The Banter Wizard out did himself later in the week when, on one hot afternoon he empted a bucket of water from the roof above the balcony onto the unsuspecting Josie Bowler, Harriet Cross and Wilf Kimberley.
As well as the reappearance of St Paul’s School from the 2010 Training Camp, the Belarusian kayakers were in town once again, this time with a larger squad, including some women, but none tempted the IC boys [partly because their guns were bigger]. Hans Wiermans, one of the injured on camp, had to join them in the “wheelchair of watersports” after a groin injury. By day 5 in the ICBC house, the training hit and the broken/unfit began to surface, while the blisters and sunburn haunted camp. Comedy, as ever, was to be the remedy as Adam Seward created a video to entertain all (at Imperial – maybe not so much for those at another Tideway Club...). During the short time the Hitler parody was available on YouTube, the entirety of ICBC attempted to watch it, causing the internet connection across the site to practically implode with demand.
With the presence of many lightweights on camp, requirements from the kitchens of Temple were varied. As well as vegetarian meals (plates of boiled rice and a suspicious looking omelette), plates of salad without dressing and roasted chicken were brought out alongside the usual suspects of mystery meat pasta and rice with vegetables mixed in. One night Jamie Kirkwood was forced to choose between pudding and extra pasta or an extra session. These carbohydrate-heavy evenings were relatively few and far between and the squad made the most of them. One lucky evening when lasagne was on the menu, bowls were scraped clean before second helpings appeared. Native French man, Paul Jones, informed the staff there wasn’t enough for the rowers, only to be laughed at. The servers obviously have no idea just how much rowers can eat.
The second set of “timed pieces with swaps” was a tough session on one of the hottest days of camp (and there were a lot of hot days in the first seven, never dipping below 25oC). The athletes were kept on their toes with changes happening within and between coxed and coxless fours as well as swaps with members of an eight. The squad attempted to work out who was racing who and came to the conclusion that no one actually knew [including the coaches]. After six days of training and a very tough session in the morning, it was decided that the day’s work was done (apart from a UT3 walk), giving many hours to chill/revise. Some chose to relax on the recently purchased lilo on the river, others chose to go to the shops, driven in the Truck and Shogun by Don and Stu. Christina Duffy, Ro Smith, Samara Radford and Christina Matteotti had decided to try walking to the shops [not feasible]. Instead of helping the damsels in distress, the Truck simply honked the horn and drove on, leaving the girls for dead on the side of the road. Thankfully their knight in shining armour picked them up in the Shogun.
One evening the boys decided to bare all in a “naked eight” for an after dinner paddle. Whether this was for a submission for the Felix Centrefold or for personal gratification is still unclear. The eight consisted of Wilf Kimberley/Will Todd/Ben Spencer-Jones/Ali Hudson/Jack Cadman/Jake Lea-Wilson/Tim Richards/Sam Cottrell and, on the afternoon the plan was hatched, they approached the coxes to see who would take on the task. Connie Pidoux, after a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, accepted the challenge and successfully lined up her bikini top with the straps of her lifejacket. Unfortunately the nakedness for the gentlemen in the boat was not so much of an illusion once kit had been removed, on the water and “interesting arrangements” were made “down below”. May this serve as a warning to anyone who sits on a seat in the Bob ever again...
At the end of the week, a change was felt on camp as people began to meander their way back to Blighty (some trialists, Bri-dawg Steele, Ross Smitherman). Some arrived at Temple (Birmingham University, Kingston Grammar School, Josh Yerrell) and the glorious weather we had experienced seemed to run away as grey skies greeted the IC campers. For those feeling worse for wear the next morning, the closed shop was not a welcoming site [it is France and it was a Sunday – one can’t expect miracles]. The grey feeling continued as the paddling out on the lilo in the sun was swapped for watching “Any Given Sunday” and laying traps for an unaware Leo Carrington (the slats of his bed were removed so when he sat on it, he would fall to the floor, however the first person to sit on it was Kat “The Beast” Holloway – not the intended victim!).
By the final day of camp muscles were aching, brains were hurting and hands were bleeding and yet the fun was only just beginning with another dose of seat racing ahead. Afterwards the guys were told to go for a “solid walk” but only made it as far as the little corner shop (about a km) where they were found eating crisps and Kinder eggs and playing with the plastic giraffe toy. In the afternoon the boats were loaded onto the trailers to return home before lunch the next day. On the last night, Kat Holloway attempted to organise a group photo before dinner however when members of the women’s squadron (Holloway included) did not appear before the appointed dinner time, the men decided food was more important and went in instead. A more successful attempt was made later. As the evening progressed, the coaches made their way to bed ahead of their long journey home and the squad split into two halves; the more “mature” headed to the pub for a quiet drink, while the carefree young ones went back to their rooms for some screaming (just to annoy the Belarusians until the curfew of 10pm)/sharking/game-playing etc.
The final day consisted of one water session with frantic de-rigging and trailer-loading before the Truck and the Shogun headed off into the countryside for the drive back to Britain. The rest of the campers got the coach later that afternoon back to Bordeaux for their evening plane to Gatwick. Some time into the journey, Adam Seward informed all that the driver didn’t know what he was doing and told him where to go (not rudely). They arrived at the airport with less than minutes to spare [despite having the whole day to get there] before the check-in desk closed. All arrived home safely and camp was rounded off with the Head of the River Race Prize Giving for the two student eights. Everyone is now back in London, preparing for BUCS Regatta in Nottingham and Wallingford Regatta at Dorney Lake.