9-11 March, 2012:
BRIGHT AND EARLY on Friday 9 March, the LSERC were headed to Toulouse, France to compete in an invitational regatta called Supaerowing. It was relatively easy to wake up at 4 am, given I hadn’t really gone to sleep at all after going to an LMFAO concert at Shepherd’s Bush Empire with Caroline and Pelayo. The weekend of exhaustion was also led up to by AU Ball on Wednesday that surely took a lot of energy out of all of us. Dressed to the nines, we had a good evening.
But back to Toulouse… We all thought it would be a better idea to get to Toulouse in the morning so we could explore the city. Thank goodness for our native (and foreign) French speakers that carried the ones who have no ability to speak French through the weekend. Jean served as our tour guide, even though he had never been to Toulouse either. It worked out well in the end, as we managed to survive metro rides and navigate our way to the city centre from the Supaero campus. I had the most amazing Brie baguette of all time for lunch and we couldn’t help but bask in the sunlight that we are so deprived of at home.
After wandering around for a bit, we made our way back to the Gymnasium, or the Ice Chest as I like to call it. We were to be sleeping in a gymnasium with no insulation and no heating on military cots! We had expected this, but were nowhere near prepared for the cold night ahead of us. I think we went out that night, back in Toulouse but I don’t remember exactly what we did. I know quite a few of us were exhausted and couldn’t be asked to stay out very late given we had to leave at 7am to row the next morning.
The hilarity of the “Pink Guys”, a poly that wore pink 80% of the time because it was their school colours, was insane. They were chanting for hours, in French of course, and battling other schools to chant as well. I believe it was when Jean and some other LSE rowers came back and Jean’s billowing voice started our chant “I want to be an LSE rower” and concluded it with “NOW SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP” that everyone finally went to sleep. Though the sleep was not great, given most of us only had one blanket as covering and were shivering with 5 layers of clothing on (I wore everything I brought in my suitcase).
But we were up bright and early at 6:45 to eat as many pain au chocolat’s as we could possibly consume. The women’s race was up first so we were in the first bus out to the boat house. Because we had traveled from London and clearly did not bring our own boat, we had to borrow boats from the home crew. We got the short end of the stick compared to the guys who got a boat that we deemed better than our normal racing boat. Someone joked and said it was a 1974 Oxford Boat. No matter what it was, this GIGANTIC wood boat had no shoes on the foot plates. Instead, it had velcro straps that were to hold your feet on two pieces of wood that were bent to somehow fit the arch of your foot. I hadn’t anticipated rowing with shoes on, so I only brought my Converse which posed an incredibly awkward rowing situation.
The first race we had was 1000m and we were far from prepared. We had no time to practice race starts AT ALL and were very mixed up when it came to the actual race. We survived, though we rowed pretty awfully in my opinion. Then we rowed back to the boat house where we launched our boat. LITTLE DID WE KNOW, we weren’t supposed to dock at that boat house but at the makeshift boathouse up the river where all of the racing boats were being held. This made for a stressful row up to the crowd.
Luckily, another crew was going to hot seat the boat so we didn’t have to lift it out of the water because that boat was so heavy we couldn’t pick it up by ourselves. The guys were up to race next and I thought they rowed superbly. Best I’ve seen them row collectively all year. I wish I knew what the times were, but all I know is that they rowed really well. There were so many men’s crews that it was a tough bet to get into the finals for the afternoon. But we made it to the finals because there were 6 women’s eights! Woooo THANK GOODNESS we convinced the organisers to let us use the boat that the guy’s used because it made an incredible difference.
Even though the shoes in that boat were MASSIVE, it was so much nicer to row knowing that your feet would stay in the same place and not slip out of velcro. We paddled up to the start for the 1000m finals and were determined to row better than we had in the morning. Since we still clearly had no race start, we practiced on the way down with just starting from 3/4 slide and then immediately into full slides. It worked for us as we started the race but about 15 strokes in, our bow caught a crab and we were dead in the water for somewhere around 15 seconds. Once she got her oar out we were rowing as hard as we possibly could to catch up. We even overtook one of the other crews we were racing against! We were all so proud after that.
I DON’T EVEN WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE BUS RIDE BACK TO CAMPUS. If you don’t know already and you would like to know, ask me and I will go into great detail and show you funny videos. CRAZY.
That night we had an amazing dinner by Sodexo (Megan you’ll know why it’s so ironic) that consisted of duck, wine, assorted cheeses, cakes, salads and pretty much anything else you can think of. Accompanied by our dinner was glorious banter among the crews in the room. They were all speaking in French and I couldn’t understand any of it, but we gained respect by attempting to chant in french according to what Jean told us to say hahaha. We hung out with the frenchies later that night and went back into Toulouse before coming back to go to sleep. Before sleeping, I was talking to some of the pink guys and they were trying to teach me things to say in French. All I learned was “je très froid” (don’t know how to spell in French either) for “I am very cold” because it was FREEZING outside. When John and Caroline came back, we decided to move our cots into the hallway adjacent to the gym that had radiators lining the walls. It was the greatest decision we made all weekend. Even though the pink guys crawled into the gymnasium and jumped up chanting and playing instruments at 5 am, I was sound asleep next to a radiator .
The next morning we had more pain au chocolat at 6:45 and made our way back to the hill to race again. It was the 500m race day and there were no finals, so it was all or nothing. The boys went off first and we had a different boat that day that had a messed up rudder. It unfortunately threw the guys for a loop and made the race really difficult. We hot seated their boat and made our way out to the start line, racing against only one other crew. We were PUMPED off of how well we did in the 2nd race on Saturday that we wanted to do well in the 500m. We rowed hard and strong and did really well in the 500m. We were all just happy that we rowed the sprint successfully and in time after no practices with each other. We were in line to get out at the dock when someone started screaming at us in French that we were supposed to row down the river to the boat house that we started at the previous morning. IT WAS SO FRUSTRATING. We didn’t have our shoes in the boat and were wearing nothing but onesies and light clothing. We looked at it as the opportunity to row for a bit longer on the gorgeously clear water in Toulouse and to bake in the sun. It was such a different experience than rowing on the Thames.
Once we got to that boat house, though, there was no one there to help us take the boat out! Superman came to save us and the quad crew that ultimately won every race they took part in over the weekend. The four guys took the boat out without our help at all, which was amazing, and put it on trestles. We washed the boat and then had to walk alllllllllllllllll the way back to where everyone else was. It took quite a while, but we were all in a good mood so it wasn’t that bad.
The results event caused more confusion for me, BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW FRENCH, but it was still entertaining. Most of the guys left and went to a pub to watch Rugby, but we stayed to watch people get medals and trophies. When they were calling out the women’s winners, we knew we didn’t do well during the 1000m races and we didn’t expect anything. But when he called out the 500m finishes, we got 3rd! BRONZE MEDALS! We were too excited. The pink guys helped us out and started the “Ba da ba da ba da ba ba ba da” and then we took cute pictures and all was grand in the land of Toulouse. We got off stage and then were called back on stage for what we later learned was because the guys had the most ridiculous way of putting the boat in the water off of the dock. I have to say, it was pretty hilarious. But we got an awesome chocolate trophy that was absolutely delicious.
All in all, it was a splendid weekend that created amazing memories and hilarious banter.