As the sun rose in Portishead that morning, 3 ladies headed south with racing oars carefully strapped to the roof of the car. Brixham bound to make it for the 9:15 coxes meeting. An hour later the next car left, filled with busy working mums, tired after a stressful week at work, tying up lose ends before family holidays commence. At the same time, the other crew member, abandoned her family in Cornwall to jump on a train to join the crew for what may be the last time the Portishead World Champion ladies vets gig crew row together.
Safely together on Breakwater beach, we were welcomed by friendly faces and a promise from Salcombe Gig Club to be our buddies for the day - helping us in and out of the gig and handling oars.
It was overcast although the sun kept threatening to break through, however, when our moment arrived to launch for heat 6, the clouds built and it started to rain. A welcome cooling on a humid day. Our competitors were ready, poised and eager to leave us newbies for dust. Ilfracombe, Paignton, Mevagissey and Brixham C - strong established teams. We rowed the short distance to the start line and seconds later we were off our well rehearsed routine getting us straight in to third position. Settling in, our cox asked us to give more and move up to second place before the first mark. We obliged, digging deep and driving off our legs. We held that position to the end, battling the rolling swell and side wind.
Finishing in second place gave us an automatic place in the semi final. Being the last heat, we didn’t have to wait long until the semi final draw was announced. We were pitched against some of the fastest qualifiers including Mounts Bay, Cattewater and Salcombe. We kicked back, had some lunch, enjoyed each other’s company and waited for our moment. The rain had stopped and the clouds parted to bring hot sunshine just in time for the next race. The tide was out so the row to start was very short, we waited and the race starter shouted go. Unlike the previous race, we didn’t get off to a flying start, the swell was greater, the wind had increased and we were on the other end of start line. With everything against us, we battled on, our cox positively urging us to row our best. We had ilfracombe in our sight but couldn’t catch them. It was hot and we were drained, giving everything we had, we brought up the rear and made our way back to the beach.
A quick collection of belongings and a speedy exit from the beach was required to get back to Bristol airport to deliver a crew member to her family for their holiday.
Brixham were excellent hosts, great food, banter and plenty of loos - everything women of a certain age need!