The FISA World Veteran meeting 2008 took place in Lithuania on the East coast of the Baltic.
Five intrepid participants set off from Kingston with the weather forecast warning of strong winds, heavy rain and low temperatures. Oh great- here we go again. The rucksack was straining at the seems with warm rowing gear, gilets and waterproofs.
Even my fleece hat got packed after last years near hypothermia experience in Zagreb.
Flylal (the Lithuanian version of Easyjet) got us there with no fuss and no food!. So having checked into the B+B, a very nice guesthouse in old Vilnius town (described on their web site as a sexy hotel for sexy people, so just right for us) we raided a McDonalds for burgers, coke and chips. Not a cool start.
The next day we set off the 30km to Trakai rowing course to find this beautiful lake, surrounded by greenery, with a fairytale castle as back drop to the last 300m of the course, bathed in brilliant sunlight from a bright blue sky. OK so there was a head side wind, but really, that just sorts out the crews who cannot steer. The temperature crept up and up and we enjoyed 5 days of real summer. Still have the strap marks to prove it too!
The girls (Helen and Birgith) were first in action, having had a last minute replacement in the crew, as the Americans had managed to double enter themselves. With Kevin, our Irish cox a no show, we scooped a great little fella; Pren form somewhere in the States off the bank. What a coup. He was the total professional cox. On the ball, clear and enthusiastic, and even better down to weight.Shame we had a slightly less professional performance from half the crew, who somehow went on the red light and so being halfway through the stroke by the time the green light came on. We finally settled the crew by 500 m and managed to claw the deficit back to a second, but still, it was a lost opportunity.Birgith fared better in the 4-, a very settled crew, who won with some ease. She also took the 4x, with somewhat more sweat on the brow. Helen had a really gutsy row in her single, and a near miss in the 2x with her Danish sculling partner. In the 2- Helen and Birgith enjoyed a fine pull in their 7th ever pairs outing. Although beaten by The Czechs (They have not lost for 15 years+) and the Yanks, they took out the Hungarians despite a strong challenge in the last 200 m. Not a bad effort in a boat built for a crew 15 kgs on average larger than us.
What of the men; The best performance came from Rob and Andy in their 2x, missing the medals by .92 sec. This habit of coming second needs to be broken. It was a great effort though. Rob and Ray also had a decent pull in their 2x, but found the opposition somewhat larger. They had some bad luck in their 2-, where the starter made a complete muck of it and ended up sending off 2 races, leaving R+R in the second against a couple of massive and very capable Russians. A bit of a disappointment after a whole seasons training as the defending champions.
On the singles front all 3 chaps performed admirably, although no banana!
Rob even came in dry on both occasions!
So only the mixed races were left, and Ray somehow persuaded Helen to give it a go and so Andy and Birgith also entered to keep them company.
We had a mad dash Sunday morning to secure a boat for Helen and Ray as Thames had decided to move the trailer out with our 2x on it the night before. Vlado from Zagreb came up trumps with an old, soft, battered but actually very nicely rigged Empacher. Sadly we did not have time to also gear the sculls for H+R and they went over the course with a phenomenally hard gearing. Needless to say this prevented them from being in the mix despite some pretty determined pulling.
Andy and Birgith had time before their race to fiddle with the sculls, and after a really good strong pull found themselves up 1 length at half way. This got extended till a bit of clear water and the 3rd win for KRC was in the bag. The Czechs kindly added to the medals by handing over a pack of icecold beer at the presentation pontoon.
How easy it is to de-rig with a beer in your hand.!
So what can we say about the regatta?
Well organised, well run, lovely venue, we found some great food in Vilnius and did not completely break the bank.