A friendly tribe in Ireland’s wild west

A fine Saturday morning on Galway’s River Corrib is a rarity. Especially in September. The water-laden winds shrieking in off the Atlantic can be relentless.

So I was buzzing with excitement, and a little trepidation, at the prospect of rowing up the Corrib with a tribe of masters rowers on one such morning in September.

Back in Ireland to visit family and friends, I was busting to get out on as many water bodies as possible. Never mind the 30-year hiatus since I’d rowed on Irish waters!

I have vague memories of winning the Galway Head in an 8+ in the early 1980s. A crystal mug. A Guinness hangover.

My old friend Gillian from Tribesmen Rowing Club had arranged for me to get a row but left it to hubby and head coach Sean to allocate me to a boat.

Tribesmen Rowing Club

I found myself stroking a women’s quad. Oh-kaaaaayyyy.

[External: nonchalant, smiling, relaxed. Internal: what if they think I’m crap? or worse, what if I really am crap? aaaghhh]

Thankfully, it was a coxed quad, so I didn’t have to reveal my lousy steering skills.

The Corrib is narrow at the club, making launching tricky, but it broadens out as you head upstream to the lake.

Tribesmen Rowing Club

The landscape, if you are able to look around and take it in, is verdant pastures. A pair of swans with cygnets in tow paid no attention to us.

Early on, the familiarity of drills such as square-blade rowing and the pick drill settled me down.

Some calls and terminology were different but it was comforting to find that the basic rowing stroke is the same on the other side of the world. Phew!

Unfortunately, I had no idea what ‘up to the castle’ or ‘back to the bridge’ meant in terms of distance and, with a front-loaded cox, it wasn’t easy to check. So I got a little anxious, wondering how much I needed to keep in reserve. [Must remember to check that next time I do a guest row.]

By the way, ‘Row up to the castle’ is not in any Aussie coach’s program! Unless there’s a pub so named. And on the Corrib, there really is a castle – a proper castle.

Menlo Castle on Lough Corrib, Galway

My crew were forgiving of my deafness and misunderstandings. Coach Sean asked me to row shorter as my blades were hitting 3’s blades at the catch. It’s a problem I often experience due, I think, to my freakily long arms.

We ended up rowing about 10 kilometres with only a couple of short stops, which Sean later explained is the rite of passage for newbies at Tribesman. I sensed a ‘tough love’ coaching style.

The following day (yes, I was invited back!), I rowed in the 2 seat of an 8+ which was a glorious treat. No pressure, someone to follow, time to think about each stroke. It’s a long time since I rowed sweep and it made me hanker for it, just a little.

My thanks to Gillian, to Sean, to my crewmates at Tribesmen Rowing Club. You threw open your doors, made me feel welcome, and made me sweat!

And you gave me some things to work on:

  • sit taller at the catch to bring my blades closer to the water
  • tap down more at the finish

The shared passion is what I love about rowing. I hope one day I can return the compliment and make some Tribesmen/women sweat on Lake Macdonald.

Let’s see the world from the best vantage point – the water.

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