U16 Eton Tour, United Kingdom – 2022

Passions Ignited in the Home Land of Rowing

Written by: Cameron Redfern

After a long and tedious 12-hour plane ride, I arrived in the UK. My family and I took a day-long journey to Winsor, the town where Eton high school is located. Upon a semi-late afternoon arrival at the hotel, the crew met up and bonded over how “strange and funny” the foreign culture was to us.

The next morning was full of excitement and Tom (one of the Fathers) was one of the most energized out of the bunch, playing loud techno music on the drive up. The view of Dorney lake was breathtaking, with ducks swimming on glass flat water of the 2012 Olympic Lake. We checked into the front desk and said goodbye to our parents, then were instructed to go inside the boat shed where we spent 80% of our breaks in. As small groups of people started to form, the South Africans wasted no time to start making friends and socializing. Then the instructors walked up in a crooked line of 6 people (Jess, Charlie, Cat, Joe, Hannah, and Wolfgang). Hannah gave us our first briefing and introduction to the coaches, based on the way she spoke to us and the coaches she seemed to be the head coach.

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I knew the day had begun after the coaches split us into 4 groups green, blue, yellow, and red I was in the green, but the groups were only temporary for the most part. In our groups we went to different stations, my first station was goal setting. Similar to the LO we learn at school Hannah guided us to set goals for the week. The second station was Cat who was our “tour guide”, instructing us the dos and don’ts throughout the boatshed filled to the ceiling with intimidatingly expensive boats, that Bishops has a minuscule amount of compared to them. The 3rd station was with Wolfgang in the gym correcting our technique on the erg (rowing machine). We finished off with a session on the water for the coaches to get to know us and our rowing technique.

Tuesday was a calm day, we started with a 1km time trial in the skulls (singles). Each day had an average of 3 training sessions where the coaches gave us advice at the end of every session, the coaches were very enthusiastic to answer any question we had. The following days were similar.

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This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was 100% worth it. Experiencing both the culture and the rowing was thrilling. We were fortunate enough to have two athletes from the British Rowing Squad, one being from the British Woman’s Quad! On Wednesday we had a “barbeque” which was very different and an “incorrect way to braai” and the South Africans proceeded to show them why braais are so great by playing touch rugby and dominating everyone no matter which team we were on. At the end of the braai, we had a fun tug of war match.

On the last day, we had a choice of water skill or another time trail in the morning, I chose the water skills which was very entertaining for everyone participating, because of the numerous falls after attempting tricks such as the gondola. The gondola is a difficult trick where a person in a single stands up, takes one ore out and after spinning it like a helicopter above their head has to paddle with that ore while still standing up.

In the afternoon we had a fun splash regatta. This was a fun competition that everybody could do, beginners and avid rowers, it was designed to be more fun and required skills that would rarely be used in an actual race situation. We had to do erg relays and races where we stopped and had to do the water skill we learned earlier that day.

This experience will be easily one of the best trips I have gone on and I have great memories that shall tell my friends and family about frequently.