Rowing Tales (2017), an anthology assembled by Rebecca Caroe, brings together a collection of authors with a passion to share: the rowing experience. These stories express the sport of rowing from all angles ⎯ from people who couldn’t be more different from each other, who learn from each other, and from the varying emotions elicited through success and tragedy.
Every rower who reads this book will nod their heads with nostalgic memories.
My rowing memories intertwined with others
Over 40 Authors have shared their stories in RowingTales in forms of short stories, poetry and excerpts. All of these writers, at some stage during their life, became rowers, coaches and coxswains- ranging from novice to Olympic level! It is stimulating to see the different contexts in which rowing has been placed across time and space. One story, for example, begins through the midst of the 1800s in London, where Herman Melville’s depiction of a rowing race is expressed in RowingTales as an excerpt from his famous book: Moby-Dick/The Whale (1851). As you page on, you would soon recognise Steve Fairbairn’s poem “The Oarsman Song”- a poem which my coach had once sent to me before my very first race.
This collection of literature, in addition, worms its way through a sense of sentimentality, as seen in Don Breitenberg’s piece: A Man of Few Words. It reveals a time during World War II, where a paratrooper wrote letters to his rowing coach, and kept his coach’s letters inside his helmet during his time in the army. At the same time, adjacent stories depict the light-hearted⎯ there is something for everyone.
Some authors remind you that even Olympians are people who are just like us; who accidentally wear their tri-suits back-to-front on one of those humiliating days (Xeno Müller, we are looking at you!). Frans Gőbel, the Men’s World Lightweight Singles Champion for the Netherlands in 1989 and 1990, expresses his humility, and how even after 46 years, he continues to learn every time he gets into the boat.
This book does require some background rowing knowledge of course, as it is restricted to the avid and knowledgeable (rowing) reader. There will be some excerpts that you may not recognize, some famous rowers you may not know existed. Some stories may seem insignificant, but others will intrigue you and you may find yourself reading them over again!
Anne Fulton rowed for Cape Town University and during her student years was a journalist on the student newspaper, Variety Newspaper. She writes about her rowing background:
My sister and I are twins and we rowed together as bow pair in the Womens B Crew for UCT in 2016 and 2017 for the South African Boat Race, held in Port Alfred.
We won in 2016, but in 2017 I caught a major crab during the heats race, and we crashed into Tuks University under a bridge! Some of my crews’ blades ploughed into Tuk’s bowman, pushing her onto her back and she ended up having a seizure in the boat! It was so hectic, I felt so bad I cried for most of the day, but there were no hard feelings at least. At the UCT Crabs Dinner, I was given an award for the ‘crab of the century’. Watch the 1 minute video of UCT 2016 squad in training