The 2010 Welt Meister vom Rudern
Or as we say in English: the 2010 Rowing World Cup
Let me start by say that rowing is not a very interesting sport to watch. Not nearly as interesting as actually partaking in it yourself. I know this because, in the few regatta’s I’ve attended thus far as a rower, when I’m not racing or rigging boats I’m sitting in the team hospitality tent attempting to read. The races are going on right there in front of me; in fact I’m sitting at the finish line as the crews finish their sprints and trying my best to ignore them. Because, for some reason, the emotion and aggression, pain and sweat that one experiences at the end of the worst 2,000 meters of your day, just don’t quite seem to rub off on the crowd. I know from a spectator’s point of view it just doesn’t look that hard. So for the inexperienced viewer, the entire affair of watching a regatta will quite quickly become tedious and boring, and leave one somewhat unimpressed. Indeed, to most rowers, watching a regatta brings little joy and little excitement. The only thing that might bring a slight smile to my face is the prospect that I’m not racing, and thusly, not experiencing the horrible, lung bursting pain that the sad group of eight poor fellows down in front of me, in the water are. All the same, I’m not so sadistic as to actually look at their faces, so I attempt to read my book and not think about the qualifying heat that is looming ahead of me in, oh let’s see, two hours. For that’s how fast, or should I say, slow a regatta moves. The spectators see the end of a race, every eight minutes or so, unless there’s a Jumbo Tron set up. This stream of small one minute episodes, separated by about seven or eight minutes (of sipping your drink glancing at the magazine you “thought I might need”), can last for up to nine hours! Additionally, the main events are usually dispersed randomly in the race schedule, so one must stay the whole time if you want to catch the eights.
So you can imagine my doubt when the very kind Susanne, the mother of my exchange, here in Germany, offered to take me to the Rowing World Cup, the second portion of which was taking place in Munich. (There are three regattas: one in Bled, one in Munich, and the final will be held in Lucerne). Of course, I didn’t think twice about going; it is a rare occasion that one is given the opportunity to witness a World Cup event with some of the greatest athletes on the planet. I was, however, rather concerned about how Susanne would fare once we sat down and she realized, the hard way, what a regatta is like. I mentioned that it might be boring for her, but she would hear none of it. So the next day we got up early— regatta’s never start at a decent hour—and rushed off to catch the underground across Munich to Oberschleissheim, where the race was being held.
As I rode on the S-Bahn, I started to hear a lot of English spoken around me. There was some Australian floating down the aisle in front of me, and I could hear the similar sound of a sharp cockney accent being uttered quietly from somewhere behind me. Yes it was the usual suspects: Brits, Aussies and Germans, all headed off to this obscure, yet prestigious event. We exited the train and followed a group of New Zealand fans, because we certainly didn’t know the way to the event. After spending ten minutes waiting for a shuttle that didn’t arrive, me and Susanne hailed a taxi and asked to be taken to the Oberschleissheim. As we would discover later we had been driven to the back entrance and we entered through the boathouse surrounded on both sides by national oarsmen busily de-rigging boats. We walked past the finish line and lacer tower, and into the grandstand.
The race course of the Oberschleissheim was built for the 1972 Olympic Games. The grandstand has room for 9,500 seats, although many more people had crammed themselves into the venue to witness the 1972 spectacle and the third stage of the World Cup on a few occasions. Today, however, there are only, from my estimation, a paltry five-thousand spectators filling the Grandstand. I would blame this partially on the weather and partially on the obscurity of the event. Luckily for us it hadn’t started raining yet, but the angry grey clouds above promised to let loose at some point. We took our seats, and looked on as the first A category races got underway.
The regatta started with small boats, singles and doubles and progressed to large boats at the end. And, contrary to my fears, they were highly efficient at this event; the races were all started in close proximity to end of the previous one. It wasn’t that interesting to watch, but some of the times were absolutely jaw dropping; a detail lost on my companion who, although she claimed the opposite, I could tell was progressively more fed up with the whole affair.
Despite the rather biased British commentator, and the fact that USA seemed to have only entered one category*, the men’s four, the outing turned out to be pleasantly entertaining. the US team did win Silver, so not a complete disappointment for us fans. And as the final men’s eight got underway, it began to rain in earnest, so as soon as this final race was over, me and Susanne retired to the back of the stadium for Wurst und Spezi** and a cab ride to the Bahnhof.
*I found out later the US team only takes the final World Cup regatta seriously, and the others they simply use as training for some of their boats.
**for Sausage and Cola