Auronzo, Italy 2003

Held amidst the tree lined mountains and turquoise waters of Lake Auronzo,

Auronzo lake
the surroundings of this 10th European Club Crew Championships proved to be as spectacular as the paddling. Batchworth travelled to this magnificent setting high up in the Dolomites as GBs sole representatives with some apprehension. Cunningly disguised as club crews were the Russian "Stoorm" and Czech Bohemians national sides... yes, you've got it - the same crews who trounced the GB crew in Poznan last year. Oops, we could have our work cut out here!

The start of the week-end was a bit frantic on the organisation side, which is probably to be expected, and there was a fair bit of chaos at boat marshalling on Saturday which sorted itself out over the week-end. Our first boat having some major faults... didn't bode well as we got off to a slow start mentally, high revving in the cold Italian water.

The 250m race

A change of plan and a more determined attitude saw us win the rep (we don't do reps!!) to make a semi-final with the Czechs. 20 fit, strong, young hunks versus our 18 strong (including 4 female) average age crew of at least 40 shouldn't have really been a competition, but with an experienced (if somewhat cheeky "Bondi") helm on our back the Czechs looked quite concerned when we were still with them at the line in a new GB record(?) of 56.61.

The wind had picked up dramatically for the 250 final which saw us line up with the Russians and Czechs. Several attempts to start, much frustration boiling over in adjacent boats, we kept cool, as after 1 false start the race got off some 25m behind the start buoys. We got away really quickly with the Russians and got shouted at to stop at least a third of the way down the course. The Russians powered on, 'de Quippe' exploded and we pootled over the line in second place sensing a re-run. Unsure of Italian bottle we kept cool in the shade and prepared to race again. The Italians had apparently jumped wash, changed lanes and were tickling the Czechs helms ear lobes leaving them somewhat miffed. Another broken steering oar and much confusion. Frustrated but confident, we lined up again an hour later, and after a cracking start we bore down on the Russians approaching the finish line.

Batchworth bronze in Auronzo
The Stoorm howled in to get gold, the Czechs blew in to silver and Batchworth breezed in to bronze, but you could have thrown a blanket over all of us, it really was that close - awesome!

The 2000m race

The 2K started late on Saturday with 10 crews starting at what appeared to be decreasing intervals. Once again the Czechs and Italians had a little tete-a-tail on one of the turns resulting in time penalties for the Czechs... the Italians spinning out... and two very disgruntled crews.

All crews apparently finished within 30 seconds with what we calculated as the Czechs, Russians and us in 1,2,3 but we ended up with 4th, 5th, 6th in a very "surprising" result sheet - which attracted much comment from several teams.

The one thing these guys can do well is yak, the commentary sounded like a stream of indecipherable spaghetti, a torrent of high volume incomprehensible babble that built to a fever pitch at the race climax, then nothing. All very exciting, a real shame though, we couldn't understand it.

Throughout the days, the searing temperatures meant that large amounts of foreign totti was on display. Call me picky but it wasn't quite up to its usual full-on bronzed naked standard, but that didn't stop Porno, Clinger and Mutley salivating for England. In an attempt to keep out of the heat Suggs and Rainman did pretty good impressions of The French Foreign Legion in matching grey bandanas, scarily camp at the same time.

On to Sunday...

Sunday morning dawned too bright and too damn early in my opinion. Arrival back at the course proved that, with the posted results of the 2K, things definitely weren't as many teams were expecting and there were several rumours about mis-timings of the start. Nevertheless, the results stood and we had to make do with 6th. They had, however, got their act together with the boats and the rest of the day ran far more smoothly. Our 500m races ran similar to yesterdays results except that we missed out on the major final despite posting a 1:57.72 in the semis against a Russian Stoorm. We would have needed sub 1:54 to gain entry into what was to be an awesome final, in which the Russians led up to about 100m out when the Czechs (who had been hanging back) cut across the lane, surfed the wash on the narrow lanes and accelerated ahead of the Russians to win by a couple of feet. Both of these crews had tree trunks of men paddling flat out, a fantastic spectacle. Interesting to note that Stoorm were sponsored by BP... now if anybody from Smirnoff is reading this...??!!




Apparently the original of this report caused offence to some people - we apologise for this, it was in no way intentional. Suffice to say we had a great time and are looking forward to a re-match.