row2k Features
The Starting Bay
September 27, 2020
John Cumper

Lake Wendoree start line, Sept 2020; photo by John Cumper

We have the virus lockdown going big time, so boats are locked up. Thought it was time for something different and writing "poetry" popped up. Here is my attempt, with apologies to the literary world.

-John Cumper - State national championship winner, 1975 to 1983; AUS National team coach 1991 to 2008; Currently technical adviser Ballarat Grammar School rowing program.


There's a breathless hush in the starting bay-
Five crews to beat to win the race today.
A strong cross head wind blows from the North,
As a warming sun beats down from the bluest of skies.

4 minutes to the start as the last boat backs in.
Its not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
Its for the Eight that hold the oars
And the stringy who has control.
They listened to the Coach as he quietly refrained,
Row long and row fast.
Create a memory that will forever last.

Touch it once bow,
Comes the call from the stringy in lane two.
That will do, we have a line now, blades buried.
Across the field of 54 there are the doubters,
Fighting the negatives that whisper in their ears.

Ready now, quietly echoes across the field.
The Light turns from red to green.
The hushed and peaceful surrounds now
Fractured by the voices of those who steer these sleek machines.

The drivers of the umpires in their launches
Rev their motors to full throttle as they
Steer in behind the crews.

With the stringys now in full voice
And the thwacking sounds of oar hitting water,
The boats have hit top speed.
The crews push on to the 500 meter marker.
There is a bolter in the field.
The crew in Lane five has a half- length lead.

The bolters have the rate up high,
The wise heads of the other 5 stringys know,
They will pay a price for those extra strokes.
It's close across the rest of the field.

Now is the time for cool heads to prevail.
Committed together to hold their speed.
No questions asked,
The stern four is up to the task.
Stringy talks the words of wisdom
The crew responds with every call.

The field has closed in on the Bolters in Five.
The battle of the third 500 wages on unabated.
These are 6 crews of quality, seasoned with purpose
No quarter given and none asked.
54 athletes up to the task.
The field drives into the most turbulent and exposed piece of water.
The blade work is clean and takes no speed off these machines.
In each boat comes the plaintiff call.
500 meters to go!

There is a resolve in each crew.
That today is their day!
The stringy of the crew in lane two
Reiterates the words of the coach,
Row long and row fast.

They respond in the only way they know,
As they have done in so many races past
They push and push again.
Slowly and surely, they inch to the lead.
They are so together now.
Each seat working for the other.

The water calms in the last 250.
We have a seat, give me another one demands stringy
With passion ringing in his voice.
He has the big guns in the engine room firing.
That's 3 seats and moving away
Stringy urges with 5 strokes to go.

The beeper sounds as they cross the line.
A memory created that will forever last.

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