Last weekend a group of recreational rowers from Gráinne Mhaol BC in Galway, competed in the Traversée de Paris (the crossing of Paris), rowing event. Participant Jen Cunningham answered a few questions about this unique row on the Seine:
What do you find to be some of the most noticeable differences between recreational and competitive rowing?
The freedom to train whenever you want is convenient. It’s more flexible to pick and choose events to attend, depending on the crew’s desire to compete or maybe to just explore a certain area. Also, the setup, particularly in France last weekend, was so professional and centred around visitors and easy renting of boats that it was a pure pleasure to take part in an event like this. The amount of tour boats was astounding. The ACBB Aviron’s facilities were magnificent.
How long was La Traversée de Paris? Did you get to see much of the city as you rowed down the Seine?
The course is officially 34km, but we had it clocked on our GPS at 28km. It took the Gráinne Mhaol Quad approx 2 hours 45 minutes, and the Gráinne Mhaol Four approx 2 hours 55 minutes. We took in all of the major landmarks situated along the banks of the Seine, and got up right close and personal with most of them. We also saw Paris from a completely new perspective; on the river we passed under 30+ bridges, en route from Pont de Saint -Cloud to Pont de Sully, taking in the majestic Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Place Concorde, Mussée d’Orsay and much more.
Was it an enjoyable experience and would you do it again?
It was an excellent experience, not least due to the early start and the surreal feeling of starting the row so early in the morning. It was almost pitch black at this hour, with just over 200 crews (1000+ oarspeople) participating. The location is ideal and we were privileged to take in such wonderfully beautiful and historical sights.
Was there a competitive element to the event? What time did the winning crew finish the course in?
The event is officially a ‘randonnée’ or ramble, which is a very popular way of participating in sport in France. This allows for a very vibrant alternative to competitive sports, and applies to many sports such as hiking, cycling etc. However, given the nature of rowing, competition seems to be innate in each oarsperson and the two Gráinne Mhaol crews were definitely there to do it in very smart times. No official time is given out at the end of the event, but I can reliably inform you that both crews came in within the top 20/208 crews with approx times of 2.45hrs and 2.55hrs respectively.
What was the highlight of the weekend?
The Traversée de Paris et des Hauts-des-Seine without a shadow of a doubt. Highly recommend that you do it at some stage during your rowing life!!