3:30 p.m. I have
on two pairs of sweat pants, two sweat shirts, a woolen shirt, a rubber poncho
that I have borrowed from Ned. We will use a Cornell shell and are down in the
boat bay looking it over. "It's a 54 shell," says Freddie, "and it
may be a little heavier than the boat we've been using."
"I wish we
had our own boat," laments Young.
I am No. 7, and I
check my slide. It sticks a little, and it hasn't been cleaned yet, either.
There is a lot of crud on the runners. The boat has just been refinished,
though, and the skin has a high gloss. The inside is scarred and worn. A tub, I
think. It is right side up, on horses, so I set to work cleaning my slide with
a towel. I adjust my stretchers. I am already sweating, and the drops fall off
my chin to run in little streams down the rubber of the poncho. "O.K.,"
Freddie says. "Let's go."
on," Ned snaps. "Up on three. Ready all. One, two, three." The boat
creaks as we lift it. "Roll toward me," Ned says. "That's it. Easy
now. Everybody set? O.K. Out of the house. Move it slow. Watch the
riggers." We walk the boat down to the dock. The water is gray and looks as
if it has lots of sediment in it. "Over your heads, on three. Hupp, one,
two, three. Out and away. Ease it in."
The boat goes
over, out and into the water. We set the oars in the locks, are ready to push
off when Rocker, the 2 man, says, "Wait a minute, my stretcher's
broke." A fine time to discover a broken stretcher. It takes 20 minutes to
Finally we are on
the water. The boathouse is on a long finger inlet, and if the water on Lake
Cayuga is rough we will have to race on the inlet instead. It is an unpleasant
course, narrow and with several turns. We are rowing by fours to warm up, but I
am miserable already. I have not had so much as a drink of water since last
night, and I feel light-headed and a little nauseated. It reminds me of the
first time I got drunk.
We pull up to
Coolidge's launch and the other two boats. Freddie is sitting in back, and
Coolidge has the only megaphone. "All three bow-ts," Coolidge says in
his best Harvard accent, "ready fo-ah 20 at 28. Twenty strokes at 28."
I roll down the slide to the ready position, arms out, hands relaxed, still. I
keep my knees inside my arms on the first stroke. "Ready all," Coolidge
says. "Ready to row, row!" Flip the oar, feel it catch, power on, drive
with the legs, finish, now check on stroke for timing, start the slide, slow
the recovery, slow, slow, slow over the toes, roll up again, and we're off.
A cold spray of
water hits me in the back of the neck and the boat tips badly to port. We are
rowing poorly. The water, even here in the inlet, is choppy. That, plus the
problem of adjusting to a new boat, has thrown our balance and timing off.
Also, we are a very inexperienced bunch and therefore prone to make all kinds
of mistakes. A freshman crew.
Stroke catches a
slight reverse crab on the recovery, which throws the timing off again. Ned
yells, "Set it up, set it up!" There is an edge on his voice, and I am
annoyed, too. We finish the last stroke of the cadence, and Ned yells, "Way
'nuff, run it out." The boat falls off keel. "Balance!" We set it
up again. "O.K. Let fall."
I am sweating
profusely. The rubber poncho has a rancid smell. The sweat pants are clinging
to my legs, and they chafe at my knees on every stroke. Coolidge swings the
launch over to us. "All three bow-ts, a 40-stroke cadence, base stroke
32." Not much time to let us settle in, I think. This is not going to be
fun. "The first 20 at 32, up two each 10 theyah-aftah. Ready all fo-ah
three to move. Ready, row!"