Henley Royal Regatta: #ThisIsWhyWeRow – or is it?
WEROW Comment. With HRR declaring shared values with Moet & Chandon last week and the newly revived event hashtag of “ThisIsWhyWeRow”, WEROW questions whether “This” means something different to those time-trialling last Friday.
And we’re off – one of the most fabulous rowing events in the world is underway after an afternoon of qualifying time trials raced under a fearsome sun. The hopes of crews who had worked hard all year despite lack of coaches, kit and funding were dashed, the chancers came and had a good day out and the serious contenders executed their well-coordinated campaign to race at Henley Royal Regatta.
The regatta PR machine is in full swing and the new hashtag in every tweet and Instagram post for 2018 is #ThisIsWhyWeRow. In a marital argument “This” might mean the kids or money but what does “This” mean for the regatta? It’s really not clear and was further clouded by mixed messaging around the announcement of Moet & Chandon as the official champagne partner last week.
In a tweet on June 20, HRR said that they were looking forward to building “our shared vision of the future with @Moet_UK”. Given the damage done by alcohol, which accounted for 7,327 deaths in 2016, it’s hard to see what this shared vision might be.
For athletes trying their hand at qualifiers “This” is not about Bremont analogue watches as we measure every aspect of our athletic life digitally; it’s not about Aston Martin as most rowers are students or in early careers; it’s not about Hackett as their ship sailed some time ago although it might have more to do with Under Armour or 2XU and it’s certainly not about a French-owned premium alcoholic drink available in Tesco for £34 a bottle.
For rowers, “This” is about intangible things you can’t buy on the high street and sell in the regatta shop. It’s about personal physical & mental challenge, belonging, being in nature, competition, compassion, fellowship and a shared journey to name but a few. How sad then to see supporters and athletes corralled into the crowded footpath, the vacant enclosure, bars and stands empty behind them. What a missed opportunity to socialise, share and celebrate “This”.
Bournemouth University B, slowest Temple non-qualifiers but possibly more representative of why we row
To the many clubs and university crews nervously competing at qualifiers, most probably in ageing boats, we say bravo, welcome and please come back again. It takes guts to put yourself forward to time trial under the gaze of many who have pre-qualified and against well-funded clubs in new boats. Under these circumstances, why we row has nothng to do with champagne, smart cars and luxury watches and everything to do with grit, commitment and fellowship.
Congratulations to everyone who competed and what a week of fantastic sport we have in prospect!