To Go with the Flow on the Thames

15 September 2017

HTBS’s special traveling correspondent Tom Weil writes from Henley-on-Thames:

On Wednesday evening at Leander Club, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a group of German rowing club members from Akademischer Ruderverein Westfalen, who were engaging in the leisurely (to the extent that anything that involves rowing from town to town can be called leisurely) practice of wander-rudern, sometimes also referred to as touring rowing, in which one or more crews will travel significant distances, typically along a given river, over several days. Abandoning the usual upstream struggles indulged in by obsessed Henley Royal Regatta contestants, they had wisely opted to “go with the flow”, and journey with the stream in the direction of London.

That they took a firm view towards celebrating the good things in life is evidenced by their utterly reasonable milestones for the morning – full English breakfast at Leander Club and lunch after landing at Marlow Rowing Club (the home club of the legendary Steve Redgrave), a journey of 8-10 miles.

That they maintained, however, respect for some of the traditional ways is demonstrated by their choice of craft – three clinker-built wooden vessels of  substantial construction (and weight!), of which, they indicated, there are a steadily decreasing number in service in Germany. The accompanying photograph shows them carrying one of their craft across the Leander Club lawn (where it had rested overnight) on the way to the launching raft.

Of particular interest to HTBS readers, it was a special joy to discover that these folk (whose English was far better than my German), had a grasp of rowing history which I rarely encounter in UK or by American oarsmen. Indeed, their leader, Stephan Ploke, was one of the first to unearth the little-known story of the German duo, who, despite the “unrowable” conditions at Piraeus in 1896, showed up at the start and rowed the course to become the first (and only) rowing participants in the first modern Olympics.

They have competed at Henley in the past, and hope to return to the lists again before long.

Auf Wiedersehen und Gute Reise, Gentlemen!

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