On the water: Nelo, Carl Douglas … and more
Nelo started building sculling singles and doubles shortly after the 2016 Rio Olympics, where they dominated the Canoes and Kayak events (broke more records and won more gold medals than all the other manufacturers put together). They applied their deep understanding of carbon sporting shells to developing an exciting new breed of sculling boat which fitted in exactly with what we were looking for. These boats are stable, highly responsive and fun to scull. Being slightly shorter than most other top-end boats, they make you immediately conscious of timing and pressure discrepancies which you might not be aware of in other boats. These characteristics make them great for training, learning and racing. We have six new Nelo singles: two for 60kg scullers, two for 75kg scullers and two 90kg crews and one 75kg double.
Carl Douglas builds the most beautiful boats in the world: British craftsmanship at its best. Based in Staines, on the Thames, Carl is renowned for being not just a master boatbuilder, but also an outstanding innovator and engineer. His rigging, fins/steering systems and expertise is watched and frequently copied by manufacturers all over the world, but one thing they cannot replicate is the superb build-quality of his boats. They run steadily and fast – and each one is an individual work of art. Unfortunately, he can only produce a very limited number and it’s impossible to jump the waiting list. Luckily, though, we already have three singles (60kg, 70kg, 78kg) and one double (78kg) which can if necessary be fitted with pairs rigging. Both the 78kg single and double have won the British Masters Regatta. The double has also won the Masters division of the Pairs Head on the Tideway. You would have a hard time finding anything better than these fast and beautiful boats! We aim to slowly enlarge our fleet, as and when when we can.
Brown’s of Durham. These elegant, fragile boats, hand built in Durham, are made by bending thin marine ply over a skeleton, a method which, sadly, has died out as it is so labour intensive. Each boat has an individual character, and they move in the water in a way which allows you to feel, and indeed sometimes to hear, how the change of speed in the recovery influences the run of the boat. Awareness of this part of the stroke built up in these boats can then be taken to other boats. People who have not experienced these delicate craft might be totally unaware of how a simple adjustment during the recovery can result in a real increase in speed with almost no increase in effort. This is just one of many reasons to keep antique craft such as these in working order, and available for use. We have four – two soft-decking and two solid decked singles, suitable for scullers between 65 to 85kg.
Other builders. We have a couple of George Sims singles, built on Eel Pie Island, home of the Twickenham Rowing Club. Sims was once described by Ivanov, the triple Olympic Gold medallist, as the “Stradivarius of boat builders”, which was perhaps an exaggeration, but we know what he meant! Similar in construction to the Browns of Durham boats, and with many of the same characteristics, these are wonderful boats to learn in, and ideal for a relaxed paddle and enjoying the water. We also have a 100kg Stampfli Janousek and a white 70~80kg Ray Sims Evolution which is surprisingly fast!
In the gym: the incomparable RP3 Ergo
We’ve written before about the RP3 Ergo machine and why we chose it in preference to the C2 as our primary static training machine. Despite its slightly Heath Robinson appearance the RP3 is in our view the best machine there is for training and feedback. The C2 is of course the global standard for assessment (and we’ve got one of those too), but for training purposes what we want is feedback! The RP3 puts a lower load on the body, enables a more effective application of power with the correct sequence, and encourage better engagement of the core. So, for people who need some focused or targeted training, or who just want to work on technique, while reducing the risk of injury, these machines are ideal. We currently have two new RP3 and one old Rowperfect (ex OUBC) machine. The RP3 uses Android tablets, and the Rowpefect a Windows laptop for data capture and analysis.
On the road: Pearson, Look … and more
Pearson Bikes is England’s oldest bike shop, run by a 5th generation of the Pearson family. (Founded in 1860, the firm is, as it happens, the same age as three of the most famous and flourishing rowing clubs I know – Bergerac, Thames and Twickenham.) They are my local cycle shop in Kew, based in Sheen just beyond the Putney Town Rowing Club. They maintained my bike in perfect order while I was teaching in Fulham and commuting along the towpath carrying heavy loads of books and coaching kit. They recently designed a wonderfully lightweight carbon road bike frame they named “IMNOTANUMBER” which they had produced by the great Belgian frame-maker Ridley. We have these top-class frames in all their sizes, fitted with a range of Japanese Shimano (Ultegra) and Italian Campagnolo components. We also have a range of quality wheels from the top-end Campagnolo to the excellent French Mavic brand. We are still adjusting, tweaking and learning.
As backup, and for general recreational use, we also have three aluminium workhorse frames as well as two classic steel frames – one small women’s Look bike and a larger men’s Raleigh custom frame made in Nottingham. Not to mention the Brompton, which is especially useful for local shopping. So we have something for all sizes, tastes and standards.
On the floor: Heathyoga Mats
After much comparison, we settled on the Heathyoga mat for use in our yoga studio. It’s a bit more expensive than the alternatives, but has some definite advantages. It is made of non-toxic, odourless materials, so there is none of that whiff of chemicals you can get with the traditional latex or PVC based alternatives. Also it provides excellent cushioning; and the surface is marked in a way which is helpful for alignment and posture on the mat.
What we look for: Quality, Responsiveness, Beauty
All our pieces of equipment – boats, bikes, ergs and other training hardware – are chosen with three criteria in mind. Quality of construction; responsiveness in use; and Beauty – the aesthetic pleasure you can get from using it. Other factors such as price, brand and superficial appearance are secondary. Why these criteria?
Quality: It’s not just a matter of confidence in the equipment, although that is important: it is also about how the process of setting-up, maintenance and adjustment can be made easier, safer and more enjoyable.
Responsiveness: Feedback is essential to any learning process (as engineers say “You can’t control what you can’t measure”). Equipment which allows you to feel, see, hear or record the effects of input variables such as effort and posture will also help you understand of the process as a whole, and thus to control it.
Beauty: If you can take pleasure in simply using your equipment, it’ll be much easier to put in the hours of training and practice which are needed to get your performance up to the standard you’re aiming for.
Exploring the Boundaries
When you visit us in Bergerac, you will be able to explore aspects of your sport which you may not have had the opportunity to experience previously. Having quality equipment prepared, maintained, set up and adjusted for you, with access also to state-of-the-art metrics technology, is a privilege normally available only to professionals, or the lucky few at elite schools and clubs.