Polar Bear Sighting on the Thames

Henley Crew Travels

Henley Crew leaves the US

After a long but relatively painless flight from Boston, we arrived in London, tired and a little queasy but very excited! We quickly loaded into taxis and headed to Henley-on-Thames (we left the airport so rapidly that Captain Katie Ross commented, “I actually have no idea if we all made it into vans or not”). After no time at all, we arrived at the house we will call home for the next two weeks, where we quickly headed for the breakfast table.

A walk on the Racecourse

A walk on the Racecourse

With our first meal on British soil behind us, we went out for a jaunt to buy groceries and get acquainted with the town. The grocery store, Waitrose, provided several shocks for all. In the bakery aisle, Emily discovered that “They call english muffins ‘muffins’ over here!”  With a few digestive biscuits, apples and one snack sushi pack in our bellies, we headed down to the river, where Coachie and Edie showed us the racecourse. We walked over a bridge and down along the footpath on the other side, where we saw giant tents to shelter boats being erected next to the finish line of the men’s course. We made our way to Remenham club, where our own course will finish, and from there we looked back through the posts and booms that mark the course all the way to the start at Temple Island, 1500 m away.

First row on the Thames!

First row on the Thames!

After a quick lunch of sandwiches from a local bakery, we walked to our new boathouse Henley Boat Club, to receive our boats. A coach from Oxford University Women’s crew came to drop off our boats and show us how to rig them, and then we started making the minute adjustments necessary. After a few hours of rigging, we were thrilled to finally get a chance to row on the Thames, so we made our way out on our narrow concrete dock and launched.

As Sophie remarked immediately, “The Thames is bumpin'”. Rowing shells, motor boaters, birds, and drunk punters seem to steer their courses at random, so coxswains had to be extra alert. Maddy commented that navigation has proved tricky for all on the busy river, remembering that “I saw a single flip – it wasn’t Liza though.” A short story from MB on the wildlife of the Thames: “One lovely morning on the Thames, I was out rowing with my boat, and Sophie said ‘Starboards, watch out for the geese.’ But you can’t watch out when you’re rowing – heads in the boat! But then I felt a feathery lump at the end of my oar (I was just kidding, I couldn’t tell it was feathery). I looked over and said, ‘Oh my god, a goose!’ And then it kind of limped away in the water. MB – 1, Geese – 0.” Since then, MB and Emily have both hit another goose, bringing the overall count to Bowdoin 3, Geese 0.

Jetlag is Real

Liza discovers that jetlag is real

By the time we got off the water, we were beginning to feel the jet lag and were incredibly hungry once again (I think this may be a theme of our trip). Edie, our marvelous cook, had prepared a feast of salad and pasta, and we ate it outside on a picnic table. Afterward, we met our host family, Tim Brassey and Lisa Silver. This incredibly generous family has allowed us to take over several rooms in the house, and has hosted well over 600 rowers through the years, including our men’s team last year.


Our walk to the Boathouse

Our walk to the Boathouse

Two more full days have allowed us to recover from the jetlag and really get a chance to appreciate the town. We spend a lot of our time walking to and from our new boathouse, changing the rigging on the boats, and practicing on the Thames. Liza has had an adventurous time of it so far – although she recalled happily, “I didn’t flip!” A rower from WPI in Boston sustained a back injury, so Liza has been helping out by rowing in the 2v 8, and may even race with them on Sunday after her singles race. As for the 4s practices, Audrey simply commented that Henley Camp in England has been “Successful” thus far. She notes, “I can’t believe that we’re actually here and I’m so excited for the days to come!” It’s been particularly fun to row given that the temperature has risen to over 80 degrees every day, something shocking to us after months of rowing through rain and freezing cold. Erica summed it up nicely, commenting, “England isn’t nearly as rainy as they say!” The Brits, however, seem to blame the good weather on our arrival, promising that the temperatures are unseasonably high.

Leander Club

Leander Club

Despite devoting much of our time to practices, we have had plenty of time for adventures in town. Nora has been particularly excited about drinking English tea and has already amassed a large quantity of it. Amy has been particularly excited about seeing more of the points-of-interest along the racecourse, including the Leander Club, the training site of the British rowing team. She finds the ‘cerise hippopotamus’ mascot of the club particularly exciting, and approves strongly of their bright pink oars and blades.

An Adventurous Lunch

An Adventurous Lunch

Today, we went through a proper adventure, tromping through cow pastures and poppy field on the way to the Flower Pot restaurant. Katie Ross said of the afternoon jaunt, “It was so nice to walk through the English countryside and experience lunch at a real English pub, full of both stuffed and living animals.” Despite some attempted attacks by a large domesticated turkey by the name of Bernard, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, including pheasant and partridge with small buckshot pellets still intact.

Picnic Meals

Picnic Meals

At an incredible ‘Breakfast for Dinner’ tonight back at our host family’s house, we feasted on french toast, eggs, bacon, yogurt, and bangers while excitedly discussing our races for tomorrow. The first races for each boat will be held at 10:08 am GMT for Liza in the single, 11:14 am GMT for the Brown, and 3:45 pm GMT for the Gibbons. Check out race results here after our races!


4 thoughts on “Polar Bear Sighting on the Thames

  1. Thanks for this wonderfully descriptive account of your first days! Hope you’re all tucked in with sugarplums dancing (5:45 p.m. CDT) and that you have great rows tomorrow! Geese Beware and Go Bears!

    Claiborne and Marian Barksdale

  2. Looks like you’re all having a blast. We can’t wait to hear all about it ‘Spens’ when you get back to Maine 🙂

    Go Polar Bears!!!

    Joe and Leyza Toste

  3. Thank you for this exciting blog! Rooting for all of you from this distant shore.

    Row, Polar Bears, Row!!

    Bidgie Bourdeaux

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