Row The World – Folkestone Rowing Club
Folkestone Rowing Club is one of the town’s oldest organised sporting club. It was established in 1852 and moved from Folkestone seafront to Sandgate between the First and Second World Wars. It’s remained here ever since. Women have been part of the team since the 1970s and now the club ranges from 10 year olds who cox, to generations of rowers on the water at the same time. Folkelife spoke to Captain Zoe Mond.
“10 year olds make a really good cox as that’s the person in the boat who needs to be small, and keeping the pace for the rowers. It’s a great place to learn the rules and the ropes. Young coxes go on to make really good rowers. You can start racing competitively at 14 years old, so it becomes a family event each week. We have grandparents, mums and dads, children and grandchildren rowing as part of the club.”
Rowing on the sea
“The boats we use on the sea are bigger than ones you’d row on a river inland. The walls are higher and really, rowing on the sea is much more fun. Usually you row to a buoy and then have to turn around and come back – which opens the race up to collisions and so on. It makes it more fun! We compete in regattas against many clubs along the South coast, there’s a competitive spirit between us, but since the coronavirus, we’ve got to know the clubs a lot better.”
rowing The channel
“Following the government guidelines we had to shut the club in March 2020. There wasn’t much notice but time enough to share out the rowing machines we had to people who had space for them at home. We kept up the team spirit by doing online circuit training sessions. We’ve got around 40 active rowers in the club, and you can row by yourself, or in pairs or fours. Just before Lockdown happened, we’d got permission to row the channel in the summer of 2020. We were going to be the first female crew to do it from our club. It’s something that our club hasn’t done for the past 18 years. People would row to the middle and then turn around and come back. I’d been pestering the Coast Guard and finally they agreed we could do it. However, as Lockdown got worse, it was clear we weren’t going to be able to do it.”
virtually rowing the atlantic
“So, trying not to be too disappointed about not being able to row the channel, I looked into how many miles it would be to row the Atlantic. I talked to other club captains from Kent and Sussex and they thought it would be great to compete against each other. Someone set up a spreadsheet so we could mark up our mileage, and we all set off. You didn’t need to use a rowing machine, you could run, cycle and do circuits too. We had a formula for converting circuit time into miles rowed.
“When people really row the Atlantic, they start in the Canary Islands and finish in the Caribbean, it’s quite a famous race. Ours ended up being with 3 teams – Worthing, Dover and Folkestone and it was really exciting. I’d wake up in the morning and check our position and we could have been overtaken during the night! In the end, we did win, but it was a close thing! We did about a week’s worth of rowing, or running or whatever in 2 days. Dover came second and they finished only 21 minutes behind us!”
building a rowing community
“Lockdown continued and we decided we’d keep rowing. We had 8 teams across Kent and East Sussex making their way across from Antigua to Panama and then on to Hawaii. Restrictions continued, and even though we were able to get out on the water during October, when November came we were back to our round-the-world competition. Crossing the Indian Ocean in November has been fun, especially as we were in the lead for that one! What’s been great though is it’s meant we’ve got to know more people at other clubs. When we do open up again and have proper races on the water, there’s going to be a great feel of camaraderie that I can’t wait for those races to happen. I have made friendships with other captains and the rest of the team has also made friends that we didn’t have before.
“The racing season for sea rowing is May to July, so we won’t get any racing in for 2020. We’re looking forward to 2021 though, and maybe we’ll get to cross the channel then. Who knows if we’ll do the Atlantic Challenge for real…!”