A recent visit to the South of France provided me with the opportunity to row at the wonderful Lac de la Raho in French Catalonia. Aviron Perpignan is situated south of the city of Perpignan and about 30mins from the Spanish border where you can actually see the Pyrenees drop into the Mediterranean. Their colours, Blood and Gold (Sang et Or) are synonymous with French Catalonia and are proudly displayed on their rowing kit. In fact, most sports in the region use the Sang et Or as part of their club colours.
I strategically planned a family holiday in the area (Saint Cyprien) which is only about 20mins drive from the lake. I contacted the club a couple of weeks prior to arriving in Saint Cyprien via their facebook page and they were very helpful in sending on their rowing schedule. Unlike Limerick where we have a great rowing history and have 4 clubs in the city as well as Castleconnell and UL, Aviron Perpignan is a municipal club. So if you want to row, the decision is easy – they are the only club in town.
Pic du Canigou
After a week of unwinding, I was ready to see what this lake had to offer. With stunning views of Pic du Canigou and near perfect conditions on the lake, I arrived at the club at about 10am. After quickly introducing myself to the club captain and doing the necessary formalities I was brought to the Boat House…well Boat yard…..a bit like what we have at Limerick boat Club …you know, a Boat house without any roof.
With a choice of boats, I turned down the racing scull in favour for the more generous training scull. My thought process was – better to enjoy the row in the fat scull instead of struggling to “sit up” (balance) the thin scull. It was the correct decision as I spent the next 45mins rowing around the lake taking breaks to savour the surroundings and rub the mixture of sun cream and sweat from of my eyes.
They have a great set up at the lake and the club caters for Junior/Senior and Recreational rowing. They also offer sessions open to the public.
The Spin was great but….
By the time I had launched the scull the mercury was hitting 26degC and it was only a little after 10am. After making the final adjustments to my footstops, I was on my way. “Stay to the smaller part of the lake” I was instructed but I didn’t and rowed away until I had to stop and turn the boat. Later that evening I started thinking about the difference between rowing at the lake and rowing at home on our river Shannon.
I really enjoyed my spin and the scenery was pretty spectacular with the majestic Pyrenees in the background. The facilities and conditions couldn’t have been better but there was something missing…….. or just not there.? After a few “verres du vin” I finally came to the conclusion that rowing at the lake was a bit restrictive in that you could row so far and then you must turn around or else row around in a circle. I suppose this wouldn’t be an issue if you were a competitive junior or senior rower as they would be more focused on technique and work load. As for recreational rowers…..well they need to be kept interested and the rowing is only one part of the experience.
As I said, the setting was spectacular but I missed the variation that the Shannon offers, going through bridges, dealing with the tides, and medieval Limerick. In Limerick we have a great stretch of water on our doorstep, as long as it stays at our doorstep. I recently brought my son out coxing and we counted 7 bridges that he/we had to negotiate throughout the duration of the spin. We also had different rowing conditions to contend with, varying from flat calm on the the Abbey, to white horses on the Shannon. I suppose during a rowing spin in Limerick, the vista is constantly changing and keeps the rower interested. Its something I see and hear from our recreational rowing every time they are on the water in Limerick. They are constantly raving about the views of the city from a different perspective – a seat in the boat.
For now, I look forward to rowing on our Shannon and coaching enthusiastic people that want to learn to row and explore our city from a rowing boat with a seat that rolls up and down a slide.
I’d love to go back to Aviron Perpignan for a spin in March/April when there is still snow on Canigou and then maybe head to the slopes….now that would be a good trip..!!