Thursday, 11 October 2012

Coxing in French

A word of warning before we start: this post will contain a lot of talk about rowing. Knowing my friends as I do, you'll either be really into it or bored witless by it; if you fall into the latter category, feel free to scroll down to the second part of this post.

No, seriously. I won't be offended.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ROWING START  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I went back to Régates rémoises again today. It was a bit of a fast turnaround - finish teaching at 12:30, grab some lunch in the canteen, drop off my stuff, run outside for the 1312 bus - but I made it. And this time, I got to actually go in the boat. Not that I was expecting to, or anything: when I got there, I was fully anticipating spending another afternoon running alongside boats. It turned out, of course, that the juniors (16- to 18-year-olds) were missing a cox, so I hopped in.

In the past, I've waxed lyrical about how learning to cox is kind of like learning an entirely new language, complete with its own vocabulary (rigger, blade, frontstops) and syntax (all eight from backstops, driving down on the legs in 3, 2, 1 ...). Obviously this makes coxing in a foreign language no easy feat, but thankfully it wasn't as bad as I had initially feared. In the event, there are quite a few similarities between French and English coxing.

First off, there are the words and phrases that require no translation at all. Coxbox, and to a lesser extent stop and go, are both used frequently with exactly the same meaning as in English. Go is quite interesting, actually: because it's monosyllabic, it's more efficient than the French equivalent in coxing (sur celui-là), and is therefore used with a surprising degree of frequency.

Most of the words and phrases that are used, though, do require translation, usually direct, from English to French. Some highlights included chef de nage ('stroke'), bâbord and tribord ('strokeside' and 'bowside' respectively), la phase d'appui ('drive phase'), and la phase de retour ('recovery'). These ones weren't too difficult to translate, particularly since they were used frequently; matters were complicated by my brain's stubborn refusal to accept that bâbord does not mean 'bowside', in spite of sounding very, very similar.

Then, of course, there were the things that were untranslatable, or just plain weird. For instance, when getting in the boat, French rowers do not get in one side after the other: instead, everyone steps in at exactly the same moment, and the rower furthest from the cox pushes off with a shout of au large! More seriously, the French number their rowers completely differently: instead of starting with 'stroke' and then going from 7 to 2, then bow, in French boats rower number 8 is in the bow of the boat, and the chef de nage is really rower 1. This also has the unwanted effect of flipping the sides of the boat round: the rower 6 is now suddenly on bowside.

Still, I think we managed fairly well. Nothing got broken, and there were no crashes (apart from one when a quad, or rather quatre de couple, decided to barrel down the middle of the canal without looking and clipped our épelles au bâbord. We managed to get some good work done on applying power during the drive phase, and finished off with a départ ('start'). It surprised me somewhat to learn that, whenever you race a French boat, their start sequence will always be the same: 3/4, 1/2, 1/2, 3/4, full. Still, it seemed to work well enough for the crew I was with, as their start was pretty sharp. The only issue was some rather spectacular falling forward from me, suggesting that someone was crashing into frontstops: a little bit of explanation (and a lot of hand gestures) later, we'd sorted the problem, slowed down the recovery, and did another start sequence. This one was miles better.

So all in all, it was good fun. I'll definitely be going back, and will keep you posted on how I get on.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ROWING END  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Aside from the r-word, I've been settling in reasonably well in Reims. I'm now well into teaching classes, and generally the standard is higher than I'd expected; it's always enjoyable to see a whiteboard filled with grammar points and vocabulary, and the students taking it in and understanding it. So far we've been talking about gap years, ageism, each other, and many, many other things, so things are nice and varied. I also have my own room (B.339, if you're interested), which I'm in the process of brightening up a bit.

I'll try to blog again by the end of the week. For now, though, your open question:


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