Star Oars: The Row-turn of The Jedi

A rowing boat plus four PR professionals – something you only hear about ‘in a galaxy far, far away…?’

Well, the calluses still visible on the palms of Fifth Ring’s Rhea Hussey, Cameron McHattie, Lisa Arnold and myself tell the tale; we took part in the most successful corporate rowing event in the UK: the Aberdeen Inter-Company Row. “Easy strokeside!”, “bow remember to square!”, “fan those blades!”… our oar-less coach, cox James Duncan, might well have been speaking the tongue of Ewok (Star Wars reference – apologies) for all we knew during training episode number one.

No experience, combined with heavy rain, carrying the boat to and from the boat house, and to my horror, washing said boat… okay, perhaps I can see why my team mates nominated me as Princess Leia for our Star Oars crew theme. Session two was better, yes Cameron hadn’t quite understood that “EASY!!” meant stop, and yes I caught several crabs (rowing error where one’s oar is put in the water at the wrong time and flips parallel – promise), but indeed we were beginning to establish a united rhythm. And with each of the four remaining sessions, we built confidence, technique, and worked more as a team. Admittedly, we were not the most powerful of teams but Rhea set good pace as stroke (boat leader) and when we focused, we were “competitive”.

The ‘Force’ was with us on Saturday 22 June in the supportive form of Fifth Ring colleagues, friends and family and a statement Star Oars banner made generously by Compass Print. The event drew 160 competitors from 40 organisations, all trying their hand at one of Britain’s most successful Olympic sports.

In an extraordinary event, good and dark came together in the form Jawa (James), Darth Vader (Rhea), Princess Leia (me), Luke Skywalker (Cameron), and Yoda (Lisa) and we ventured out into the mystical space of Aberdeen’s River Dee. We were on to a winner in our first race; great timing, a strong effort from all, we were at least two boat lengths ahead and 10 strokes away from the finish line until… it is still painful… I caught a crab. When an oar goes bad like this, it is difficult to fix as the boat moves and unfortunately we didn’t recover quick enough to beat our competitor, ‘Where’s Willy?’ We had been on the dark side before and we were not going back again for race two which we rightfully won! Race three had PRessure attached to it (rowing against the PR firm, Weber Shandwick) which hopefully justifies why we narrowly missed and I will say no more on the matter.

Alas our Star Oars theme was not our lightsaver and we were out of the competition before the knock out stages – disappointing but nothing a beer and a burger couldn’t nourish! In the end, Star Oars truly was a ‘Unifying Force’, an entity which bound us all together and an adventure I would recommend to companies across the corporate galaxy.