Derek Morin needed another rower for the Pegasus boat and asked me if I’d help out.
I wanted to get back into rowing and get my fitness levels up again – if I’d have known it was in a fixed seater I wouldn’t have bothered!’ he joked.Rouillé’s is a long history of rowing, starting when he was but a lad and used to compete in coastal races off the south coast of England.He was one of the first in the Island to row in the, sometimes controversial, sliding seat boats and was a founder member of the Viking Warriors, a team which dominated the sport in the early 1990s.’I was friends with Ian Blandin since we were kids and we used to mess about together.
He rowed a bit, and I’d been rowing for a while, we had a lot in common.We started to fix cars at weekends to makea bit of money so we could afford to buy ourselves a hull – we bought one from Guernsey actually – and we put four people in it to row.
But we didn’t get the right four at first, it’s sometimes quite hard to get the right mix for racing.
One day I thought: ‘We could get six in there.’ The others thought I was mad but we took six inches off the seats and we got everyone in.
Then we decided to use sculls – that’s two oars, you row with one and scull with two.
We won a lot, we were probably the hungriest team around then.
We did the Sark/Jersey, and we took part in the Cherbourg and Granville races.
I think we were the first from here to do them and teams from Jersey are still doing.them.
And we took part in the London race, where we could only have four oarsmen and had to have a cox and a passenger to qualify.
That was an amazing experience, we had to row up the Thames and there were boats taking part that were some of the orginal water taxis – that’s why we had to have a passenger – and they still had the canopies on.
They started the race hours before us and we still overtook them, but they were big, heavy boats and they moved so gracefully.’There are considerable differences between fixed and sliding seat boats, a major one is that more technique is required for the sliding seat boats.’It’s narrower and magnifies any faults, whereas you can get away with more in fixed seaters, with tipping, and twisting the boat.
Sliders can be set up for a different crew in each race,’ Rouillé explained.And there have been furious arguments between the supporters of the two types in recent years, with opposing views becoming entrenched until it was thought the divide was absolute.So this year’s Sark to Jersey sees what is regarded by most as a huge step forward, with both types of boats being allowed to take part in the race.’It’s quite funny really,’ Rouillé reflected.
‘About ten years ago my rowing partner, Jez Baxter and I asked the Club if we could have a sliding seats class in the Sark to Jersey as an experiment.
Most of those who said no way then are the ones rowing sliding seats now!’The Sark to Jersey race – any race – ‘is not down to rowing, it’s down to the conditions,’ Rouillé said.Respect for the sea and the conditions it presents on the day is important.
He is stroke for the boat and likes to use the tide to advantage – and he expects Pegasus will cross the line first.’We’ll have a 30 minute advantage at the start – fixed seaters are going first and that advantage will be a good one.
But to be honest I expect that Derek (Morin) will convert to a sliding seat boat very soon.
In a head-to-head the fixed seat boats will never win.’With this race over, Rouillé is thinking of going back to pairs rowing in a sliding seat boat.’I’ll need to get fitter and maybe I’ll get back to racing next year.’Spending ‘quite a few hours a week’ in the boat, whether training or racing, it is clear that Rouillé thoroughly enjoys the sport.’It’s a sport that lets you get right away from everyday life.
Once you leave the shore you leave everything else behind.
It’s a great sport to get into and the members at the Jersey Rowing Club are a great bunch, they’ll always help other rowers out and we’re very fortunate to have the old lifeboat station as a clubhouse.
But it isn’t the racing that I enjoy the most, that takes up only about ten per cent of the total.
My favourite part is the training.
When you get out into the bay you can just row to your heart’s content.’