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Jersey 'Girls That Row' get ready to take on the world

Jersey 'Girls That Row' get ready to take on the world

Friday 25 November 2022

Jersey 'Girls That Row' get ready to take on the world

Friday 25 November 2022


After an oar-some performance in European Championships against elite athletes, an all-female coastal rowing team made up of friends and family in Jersey is getting ready to take on the world.

Known as ‘Girls that Row’ on their popular Instagram page, the team is composed of captain Sarah Earles, coxswain Susan Huelin and her daughter Connie, as well as sisters Abbi (stroke) and Emma Syvret.

Although the team is all made up of friends and family members, who all work in the finance industry, it came together in stages.

Sarah always enjoyed watching rowing on TV and wanted to give it a go, while Emma first tried rowing after a conversation with a colleague whose friend was a rower.

Shortly after their first row, Sarah and Emma joined the team and as the former describes “it started as a bit of fun and got more serious”.

 
 
 
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A post shared by Girls That Row (@girlsthatrow)

Emma, then reached out to Susan, whom she had known all her life as she was Abbi’s godmother, as she knew she had experience in coxing, having first been involved in the sport in 1983 when she was just 18.

“The first season I was involved, I actually rowed, there were four people rowing and one person coxing,” Susan explained.

“The crew split up after the first season so then I started coxing Jersey’s top crew and I was very successful with them. It then got to 1993 and I got married and got pregnant with my first daughter, so I needed to step down.

“After almost 25 years, I made a comeback! At first, it was irregular. Emma said ‘can you give us one day a week?’ and then one day became three and I’ve been super involved over the last few years.”

"It’s a social thing as well as a great sport"

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Pictured: The team on the Sark to Jersey race.

Both Connie and Abbi joined in the last year, six months apart. The former started rowing towards the end of the season last year thanks to her mum and Emma, after another rower left the team.

“I said ‘yes, I will get involved’ and I have not looked back since,” Connie said.

“It was the same situation for me,” Abbi, who first got in a boat in November 2021, added. “One of the girls had a baby and the girls were looking for someone to fill her spot. You join and the next thing you know you start training for it, it just rolled and rolled. I think it’s because we gelled so well as a team, and we enjoy each other’s company. It’s a social thing as well as a great sport.”

Earlier this year, the team started an Instagram page @girlsthatrow to document their journey, raise the profile of rowing and encourage young people in general and young women into the sport.

“We want to use it as a platform to show it’s a sport that people can join, it’s not scary,” Abbi said.

"You don't need to be fit to start rowing" 

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Pictured: Connie, Abbi, Emma and Sarah with their cox for the European championships.

Whilst they all practice other sports to different levels, they all agree that anyone can join, regardless of age, skills or fitness.

“We’ve got youth rowers and people rowing well into their 60s and 70s,” Susan said. “There’s a broad range and it’s not necessary for people to compete. Some row for fitness, others compete annually in Sark to Jersey or for Great Britain and then some people just come out because it’s a nice thing to do. It’s for everybody, you don’t need to be fit to start rowing.”

“Jersey Rowing Club do ‘have a go rows’ so that people can try it out outside of the season,” Sarah added. “If people are interested, it’s worth following when that’s happening. I don’t see why people cannot contact the JRC and register their interest as well.”

Having reached the British and European Championships in their first year together, the team is sure to inspire others to get rowing. To get there, they have been training four times a week as well as doing strength and conditioning before the season starts.

A tailored training

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Pictured: The team trains four times a week.

While coastal rowing is known as the “wild cousin” of river rowing – “the more exciting, the better, the more obstacles the better,” as Susan puts it  - if the weather gets too wild to get on the boat, the team trains on rowing machines.

“We do tailor our training to whatever we are training for,” Susan explained. “We mix up the training, one session can be a sprint where you really push hard or you can row 4k non-stop, then 6 k non-stop. The JRC have fixed races in their season and as we work to the Sark to Jersey race, distances get steadily longer to reach 26k.”

“It’s really good exercise, we do push ourselves together,” Sarah added. “You push yourself hard to benefit your teammates, you work toward a common goal as a crew, and you know you cannot let your friends down.”

But it’s not all row, row, row for the team, they also enjoy downtime together. “I love seeing everybody, it’s such a social activity,” Emma said. “We see each other three or more times a week, every weekend we treat ourselves to breakfast, it’s like a little family.”

“We work hard and eat hard,” Connie added.

"We enjoy being on the water"

 
 
 
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Pictured: "We are very lucky to be out on the water before everybody else has started work," Susan said.

“My favourite time is when we go out on a summer morning,” Susan said. “We meet at 05:45 so we are in the water at 06:00 or 06:15. There was a couple of times this season where we decided, ‘we worked hard so we are just going to row to St. Aubin’s Fort, hop out of the boat and go for a swim’ and then we just rowed back to town. You just cannot beat being on the sea first thing, with such a great crowd!

“We are very lucky to be out on the water before everybody else has started work. We enjoy being on the water.”

With the season now over – although Sarah is competing in the Commonwealth Beach Sprints in Namibia next weekend – the Girls that Row are now looking towards their goals for next year.

Among those is the 42-km long Round Island race, which Abbi believed would be “too much for her first year”. They also plan to return to the British Championships, where they say they have “unfinished business”.

“We got off to an amazing start, we were leading the race until we got round the one of the last buoys, we went from first all the way down to five,” as Abbi explained.

“We did not know how we were going to do,” Susan continued. “If the race had finished at 3k, we would have won. We almost got unfinished business with the British championships, we want to smash it as we know we can.”

Taking on the World Championships

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Pictured: The team coming into the beach at the end of the race at the European championships.

They also plan to go to the World Championships, which they actually qualified for this year but ultimately decided not to attend as they felt it was “a step too far”.

Instead, they competed in the European Championships, where they were the only crew representing Great Britain and Jersey and went against “semi-professionals, elite athletes”.

“They did fabulously,” Susan, who didn’t travel with the team, said. “They over-performed by four places, they came out eight out of 14 when their cox expected them to come 12. To go to the European championship, which was not on the cards, and to completely over-perform was brilliant.

“It’s absolutely realistic to get to the worlds.”

“I absolutely loved the whole atmosphere,” Connie commented. “To have started rowing a year ago and be on the beach with so many amazing athletes, I had to push myself to do as much as I can, it was just so inspiring. I just want more of it!”

Sarah_running_up_beach_to_finish_euros_-_GTR.jpg

Pictured: "My face on the photos is just sheer disbelief that we placed so highly," Sarah said.

“The feeling of it was incredible,” Sarah said. “My face on the photos is just sheer disbelief that we placed so highly. It’s going to motivate us. We have learned from the experience of the British Championships, and we want to work on to be the best we can be.”

With beach spring rowing now included in the Commonwealth Games, the team is not saying no to a possibility of competing in Australia.

“Never say never,” Sarah said. “Although to train and put myself up for that, I would have to make big lifestyle changes. It’s a really good opportunity for everybody in clubs to be involved, to coach or be part of the team, it doesn’t take just the two people on the boat!”

Connie added: “I could be persuaded.”

“Some of us in the boat plan to be in Australia,” Susan said. “I want to be there even as a spectator!”

This article first featured on Bailiwick Wellbeing, your free weekly guide to wellness in work and island life. Sign up now here.

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