With Omicron numbers increasing at the rate of knots and South Africa experiencing one of the wettest Summers I can remember it really was touch and go as to whether this January Orkney camp would go ahead. I have never known so much about the water level of the Vaal Dam or how many sluice gates were open as I do now. Thank goodness, even though the Jetty at Orkney was under water it was decided it was still safe for the boys to train on the river. So, on Tuesday 04 January 66 boys, 9 coaches and 8 camp Moms set off to what has become hallowed ground for Jeppe Rowing.

After a 2.5-hour bus drive in the heat, the boys hit the ground running and made short work of setting up their tents, had a quick lunch and it was straight into a very intense 1km or 2km erg trial. Let’s just say that not everyone managed to hold onto their lunch, but I am told that this is normal and had nothing to do with my cooking abilities. This level of intense training continued throughout the next few days with water sessions starting at 5am and some finishing only at 7pm. If they were not on the water, they were on the ergo only stopping to consume 10kgs of bacon and 150 eggs for breakfast and 20kgs of meat for dinner. And not to mention the numerous blisters that needed to be lanced and cleaned.

I now understand where the brotherhood in this club starts, it is at Orkney. Even though the training was next level there was still time for the seniors to make sure the traditions were passed onto the juniors and to make sure that they felt part of this great club. The induction ceremony for the new U14 rowers brought all the Mom’s and even some of the Dad’s to tears. It is an incredibly special and touching tradition, and it is I believe the foundation of the Jeppe Rowing Club.

Last but by no means least I got to experience firsthand the passion and dedication of Simon Moore and his amazing team of coaches, they went above and beyond to make sure that these boys were not only physically prepared for the season but that they become one team from the youngest academy rower to the oldest senior rower. Never has the term “you are only as strong as your weakest link” been more apt as in one short camp, I could see lifelong bonds being formed.

The entire experience for a spectator was amazing but for the boys involved it was life changing and I have no doubt it will form the basis of many a story that is shared in the future. I must admit that I enjoyed every minute and if they will have me, I will definitely be back next year. However, one of my favorite moments was the Coaches vs 1st 8 race on the Saturday evening. Below is the link to the video of the race that sparked very many debates but all I kept hearing was “a win is a win.”

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