In March this year Richard Twining, ambassador-at-large for the Calcutta Rowing Club, contacted Auckland Rowing Club to tell them CRC was celebrating its 100-year association with London Rowing Club and to invite the NZ club to join clubs from South Africa and the UK at a friendship regatta in November to mark the occasion.
Auckland Rowing Club Committee Chair, Allan Botica, shares the colour from this memorable friendship regatta.
The prospect of a trip to exotic India as the guest of “the oldest club east of Suez?” We wasted no time in accepting. Eleven from Auckland took up the offer: three club rowers and eight masters; five women and six men.
Richard Twining , CRC’s Ambassador-at-Large and Chandan Roy Choudhury, Honorary Secretary did a remarkable job in bringing together and generously hosting clubs from around the world for a meticulously planned week-long celebration of friendship and rowing.
The Calcutta Rowing Club (CRC) way
From the moment we arrived at the inauguration ceremony we experienced the CRC way: a gift of scarves, a traditional dance, the lighting of the ceremonial lamp, a warm welcome from the Dr Sashi Panja, Minister for Industries, Commerce and Enterprises and Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare of the Government of West Bengal, a bouquet of flowers, high tea, a smashing raga on the santoor by Pandit Tarun Battacharya followed by an open bar. Tradition, culture and exceptional hospitality.
We were welcomed at the Calcutta Ladies Golf Club by Hon. Sahsi Panja, Minister of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare of West Bengal.
A ceremonial candle lighting marked the start of the regatta
A magnificent club
The Calcutta Rowing Club itself is most impressive. A fine entrance leads you into the club proper, where you find three restaurants, including the Henley Gourmet dining room, four or five bars, a parlour, library, guest rooms, a swimming pool and a gym. At night delightful coloured lighting sets off the surrounding buildings and manicured lawns lead down to Lake Rabindra Sarobar.
The lake is a charming and idiosyncratic man-made amenity, 73-acres dug out of marshy land in 1921 to encourage citizens to settle in the southern part of the city. Known as “the lungs of south Kolkata,” Rabindra Sarobar is a relatively narrow piece of water bordered with paths and seating and dotted with small islands where cormorants and other birds perch, swim and strut. Almost 175 species call it home, nearly one third of them migratory — in other words visitors, like us.
The lake is also home to several rowing clubs, so courses rules round navigation and rights of way are, let’s say, quirky.
Lake Rabindra Sarobar is indeed charming, and Calcutta Rowing Club is fine place for a quiet evening drink or two.
Friendship or friendly
Like CRC, Auckland Rowing Club was founded in the 19th century — in 1869 — so CRC will forever remain our club’s older sibling, and thus entitled to some deference, though seasoned with a good case of sibling rivalry. In other words, we turned up to compete.
We noted that the term friendship, rather than friendly, was used to describe the regatta. As rowers know, once you get to the start, there’s no such thing as “friendly”. However, the intent of the regatta was to foster friendship between clubs from around the world and their members and to showcase how inspiring such an event could be.
The difference is important. While the racing was indeed competitive, the hospitality and congeniality, together with the generous attentiveness to our every need — which we experienced from the moment we set foot in India until the conclusion of the regatta — were magnificent. And the relationships we developed as a result are at the heart of the friendships that rowing can foster so very well.
Auckland club rowers Jack MacDonald and Trent Marshall were joined by representatives from Calcutta and London Rowing Clubs in a Masala (literally a mixture) doubles event.
London Rowing Club graciously lent us an oarsman. Rather a good one, as it happened.
We had plenty of time to get to know one another.