23 July 2007

Quartet for the end of time

July is the firm's peak sporting season. The netball and softball seem to carry on throughout the summer (between the deluges), but July sees both the Great City Race and the firm's Regatta. I took over the team captaincy for the Great City race, and it seems to have stuck with me but I don't mind that: last year I felt very proud of our 17 participants, and this year I shall feel even better with 26 taking part, which must surely make us one of the best-represented organisations in the race. However, I never asked to be the department's captain of boats.

That points to a unique feature of the firm. All solicitors' firms are different, but how many need even one captain of boats, let alone one per department (seven in total)? On Friday week, there will be fourteen crews competing for the trophy.

In rowing terms, it's not remotely impressive. There are some talented and experienced individuals, but their skills are well-hidden if they have three (or, if lucky, only two) inexperienced colleagues in their boat. But no-one has ever (in my hearing, at least) complained of not having fun, and although the potential hasn't been explored, it is the most effective team-building exercise there is. Half-an-hour on the Tideway is worth a week of building rafts from pieces of scrap.

On Monday I was out on the river with three colleagues, all with a modicum of experience (though one of them as a cox) but not having rowed together before. After twenty minutes or so rowing in pairs, then altogether but with squared blades, we were ready (our coach thought) to try the real thing. It would have been better had he reminded us what feathering was all about before he told us to do it, but we seemed to get the hang of it again fairly quickly (from the stroke seat I couldn't see much of what was going on behind me, but the occasional gales of laughter gave me an idea of it) and when he told us to push for ten strokes, then later for another twenty, we experienced that wonderful feeling of almost flying across the water. It only happened when all four blades were in time, and that was not on many strokes: we all caught our share of crabs, though only little ones: I am sure it looked pretty ugly: but for a few momets the four of us were a closer team than any the department has ever sent to a data room or put together for a corporate deal.

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