While most of our peers were getting ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve, the girls from OUW saw off 2016 with a sickening early flight to Italy, for our annual training camp in Sabaudia. The 3.30am start meant that we arrived with plenty of time to rig the boats and set out for our first row, enjoying the sunshine and flat water that was to last for a few more days of our visit.
The gorgeous saltwater lake that we were rowing on we had essentially to ourselves, save a few outings from the Italian national team who were also taking advantage of Sabaudia’s great training facilities, and over the first few days, with temperatures reaching 12 degrees or more in the afternoon sun, many a dark blue unisuit was on display out on the water. The warm weather was not to last, however, and for the second half of our camp temperatures plummeted to below freezing, as if to remind us of what we might have in store back in the UK come the beginning of Hilary term. Soon, we were having to battle in the morning sessions with ice that had formed on the lake overnight, and on the penultimate day the lake was so frozen that we had no choice but to postpone training until it had thawed out, with a little help being given by the coaches revving their launches up and down the lake to break through the ice. Fabrizio, the manager of Hotel Il Gioiello where we had been so hospitably hosted for our time in Sabaudia, assured us the lake had not frozen over in almost nine years – but despite having to work around these tough and unusual conditions, the squad certainly emerged hardier and more tightly knit as a result. Training camp was a great opportunity for us to put in many kilometres of rowing together, to focus on coming together outside of the usual stresses and distractions of the Oxford term, and to spend quality time as a team. And the delicious pasta, pizza and ice cream we also got to sample whilst in Italy was certainly an added bonus! All of the athletes are thoroughly grateful to the coaching staff, support team and the staff of the Hotel Il Gioiello, who all worked to make camp such a challenging and rewarding experience, that sets us up well for our last term of training before the Boat Race.