Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Riding Through the Waves

Image Robin Hood marine crew on set

Coastal rowers from Westover & Bournemouth Rowing Club are to feature as the marine crew in the new Robin Hood movie released on Friday 14th May

Ellis Hagger reports on their ‘once in a lifetime’ experience…

Early last year an invite to Coastal rowers was put out, inviting 100 rowers (who could handle ‘big’ water) via an email to help in Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” movie.

Mark Green and myself and Simon White  (all senior members of Bournemouth’s oldest sports club Westover & Bournemouth Rowing Club) had to do a telephone interview/audition explaining all of our relevant experience in rowing/coaching. After a very anxious wait, we were called back and advised that we had got through! Apparently over 400 rowers (nationally and internationally had applied!).

For three and a half weeks we were put up in Pembrokeshire, and were assigned to the largest of all the Landing craft, which were decked out as a French, medieval invasion force with a ‘lively’ mix of gig rowers and Swansea University rowers! The days were very long and we experienced the only heatwave of the year whilst out at sea. Our landing craft weighed in at 7 tons and had two engines…. rowing it was more cosmetic than practical! Our landing craft became grounded at one point, and Ridley Scott immediately jumped into the sea and started to push it ‘out of shot’ which was funny, and this was even funnier when all of his crew jumped in aswell to help the ‘big man’.

Image of Russell Crowe and the marine crewMark, Simon and myself then had a go rowing the medieval ‘surf boats’ which were around 36 feet in length, held around 10 rowers with a standing ‘sweep’. We had not experienced this kind of rowing before (Coastal being quite rough at times but nothing like this) and rushing down a wall of water, which is as high as the ‘sweep’s’ head, in  a medieval ‘surf boat’ was a total blast! This was an absolute ‘rush’ and has prompted Mark and I to start Bournemouth Surf Boat Club, and we are doing up an old Australian Chlymer surf boat ready for the summer.

After Pembrokeshire (and the many nights out with 100 really great gig, coastal, ocean and surf boat rowers) twelve of us including Mark, Simon and myself were invited to row in King Richard’s Royal Galley, carrying ‘Robin Longstride’ aka Russell Crowe himself for a week and a half at Virginnia Water. The galley itself was impressive to look at but had no keel! It was a life-size prop! On our first day we worked out and practised stowing the oars so it looked pretty (see film) and generally getting used to the boat and how it ‘rowed’. A lot of each day was us sitting around on the water eating Panninis and drinking smoothies. We were desperate to row! 
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott were impressed with the rowing sequences in Pembrokeshire (especially when two of the medieval ‘surf boats’ collided in the ‘big’ water) and were very happy with our efforts in rowing the Royal Galley. On a rowing note, it was not set up to be rowed properly and rowing a very long wooden blade being held by a single band of string was certainly different from our usual carbon fibre/pin and gate set up.
After the filming (by helicopter) at Virginia Water  we were invited to Pinewood Studios to do close ups in the ‘sink tank’ (where Titanic was filmed – about the size of half a football pitch, that can be flooded to a depth of 30 feet or a few inches!) where we pretended to die in a mock battle with stunt men getting thrown out of overturned boats, wave machines on full blast and half ton tanks of water being dropped on the boats/rowers! Great fun getting paid to dress up as French rowers and run around shouting and screaming in floods of water!
The whole experience was fantastic. We got to rub shoulders with Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott, William Hurt and the Merry Men, all of whom were great company and respected the rowers for their contribution to the action shots, and met (and made good friends) rowers from all aspects of the sport – river , coastal, ex-Olympic, ocean, gig and surf boat rowing who all had the same attitude – row hard and play hard and we got paid for it! 
On the back of this Mark and I are setting up Bournemouth Surf Boat Club in order to compete in the UK Surf Rowers League and try and re-capture the pure adrenaline ‘rush’ we had when surfing a wall of water in a rowing boat!