The Repechage, or Life Does Give You Second Chances

One of the greatest, most philosophically awesome things about rowing can be summed up in one lovely French word:

Repechage.

(Just by saying it, you’ll sound smarter, more cosmopolitan. Slipping it into cocktail conversation might make you instantly more attractive. You’re welcome…!)

It’s on the lips of many recently with regard to rowing at the Rio Olympics. The repechage allows crews that don’t win their first race to have a second chance—a chance to make the semi-finals and continue on in spite of their finish in the first race of the regatta.

It allows for a Mulligan if weather and water conditions don’t favor you (like the horrible winds and waves that started the Rio Olympic Regatta). It gives you a Get Out of Jail Free card if nerves get the better of you or, if you just don’t have your mojo working in the right direction. Those who can skip the repechage get another day of rest (valuable stuff, to be sure). But knowing that you have a second chance to make it after years of hard work? That has to be an invaluable load off of a rower's shoulders .

In French, repechage means to “fish out” or “to rescue.” What a lovely word! Because haven’t we all felt at one time or another the need to be “fished out”—like a cat that’s falled into a tub of water?

Who doesn’t make a mistake, or feel like they’ve wrecked something they’ve worked years to put together or accomplish? Who doesn’t yearn for a second chance? A “do over”?

My friends, rowing can give this to you.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a rower—any rower—that hasn’t been “rescued” by this sport. I know those who have survived harrowing diseases, returned from war, suffered injuries that ended careers in other sports. Rowing provided an outlet. Others yearned for a supportive tribe or needed a release from harrowing personal problems. All have found a second chance in a rowing shell.

When my life has changed—through unexpected moves, financial difficulties, personal loss, careers ending, careers starting—rowing has been there. Fishing me out. Rescuing me from sadness and loss and anger. Giving me a second chance to make it all right.

Because you don’t need to be a rower on the international stage to deserve a repechage.


Diagram from @britishrowing. BritishRowing.org