I am often asked why I row. To the uninitiated, the sport is baffling: it's boring and repetitive, you spend the whole time moving backwards, and all you do is end up right where you started.

But those who have been initiated to the cult of rowing (and yes, cult is the only word for it) will understand - though most likely find it impossible to put into words - why we get up at ungodly hours every morning, why we subject our bodies (and hands) to such terrible abuse, and why we devote so much of our lives to this beautiful, cruel mistress.