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Benedict Tufnell heads to Portugal to visit the high performance rowing centre in Avis

Two hundred klicks east of Lisbon, lies Avis. Once home to King John I, today it attracts a new elite. Some of the world’s most decorated oarsmen and women make annual (if not more frequent) pilgrimages to this sleepy town, nestled in the Alentejo region of Portugal, to tune bodies and sharpen minds ahead of the biggest races of their lives. It’s easy to see why; historically renowned for its exports of opium and wine, Avis now offers a very different, equally intoxicating commodity – boat speed. Jürgen Grobler brought his British heavyweight men to Avis prior to the London Olympics, and it is here that they have put the finishing touches on all but one of their World Championship campaigns since 2011. Two-times Olympic gold medalist Peter Reed even found a wife here. But if it wasn’t for a pair of plucky young Portuguese guys, none of it would have ever happened. The raw ingredients were always there – glassy water, good weather and not a jet ski or gin palace in sight. But it’s the Hotel Herdade Da Cortesia that has made it so irresistible to international athletes and schoolboys alike. “Plus, it’s out in the sticks, which keeps us out of mischief,” says Will Satch, stroke of the British men’s eight that has taken gold at every World Championships since the last Olympics.

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About Row360

Welcome to Row360, the world’s only global, independent rowing magazine. Row360 brings you features from around the world, profiling the best athletes, coaches, and others from the whole rowing community – Olympic, Paralympic, college, club, ocean, and more.