In true English style, as we got to the boat house, we saw the sun was shining and the river was flooded. For a faff-prone crew, this added precious minutes to our pushing-off time. Luckily in the scheme of things, this didn’t particularly matter as the whole division was delayed due to earlier carnage. However this delay meant that both of our practice starts were cancelled. We vented out excess adrenaline into some really strong paddling, eventually we ended up pausing to avoid crashing into St Eds, a reassuring signal that there was nothing too threatening chasing us from behind. Newnham were keeping their distance as well, we had caught glimpses of a sneaky start they’d managed to fit in; they looked neat and powerful.We pulled into our station quite close the lock, a testament to last years W2 who only recently thrust the crew into division 3 glory. Our nerves were compounded by words from coach Watson, who told us that although we were probably the fastest boat in the division, Newnham III were probably the second fastest. The question was; could we catch Newnham before they caught Clare Hall? In the boat, we began to steel ourselves for the prospect of having to overbump.Conditions were perfect; the sun was out and there was virtually no wind. The expert hand of W1’s coach Mark pushed us out with 15 seconds to the start cannon. Poised and primed, we waited for the resounding boom of the cannon. BOOM. Our cox Georgie called ‘draw one’, and I saw strokes blade sweep out of the water. Knowing that our stroke was a perfectionist, she would not be happy with those draws, and she followed it with some of the best winds we have ever done. The whistles from our bank party started ringing – we had gained on Newnham! After a sustained push they held us off at two whistles. Coming under the motorway bridge we managed to crank it up and gain three whistles on them.
We could feel the boat rocking around in their dirty water; we were close and so thirsty for the bump. As Georgie called for a ‘Hammer time’, we stood on our footplates, the entire crew powering towards their stern. The sound of continuous whistles rang about us and we knew the bump was imminent. The Umpire and our bank party suddenly yelled for us to hold it up, we turned to see a shocked Newham clearing and a plucky Clare Hall rowing on, having only just escaped Newnham’s clutches. According to our coaches, Newnham were a quarter of a length or less on Clare Hall when we caught them. Unfortunately for Clare Hall, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.