Our race day began with a torrential downpour and soggy spirits. Our crew had not had an outing all together in weeks, we were exhausted from exams, and nervous to face Darwin after they bumped us last term. Our aim: try for an early bump, if anything to hold off Darwin just a bit longer.
As we sat in the massive queue on the way to the P&E, though, our hopes changed. It occurred to me that, just a few boats ahead, Darwin looked smaller than we remembered. They were not nearly was beefy as their crew in Lent Bumps were. They were even, dare I say, close to our size. We passed the message down the boat, and though we were soaked and poor Lucy was marinating in the puddle pooling in her seat, we started to feel hopeful. Even though we had no coach, no bank party, nobody besides the marshals so far to motivate us.
As we spun by the motorway bridge, our coach and bank party finally showed. We pushed off and very nearly forgot the bung. It was a stressful couple seconds before Lucy had it firm in her hand and the cannon went off. Darwin gained on us quickly, coming within two whistles shortly after our start. We started to gain on Pembroke, getting within one whistle of them before we all had to hold it up. The crews in front of us had bumped and were crowding the river. It was time for a re row.
We were freezing and soaked, but saw that Pembroke were choking as we neared them. It was going to be a longer race than we anticipated. But we had a chance. For the second time, the cannon fired and we nailed our start. We gave it our power and speed. Darwin gained on us. One whistle. We gained on Pembroke. One whistle. Two whistles. My feet slipped out of the footstraps. Darwin sped up, two whistles away. We were still gaining on Pembroke, more quickly than Darwin were gaining on us. Three whistles. It was tight. In a whirlwind of either us putting the power down, or Darwin losing stamina, they slowed ever so slightly. I found myself beside Pembroke’s cox. He looked wide-eyed. I shot him a terrifying glare (though my face probably was just ugly and contorted from the power ten). Continuous whistle—then Pembroke conceded! We bumped! We did much more than hold Darwin off for more than thirty seconds; we rowed home with foliage in our hair, cheered on by other boat clubs like the heroes we were.
Mackenzie Kwok, bow