On a wet and very windy Saturday, 9 alumnae of MECBC returned to the Cam to take on Pembroke Regatta.
Before the race, we had known that due to a small number of entries, the racing will proceed in round robin rather than knock out format — we would get 3 races, one against each other entrant for the women alumnae division, which included two crews from Pembroke crews and one from Caius.
Rowing experience post-graduation varied. Two of us still live in Cambridge and row/cox regularly. Two more are training and racing with crews in Peterborough and London. Two of us scull/row weekly in Paris and Berlin. The other three have not been in a boat from 5-18 months.
Having said that, we have all been in the 1st VIII at some point with MECBC (except Pauline, who was not eligible, rather than not capable!), and when including subbing, likely have rowed with everyone else, just not in this exact combination.
On the day of the race, nearly everyone seemed to arrive at the boathouse within 5 minutes of the agreed meeting time (on that account, probably already doing better than when we were still rowing with MECBC). After a flurry of hugs and “how are you”s, Laura, as keen as ever, suggested a warm up on the erg. We did, under the authoritative coxing from Christina, on the 8 ergs that are now squished into the men’s changing room. I tried and failed to beat Jess and Ola either side of me during the warm up, so it is good that I’m at the bow seat. Then, we fell almost into the routine of old times, getting blades out, running back upstairs for a last minute trip to the loo, taking out Owen, getting everyone (plus Haribo) in the boat, then we pushed off.
The warm up was rowing in sixes, brought down to fours as we got stuck behind a rather slow men’s crew. At the Green Dragon footbridge we took it up to all eights, a little wobbly to start with, but we found a platform in less time than expected. At the railway bridge Christina called for a practice start – the first of two before the race. It was surprisingly reasonable – we were fairly cohesive, and took the rate — in a scratch VIII — up to 32. We tried another one further down the reach, then paddled around the corner, spun in the narrow section outside the Plough, and parked to wait for the race.
While parked, we consumed what Mollie called “an astonishing amount of Haribos”, caught up with old friends, and spotted familiar faces in other crews. Soon we were told to push off, and were told we would be racing on the meadow side.
Once we have paddled around the corner, we realised that the gusts of crosswind made it incredibly difficult to row, stay parallel to the bank, or stay on the meadow side. After what seemed like forever trying to line up, the “go” caught us somewhat by surprise. From my bow seat perspective, Pembroke pulled away from us at the start, but then, we held them alongside, all the way down the reach. For me (and I suspect for others) everything started hurting sooner than it would have in the height of my MECBC career, but we knew the drill, and under the relentless rhythm set by Sally-Anne and Reana, we pushed through and clung on for every inch against Pembroke. The race stretched on as the lactate burned in our legs. Mark yelled something about New Hall as we headed towards the railway bridge. We held our heads up and pushed on. One thought, crystal clear, echoed Mark’s words: yeah, this is it, this is why I came back to row for my club.
We had the advantage of the corner through the railway bridge, though we suffered for about two strokes (and it was not much more than two strokes!) with a crab in the boat. Pembroke pushed back at Morley’s Holt to finally take the finish and the win at a length ahead of us.
We turned around to wait at Chesterton for our second race, while consuming more Haribo. Although the outcome of the first race was not what we wanted, we were nonetheless quite pleased with how we fought, trading blows with them all the way down the Long Reach. It emerged that the Pembroke alumnae crew we have just raced required all its crew members to have a sub 8 minute 2k score. We felt even better about ourselves.
It got wetter and windier, and finally we were told to go up for our second race. On the row up it was clear that the gusts across the Reach had become even stronger, though we managed to keep our practise starts tidy. Another wait at the top of the Reach, where we found out that we are racing the Pembroke 2nd alumnae VIII, and that due to the worsening conditions, this would be our last race. We were determined to give it our all, while somewhat relieved that we would not have to wait around for another race.
As we came around Ditton corner, Christina warned us about the upcoming wall of wind, which we ploughed through to make it to the start line. This time we were on the towpath side. Again, lining up seemed to take forever, and again, the start took us by surprise (Christina later told us that we started one stroke after Pembroke). But this time, we were more evenly matched. We pulled away from Pembroke at the start, and worked at extending the advantage. However, we were still racing against an experienced Pembroke crew, who held on to us and did not fade away. We tussled again all the way down the Reach, and at the Railway Bridge, they launched a powerful surge that seemed to close the lead we had on them. We stayed together, dug deep, and fought back. Pembroke tried to steer for best advantage towards the finish, leading to a blade clash at Morley’s Holt — which we both rowed through. A few push for tens later, we made it to the finish — just a canvas ahead of Pembroke, but a win nonetheless. We were happy with the outcome, and the race, and even happier that we can now go back to the warm and dry boathouse!
We had a confident paddle back, then moved on to the Fort St. George for lunch. Reana complimented us for being “super easy to organise”. Well, thanks are indeed due: to Reana for putting this crew together, and to MECBC for letting us use the equipment, and moreover, for hosting yet another lovely Neptunes Dinner. Most importantly of all, a big thank you to MECBC for teaching many of us to row, cox, and coach, for forging friendships and opening up opportunities to connect with our local rowing clubs, wherever we end up. We hope to be back again in 2018!
Pembroke Regatta 2016
MECBC “Oars of Phwoar” crew
cox: Christina Larkin
S: Sally-Anne Bennett
7: Reana Maier
6: Laura Desert
5: Jess Manning
4: Pauline Pilote
3: Morwenna Jones
2: Ola Janusz
B: Wing Ying Chow
Invitations to Neptunes Dinner are out! The dinner will take place on 6th February 2016. RSVP until 21st January by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pembroke Regatta will take place on the same day and we will be entering at least one MECBC/NHBC alumnae boat. Please contact Reana Maier (email@example.com) if you are interested in rowing with us before Friday 22nd January.
Welcome back to another year of early mornings, frozen blades, heavy boats, grumpy coxes, and pain. If this is your first experience of rowing, don’t worry – it’s great fun and the description I just gave was a complete lie. Just picture unicorns and fairies and you the most accurate picture of what rowing is really like.
I just wanted to briefly (re)introduce myself to everyone looking to return to MECBC or just dip their toes in the water with rowing. My name is Emily, and I’m a second-year HSPS student, professional procrastinator, and waaaay to keen on rowing. For those of you who know me, you know that my stomach is a bottomless pit, and I order Dominos Pizza far to often for my own good. But one of the perks of rowing, it must be said, is the great excuse it gives you to eat ALL THE CARBS. Anyway, if that doesn’t paint a picture of a responsible adult ready to handle the duties of being Captain of Club, I don’t know what will.In all seriousness, aside from the rainbows and unicorns, rowing has definitely been one of the highlights of my Cambridge experience so far. The camaraderie, the inside jokes, and the way that we all rely on each other to do our best in outings, (most) ergs, and races, means that rowing pushes you to your absolute limits as an individual and as a crew. And when the race is over and you feel like death and have absolutely nothing left in your legs or lungs, it’s the best feeling in the world. It sounds counterintuitive and terribly masochistic (we’re entering slightly strange territory here….), but the bonds you form with crews and coaches is unlike anything else. They are what keep you coming back for more. Of course you want to win, but it’s also about making your team proud, and representing your college, and making sure that, even if a race didn’t go as planned, it’s important that you as a crew did your absolute best, and stay motivated to keep going.Last year, I noviced in Michaelmas, and then was lucky enough to row with W1 for Lent and Easter term, as well as squishing my butt into the cox’s seat for the third boat in the last term. There was a massive intake of novices, but sadly many of the senior rowers graduated and left in 2014. There are a few still around kicking, and many alumni come to see us race, but on the whole we are quite young club in terms of rowing experience. That being said, we made the finals of Queen’s Ergs, our first boat moved up two places in Lent Bumps, and our second boat did the same in the Mays. I won’t lie, there’s still a lot of work to be done if W1 and W3 want to redeem themselves this coming May, but the only way we can go is up. Going down three places and spooning was crushing, but I hope that, instead of feeling disheartened and tempted to resign ourselves to that fact, we come back fighting hard.
I’ve made this joke too many times for it to still work, but I’ll do it anyway. It’s an incredible honour to take Christina’s place as Captain of MECBC. She was such a wonderful friend, leader, and cox and, even though her feet are very small, I hope that I can fill her shoes in this position. There’s a lot to look forward to this year, from off-Cam racing to (hopefully) an away training camp, as well as lots of pasta, stash, and boatie love.
It was a fabulous day today as we took to the river with four alumnae rowers and five current students. Although some members of the crew had not been in a boat for over 20 years, we proved that with over 35+ years of combined experience the alumnae still had it in them – we even tried a piece!
Watch some clips from the outing here:
Thank you to Ying who did the filming and to Mark (Clare’s husband, and ex-NHBC coach) for bank partying.
This outing was part of the 60th Anniversary celebration weekend and the crew list was as follows:
B – Linda (1973)
2 – Katharine (PhD student, Chemistry, noviced Easter 2014)
3 – Miranda (1979, Natural Sciences Geology)
4 – Clare (1981, Natural Sciences, Headship Mays 1984)
5 – Mel (1986, Natural Sciences)
6 – Laura (PhD student, Materials, Peterhouse!)
7 – Reana (PhD student, Education)
S – Emma (PhD student, Public Health)
cox – Christina (4th year, Natural Sciences Geology, Captain of Club)