WEHORR 2016: W1 Race Report

After a week full of bumps and celebrations, we had to do a full mental reset to face a whole different challenge, the Women Eights Head of the River Race. For this 6.8 km adventure, we headed down to London, some of us the night before, some of us bright and early that very same morning. The crew had slight changes from the W1 we were used to – including two rowers and the boat itself – and the atmosphere had a mixture of excitement and fear in equal doses.

The tideway is nothing like the Cam, it’s tidal (go figure!), busy and quite impressive. As a cox new to those waters, I attended a couple of very helpful seminars about it and prepared better than I have for any race ever. Easier said than done! Despite our plans and all the advice we got from our Captain for Boats and alumnae familiar with boating in the area, we all managed to get completely soaked while getting into the boat. Immediately after, our boat started drifting into another one while I was still trying to connect to cox box so the crew could hear the instructions. I finally got it connect and started shouting instructions, an activity that continued nonstop for the next 3 hours.

Being 319 out of 320 was far from a pleasant experience. During those 2.5 hours of marshalling we experienced first hand the four British seasons, from sun to hail. We marshalled to our position carrying out our regular warm up, rowing all 8 square blades, so the crew could feel they had enough control, even in the tideway. We slowly gained confidence and got ready for the race. However, the race start was still 2 hours away. The tideway gives you only a few seconds of break at a time before someone has to paddle back into position. At the risk of exhausting bow and two, we tried to alternate and share the burden, while eating away all the sugary food we brought.

Still freezing from being soaked and stationary, the rowers grudgingly de-kitted and we got ready to race. Despite the long distance, the next 22 minutes and 58 seconds passed by very fast. It was soon clear we would have to pass the crew in front of us, the moment came right at Barnes Bridge. I communicated our approach to the rowers and told them we would do it right after the bridge. It went pretty smooth, taking the racing line after the crew nicely moved to the side. But that was not going to be our last overtake of the day.

We encounter rough waters but the crew remained calm and strong, gaining a lot of distance of the next crews ahead. As we approached Hammersmith Bridge I was trying to find my reference point, that famous second lamppost I had heard so much about in the seminars, when I realized we had three crews just in front of us, all trying to pass each other. We quickly came to a boat length distance with very little space in between them for us to come by. With no desire of crashing oars in the Thames, I told the rowers we needed a very stable boat and pressure and they responded immediately.

After that, we headed to the last part of the race with a big push off of the bridge, while the rowers looked up at the, by now disappearing, crowd. Getting tired but at good rhythm, we made it through the finish line. Our landing was graceful as our pushing off but everyone worked efficiently to end a day full of excitement, cold and good rowing.

Joaquina Delas Vives, cox

Lent Bumps 2016: Day 4 W1 Race Report

With an injury this term, I have had a new perspective on Bumps, seeing races from the bank, and boy, was it exciting! Beyond expectations (see video of today’s race…).

Today was the last day of Lent Bumps 2016, and the first day I was able to bank party W1. Spirits were high at the boathouse. As, W2 was just finishing their campaign, thrilled to be going up two and to be eating crêpes, W1 arrived, ready to give this last race their all. They had opted for a classic: the “fly or die” strategy, where the race would be short either way, and they were planning on going for a revenge bump on Churchill before the green machine Girton got to them.

Peterhouse M2 coming back to the boathouse with only 6 rowers and 7 riggers should have tipped us off: an especially eventful day of racing awaited us!

The ladies set off early, and had a nice chunky paddle to Chesterton. Being one of the first boats to get to the marshalling area, they had plenty of time to relax, and enjoy a ray of sunshine. Some were eating Haribo, others gossiping about ejector crabs in earlier divisions, or even napping in the boat. Everyone was essentially chilling, when the situation took a turn for the worse when we realised our cox had forgotten her life jacket, just when the umpires were starting to get crews back in their boats. Far from ideal.

After asking a few boats for a spare one with no luck, I decided to rush back to the boathouse to get one. This cycle definitely makes the Top 5 Most Stressful Moments from my captaincy. I had no idea what the time was, whether it was still worth cycling like a crazy woman, whether I could take the time to stop and breathe, but the last thing I wanted was for W1 not to be able to race for a damn life jacket, so I kept pedalling, coxing myself through it – “Heels down, Heels down”. Zig-zagging at full speed on the towpath on the Saturday of Bumps is never a good idea, but from the bottom of the reach, I could see a boat waiting for their practice start on Ditton corner, and I knew I still had a chance. I finally got to station 11, literally seconds before the 4 minutes cannon went off, exhausted and barely able to catch my breath, only to find out the crew had found a life jacket. Oh well! & What a relief! We were good to go! The President was taking care of the countdown, while Mark pushed the crew out, and I got my camera ready, determined to get the first stroke in this time.

The start cannon fired and the ladies flew off. They had another very strong start of theirs, and were inside station going under the Motorway Bridge. They were inching in, pushing hard on the legs, when all of a sudden they started gaining a lot faster. Very startled, I realised Churchill in front had caught a crab, and were struggling to recover. The ladies, blissfully unaware of the situation, were very focused on getting their legs down, and were still storming down the river. Unhelpfully, our coach had forgotten his whistle and was unable to signal the progress to the crew. Within a few strokes, they closed in on Churchill, bumped, and didn’t quite realise until properly hitting Churchill’s boat (RIP Octopussy’s bow). Extremely confused, they cleared the river as fast as they could, to allow Girton & co to plough through. I was absolutely ecstatic, not really registering, and still very emotional from that horrible cycle; our President gave me a hug, while we waited for the crew to cross the river and come park on towpath side so we could get them all greenery-ed. It was the first bump of the week for them, and the first bump ever for a few of them as well, and the girls were grinning. So was I.

The crew pushed off to row home, in the setting sun, cheered on by the joyous crowds, and in the generally happy, festive atmosphere, characteristic of Bumps Saturdays, with flags and victory laps.

Once again, this shows the magical “randomness” of Bumps, that unpredictability that makes this week oh so exciting. I cannot wait to get back into a boat, and for May Bumps to come around. Thank you for the entertainment this week rowing friends, it’s been real!

Lulu, Captain of Boats

Lent Bumps 2016: Day 3 W1 Race Report

The weather at today’s race was sadly not as wonderfully sunny as the earlier days, with grey skies but happily still no winds. We had a steady row down. There was plenty of excitement with the prospects of rowing out ahead of Churchill and giving Pembroke a good scare while we were at it.

Spirits were high before the cannon went, and we prepared ourselves for a long, tough race. We took off with a fantastic start, just like the previous two days, quickly gaining ground on Pembroke! The start was confident and purposeful, with a good rhythm. As we took out the stroke length and settled into the racing pace we kept gaining and leaving Churchill behind with some distance, to the point where we managed to get one whistle on Pembroke! Unfortunately after this the past two days of rowing with no rest day started to take their toll, so we didn’t quite manage to keep the good form we’d been maintaining so far. After some unsteadiness and some massive effort from Churchill they managed to close the distance between us, but we made them work for every stroke and fought them hard all the way to the Plough, where they managed to bump us.

Notable in today’s race is our continuing great performance early on in the race, which has been consistent throughout bumps this year. There’s a notable difference compared to just a couple of weeks ago, when our starts were substantially less stable and confident. After spending a few outings focusing on sorting out the starts we’ve improved so much, showing that we have it in us to do anything we set our minds to!

Next race will be tomorrow, the last day of the 2016 lent bumps! We will be chased by a very strong Girton team going for blades, with Churchill in front of us. This will be the time to pour out all of our remaining energy into the race, and really make Girton struggle! And of course, the dream is: revenge-bump on Churchill! Keeping up our strong starts we can gain on them fast enough to make them nervous, and if we really give it our all it’s possible! And with Girton coming up behind, it looks like it might be a short race, whether it’s bump or getting bumped tomorrow. Anything is possible!

Amanda Sjödahl, 5

Lent Bumps 2016: Day 2 W1 Race Report

The second day of bumps was cold but still sunny as our W1 crew met at the boathouse ready to chase down Clare again. We knew the day would be different with Pembroke W1 chasing us, after their strong bump up on Caius yesterday. The row up was solid and we were marshalling with plenty of time to lie back in the boat and enjoy the sunshine. The final row up to our station was strong and together. We were only allowed to do rolling starts but as a crew we pushed through them, hoping to intimidate the boats around us. Finally, at the station we all waited in anticipation for the cannon fire.

Boom! It went off and we all moved together driving through the draw and wind strokes. We could see Pembroke behind us, pushing of their start as we neared the first bend. From the bank, Mark and Reana called to us to keep pushing, that we were gaining on Clare. As we neared grassy, our rhythm was settled and we were moving together well. But Pembroke were still a length behind us and before the bend, we passed Clare pulled over having bumped Queens. It was now us against Pembroke, pushing us to row hard over the whole course. Around grassy, the nearing crew behind us led to a little wobble and we lost some distance. Pembroke continued to gain despite our whole crew working through the whole stroke. Finally, just at the Plough, they caught us and we had a mad clash of blades.

We rowed hard as crew, never giving up and giving it all we had. Pembroke are a strong crew this year, and we still made the bump difficult for them. Tomorrow is a new day though, and with Churchill behind and Pembroke ahead, we need to continue with our fighting spirit and keep driving to the end. Pembroke had better watch out though, because we will fighting coming right back at them!

Nadia Blackshaw, 3

Lent Bumps 2016: Day 1 W1 Race Report

The sun was out and we were feeling excited and apprehensive for our first day of bumps. There were nerves in the boat as we knew we were being chased by Caius, who had unfortunately beat us only three weeks before in Pembroke Regatta. Despite this unease, we had a good couple of practice starts on the row up, and by the time we got to our station we were about as ready as we were going to be.

Before we had time to gather our thoughts, the 4 minute cannon went off, startling not only us in the boat but the bank party as well (much to our amusement)! With a pep talk from Abbie and Reana making the time between the 4 minute and 1 minute cannons fly by, we were suddenly being pushed out by Mark and lining ourselves up for the race.

The start cannon went and we were off. Following the advice of Reana, we were cool, calm and collected. Clinical. The start was one of our best and Caius very quickly drifted off into the distance. We rowed strong and hard and soon had gained one whistle on Clare. The crews behind us bumped out and so we just had to plough ahead, without worry of being caught. The rowing of the first few minutes was the best we’d done all term, and we maintained the water we’d gained on Clare. However, their crew was strong and we lost our drive a bit and didn’t manage to gain any more. We powered on down the reach past the waiting M1 and breathed a sigh of relief when we finally wound it down at Chesterton, having rowed over.

We’d worked really hard and rowed really well, and by the sounds of coughing emanating from most of the crew, we’d given it everything. We rowed home drained but feeling optimistic about the day ahead. The sun was warm at our backs.

Emilie Cousin, 4

Pembroke Regatta 2016: W1 Race Report

The day started out windy but clear for W1’s row up for our first race. Our spirits were high, despite the early start and we avoided the trouble of long marshalling by being in the very first race. We were set to row Caius W1, a crew that had beaten us by 10 seconds over Newnham short course the previous weekend. Nevertheless, the row up was solid and balanced with Christina stepping in to cox us for the day.

When we lined up, ready to start at the top of the reach, the wind wasn’t too strong allowing for a quick start. Off we went, with fast draws quickly into a more settled rhythm and with Caius still beside us. After the start, we kept our pressure on Caius as they slowly pulled away, but not quite passing us. As we continued down the reach, unfortunately we lost our rhythm momentarily, allowing them an advantage. But, under the bridge we gave it another big push as a crew, gaining distance and fighting until the end.

Sadly, it was a short day; back to the boathouse by 8.30am, but with a new crew including two novices, we always knew we had lots to improve on. The power was there and the drive was too, so when bumps comes I know we will be ready. Plus, we can get our revenge on Caius since they are one station behind us at bumps. Then, we won’t give them any advantage and they will just have to watch as we pull ahead!

Nadia Blackshaw, 3

May Bumps 2015: Day 1 W1 Race Report

This was the beginning of the end for some of the members of our crew, with two of them graduating after this bumps campaign – we all wanted to do them proud. A good practice start in front of the plough helped ease some of the nerves in the crew as we made our way to station seventeen, but the wait at Baitsbite lock allowed them to creep back in. The four minute cannon fires in the distance, a lot quieter than the roar of the cannon that was heard in Lents from closer to the motorway bridge. We hurry back into the boat and try and calm ourselves. Suddenly the countdown hits 30 seconds remaining and Mark starts to push us out, then bang and we’re off. The start was fast, faster than usual. We settled to rate 38 but it all felt frantic – we can do better than this!

After what seemed like an age we were pulled up on the bank – we had been bumped by an extremely strong Jesus II. This was the first time many of the crew had ever been bumped so it struck a particularly hard blow.

We all felt like we had let ourselves and the crew down, the start we did being nowhere near our best, but with the worst case scenario out of the way, we would enter the next days of bumps better prepared for the stress and the toil that would be awaiting us.
Tomorrow would have to be better. Tomorrow will be better.

Emilie Cousin, 4

LENT BUMPS 2015: DAY 4 W1 RACE REPORT

Final day of Lent Bumps and what a fantastic end to the week! Although the weather was not quite as nice and sunny as the day before, we set off in good spirits that we would have a successful final day. With many of our parents and other family members watching, we were especially keen to do well. Our row up was strong and steady, although our practise start was a bit messy. As we waited at our new station (station 10) for the cannons to go off, Mark gave us one last motivational speech on how to catch Caius. We thought it might be slightly more of a grind down that the previous days relatively quick bump against Catz, and we were prepared for this. We waited nervously, talking with Dame Barbara and Robert the Bursar before the one minute cannon went off and we focused in on the race.

We got off to a good start and before we knew it we had one whistle on Caius. We kept focused and didn’t start to rush as we had done the previous day when we started to gain on Catz. The strokes felt long and strong as we followed Christina’s calls to extend. As we moved up to two whistles we kept calm and picked up the boat speed ready for the bump. The boat was moving well and we still had lots of power to give. Then we had three whistles which very quickly became continuous whistles, with the Caius cox conceding just before grassy corner. We moved over to the bank before starting the celebrations. For most of the crew their second bump ever! It was an incredibly exciting moment and a great way to end Lent Bumps! There was plenty of time to fix some greenery in our hair, take lots of photos and have a chat with our bank party before our victory row home began.

Well done girls! We’ve shown what Murray Edwards W1 can do, bring on Mays!

 

Katharine Moore, 3

LENT BUMPS 2015: DAY 3 W1 RACE REPORT

It was a beautiful day and the whole crew arrived at the boathouse in good spirits. The sun was out, and this gave us a legitimate reason for wearing our crew sunglasses. There were many jealous glances from the other boats, but, hey, we can’t help being uber cool.

The row down was composed and clean; everyone was focused and looking forward to the race ahead. We were met at the tow-path by Dame Barbara (holla at the grooviest President in Cambridge!) and Mr Bump. Their presence only strengthened our resolve to deliver a good bump!

There were a few nerves at the push-off; we knew we wanted a strong start in order to gain on Catz as quickly as possible. Perhaps we pushed a little too hard too soon, as there was definitely a slight lull in between getting two whistles and three whistles (the longest thirty seconds of our lives!).  Luckily we re-focused and, with the help of some fantastic coxing from Christina, we caught up with Catz in dramatic style coming up to grassy.

Unfortunately Catz had a bit of trouble clearing in a timely fashion, which led to a bit of a pile-up for the crews behind us. However, once we were disentangled, we were able to row home wearing the best bumps combo: sunglasses and foliage crowns. We were so stylish it was unreal.

 

Laura Robinson, Bow

LENT BUMPS 2015: DAY 2 W1 RACE REPORT

No messing round today.

The boathouse was a much calmer place than yesterday; we know now that we have the strength to stay ahead, and that if we could just stay calm then Newnham could really be in some trouble. However we also knew that Catz were ahead of Newnham, giving them a fairly easy target, and that Pembroke would be gunning for us following the messy row yesterday. We would be ready for them!

Our lovely cox Christina was unfortunately absent, so Chloe was very kindly subbing for us; she kept us controlled and focussed on the row up. This wasn’t quite as tidy as it had been the day before, but we felt strong and together, and the two practice starts went fairly smoothly.

Waiting at our station the atmosphere was noticeably calmer than the day before; our pre-row speech from Mark was all about keeping cool and getting settled. He had hardly finished speaking before the 1 minute canon sounded, and before we knew it we were off!

Pembroke started stronger than yesterday, having watched us fall apart the day before, they were hoping for an early bump. Their bank party gave some overly optimistic whistles, but we were far calmer and in control; the rate had settled to a steady 35, and there was no way we were letting Pembroke touch us. Before long they were fading back into the distance; they clearly pushed too hard too soon, and we weren’t so easily caught.

Newnham bumped out Catz ahead as predicted, and Queens bumped Cauis ahead of them, so there was nothing to aim for. However we had learnt from the mistakes of the day before, and kept pushing Pembroke away right to the end, finishing with around 4 lengths between us. Compared with the scrappy row yesterday, it felt like a victory!

We’re getting the experience and learning from our mistakes. Catz had better watch their backs!

 

Harriet Alford, 6