The Club's Results
May Term 2012
4th men's VIII
This was my first race, and second outing, ever with most members of this crew and so I was unsure what to expect.
The paddle up to the start was unremarkable, and somewhat messy. However, once we started winding up for the race I quickly found myself struggling to keep up and actually rather scared. This was partly because it was very rushed on the slide, but there was also a strong sense of fierceness and aggression during the drive, feeling rather more enthusiastic than last term's M2.
Throughout the downstream part of the race, ratio, length and timing never really came, and technique remained messy. However, the power stayed on, and every time a push was called there was a noticeable increase in boat speed.
For the upstream part of the race, I had suggested that we focus on ratio, and I feel there was a bit of improvement in this respect but not as much as might have been hoped for, and it was still difficult to get length. Commitment was still there throughout the race, but as we began to get tired our technique worsened and there were quite a few bad strokes where we lost a lot of speed.
Overall, I was pleased with this race, especially as a first outing. I felt that the level of power and aggression was very good, and we should keep that, but we need to really work on being calmer during the recovery, staying in time, and improving our technique. Our result was not too bad, though it could definitely have been better, and these points show that we have a lot of room for improvement.
First outing as a crew? Felt kind of interesting to begin on a race. We started and rowed for a bit, and then we overtook someone which was fun. Then we reached the motorway bridge and some unkind person told us to spin and row it all again. This was definitely not so enjoyable; despite almost managing another overtake on the reach, our time was significantly slower. Rowing hurts.
Not a bad race I would say. Given that Blaise, the 5-man, was missing and I had to sub for him. I have to admit that I was unable to row as well as I should because I haven't exercised properly for a few weeks, and have had only a single outing since last term. But it was nice to row with this crew once more before leaving college.
In any case. From the boathouse, I came out like a boss wearing just socks on my feet before I realized; the days of Black Prince are over, we are back in Richard Church and I better put those shoes back on before somebody notices.
We paddled all the way to the highway bridge carried gently by Thornton's polite bankparty calls (All love and respect to Thornton). We stayed near the railway bridge for a few minutes while Artin, the 3-man, receives his pre race hug and while I wrap my hands with green tape and thank John Shaw, the bow-man, for providing the tape. Then we set off to the starting line.
We did a complete start sequence with squared blades! And it was a good start. Even though Matt, the 4-man, lost one of his foot-straps and had to row the entire distance with only one secured foot.
A few hundred meters after the start it felt like people had given up already, because the boat speed dropped considerably. Until Alex, the coxswain, said that we were approaching the finish line, and suddenly the boat was going much faster again.
During the race, I quite enjoyed the sight of Maggie M4 behind us getting smaller and smaller and ever so smaller until finally disappearing behind the horizon.
We paddled back to the boathouse, and once there, some crew members were keen on washing the boat, something our crew have not done before (Not me at least), it was an interesting experience, and I loved the part where everybody receives a cold shower simultaneously when we turn the boat over above our heads.
In conclusion, I thank Michael for volunteering to bankparty. I wish we had won something but we weren't lucky enough I'm afraid.
In outings, we had been struggling to ensure that the blades went into and came out of the water fully squared. In the outing immediately before the race, we had done a start with square blades which turned out much better than any we had done feathered, so it was decided that we would go square blades for the start in the race and hope that this would amuse the race officials enough to get a prize.
Our start did in fact turn out quite well (though unfortunately not quite prize-winningly well), and the rhythm throughout the race was much better than in the previous race. Matt at 4 did a very good job of keeping things together when one of his feet came out. When we started feathering, things became messy as had happened in outings. There were also times in the race where the power seemed to drop off, though it did come back when called.
We clearly have more to gain by continuing to work on catching and finishing square when rowing feathered blades - but also I think it is important that as we keep focussing on technical points and rowing with a calmer rhythm we do not lose the underlying racing aggression.
In terms of results, we were 5th in the "College Men's 8 - Mays 4" event and the fastest boat entered under the name "M4" (though Queens' entered 4 men's boats that were faster than us). We were only 6.9 seconds slower than the next FaT boat up by results, though it should be noted that we both had subs.
We love square blades rowing! This was a fun race and it could have gone much worse. True, it could also have gone much better, give or take poppers, footplates, a boat which categorically hates us, and an amusing immediate stroke side corner. Seven seconds off M2 was not for us to sniff at, even if M3 did destroy our time. We rowed (which is at least something) and we learnt that feathering is such a simple, easy action that just about everything in the boat can we shaken up when it's introduced. Luckily this is a problem we sorted out over the following weeks. We also took the convenient opportuntiy to fill our footwells with bricks, in Iain's words. It gave us a taste of our time relative to others in our division, leading to much happiness and celebration. How little we knew.
Beat Corpus M4 Easily
Champs Head was the most recent indicator of likely performance, and having beaten Corpus M2 in that, we were not expecting a very difficult race against their M4, but we tried not to be too complacent.
We moved ahead off the start and quickly got clear water between us. Once we were a few lengths ahead, we gradually wound it down for a relaxed row to the finish line.
One thing that did become apparent during this race is that we were rushing off the start and had difficulty settling into a decent rhythm: when the first "Down 2" was called as part of our winding down, we actually started moving away faster from the other boat.
We watched Corpus M4 spinning after we'd parked. This shouldn't be enough to instil a profound sense of confidence immediately before a race, but when Yining stepped over to instruct their bow pair and stern pair in the art of avoiding the bank and rescuing bow balls we felt this race probably wouldn't be as competitive as some of the others. This feeling was marred somewhat when we attempted to move our own boat down, and did so in a very professional, calm and thought out manner which didn't involve an angry lady in a houseboat hurling base accusations at some noted members of our crew. Big thanks to Yining for managing to carry my rucksack which on cooler days she might have used as a tent.
The race was interesting; we went off rapidly and wildly off the start in an effective but untidy and inefficient manner. Soon we settled down to rate twenty four paddling or thereabouts. Now might be a good place to mention three key disadvantages in using Richard Church: the velcro on the footplates keeps coming out, so Matt rows feet out pretty regularly, the cox box doesn't display ratings, and the wires connecting the speaker in the bow to the cox box have come loose, leaving bow pair completely deaf to the instructions and encouragements Alex was using to motivate us; the surge timing especially suffered because of this. Yining acted as a sort of relay, conveying orders from stern to bow. They had a very loud and feminine bank party on meadow side, cheering them on and videoing. We were unsure if we managed to feature in any of the video... Jon gave us a lecture afterwards on the art of remaining calm and in control during races; something which we tried to take to heart on the later two, but precision during racing is definitely still a work in progress. The hurriedness and scrappiness could easily have lost us the race against Clare.
Ah, Corpus. Eight novice rowers with rainbow and mesh wifebeaters, one novicer cox and a novicer-er coach just didn't make for the best combination.
As for the race itself, there was little doubt that we would win after gaining almost two lengths in the first minute. However, there could have been a lot more control and separation. This is especially crucial if the coxbox or speakers aren't working, so that changes can be made together down the boat. Cleaner rowing was seen in the next race and would have made beating Clare simpler.
Beat Christ's M3 by 3/4 of a length
This was the race that we were expecting to be most challenging: it seemed that we were facing the Christ's Rugby boat, which had marginally beaten us in Champs Head, and we had also been beaten quite convincingly by Christ's M3 in Cambridge Head-2-Head.
Initially, we got ahead by about half a length. However, we again had difficulty establishing a good rhythm, and they gradually moved back up on us for a while. Fortunately, when we eventually found our rhythm, we started moving ahead again, finishing about three quarters of a length up.
Christ's were clearly a rugby boat. The rugby tops and lightweight rower in the bows (according to Barrel) gave it away. But the first thing of note before this race was that we got to watch Corpus spin again! Didtheymakeitdidtheymakeit*crash*awh no they hit the bank again.
I can't remember it but judging by our usual performance our start wasn't great but could have been a lot worse. We held them with 3/4 of a length lead down the whole course; they began to push before the bridge and almost drew level before we pushed off the bridge in excellent style; they had no more energy and fell back again, granting us another victory. Jelly baby refuelment time.
Beat Clare M3 by 1/4 of a length
This was a good example of the importance of never giving up in a race.
Having beaten Clare M3 by several seconds in Champs Head, we were expecting this race to be easier than the previous one, though much closer than the first one.
We remained about level with them off the start, but once again we were rushing and they soon began to get noticeably ahead. Then it seems that we suffered a couple of mini-crabs (fortunately each resolved within a stroke), each of which cost us a lot in speed and caused us to fall further behind. And then they put in a push and moved even further ahead. For a while we seemed to react by panicking and rowing shorter and with worse rhythm, which unsurprisingly did not help.
However, when Alex called for a push through the railway bridge, the rhythm suddenly came together and we were rowing more calmly. We saw that we were gaining on the other boat, and realised that there was a good chance that we could catch them, but that there was not very much distance left on the course. With this motivation, we began really putting down power and gaining on them more rapidly, while they seemed shocked and unable to find a response. We had a wind for the finish, which came with effective power and took us to about a quarter of a length ahead by the finish line.
This was our last race, winning the "MenD" event of the competition. This is definitely a result that we can be pleased with, and bow pair deserve a special mention for coping without being able to hear the cox properly, but we need to work on more reliably finding a good rhythm even under race conditions, as it was a theme throughout this event that we were initially rushing in each race but then gained a significant increase in boat speed when we finally settled.
Clare M3 were good; they'd had an easy first couple of races (sorry M5) and were feeling confident. We started, pushed, held them and fell out of time during the surge; we need the coordination provided by the cox. Things became scrappy and pulled back together. Clare pulled ahead gradually over the length of the reach. At bow it was demoralising to watch them edging further and further ahead, and a couple of crabs leading to rowing not at all together lost us yet more distance. Luckily we didn't panic and held it together under the railway bridge where it was astonishing to note that we were gaining. This gave us such adrenaline; from the despair of certain defeat (again!) we felt hopeful and buoyant, and the sudden energy allowed us to take it back even faster. We kept pushing and every stroke felt like it gave us 6 inches on them, and the wind for the last few metres destroyed they faint hopes of retaking the lead; certainly from how it appeared and how much of their boat I could see as we crossed the line, unbelievably ahead it felt like a much more convincing victory snatched from the jaws of defeat than the actual quarter length lead we had, but I guess that's how elation skews perception. I now have a delightful tankard on my shelf.
A massive push 10 strokes before the railway bridge instilled some much-needed confidence into the crew as they started to gain back that 1/2 length Clare had on them. Alex did a great job of staying cool while the Clare cox took a remarkably aggressive line under the railway bridge; for once we came out of a blade clash for the better. Clare took a bad stroke and crashed down onto one side, and I suddenly morphed into a heavy-burdened, high-pitched screeching lunatic on wheels. Apparently only those on the bank noticed my transformation, but the boys found enough motivation and strength from themselves and Alex to pull ahead by 1/4 length. Fantastic!
Fewer crabs and more deliberate catches would have been helpful though admittedly a lot less dramatic.
Bumped St. Edmund's II
I think our start was all right today, though not as good as it has been in the past. (The lack of practice starts might not have helped.)
In the first few strokes, we were treated to the sight of Jesus IV behind us travelling across the river and soon reaching the bank, having perhaps not got their starting angle quite right.
Then St. Edmund's II in front of us caught a couple of severe crabs, and we bumped them at about the 10th stroke of the race.
So, a good result for us, but bad luck for St. Edmund's II. We need to keep focused and be prepared for harder races for the rest of the week: we still don't actually have much idea what St. Edmund's II (who will be chasing us tomorrow and hoping for revenge) are like when not catching crabs: apparently we were gaining on them before this happened, but there was not really enough time to get a good idea.
With our brilliantly set boat pause paddling behind Jesus IV on the row down we knew there wasn't going to be much pressure from behind. This turned out to be guaranteed when Jesus apparently went careering off into the bank 5 strokes in - causing our stroke man to laugh. The race itself was not much longer going something along the lines of:
Draw - 1; Draw - 2; Draw - 3 (3/4 length down);
Wind - 1; Wind - 2; Wind - 3; Wind - they've got a cra-; Wind - 5 (1/4 length down);
Length - there; Length - there; L - HOLD IT UP (cox is hit by bow's blade)
Given the number of blunders on St Edmunds part our race was exceptionally short, though their multiple crabs are probably indicative of the carnage that will be occuring in our wash tomorrow. Solid 'row' boys, let's go out tomorrow and do the same.
Oh my, we were so happy. St Edmund's II were an enigma; we had no idea how they would perform. We assumed it was basically their M1 from Lents', which spooned in embarrassing style, being bumped by such giants of rowing as Darwin I, given their ludicrous number of returning blues, and we may have been right. Our worry was that they would bump out with Tit Hall III too early for us to bump them, and then St Cats III would prove too speedy for us to close with. We fretted an planned and decided that day one was categorically the most difficult and important day.
We started, our seven and stroke men in gales of laughter at the antics of Jesus IV behind us, and we got half way through our lengthen strokes before the cause of Iain's shouting became apparent.
A glance to my left shows their stern rapidly falling behind me; I lift my blade barely in time to avoid the stern of their boat as the rest of the our crew tries to hold it up urgently, but to no avail; my spoon thumps their cox in the back, and my blade handle punches me in the stomach (leaving a bruise which made tapping down painful for the next couple of days, if you're feeling sympathetic), ripping my feet out of the footplates and me off my seat, and I very nearly go for yet another swim in the Cam. Apparently they caught two crabs and an overhead crab off the start. If only things had continued in that vein.
Our start was reasonable, especially considering that we were using Titan, a heavier boat which we were not used to, instead of Richard Church.
We did gain quite well on Trinity Hall III, apparently getting to within about 3/4 length of them, but then St. Catharine's III in front of them caught some crabs and so got bumped promptly despite having rowed over yesterday. Then we were closing on Selwyn III and seemingly fast enough to get the overbump before the finish line, but they also bumped up before we could catch them.
Two more pairs of boats also bumped out, so the only thing we could possibly chase was a quadruple overbump on Clare Hall. This was judged not feasible (or perhaps they had actually reached the finish line by this point) and the boats behind us had also bumped out so we were instructed to wind it down near the Plough.
On the Reach, Jason at 6 kept expressing concern that Homerton II would get a double overbump on us, but in fact there remained plenty of distance between us as well as the scope for us to have wound it back up if necessary. Having said that, we did not seem to keep this part of the race as tidy and efficient as we might have.
This result denies us blades, but there was not really anything we could have done about it - in Bumps we will always be subject to the whims of the crews around us. We need to keep the focus tomorrow: maybe we will catch St. Catharine's III or maybe they will bump back on Trinity Hall III and we will be chasing the overbump on Jesus III (who are down 2 so far). Also, we might have some real pressure from behind this time from Christ's III (who are up 2 so far), so we need to keep our cool and be prepared to keep pushing on even if we are having to row over.
We get to the boathouse and are pleasantly informed that M6 have written off the bow of our boat. This provides the much need confidence boost. We row down in Peter Brandt, then swap with a pleasant M5 crew who have just bumped to row in Titan, a boat in which my feet kept coming out of the footplates. Thanks M5. Fantastic way to begin the day.
We start, the boat two ahead of us, St Cats, who we would like to heavily scold for being too damn awful, catches three or so crabs off the start and so Tit Hall catches them instantly. We get depressed as we row past but feel the overbump is on the cards. Nobody chases us as the fearsome Christ's III catches the meek St Edmund's almost as quickly as we did.
Unfortunately, the overbump wasn't on the cards, because although we were gaining on Selwyn III, it wasn't enough to catch them before they bumped out Jesus III at Ditton. Then there really was nothing to chase, and we paddled down the reach, watching a desperate Homerton boat overrate us by ten in a desperate attempt to catch up and so avoid the sandwich position the following day.
Bumped by Christ's III
Not long after the start, we started getting whistles on St. Catharine's III, continued closing on them, and then a Bumps push was called. Unfortunately, they had also been gaining on Trinity Hall III (who I hear might in fact have caught a crab at around this time...) and managed to get their bump just before we would have got ours.
Alex did a very good job of steering us around them, but the Bumps push had taken a lot out of us and it soon became apparent that Christ's III were noticeably gaining on us and we did not seem able to respond.
We went quite wide around Grassy Corner and they got overlap, but they steered for the bump and so came through outside us, allowing us to pull away coming out of the corner. This, however, did not last for long: they moved up again and caught us outside the Plough.
So, a very disappointing result, and again one that was influenced by the goings on in front of us. It is a shame that we did not find the energy to keep off Christ's III, whom we managed to beat in Nines Regatta, as we had apparently got most of the way to overbumping Jesus III, but I think we can be pleased with our performance especially considering how much we had put into the earlier Bumps push.
Tomorrow is a new race, so we need to go into it aiming to do as well as possible and not let ourselves be put off by today (or by protesters).
Back in a taped up and much maligned Richard Church, we're still happier in her than Titan, even if the amount of water it feels the bows let on is considerable. Much joking about me sinking. We're told the bow will fall off if we hit anything.
We start, we push, we bumps push, we get overlap with St Cats' III whose cox then concedes, all before first post. This all sounds just fine, thank you very much. Unfortunately, a second before the Cats' boat concedes, the Tit Hall III stroke man apparently fell off his seat, allowing the Tit Hall cox to concede a half second before the Cats' one. We easy and almost hold it up because we think we've bumped, and Christ's power it round the corner. Then the next instruction is a command to go back to full pressure at race pace, as Alex weaves in and around the melee ahead of us, unavoidably losing us yet more distance and speed over our pursuers. We get back in to rhythm, conveniently exhausted after our fantastically effective bumps push, and spend a very long time desperately trying to push Christ's away. I must apologise for our grassy line, although luckily they steered for the bump. We were caught a length or two off the overbump, as we reached the plough. Gutted.
Off the start we moved up a bit on Christ's III, but as expected they got their bump on Trinity Hall III. We chased the overbump on St. Catharine's III, and had apparently closed the gap to 3 lengths a bit before Grassy. Unfortunately, we were then klaxoned due to a blockage up ahead, and with the umpires in no mood to hold rerows with the event already running very late, technical row-overs were awarded.
So a disappointing result from the Bumps campaign considering the standard of the crew, but this was mostly because of the antics of St. Catharine's III and Trinity Hall III ahead of us. Yesterday was the only race that we could have done anything about ourselves, and that may have required planning not to chase the bump but just to go at a steady pace and hope for an eventual overbump - which is considered a dangerous strategy.
Ah, protestors! You did manage to screw over somebody's day after all. After watching them approch, we hung out gazing at Ian Bone and his elderly anarchists wave banners at our boathouse. This was quite amusing, although we couldn't hear a word they were saying over the ghastly wind, which would prove a dominant feature of the day's rowing. The wildlife protestors in their ultra environmentally friendly outboard-motor driven boat held up the races by over an hour, achieving basically nothing other than general annoyance and much generation of counter arguments to their activities. Like I've never killed a swan. Or a duckling. Georgia would kill me if I tried...
So as predicted, the boats ahead of us, after spannering around for the last few days bump out again, pretty much immediately. We're used to this by now, and had planned for the overbump or the double overbump from the beginning. We knew we could do it; all that remained was a little bit more pushing. Ah, were that were so. Over half way to the overbump on Cats', just round first post corner we're told to easy then hold it up as we approach their stern. Then we hear the klaxon and we're told that King's celebrated A Bump (we're also told this is very exciting for King's) by not clearing and parking across the breadth of the river. They were at the head of the division, and as a result, unless you'd bumped before first post (as Christ's did, earning their blades, to much bitterness from us given we beat them outright at Nine's), racing was over and everyone was awarded technical row overs. There was no time to rerow the division, no way to make an exception for people just about to overbump because they were already running an hour behind. So we were livid.
We entertained ourselves pettily by rowing slightly scrappily but pretty efficiently in the truly dreadful headwind on the reach, and catching up to Cats', easying perfectly sat and drifting past their stern to bump them gently, before letting them get a bit more distance and beginning to row again, every time a little nudge; this is us bumping you, this is us bumping you. Goddammit.
Full 4th men's VIII results archive