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The Greatest Disasters

Ingredients: Some rowers, a boat, and some fanciful and unquestionably foolish desire to row.
Preparation: As lengthy and detailed as you like, it doesn't matter.
Directions (not necessarily in order): Poison your oarsmen, miss the train, write-off the trailer and any 3rd party equipment you can lay your hands on, locate footplate(s) and / or other vital missing items, ground the boat, miss the race and finally leave yourselves stranded by dropping boathouse and van keys in the river.....

Put simply, trying to take 9 people and a boat anywhere goes wrong. Always. So, dredged from the depths of the club's darkest moments, on and off the Cam, we present some of our greatest disasters:

"Peter Brandt"

Cam Winter Head, Nov 19th 2000
The brand new gull-winged novice burgashell makes its debut appearance on the river Cam... only to be powered in to the outside of Grassy corner and damaged, badly, by the 1st Novice Men. Fortunately caught on film by horrified Jon Glass, the whole incident, complete with priceless commentary, is here in mpeg format (21.3MB). A classic.
     Full length high quality (21.3MB)
     Full length low quality (9.0MB)
     Short low quality (3.2MB)

One Term Later... The IVth VIII's first race, Lents 2001
      - Neil Morrison

... The most interesting part came when there was a little confusion about what to do after the bump. The cox-box was quiet, and the first bow four knew about it was when Queens shouted "oi! stop! you've bumped us already!!". We knew we had to hold it up, but Christ's III were not particularly far behind and all sorts of calls were being shouted, which resulted in us then rowing on to early and too fast. Suddenly there was a mighty cracking sound, as the bow of our newest boat Peter Brandt had a hearty meeting with the bank. The damage turned out to be substantial, and bow pair had to walk back carrying their blades, while stern six, complete with greenery-based-wreaths, rowed home. Final verdict: Rowing wise, very very good. But I think we may have to use a different boat tomorrow....

And just two terms after that...
Severe flooding swept through Cambridge, and our boat bays found themselves under a foot and a half of water. Unfortunately, Peter Brandt's airtight construction meant that it floated in to the underside of the rack above - severely cracking the shell, taking the club's new novice boat out of action for the second novice term in a row.

Damage to Peter Brandt
Peter Brandt beached on the bank, and damage in the October 2001 floods

The Tideway

The Head of the River Race, March 1999
      - Rich Dewire
, from the Captain's book
     See also: Rowing > the HORRs for an explanation of the race
We set off on the 26th with high hopes: we were defending champions in the Novice category and hence had a high position (85th). Things took a turn for the worse when a Mercedes had an argument with the trailer at Hanger Lane, the busiest junction on the North Circular. No boat damage, but a trailer missing an axle, a very poorly Mercedes (chuckle!) and 4 hours wasted. We eventually arrived at St. Pauls [school, at Hammersmith] for the warm-up outing and promptly grounded the [new] VIII on Fulham Flats. Utterly fucked. This was not a GOOD THING. Tip for the future: don't do this. We had to load it back onto the severely wounded trailer, drive back to Cambridge, switch it for BP2 and drive back again. We eventually got to sleep at 1:30am ish. I'm not even mentioning how we managed to trash the jockey wheel on the way back (Very scary: imagine driving a trailer with just two wheels and hearing a blow out!) Excellent race preparation!

Saturday was greeted with a fatalistic point of view: what would be the third huge fuck up of the weekend? Ah, but Fate cruelly tricked us once more, deciding instead to break this third up into a multitude of minor screw-ups, lasting all day!

What a weekend. The fact that we rowed like shit and were beaten by colleges like Robinson seemed small in comparison! Oh well, we 'place warmed' quite effectively, coming in at double our start place! Moral: Some weekend are just destined to be shit.

The Peterborough Effect

Peterborough Head, Feb 1990
      - Mark Crawford

After loading the boats onto the trailer, Mens 1st/2nd VIIIs and Ladies 1st VIII got on board a hired coach to go to the Peterbrough Head. A few minutes later, Alex Barrett and Mark Littlewood (Capt and Vice Capt 1990) attempted to drive the boats over...using a 1.6-litre Ford Escort. After moving some 2- 3 feet, they burnt the clutch out, gave up and went to watch England play France for the Grand Slam with a few beers at the '99s B/house. In an age before mobile phones, however, the waiting crews in a field near Peterborough Cathedral, were not to know this. Neither were LMBC Ladies, who had shared the trailer with us and whose trailer it was....

...hence the term..."The Peterborough Effect" - "turning up to race, but finding there no viable craft in which to do so".

The Belgians

Head of the River IVs, Nov 1992
      - Mark Crawford

Midway into a storming row in Mary Gwyneth on a flooded Tideway (despite a near miss with the masonry arch of Barnes Bridge), the Light IV (Higgs, Crawford, Trowell, Ibbott [steers]) were being rowed down by a renegade, scratch, 4x of Belgian internationals. Failing to cede the stream, we were hit and a trans-European fist-and-oar fight ensued, with one of the bastard foreigners breaking our rudder strings quite deliberately. We didn't realise this until we set off at right angles to the course and collided with a barge at Hammersmith Wharf. We were forced to wade/swim ashore with Mary Gwyneth and, using a 2p piece and a Coke-can ring-pull, we managed to mend our stricken vessel, re-enter the stream among the women's novice 4+s, streak past them all, get an excellent picture taken at H/smith Bridge (still one of my best) and finish to cheers from the 1st & 3rd coxed IV. We finished Foot of the River in 473rd, in a time a little under 37 minutes. Result.

The Irish Sea

Trinity College Dublin Quatercentenary Regatta, Dublin, June 1992
      - Mark Crawford

Not so much a disaster, this, as a near miss which paid off nicely. Two hired and matched Ford Escorts (a la Scylla & Charybdis) set off from Cambridge for Holyhead, chasing the VIII which had left on a trailer some hours before. This was billed as the nearest yet that 1st & 3rd had come to the Wacky Races, with the Red Escort team (Friend, Price, Camp, Crawford, Melia) attempting to out-do Dastardly & Muttley for fiendish intent by use of cunning short-cuts through mid-Wales (particularly the B4393 around picturesque Lake Vyrnwy). Sadly, they were themselves outdone by the Blue Escort team (Reid, Robinson, Harwood, Allen) who chose an all-motorway route. Consequently, Blue caught the ferry to Dublin...and Red didn't. Blue enjoyed a calm day-sail across the Irish Sea and a good night's sleep in Dublin. Red endured a gale-buffetted crossing and docked in Dublin with 40 mins to spare before our first race. Red car members changed in the back seat as we raced across central Dublin to the start line, and all vomited on getting aboard another boat. However, we went on to beat LMBC by 5 lengths in that first race - HURRAH - and were only narrowly beaten by Trinity College, Dublin, in the final.

The Jesus Sinking

Day 4, Lent Bumps, March 1991
      - Mark Crawford

Final day. Battle of the usual top 2nd VIIIs. Downing II chase 1st & 3rd II chase Jesus II chase Maggie II. At the railings, all crews are separated by less than half a length. Jesus bump Maggie at the Pink House, whilst we are still half a length off Downing. The bump ahead has occurred slappetty-bag in the middle of the river, and with such a small gap ahead to Jesus, Septic Thompson [1st & 3rd cox] steers hard to the Railings bank to avoid collision. Jesus - a Boat Club with whom we are on good terms at this time - obligingly draw in their blades to let us through. Behind, Downing's cox sees the stationary Jesus boat very late and steers the towpath side. To avoid a grinding collision, the Jesus bow-siders are forced to draw in their blades...before the stroke-siders have extended theirs back out onto the water. The slightest of clips from Downing II tips the Jesus boat 90 degrees onto its port side...and it sinks, with its bow side oars pointing vertically out of the water. The Long Reach becomes a scene from a Filipino ferry disaster, with crew members swimming aimlessly for the bank as Corpus and Kings come steaming through the wreckage. Meanwhile, I find myself trying to stroke a boat away from a closing Downing II whilst both crews are pi**ing themselves with laughter whilst still in the throes of a brutal scrap through the Railway Bridge. We hold on, and row home to await the return of the Jesus crew to their boathouse, where they receive a rousing cheer....

The Torn Porsche

Kimberley Rd, sometime in 1989
      - Mark Crawford

Before my day this, but one of the great stories you will still hear recounted by those around at the time. Heading for the Twickenham Regatta, the 1st & 3rd trailer meets its first obstruction less than 100 yds from the boathouses. A parked black Porsche 944 (I think) convertible has been parked on the apex of the turning out of Kimberley Rd onto Aylestone Rd. It is very early in the morning. The trailer cannot pass. Vice-Captain Barratt sounds the horn, but this produces no response. A number of adjustments are made to the trajectory of the van & trailer and it looks as if they will just squeeze past. However, driver and co-driver fail to notice the point of one of the boats (on the lower racks of the trailer) snagging on the soft roof of the Porsche. As the trailer rotates around the corner.....

The problem is noted only when the boat meets the soldity of the Porsche's roof stanchion. By this time, the roof has been all but ripped off like the lid of a sardine can. Driver and co-driver manage to disentangle the boat from the torn mass of canvas and scratched paintwork, and check for onlookers. Finding none, they decide to proceed to Twickenham. However, such is his wont, that Barratt cannot resist leaving a note on the mangled Porsche.

It reads,

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