The Club's Results

Cambridge Head-2-Head, Lent Term 2002

BPBC 1st men's VIII

Coxed by: Kate MacGregor

Beaten by 8 college crews; Beat 2 1st division boats
Time: 20:51
Also raced in a IV, clocking 21:51

Back in the year 2000, Black Prince Boat Club was set up by a few old boys already missing the good old college days. Fresh in our minds were our last memories of college rowing...

... dreamy outings in May evenings, with the heat of the day subsiding and the setting sun glistening on the mirror that was the Cam. Firm pressure at 38+ seemed effortless and races were usually won with the minimum inconvenience...

The club would have simple aims - we'd meet up on summer weekends to take part in a few regattas - preferably over short distances like 500m. Early morning training or indeed winter races were only for such proletariats as can be found at so-called 'proper' clubs. This approach was initially vindicated with early success achieved at the Cam Sprints - the 400m course being particularly well-suited to the bufty style.

However, there are a couple of characteristics that can be found in all oarsmen: 1) a masochistic addiction to pain. 2) a bizarre desire to make things that could be simple, difficult.

And so in the last week in January - statistically the coldest week in the year - we entered the Head to Head, the longest race available on the river Cam. Twice.

The first installment of this madness was to be performed in a IV+ comprised of Messrs Dewire, Darley, Fisher (G), Ingram and coxed by Miss MacGregor. Immediately, the buftiness came in useful as the stone or so of lard that everyone had put on since graduating ensured that everyone managed to arrive without being blown away towards the North Sea. However, drama immediately arrived when it transpired that John Earl had forgotten that there are in fact four rowing seats in a IV and had directed us to race concurrently with the Hommers in Scylla. This was not in fact the problem that it used to be as one of the recent improvements at the club means that there are now enough functional seats to use more than one of the IV's at a time.

We pushed off and sailed (sic) down towards the marshalling area. Here, we made another discovery. There are in fact people who are too incompetent to even staff the tow truck companies in America. These people get jobs as Marshalls for the Head-to-Head. As the alleged start time of our division (10:30) elapsed we were sent down past Chesterton to wait. Once there we were rudely instructed by another incompetentee to get off the course back up to the small straight beyond Chesterton, where all the other 27 boats in the division were waiting. We found a little inlet to wait in that required only roughly first year mechanics knowledge to keep the boat still against the forces of the stream, wind, and other boats. By about 10:50 rumour had it that some boats had actually started. We got down to race kit as we watched boat number 62 (we were 63, which was bizarre given that we were 16th in the starting order) set off. Hopes were soon dashed when this boat was followed by no. 49, and then 57. Finally at 11:10 we set off for real. The first leg can probably be summed up with the fact that despite the jet-wash following us, the rate of 31 felt quite high. Ahem. Oh, and it also started to rain. Lots.

The 20 min gap between the courses flew by and was passed by Ingram and Fisher (who had both decided to fulfil oarsman-property 1 and 2 by not wearing any leggings) fighting to stand in the not inconsiderable space that is these day's Dewire-wind-shadow.

Race 2 was progressing somewhat better than race 1 and huge encouragement was felt by all as we overcame the Hommer IV fairly easily on the Southern Ocean, sorry, Reach. Encouragement soon turned to embarassment as we realised that the Hommer boat was only operating at 50% efficiency, and also 2 of their rowers were sitting out.

At the railway bridge a sneaky look around from our 3 man spotted a Jesus VIII making painstaking progress 3 lengths ahead. The ensuing Neanderthal cry of "Let's get 'em" seemed to finally awake something within and something actually resembling useful work appeared to be done. The rating was even pushed up to levels not seen in the first race despite the approximate 80 mph relative wind speed difference! If we can take away one thing from the IV it was that we did successfully 'get' a Jesus nth VIII. hmmm.

By this time, it was 12:00 which was the alleged start time of the next division, where we would be re-inforced by Messrs Micklethwaite, Ponsonby, Leake and Hogley. The Head-to-Head had become the Head-to-Head-to-Head-to-Head. A quick dash back to the boat house to fetch the VIII and some dry clothing was made. This was notable only for a seemingly cowardly effort by Fisher to 'bin' himself. I say 'seemingly' because in fact, a wipeout on the 2 inches of water on the ground resulted in a literal 'falling into a bin' rather than the usual rowing usage of the verb 'bin'.

Another dash back to the start line allowed us to get there just as they were setting off the penultimate boat - clearly the 12:00 marshalls _would_ have been fit to join T&T's in Boston. However, any potential excuse for race 1's disastrous showing being a result of the long wait on the start line was exposed as race 3 perfectly resembled race 1. This time the 20 min gap afterwards was passed being elaborately parked by a marshall. His job was made particularly difficult by the fact that he had to fit us, as the last boat, into precisely 800m of available bank.

The final battle of the day was begun with lots of good noises about showing some power and attacking it a bit and again, higher ratings were witnessed in the Head-hurricane than the tail-hurricane. Again, we passed several vessels in the Southern Ocean, including someone with a clear death-wish in a single. Mr. Darley may be completely loopy for entering an Iron Man race this summer, but even he does not attempt this sort of thing. As we reached the Railway Bridge, we were informed that the 'A' 1st and 3rd crew (actually a squad boat) were within reach. The 3.8 races to date had been fairly disastrous but here was an opportunity to salvage a modicum of pride. Several grunts, groans and even some rowing later we were alongside and enjoyed an exciting side by side burst to the Finish. Then thank ****, it was all over.

After a long defrost in the showers, sanity returned and we did what the sensible do on stormy saturdays, and retired over to the most hospitable Mr Crawford's to have tea and cake and more cake.

A later look on the Internet revealed the important result for the day: the Cambridge weather centre had recorded a peak wind speed of 44 knots (c. 50mph). The minor details revealed that the VIII had beaten most (but not all!) college 2nd VIIIs and some college 1st VIIIs. FaT were a minute slower. The IV had performed marginally better, being only 70 sec slower than the VIII over 22 min of racing and therefore only 10 sec behind the FaT VIII. However, the two town IV's were ahead, putting us 3rd out of 3. The final nail in the coffin was the realisation that the Infidel BC VIII (Girton old boys) had gone quicker than our VIII. Ouch.

So, one of the less successful or enjoyable BPBC forays, and our rose-tinted memories of rowing have been temporarily blighted, but never fear, the mighty lion should be back on form for the HORR in March. Watch this space. [by the webmaster]

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