The Club's Results
May Term 2014
1st women's VIII
Beat Selwyn W1 (3/4 length)
Lost to LMBC W1 (2 lengths)
The plan today was to bump Newnham 10 strokes out of Ditton. We executed that plan almost perfectly. We bumped them 8 strokes out of the corner. Fletch described it as clinical, and it was certainly the closest adherence to a race plan Ive ever experienced.
At crew pasta the night before the race, Sara Lackner texted me and said she had left a good luck present in my pigeonhole. This turned out to be a piece of our greenery from bumping Pembroke last year encased in epoxy. Thinking back to the last day of last Mays made me wistful for greenery in the sun. When I got to the boathouse, Yining showed me her pendant, from the Christs bump. With good luck around our necks, we hoped and wished for the best. Despite our race plan for the bump, I was privately concerned about the possibility of being overbumped by Maggie. I was running dozens of scenarios over in my head, involving sandwiches, technical row-overs, sprints and surprises. I knew we couldn't be prepared for anything, but hoped we would have a little luck, and the courage and skill to re-think the race if we needed to.
This was my very first Bumps without the steadying presence of Iain on the bank. His absence had generated a vast amount of admin, resulting in multiple purchases of whistles, stopwatches and Fordy effectively becoming our boatman, complete with VIP bank pass. I had drafted Fletch, Gonzalo and Thomas in to whistle for us on various days, being skeptical of Fordy's ability to row in M1 and bank party W1 at virtually the same time. He made it in time to push us off with whole minutes to spare. He spent the day pedalling furiously up and down the towpath with a schedule no one but him could make work. He deserves a medal.
We went into this race as the underdogs. We had raced sporadically in the past term, and never in the full crew, so no one (including ourselves) knew what to expect from us. We knew we had found moments of speed, but we didn't know if it would be enough. We had discussed the race in detail, practiced moves to run away and kill calls to go for the bump ahead. We had finally peaked.
Cursed with the 7th station, our whole bodies shook when the start cannon fired, and I understood what Erin meant when she said she felt like the start was in slow motion. I couldn't hear Yining's calls, and wasn't aware of my body moving.
The start was effective, winding to 43 and settling onto a 38 that felt much lower. We quickly moved away from the carnage that was to become the Pembroke-Christs-Maggie sandwich.
Moving down first post reach we heard calls of 'just inside station!' and took a lift for the first whistle. Newnham were sprinting hard to get Caius and we sat somewhere between station and a length until Grassy. As we started to take the corner I saw the Pembroke bow-girl catch a massive overhead crab as they rounded first post corner, and watched my best-case scenario of Christs bumping Pembroke and messing it up enough to impede Maggie playing out behind us. This gave me confidence that we could afford a sprint.
We took a good corner and got our whistle. Yining called for another push and and we started hearing calls of 'Mooooooving!' from Fletch and 'inside length!' from Fordy, duly repeated by Fletch. As we powered through push after Plough Reach burn our bank party became increasingly jubilant and I began to get concerned that Fletch might forget his whistling duties when he screamed '1/2 a length!'. Thankfully, whistles soon followed.
Newnham took a wide line around Ditton, which Yining communicated to us and immediately took advantage of. We started to get overlap whistles and bumped 8 strokes out of the corner, though Nina says she hit their stern 2 or 3 times, and I was told that if we hadn't held it up when we did we would have mounted their riggers, though I didn't hear any calls from Yining or the umpire besides wild cheering.
Once clear, we crossed over to get greenery and celebrate with our bank party. The row home was sedate, except for the moment of high spirits when I told the girls that this was the highest position FaT W1 have ever held in Mays (while its been rowed in VIIIs, we were briefly 6th in the 1987 IVs races). An exciting achievement for us, and I hope to see further rises in the future. Now all that remains for tonight is to prepare to surprise everyone again tomorrow.
There were high spirits in the boathouse as we celebrated M4 and W2's bumps. M3 were rejoicing at another row-over. We were distracted by the infectious energy and our nerves and excitement for the day led to a slightly scrappy row up to the start.
We knew our new station, 6th, with the outflow, would be a challenge for Fordy, our novice boatman. Since we arrived so early (some 10 or 15 minutes before the start) we had a practice push-out. There were plenty of acrobatics with Lydia's and my blades being held by Neil and Thomas and the discussion and constant fear of some reeds, which were 4 feet in from the bank and almost breaking the water, getting stuck in the fin unsettled us.
We pushed out, but not far enough, and as Daisy and I called a frantic 'Square!' amidst the confusion, I knew my blade was deep in the reeds. As Yining called the first draw stroke I felt my blade tug and pull under the water. I swore loudly as I felt the boat swing towards the bank, yanked my blade out of the water and took two of the biggest strokes of my life, watching the bank to make sure we'd miss. It's a credit to the girls that no one panicked, and once we were safely out of the reeds we raised the intensity to go after Caius. Newnham, surprisingly, didn't gain in the start, but coming around First Post corner it was clear that Caius were sprinting out of our reach. On Grassy we called it down for a long race, hoping Jesus would hold off Caius long enough for them to make a mistake we could capitalize on. However, it was here that our focus shifted significantly.
Newnham took a much tighter line around Ditton, and got a first whistle here. They followed the corner round, and lost some ground, but not as much as I would have expected, and I called for a move. It was becoming a very different race.
Caius evenutally caught Jesus on Ditton, and some chaotic and ineffective clearing here forced Yining to go wide, while Newnham could cut through the path we made, and started to gain heavily. I made an inadvisable move call on the corner, which was reinforced by Daisy a few strokes later, and we lifted again.
Despite our move, Newnham got 3 whistles at the railings, and it was at this point that I stopped hearing anything from the bank and fixated on my legs and Newnham's bow. Down the reach we took push after push, moving away, falling back, holding them, then nearly overlapping. Halfway down the reach I could see Newnham's rowing falling apart, and at the railway bridge we started pulling away in earnest. We knew when we saw the bow girl looking around that we had broken them. We kept the pressure on and moved steadily away out to station by the finish.
We limped back to the boathouse, spent in so many ways. Once parked, Yining collapsed in her seat, and my heart was in my mouth as I panicked and called out for Thomas in the hopes of a steadying presence. Thankfully, she just needed some sugar and water, and we were able to get the boat away with some help from Rosemary. We were proud of rowing away from them, but filled with trepidation about what Day 3 would bring.
Jesus were visibly alarmed when they noticed us having a practise push-off into the station 6 outflow, which was worlds better than yesterday's nightmare. The real push-off was coordinated perfectly, courtesy of Fordy and our illustrious bankparty.
Despite a scrappy first three strokes (but at least this time Julia's blade wasn't held hostage underwater), we wound to a record high and settled into a strong rhythm. We stuck on station with Jesus around the corners while steadily pulling away from Newnham, who started to fall apart coming out of Grassy. Then both gaps opened on the straight, where Jesus moved away and Newnham just faded into the distance, resulting in a rather quiet end to the race.
We felt healthier and more prepared today, and it definitely showed. One day more now, girls - tomorrow we go for the bump!
Clearly, our new resolve showed, as Gonzalo, bank partying us for the first time in a term, was shouting encouragement and surprise about how much power we were putting down. We had a very solid paddle to marshaling, buoyed up by his confidence. We elected to sit in the shade this time, but discovered the perils of marshaling towpath-side when we had to leap up to keep our blades from clashing with the racing Caius and Downing crews.
We had another practice push-out on the start and this time knew that we had it right. With my blade safely buried away from the reeds, we had a good start and began to move away from Newnham. Our of our stride, we were just inside station on Jesus. Our plan was to row hard to Ditton and try to get inside station, then go unsustainable to try and bump them.
On Grassy, Christs got a whistle on Newnham, and Maggie one on Christs as the crews bunched up on the corner. Maggie were pushing Christs into Newnham and causing them to panic under pressure. I watched the rowing becoming scrappy as we moved steadily away from them. Coming onto the reach it was clear that we weren't making much of an impression on Jesus, but the huge margin we had opened up on Newnham was heartening, and our rowing became long and powerful in the second half of the race.
We watched Christs and Maggie bump out just after the Plough, but were beyond worrying about a sprint from Newnham at this point. At the railings, the gaps between the 3 racing crews had increased. Jesus moved out to 3 or 4 lengths, and Newnham had falled 5 or 6 behind. We strode onto a strong steady rhythm that saw us increase our lead by another length by the finish.
Gonzo called for a wind at the bridge, which became a half-hearted push, and then calls to conserve energy, when it became clear that there was no chance of a bump on Jesus.
We paddled back to the boathouse, pleased with our performance, and gathered around the radio to listen to the mens' race. We quickly gave up on the patchy Cam FM commentary, and huddled round the computer screen, staring at the live timings, waiting to see if a time would appear for Catz and FaT at the finish. We held our breath. When the crew names italicized out, we screamed and raised our arms, and Yining jumped into my arms and I spun her around. When I eventually put her down we realized she was crying with joy, and we all put our heads down and had a group hug, sharing in our happiness for the boys. We stood on the balcony, singing and waiting for M1 to come back so we could cheer them. As they rounded the corner, we counted to three and then screamed and cheered and pounded the railings. The row-over was sweet, but what I'll remember from Day 3 is the boys, and how glad we were to have them to cheer for.
Our row-over the day before had given us the opportunity to adopt an ambitious race plan. We were sure that Maggie would take care of Newnham for us, hopefully bumping them quickly, allowing us to go hell for leather and sprint for Jesus. We knew we had held them briefly round the corners on a more steady pace the day before, and we figured our only chance for a bump was to rattle them with an all out sprint in the first two minutes. We planned a series of up 2s and bumps pushes, committing to a 500m race. It was gutsy, but we figured we had nothing to lose.
Sitting on the start line was tense. We had been trying to make some technical changes on the row up, and Yining reminded us of these as we sat waiting for the cannon. As we pushed out, I readjusted my grip on the handle, watched my blade to make sure it was clear of the reeds. I had been thinking about lasts. Last crew pasta, last row up to the start, last tense stance in the boat, waiting for the start gun. When the cannon fired, time seemed to move slowly. Our draw strokes felt long, and then we were in the race, firing our legs and sprinting away from Newnham.
Off the start, Maggie didn't seem to move on Newnham, and we pulled away from them slightly. Newnham's sprint for their lives seemed to be working, but they weren't moving up on us enough for me to be worried. The information from the bank was that we were holding Jesus around station, and we began the first of our lifts and power 10s to try to get a whistle and start our sprint. Around Grassy, Yining decided that it was now or never, and called the first of our up 2s. Behind us, the Maggie bank party were frantically whistling, and as Newnham came round the corner I expected them to be pulling in. They managed to pull away, and we took yet another huge lift in Plough Reach as a last ditch effort at a bump. Our bank party swelled with cheering, and I believe we moved on Jesus slightly here, which was as close as we got. We were red lining it, and our pace fell as we came around Ditton. Jesus started to move away down the straight, but this is when the race behind us got more interesting.
Newnham went wide round the corner, and Maggie followed them. I thought they were attempting to drive them into the tree but aborted at the last minute and steered. With significant overlap Newnham pulled away, and Maggie started to fall bad. With our legs screaming we were all internally begging Maggie to save us from a painful row over under pressure. As it became clear that Maggie had missed their bump, our bank party turned their attention to distances between us and Newnham. Halfway down the reach they called a stride down to a long race rhythm, and we tried to open up our 3 length gap to gain some space. The rowing was smooth despite the fatigue, and coming under the railway bridge to the cheers of the mens crews we had a push off the bridge and started our wind. Maggie was still close on Newnham, but we were comfortably moving away. We crossed the finish line as the highest placed Mays W1 ever. Crews around us were cheering and lying exhausted in their boats. Newnham were jubilant at having rowed over, Maggie crushed at missing at Ditton. We waved to our bank party and began the last row back of the year.
As I've become accustomed to now, Blanka laughed manically at the ridiculousness of rowing, and bow six and Yining sang our theme song as we rowed back. We paddled with a mix of little and some pressure, glad to be finished and proud of what we had done that term. The plan had been to bump on the first day, with no dress rehearsals, and as Kate pointed out, we had done just that.
This bumps marked a milestone for me, my 50th bumps race, and my last bumps at First and Third. Thank you all for this unbelievable journey. It's meant more to me than you know. I remember listening to the bufties talking about how their time at First and Third was the beginning of so much for them. Through the club I've found my best friends, a love of sport my parents never would have believed, and a purpose and drive that have carried me through the stresses of a Cambridge degree. I hope that this is just another beginning for me. It's time now for me to find out what the real world is like, pass on the torch and leave all of these rowers I've seen grow and learn and become the core of the boat club, carry it on to greater heights. I know it's in good hands. Good luck, I'll be watching the website. Make sure someone writes race reports.