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The Club's Results

Head of the River Race, Lent Term 2016

1st men's VIII (IM3 Academic)

Coxed by: Emily Gordon

145th Overall, 23rd in Category, 6th fastest Cambridge college
Time: 19:58.33
After three days of solid training on the Tideway, we approached Saturday morning feeling quietly confident about the race. We'd spent the time we had looking at getting a clean but effective move through the front end, and we were sure this would come in handy. We started the day with a quick pre-paddle up to Hammersmith and back. On the way out we practised our frontstops warm-up we planned to use for the race. After spinning near the Dove we returned home, taking the time to do two solid 20 stroke bursts. We finished the outing with a 90 second burst on our race rhythm, and we managed to find the solid, chunky kind of rhythm we knew we could produce. We left the water, content that we had a good race rhythm to work on, and relieved to see just how calm the river was.

After racking our boat and getting changed, we reconvened in spoons (our spiritual home for the week) to chat about our plan. The idea was pretty simple; go out hard to Barnes, find a more relaxed rhythm to work through to Hammersmith, then attack again.  We returned to the IC boat house and prepared to boat with a slightly ridiculous amount of kit, knowing that the tideway can be a cruel mistress in marshalling.

In the warm up we executed our front stops work as we had practised all week. We took a quick race pace burst through hammersmith, and happy with that, we returned to a chunky paddle. At this point we noticed that we had moved past Leander II. We then proceeded to enter into an impromptu round of battle paddling. They clearly didn't get the message that this was what we were doing however, as they suddenly went to race pace (we think this was just in desperation to try to keep up). They managed to move up a bit, but our chunky rhythm held and we soon pushed them away. At this point they gave up and brought in a tag-team of Leander I to try to give us a challenge. This crew gave us a better challenge and we found ourselves holding station with them until the marshals decided they had seen enough of our dominance and we were sent to the other side of the river, apparently there was some sort of race going on, interrupting our private fixture.

With our spirits now buoyed we moved up to our marshaling position on a solid paddle and felt very confident about our ability to execute the plan. In the hour or so we spent trying to stay stationary, I must have told Emily to turn off the cox box about 30 times. That being said there was a particularly good use of the cox box where Emily declared her love for bow pair and their ability to keep the boat exactly on station. We watched as the other crews span one by one and eventually came our turn.

Once we were spun, we got straight back on to our chunky paddle, with Clare starting their paddle hot on our tails. As we moved through Chiswick Bridge we took the rate up to attack the start and quickly found a nice chunky 34. Through the start we had a solid first minute and pressed on around Barnes bend. We kept the rhythm strong through to Barnes Bridge and pressed Clare slightly away. As we came through Barnes Bridge we naturally settled onto our mid race rhythm to work through the slightly choppier water on this stretch. Emily took a fantastic line to keep us making some progress on Clare, whilst reassuring us that we were moving up on the crew in front of us.

At this point, the crew 2 behind us started to make some real ground. Conscious of this we moved slightly away from the optimum line  to make room. Meanwhile Clare doggedly stuck with their line and this helped them as they started to move towards us. I can't remember a lot of the Chiswick stretch, but it was in the choppier water here that my inside shoulder did not take merrily to the baldes clipping the chop. This left me in a lot of pain here from old injuries and gave a bit fo welcome relief from the pain elsewhere courtesy of extreme agony in my shoulder. About here Emily let us know we were 10 minutes in and I have to admit I found myself thinking I wasn't sure how much longer I could go for.

As we came round the Hammersmith bend both Clare and the other crew continued to move up on us. We kept working within our rhythm, and some fantastic work by Emily kept us as close to best line as we could do with double overlap. We managed to force our way to hit the second lamp post under Hammersmith Bridge and the other two crews scrapped it out leading to a blade clash and a brief moment of reprise for us. At this point we went back to our plan and took a step up to move to a big two minutes off of the bridge. We found a new rhythm at 34 that we would carry all the way to Craven Cottage. Unfortunately, the crew 2 behind us were now more angered than ever from the clash and really started to loom down.  Emily did all she could, and I could have sworn Clare seemed to teleport through the buoy by Harrods.

Sadly, the inevitable 3 abreast racing meant that Emily had to move out from the stream, but not without fighting hard for the best water she could get us. The other two crews finally started to move having had the best of the stream for about 7 minutes at this point. This should have given us the chance to take the stream back again for our final 4 minutes. However, this wasn't to be, as a very rapid Radley crew were bearing down on us. Hence we had to complete the race somewhat in the slacks.

That being said, we wound from Craven Cottage and really wound the screw, leaving nothing behind. I don't remember a lot of the final couple of minutes, apart from my desperate screams of finishes as my shoulder reminded me quite how unhappy it was. The stroke coach tells me we finished at a strong 36. We paddled through and came home, heads held high.

The result probably reflects fairly what happened in the race. A position pretty much equivalent to the previous year. It is very easy for us to come away disheartened, we had hoped to break the top 120. However, the race was well executed and I think we can say it was a good row. It's a shame we had to spend so long away from the water we wanted and I've no doubt that we'll have lost a fair bit of time from this. That being said I must say a huge well done to Emily, for someone who first saw the Tideway on Wednesday she did and amazing job getting us the best water she could. The tideway is a formidable beast for experienced rowers and especially coxes, so for a cox who first stepped into a boat only 5 months previously, Emily did fantastically, especially when you consider we spent about 12 out of the 20 minutes of racing with a crew struggling to overtake us. I've seen much, much more experienced coxes struggle to hold their own line, nevermind having the confidence to aggressively fight for their own water. I can't wait to see what you can do with more experience under your belt.

Racing with this crew has been a real privilege and I want to say thank you to everyone involved (and a sorry for the fact that I only had 2 weeks training under my belt as we started this race, how I survived I still have no idea). I think there is a lot of potential on the mens side and I can't wait to see what next term has in store for us. In my time in Cambridge, M1 has never finished Mays up for the week, but if we approach the next term like we did the last 2 weeks, I know it's time for that trend to change.

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