The Club's Results
Lent Term 2016
2nd men's VIII
It's hard to write race reports on races that don't go well without resorting to complaining, but I'll give it a go. Crew selection had been mostly finalised a few days before the race, and this was our first outing as a crew. This explained in part the lack of togetherness in the rowing and the tremendous difficulty that we had in sitting the boat. More frustrating, however, was the fact that we had no idea how to improve any of those aspects of our rowing, and the row-up consisted in crashing down on strokeside on a large fraction of our strokes. I was a little bitchy about it and called for an increase in focus for the race.
The lack of focus and togetherness pervaded the first part of the downstream leg, during which we spacked around at an extremely ineffective, rushed and not pressed-out 30-31, before taking it down to a slightly less rushed, yet still fairly ineffective 28 after Ditton. Finishes were still not pressed out, and I don't think that we had more than 5 continuous approximately sat strokes in a row, though we had a few nicer bits around Grassy and the exit of First Post. I called a few times for 'platform' after the corners, which in hindsight should probably have been replaced by 'press the finishes'. Down First Post reach, we saw Magdelene M1 overtake a flagging Clare M2 crew, and we realised that our next leg would be difficult, trying to hold them off over the course.
After the usual 20 min faff at Head to Head, we were off again. We quiched massively down First Post reach, until people realised the Magdelene M1 had gained about 5 lengths in 600 m, and we decided to get our act together a little out of the exit of Grassy. Their rate of progression slowed, and I actually began to feel some semblance of togetherness as we finally started to apply some pressure in the water. The rowing became messy, and then frenzied after the kink when it was obvious the Magdelene had had a big push and were going for the overtake. After some of the least effective strokes that I have ever taken down that last stretch of reach, they drew level with us - on the line. The row back wasn't awesome either, and I continued to complain from the 5 seat - sorry guys...
Lessons from Saturday's race: 1) Focus during the whole outing 2) Work together 3) Work at a constant high level of power output, not only during the start or pushes 4) Press out finishes -> 5) Sit the boat.
We need to get our act together over the next few weeks. Downing II (2 ahead) look set for spoons again, and we'll need to row the long race on Day 1 to hold off Corpus M1. On a positive note, we will gain a lot more speed by just rowing together, and rowing hard. I think that we can improve significantly this term, and be very competitive come Bumps.
Bumped by Corpus
This crew has improved enormously since the beginning of term. After the shambles that was Winter Head to Head, we knew that we had a long way to go to be competitive in bumps. Apart from a few short plateaux that occurred due to lack of focus in morning outings and blistering headwinds, we improved at a rate that I have never seena crew improve at before, on and off the water. We were showing signs of proper togethernessa few weeks before bumps during paddling, but the lack of strong finishes that has plagued our training through most of this term led Jon Glass to say that we rowed like a Vets Crew...
Hmm, time for high rate pieces. Luckily, Julia came at exactly the right moment for this, and put us through two days of significant pain doing 500 m pieces. Things were looking promising, except for a sag in pressure after a minute into the piece (when our legs actually started to hurt, that is). Robinson Head was to be our last high rate full-course piece before bumps. Neil Talbott, who was bankpartying us for this race, urged us to sit up and look up, and, lo and behold, the balance of the boat was there and we had a great race, finishing second to a fast LMBC II crew.
With very little time left until bumps, we focussed on high rate pieces, with the low points for me being the Tom Rose - style 6x500 and the 10x (17 on - 5 off) Fartlek on the Friday morning before bumps. Another Talbott outing focussed on getting blades square early, and with a few days to go, I was feeling better about our chances, though still more uncertain that I had ever been about what our race speed would actually be.
From results earlier in the term, I was convinced that Downing M2 were going to be absolutely terrible and would be bumped very early on by Darwin M1 ahead of us, and glimpses of their starts during our last pre-bumps outing seemed to suggest that I was right. M1's report of their sparring with Darwin seemed to indicate that Darwin weren't as rapid as last year, meaning that we might have a chance at bumping them on the first day - something that I had discarded more or less at the beginning of term, so I psyched myself up for a potential bump. Behind, we had absolutely no idea how fast Corpus were, as we had only seen them out on the river once before, but I told the crew not to be complacent and expect an extremely painful row-over at best (though obviously we would go hard for the bump off the start).
I for one was really nervous about this race, more so than for any of my previous bumps races, as I had no clue how fast we were and how we would perform on race day. Our paddle down to marshalling was the best low-rate rowing that we'd done so far this term, with commitment to long pressed-out strokes that made me quite happy indeed, and I was starting to lose some of the nerves that I had been feeling since waking up & going to Stomp. The first burst (to 24) on the reach was good, the second (to 28) less so, but still showed some of the togetherness of the row-down to marshalling. Our practise start was OK, but I think that nerves were creeping back into the boat at this stage. We paddled it down rather poorly to station down First Post Reach, and I was starting to be nervous again. We lacked a bit of focus between the 4 minute gun and the 1 minute gun, and I think that it affected our start a little.
We went off ridiculously high off the start, winding to a spacky 43 and striding for the first time to a OKish 38, which we had to stride down from to our race pace at 35. We were outside station on Corpus and at station on Darwin just before First Post corner, but lost a little power and send coming into the corner and didn't pick it up coming into the Gut, where the wash surprised me as usual. Apparently Downing II got bumped by Darwin at this point, and some of the crew noticed this and realised that we had a long row-over ahead, and the pressure sagged a little more.
Corpus closed to 1 1/4 lengths coming into Grassy, and got their first whistle coming out of Grassy, which we didn't push into properly either. Corpus got a sniff at the bump here, and started really moving. We responded, but possibly a little too late. We held them at 3/4 length down Plough reach, during which time Queens II behind had one whistle on Corpus. The pressure sagged again coming into Ditton, and an unsat corner and a big push from Corpus lost us most of the remaining distance. Lydia conceded about 10 strokes out of the corner, but unfortunately they failed miserably to hold it up for another 10-15 strokes, resulting in a rigger hitting her back and a blade hitting her head hard. I'm glad that they got fined for that!
We were obviously annoyed at getting bumped, but the row showed patches of very good commitment and we never resorted to a "shit we're about to get bumped, let's just give in" mentality. We had a good start and knew that to do better on Thursday, we had to push hard into and out of the corners and not lose vital ground to a fast Queens' crew behind.
However, after Grassy our speed had come down and Corpus gained on us throughout Plough Reach. Then we lost a bit more speed around Ditton and Corpus had a big push. We responded when they got very close but too little too late, and we got bumped around Ditton.
We have certainly shown that we have plenty of speed, and we did a very good job of remaining composed and together under pressure. However, we should be able to get more out of ourselves in terms of pushes into and out of corners and pushing up the speed at an earlier stage if we lose distance to the crew behind, in order to avoid giving them a chance.
The starting gun went off about 5 seconds before we were expecting it but we reacted well and had a reasonable start. Queens did indeed gain on us though it was a bit more gradual than expected, and as we went into Grassy they were visibly inside station though not worryingly close.
Meanwhile, ahead of us, Corpus M1 and Downing M2 had bumped out and did a very effective job of completely blocking the river. We held it up but still ended up entangled with one of them. The umpires thought that Queens were likely to bump us, and therefore arranged a rerow with just the two of us, from Head Station to Top Finish. "If you get that far," they said.
With some consternation we focused in on the new race. Our start was good and again Queens did not immediately take much out of us. For the first part of the course, they gained slowly on us but we stayed focused and rowed our own race as we had confidence that they were sprinting harder than they could sustain. We did a much better job of pushing into and out of corners to maintain the boat speed, but Queens continued to move on us. If I remember correctly, they got their first - rather dubious - whistles at some point around Grassy, and by the time we got onto the Reach they were scarily close.
However, we kept rowing well together and having committed pushes. Queens got overlap on us not far into the Reach but we did not let go. Queens steered for the bump through the Railway Bridge but missed and this helped to maintain the lateral distance between us. From then on we knew the finish was within reach and we gave it everything with a final push.
This was rewarded by Queens falling back, so we pushed out a large gap behind and then had a relaxed row for the last section of the course after Queens started rowing in sixes. (I'm not sure whether they just gave up, had a problem or had forgotten that we were racing until Top Finish.)
It is in this sort of race that we really prove what we can do as a crew, and I am proud to have been part of it.
Tomorrow we should be able to put the "Down" into Downing M2 without too much trouble - but we do need to be patient about it, avoid complacency and make sure we stay ahead of what will undoubtedly be a very angry Queens M2 crew, as we know we can.
Couldn't be more proud of the work today. Incredibly gutsy, digging deep and not letting them get into our heads. Here's to tomorrow.
Ben's race report pretty much sums it up, but I'll try and write about what I remember from my second most painful rowing experince to date (the most painful being the 2k in January that I paced at 1500 m pace and then blew up in).
After Tuesday's race, knew that Thursday's race was going to be very tough, as Queens' II were inside station on Corpus when Corpus bumped us. I tried to reassure the ex-novices in the crew by saying that we were probably going to row-over, but that it was going to be really painful. I thought that unless we pulled a miracle out of a bag, we were probably going to be bumped at the beginning of the reach again, but I kept my dark thoughts to myself. I felt better waking up on the morning of the race, then worse as I sat through a supervision slowly feeling my energy decrease to scarily low levels, then sprinted to hall, where for the first time in my time at Trinity I didn't finish my meal as I worried that I might throw it up otherwise during the race.
Back in my room for 20 mins, I decided that the best use of my time would be to watch the Abingdon vs. Belmont Hill Henley QF 2009 race, which showed a crew 1 length down coming through a seemingly faster opposition in the last 150 m, with crazy cox Rory Copus shouting some classic motivational lines. I got really pumped and walked to the boathouse feeling much better, and agreed with Lydia that the call "They've gone too hard, NOW WE FUCKING PUNISH THEM" should be given as soon as we moved away from Queens', whenever that might be.
Our paddle down was poor due to nerves, but at least we got all of the spacking out of the way before the start. We were a little more focussed before the cannon, and it translated into a cleaner and less frantic start sequence. We held station on Corpus, but as expected Queens' moved up on us, gaining their first whistle justbefore First Post corner. Corpus bumped Downing II at that point and failed to clear properly due to their bows being jammed into the outside of the corner, which in turn led to us holding it up and mounting their stern. Queens also held it up and parked next to us. Some of the most intense carnage that I've seen in bumps so far. All of the boats behind had bumped out apart from Sidney Sussex who rowed past the carnage and continued on for their row-over. The umpires, seeing that Queen's had moved on us, gave them the option of a re-row, which they took. We had to spin and go to Head Station and start all over again. The minute gun occurred quite quickly, and very soon racing was underway again.
We had a better start due to the clean water and really powered away around the corners. Queens' got a 'bullshit' whistle around Grassy, which turned to a proper whistle coming into Ditton as they started to make their move. Our pushes in and out of corners were much improved from yesterday, and so we didn't lose ground around them (Lydia's lines were as tight as usual, of course!).
Coming into the Reach, I thought that we would probably hold them off as we had had a good start to the race, and if they had a "fly and die" race plan as I thought that they did yesterday, they were probably not going to move any further. I got tunnel vision at this point, so I don't remember exactly what else happened, but I remember small sections clearly. At the kink, we had a few bad strokes, and they closed from just outside 1/2 a length to a few feet of clear water. This was reduced to no clear water, then overlap about 8 strokes before the railway bridge. A the point at which Lydia called "five strokes to the railway bridge" (probably the only call that I remember from that entire section), I thought that we'd made it this far, so why not just make it the last 100 m of a race just there.
We held them, then they took a poor corner under the railway bridge, and opened it up toalmost no overlap, but a second big push from them took them to 2 metres of overlap again, which they held for the next 30 s. I can vaguely remember a roar from the cheering women's crews parked on the bank, but at that point all I was thinking of was: "my legs are no longer responding; please don't black out; why are we still racing". We somehow held it together better than Queens', and after more than a minute of overlap, they started to blow and forget how to row, and we eased it out of overlap, and then to 1/2 a length at Peter's posts. I then remember seeing them about 6 lengths behind (they had stopped rowing), but all that I could think of was "I need to get past that line", so when Lydia called us to wind down I freaked out massively and shouted, incoherently "Lydia, we're not yet at the end", and then when we had paddled to Top Finish, I pointed at the finishing post and screamed "that's the finish line", crazily, maniacally, desperately.
And then it hit us - we had rowed over, walked away from the closest race of Lent Bumps 2016 so far, and adrenaline took over. I forgot to be exhausted, I just had the most enormous surge of excitement, and shouted myself hoarse: "YEEEEEEES, YEEEEEEES, YEEEEEES" resounded under Chesterton Footbrdge, and I grinned all the way back from my most exciting bumps race so far. Crew Nandos was very cheeky, and we now have a shot at having a very successful bumps week.
What we need to remember for Friday's race: Queens' are going to want to bump us badly. They will close hard off the start. We will need all of the composure that we can muster to stay away from them, or Thursday's awesome race will have been for nothing. They are faster than us, but we have shown that we have the mental strength to hold them off. If we can do all of this and row cleanly and with long, pressed-out strokes, then we will bump Downing II and send them on their way down to well-deserved spoons.
Bumped Downing II
However, there was naturally some nervousness and excitement in the crew, and this translated into less neatness off the start and a higher rate than we had planned after the stride. But when Queens did not come close and we very quickly got a whistle on Downing, we knew that things were looking positive. The next whistles took longer to achieve but we kept moving on Downing without having to change what we were doing and without Queens causing us any worry. When we reached three whistles, a Bumps push was called and this achieved the bump fairly promptly (even though I think I stopped rowing a couple of strokes prematurely having misheard something as "hold it up"). I cannot remember exactly where we bumped but I think it was at First Post Corner.
This result is our reward for the performance yesterday - we have earned it and should savour it - but I think our rowing was not as composed as it has been. Tomorrow we are not anticipating pressure from behind, and Darwin will be difficult to catch, so we should try to settle to our target rate and keep things clean to give ourselves the best chance.
This was the day when we reaped the rewards from the crazily intense row-over on Thursday. This time, we expected to bump, and this led to nerves throughout the row-up and we never properly found our rhythm and togetherness in the bursts and paddle down, practise start excluded (that was surprisingly good, given how poor the rest of the row-down was). During marshalling at the P&E, one of the Downing II guys had come over and told us that he thought that they had no chance of rowing over in front of us, and hoped that the race would be over quickly. This made me feel more confident that the bump was going to happen.
Whatever happened, we were not going to row the whole course, either bumping Downing II or being bumped by Queens II. This led to a 500 m race plan, which we followed quite well. The start was quick, slightly spacky, and the stride which we had executed so well on the previous day never really occurred. We got one whistle after the end of our start sequence, and basically just slowly ground them down over First Post Reach, keeping station on Queens' and bumping shortly before the corner. With people unsure exactly when to hold it up and Ben catching a massive overhead crab immediately after, we failed quite badly to clear and Queen's had to do some fairly tight evasive steering to go around us, but luckily for them Sidney Sussex weren't particularly fast and both crews rowed over. Greenery was dealt out in a fairly extravagant way and we rowed back from what was half of the crew's first bump in a slightly wobbly but controlled manner.
Overall, the result that we wanted, but if we want to stand any chance of bumping Darwin today, we'll need all of the compusure and commitment that we demonstrated so spectacularly on Thursday. We know that we can give them a fright - let's go out there and bump them!
Unfortunately we never really started rowing cleanly today, and we rowed the course as a very messy piece without ever putting Darwin under any pressure. This probably didn't affect the result, as it seems they were simply a faster crew than us. However, Downing M2 actually came within a length of us before being bumped by Queens M2, and although they were obviously sprinting as hard as they possibly could, this still suggests that we were being rather ineffective today, given how much faster we were than them yesterday.
We can all be proud of what we have achieved this week as a crew, despite the slightly lacklustre performance on the final day.
Approaching race day, it is safe to say that there was a fair amount of trepidation. The previous two weeks had been beset with illness - Ben, Matt, Marcus, Lydia, and I had all been unwell to varying degrees at different points, and missed various amounts of training. When it came to the three days training on the Tideway, we did not manage to train together as a full crew. Thankfully, we managed to arrange subs in the form of Hannah, John, Ian (Jake's friend from Imperial) and even Tom Rose. Coaching in the form of Tom Rose and Jon Davies throughout the week was helpful; however M1 was the evident focus and at some points it did feel that we were not truly in the spotlight and to some extent were looking after ourselves on the Tideway.
It was clear from the beginning that our resources were stretched and we were at our limits.What was notable about the entire week was how the club pulled together. Everyone did their part to ensure that the week went as smoothly as it could and that it could succeed. This was true with regard to accommodation (where thanks have to go to Jake, Alex, Jon, and our Esteemed Captain), transport, and general organisation. The club spirit was strong, and there can be no doubt that it helped us all pull through what was not an easy week.
Race day was the first day all the members of the HoRR M2 rowed together. Our morning paddle was fine, with limited enthusiasm from the crew. Overall, week in London had been lacking in drive. The crew had rarely been positive and the spirit in the crew was not one that reflected the fact that we were about to race the biggest race in the UK in a few days. It felt more than we were treating the Head of the River Race as a 6.8k piece rather than the privilege and challenge that it is. By race day, knowing that everyone in the crew was finally there certainly helped to change this. A focussed pre-race discussion with Tom Rose really sparked some motivation, and when it came to the push-off, it seemed we were quite excited and ready to seize the day; and that is what we did.
We wound up to a solid 33 and held it there for a number of minutes before striding down to 32/31. Although slightly slower rate-wise than planned, our strokes were solid and clean, even in the choppiest water after Barnes Bridge. We were quick to overtake Bristol's 3rd VIII (a thrilling event which included a prolonged blade-clash which is rumoured to have caused them to overhead crab) and soon after we overtook Chester's 1st VIII and Southampton's 2nd VIII. No-one managed to overtake us, although Christ's 1st VIII had powered past a number of crews to give us some pressure - this gave us a little more drive to push off them. Coming past Fulham we set the Goose on the loose and took an up 2, making a robust slog to the finish line, before winding down and taking a breather.
The crew can be proud of the fact that we kept the power up throughout the race. The row felt great, and so much of the work we had been putting in at the front end as well as at the finish paid off. This was not an easy race, but every member of the crew gave it their all on the day and seemed to enjoy the experience, and we achieved our aim to come in the top 250, securing a successful 238 out of 360.
I hope that all the members of the crew retain the positive energy we had after the race. Throughout the term, it has felt that M2 has lacked much positivity and this has affected the crew's progress. It has consistently been a boat which is, unlike M1 or M3, a mix of those who have rowed for a while, and those who noviced this year. This gap in experience has caused somewhat of a divide in the crew, and the atmosphere has been one of frustration and sullenness. This was unnecessary and it did not help any of the novices to improve. It was clear that the more senior members of the crew felt the novices had a long way to go to reach their level and had little patience for their improvement. Fortunately, this attitude changed over the course of the term, and both Lent Bumps and HoRR encouraged (and in many ways, necessitated) crew togetherness.
Three things, therefore, need to be kept in mind for the future:
(1) When we are in an VIII together, we have to work together as much as possible. In this vein,we must support one another and ensure that we are all coping with what is a difficult sport in the context of a large academic workload.
(2) This therefore requires a positive attitude - one that is based on encouraging everyone to do their best, to commit, and to become the best rower they can possibly be.
(3) The performance squad cannot be about turning up, going through the motions, and then leaving. A higher level of mental commitment is needed so that the crew operates smoothly and we can make improvements rapidly.
It has been an absolute delight to row with M2 this term, and rowing HoRR was an especially unforgettable experience. Many thanks to Our Esteemed Captain, Tom Rose, and Jake for making this experience so smooth and enjoyable. I hope all the rowers in First and Third take what they've learned from this experience and use it to take their rowing to the next level.
P.S. May the Goose forever be loose.