The Club's Results

Head of the River Race, Lent Term 2016

2nd men's VIII (Novice Academic)

Coxed by: Lydia Bass

238th Overall, 15th in Category
Time: 20:42.13

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.

(Forbes)
As part of the 'non-enthusiastic' senior members of the crew, I feel that I should start by nuancing Forbes's race report a little. I admit that I lacked enthusiasm during Winter Head-to-Head when I saw just how much work there was to be done. I lacked enthusiasm during the following weeks during which we struggled to make the technical changes that we needed. I think that I only became properly excited about the crew after Robinson Head, during which we found a platform and send. But even before then, what impressed me was the speed at which the crew was improving. As I openly told many people in the club, this crew has been by far the fastest-improving crew that I have ever rowed in.

However, one cannot improve properly without constructive criticism, and I hope that my extremely irritating calls and slightly negative feedback at the end of some outings helped with this in mind. We found the mental toughness and concentration needed for bumps, and eliminated any complacency that we had from earlier in the term.

By all standards, bumps went extremely well. We pushed on through the week and delivered when we needed to. We found a crew spirit, and everything was awesome. The next few weeks were a bit of a mix-up across the club, and, unsurprisingly, some of the outings were a bit shaky - I remember not being extremely happy after the 2*19 min pieces for example. This was more the exception than the rule, however, and many of us made significant technical changes.

The week on the Tideway, rowing with a partially scratch crew, included lots of good rowing, technical changes and commitment, culminating on some very good sparring on Thursday afternoon with M1. I believe that I was generally positive and not 'sullen' up to this point, nor did other guys in the boat seem unhappy. Two slightly worse rows on Friday and Saturday morning made me slightly less happy, but altogether I was looking forward to the race and seeing how far I could take myself over the red line (Lydia telling us on Saturday that HoRR was all about playing with the red line for the last 5k of the race).

An agressive paddle-up, which included good stretches of battle-paddling with other crews about 150 places further up, translated after a surprisingly short period of marshalling into an aggressive first quarter of the race. I was quite happy when Ben took us down from 36 to 33 after about 30-40s, as I was wondering just how long I'd be able to hold on to that rate. After that, we settled into a nice long rhythm and gained on Bristol II in front as Hatfield College Durham gained behind. Overtaking gave us an extra surge of adrenaline and stopped Hatfield's advance at ~2-3 lengths, where they remained for most of the course. After that, it's a bit of a blur, but I remember a terrifying moment when my blade was turned more than 90 degrees by a wave, and I only just got it square before the catch, two more overtakes, a couple more waves, and Christ's two places behind gaining quickly on us as crews behind and a lack of crews in front made it difficult to stay in the stream (or know exactly where it was), finishing fairly far on the Middlesex side. The last 500 m were particularly painful, as Lydia called "150 m to the line" at which point I started counting and sprinting for the line. 15 strokes later, she told us "100 m to the line", then 10 strokes later "last 20 strokes", during which I just about kept my rowing together. As soon as we crossed the line, my legs cramped up fairly badly, and the pain levels were near those of the grim 5k selection erg done a few weeks earlier.

Our second-best race as a crew (after the crazy Thursday of Lent Bumps race), and a good memory which will hopefully carry on to many more exciting Tideway races. 
(Neil I.)

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