The Club's Results

Head of the River Race, Lent Term 2016

A huge head race on the Tideway (tidal river Thames) over the University Boat Race course
Sat 19th March

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1st men's VIII, IM3 Academic

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.
(Jon)
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2nd men's VIII, Novice Academic

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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