I'd been asked to sub a few days beforehand with the promise of a bottle of wine. Since rowing is fun and drinking wine is arguably more so, I agreed without much convincing, thinking to myself that there didn't seem to be any downsides to this plan. I soon discovered the first downside: 6:45 atbh. Eugh. After dragging myself to the boathouse and raiding the lard cupboard for anything high in sugar or caffeine I found that we were doing the traditional pre-race ritual of a bit of erging, a bit of race prep and a lot of faffing.
After a respectable row down to the start we marshalled on Plow Reach and awaited our first victims. These turned out to be Emma M3 and after the usual Pembroke Regatta style 'line up, take some taps, drift for a bit, get lined up again, straighten up, drift, repeat until the umpire stops caring' the race began. As it turned out that it was mostly a formality. We took about a length out of them in the start sequence before moving out to a length of clear water within the first minute. Our attempt at a 'stride' didn't work so well and the power came off while the rate stayed pretty much the same. By this point we were over 3 lengths clear so we wound it down to 28 and pootled to the finish, winning with a verdict of 'easily'.
It was during marshalling for this round that downside number two became evident; it was rather cold and at high rate we were very splashy. This lead to me having to change out of my wet FaT kit into something dryer, unfortunately the something was CUL kit leading to questions of eligibility and accusations of cheating being levelled at us for the rest of the regatta.
The actual race itself was similar to the previous one, we pulled away off the start, opened out to a couple of lengths of clear water and wound down a bit for the end. I think Pembroke may have stopped for a picnic (i.e. crashed into the bank) but maybe I'm mistaken, after all they were a long way away by that point and I didn't have my glasses on. Our rowing was better this time, a greater focus on power rather than rate led to a decent stride and strong race rhythm though we didn't need to sustain this for long and again settled for a slightly rushed 28 for the last 500m.
Beating Pembroke crews at their own regatta is always fun.
Despite what the official results may suggest, this was actually two races; to avoid ambiguity these will be referred to as "Beating Caius: Part I" and "Beating Caius: Part II". As is often the case, the original was better than the sequel.
Beating Caius: Part I was definitely our best race of the day, we had a strong controlled start, wound to about 38 and settled into a powerful 36. By the end of the start sequence we were half a length up, we pushed hard through the next minute and as we approached the railway bridge were leading by a length. The inside corner combined with another push gave us half a length of clear water and at this point things were going swimmingly (rowingly? we're not Homerton after all), our powerful rhythm would carry us to the finish and all would be well. Sadly this was not to be and at this point I heard a call of 'Maggie, move out the way' from Neil. Well this is odd, thought an oxygen deprived me, aren't we racing Caius and I'm pretty sure they're behind us?. I soon discover that despite starting a minute ahead of us Maggie W3 were sufficiently slow that they looked likely to be beaten not only by their opposition but also anyone racing behind them and maybe some particularly fast logs. Since Morley's Holt is not really wide enough for 3 racing crews, we were forced to wind it down and then told by the umpires that we would be doing a re-row. Fun.
Beating Caius: Part II turned out to be much harder than the first time round as it seemed that at some point between the races, their coach had either given them a lecture on how to row or found 8 subs. Either way they went from being a load of big guys to a load of big guys that could almost row. Our start was a bit less effective this time which combined with Caius being a lot faster led to us being half a length down a minute in. Now at this point I was somewhat miffed, I'd been hoping for a nice easy race with a quick start and then a casual row to the finish, maybe peaking at about 3 Watts as we crossed the line but it seemed Caius had other ideas, mostly 'push really hard'. Luckily our crew rose to the challenge and we never gave up. As we approached the railway bridge Caius had pulled out to almost a length but a push from us combined with the inside advantage brought this back to under half a length. We then held them around Morley's Holt and began to move again in the final 200m. We crossed the line almost level though I confess to having ignored the 'eyes in the boat' rule and glanced sideways as we crossed the line to find myself level with their 5 man, however I was too out of breath to communicate this information so some confusion ensued before it was eventually concluded that we'd won. We then rowed back up to where Clare M3, our opponents for the final, had been waiting, presumably enjoying a nice break while we were rowing our arses off. Downside number three as it turns out is that 1k sprints are really quite hard work.
This was it. The final. The race to end all races. The race after which I could go back to bed.
Spoiler alert. We lost.
Overall not the best row of the day, the extra race against Caius had taken a lot out of us and while we rowed ok technically we just didn't have the power of our earlier races. Clare turned out to be similar to Caius from Caius: Part II, quite big and technically competent. The race went similarly as well just with larger margins; they pulled out to about a length up in the first minute and had half a length of clear water as we approached the bridge. We then took a push that brought us back to a length down and moved just inside a length by the finish.
No idea if we could have won, but if we'd had one less race and a bit more rest we certainly could have made things a lot harder for Clare. Despite this loss the crew should be very proud of their achievements, I was impressed by the standard of the rowing though the best thing was definitely their attitude. Even when a length down against Caius having pushed as hard as they could for 2 minutes they dug in and pushed through the pain to win. Definitely a mentality that will serve them well in the future and often something much more experienced crews haven't mastered. Well done guys and good luck with bumps!
After a term of solid endeavour towards regaining the M3 headship, M3 initiated their 2017 Bumps campaign with quiet confidence, with M4 having beaten the reigning M3 headship holders LMBC in sparring the week before.
Nevertheless, the unique format of Bumps provided for an interesting set of challenges. M3 set off perhaps auspiciously, stroke missing the first draw, as if to wave to the other boats in competitive greeting.
Since NM1 had outpaddled Clare Hall M1 some time in week 6 last term, we had hopes of a success today. These hopes were fulfilled rather later than expected, with a smooth line from Neil wiping out the opposition at the apex of Grassy.
This is one step forwards, a kill which was prolonged in coming, and one which will be renewed in the next few days.
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