We entered this race with nothing to lose, and a race plan to just go out of the blocks like a rocket to blow the race right open. We executed exactly this and quickly moved away from Clare. Coming to about 100m before the railway bridge we we're 1 foot away from breaking out to clear water. We didn't quite have the legs to do this, and with the advantage of the inside of the bend under the bridge, Clare started to move back on us. We attempted a muted bow six lift and to be honest the next minute of so was a blur of pain. We successfully held onto our early advantage to take the race, much to the shock of almost everyone on the bank (FaT included).
Results for the last 3 terms would have put us as the underdogs, but we have the power, and the determination and took the race to Clare, finishing the job and stunning the Clare bank party. A great turn around from losses to Clare in all recent races, just in time for the build to bumps.
After the victory over Clare, suddenly the crew had a renewed sense of belief. It was like something had finally clicked, but we set that aside (as requested by Jacqui) to put our focus on taking the race to Emma. Those returning from Mays remembered all too well how Emma bumped us into Grassy, and we were hungry to make a statement about what the Lents crew was shaping up to be.
Again we excuted an excellent start and quickly moved away from Emma. Again as we came up to the railway bridge they started to move back. I think this time however we had that bit more confidence about holding them off and saw the race off in relative comfort in the end. It felt great to leave a big mark of overturning the events of last time we raced Emma directly. We came away from this race knowing that it was that 3rd minute we will need to work on for bumps, but we really took confidence from the huge step on so far we achieved this weekend.
As we came into the semi-final, we got to see just how little other clubs expected of us. At each marshalling point we were asked why we were there and Emma weren't. We took great delight in telling anyone who asked this 'because we were faster'. This really felt like the forging of a fast crew in the heat of battle.Â
That aside, the race with Magdalene came on the back of a very close, and apparently contentious, upset where Magdalene knocked LMBC out. We took the race to Magdalene again, using our rapid start to take a seat or two out of them early. Sadly this time we didn't quite have the legs, and they started to slowly walk up to about half a length on us coming under the railway bridge. Again this was about the point where we let them move, and they took another half length or so up to the line. But this was still only just over a length overall, after two hard races for us. We can take heart from today's events. We shocked everyone with our raw speed, which put us all the way to the semi-finals. Even better, we gave a good race to crew who had just knocked out LMBC, showing that we are very much back in the league of the big boys and not to be underestimated. I can't wait to get to bumps with this crew and to see where this heart and guts takes us. We know what we need to do to get even faster, but things are heating up.
I also foolishly decided to catch up on my 55 minute low-rate pyramid erg after the race. I would not recommend this to anyone who values their legs. But the gain train has picked up momentum and who am I to stop us hammering our way to bumps.
This was an exciting win, not least for what it says about our odds heading into Bumps. Our starting position is in Division II:
Lady Margaret II
First and Third II
An "M2 headship" is theoretically within reach, although to reach it in four bumps might require Corpus to go up by three as well. Perhaps more importantly, it would require us to be quite quick.
Just how quick is an interesting question. For two boats stationed 1 1/2 lengths apart (30 m) to meet by the end of the course (2.2 to 2.6 km), the chasing crew would have to average a speed at least ~1.15% greater than that of the crew ahead; ~1.36% greater if covering the full 2.6 km, as we would from 9th position. That's a difference of 1-2 seconds per 500 m split. The chasing crew will also be rowing in wash, requiring some additional amount of effort to make speed.
By comparison our side-by-side results with Jesus and Caius were 1/2 and 3/4 of a length over a 1100 m course, whereas a bumping crew would on average have closed about 2/3 of a length (1.1/~2.4 * 1.5 lengths) over that distance (and in wash). It's hard to say what bumping odds those margins indicate, given how different a regatta is from bumps, and how variable a crew's performance can be. But we've got a shot at this.
On the topic of variable crew performance, it is perhaps worthwhile to note that some amount of variability day-to-day might actually make it easier for the faster crews to bump up. Bumps is unusual among races in that it has a non-zero threshold for success, and certain pathological possibilities arise from that fact: one might, for example, imagine a division in which each crew was slightly faster than the crew above, though not quite enough to bump, and thus the headship crew could be 20 or so splits slower than the sandwich boat. In a world where crew performance was perfectly consistent, such pathological rankings would in fact be stable over the week. But in reality, where crew performance is stochastic, that very stochasticity helps to ensure that smallish differences in speed rise to the threshold needed for a bump.
It may be counter-intuitive that a random element can help to give more accurate rankings. Certainly it doesn't help when the random element is very large; in the lower divisions for example the rather high frequency of reciprocal bumps might suggest an excess of randomness. But where we are, in the upper half of Div II, reciprocal bumps are quite rare, while bumps in general are more frequent than in the divisions above, and row-overs more rare. Insofar as one expects day-to-day consistency to increase with skill in the higher positions, one wonders if we are near the "sweet spot", a position where a moderate amount of consistency allows bumps to most efficiently sort crews by speed. Analytically one would expect this to be true when the random element alone would induce bumps at about the same rate as would the non-random element, as is generally the case for systems in so-called "stochastic resonance." But that would take some effort to measure. It is however nonetheless encouraging to think that, in a very real sense, we might have luck on our side.
Preparations for the great struggle began on the evening of
16th. Crew pasta was very good all you
can eat fusilli, meat and sauce followed with cake. Well-fed and rested, our
warriors gathered in early morning of 17th. They were joined by the new coach
Seb, who was wearing a FaT jacket. This confused and demoralised people from Sebs old club and thus made us very
happy. The first opponent was Caius M2, who we brushed away. One by one all our
rivals fell. The crews who had beaten us in Bedford were no match to us in the
regatta. When others asked who we beat, our cox Marcus gave one word: EVERYONE.
And as always in such occasions he was thrown into the river. If such starts
can be repeated or improved on, then the Bumps look easy as pie.
Last week, we received some feedback from our subs that our start was 'lacking aggression' and 'weak' (thanks, Chris). It seems the collective subconscious of the boat really took this to heart, because despite having little starts practice since then, our start here was anything but. Moving to a comfortable number of lengths fairly early, we then failed to settle into a comfortable rhythm, leaving us with a slightly scrappy but 'easy' victory. (R.J.T. McLaurin)
The morning was quite a misty one earlier which made it quite difficult to see the other boats while marshalling.
For the race we gained significant distance between the two boats off the start then only ever proceeded to widen the gap. We did manage to stray into the middle of the river which got us a warning from the umpire, but we were so far ahead at that point I don't see why it should have warranted one. Our third best performance of the day. (T.G.S. Pink)
Logically, given that we've thrashed Maggie M3 at every head race this term, this should have been an easy race. Unfortunately, this time, our collective instinct decided to generate impressive quantities of splash rather than a healthy lead, so we had a rough and scrappy first 800m. One positive is the discovery that, powered by sufficient fear, the crew can hit and hold a very painful rate 40 for about 500m. By the bridge we had burnt out enough to row properly and walked away down the home straight. (R.J.T. McLaurin)
The start was good. Then the boat refused to settle for what seemed like ages. When it did we moved off quite well and gained some distance between us. This did not last however, perhaps due to tiredness or some other factor but the boat began to lose its grace once more, but we managed to keep the distance between the boats at a comfortable level. (T.G.S. Pink)
The arms away mentioned above was to rowing what the hands of Michelangelo are to the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.Â
The race itself was quite tiring to be honest. We got ahead of them by half a length or so off the start and then they just seemed to stay there. Had I peeked over to see them, (which of course I didn't being a responsible rower), I would have seen what appeared to be a boat gaining on us almost all the time. In reality though with some power 10s and a will to skip the first half of my lectures we managed to beat them with a margin that was much more comfortable than it felt.
An excellent row from both crews and certainly our second finest rowing of the day (the first was 1 really good pause at arms away). Catz were a bit bigger than our previous opponents and incredibly tenacious, but we held a decent rhythm and kept them away fairly consistently for the whole course. (R.J.T. McLaurin)
Sometimes, powering your boat with fear (and tea from a great bank party) rather than ergs stops working, and this was one of those times. A very messy start saw the complete collapse of my core and my (limited) memory of the rest of the race is filled with splash and pain. Despite some great commitment from the crew we struggled to gain much. A well deserved win from a very fit Pembroke crew.Â (R.J.T. McLaurin)
A poor start upset the boat (though I spoke to Pembroke's 3 after my lecture and he thought it was good) and we didn't really settle at any point after that. We held them pretty close to about the railway bridge but a few awkward slams down to strokeside meant that soon after I could no longer hear their cox. Everyone continued to push, but not to the same degree as before and there was no dramatic improvement in technique.Â (T.G.S. Pink)
In the rush to get to marshalling, a certain cox had dismissed the necessity of a life jacket - this resulted in a heroic attempt to throw said life jacket over the railings by the Elizabeth Way bridge. Thankfully, my hand-eye coordination was somewhat present given the early hour. All 8 to marshalling - only to realise the majority of our division would be another 15 minutes at least, so we took our time to reflect on what exercises we had fit in on our row up and get ourselves into 'the zone'. This evidently had some effect on the guys - after a chill paddle up and a minute faffing around, they set off to a strong start. As is always the case with side-by-side racing, Jesus M4 attempted to invade the middle stream and we retaliated with domination. Jesus were rewarded with a crippling crab from which they never quite recovered, evidently psychologically damaged by us leaving them in the dust. Spurred on by Hadi's demands, the men never let up and we emerged victorious. (C.S.L. Tang)
Coming off a dismal showing at
Newnham Short Course two weeks before, we'd had several outings and were making
steady improvements in terms of timing and technique but still lacked fitness
and stamina overall.
The morning was cold, just above
freezing but thankfully not windy. We were running behind schedule and things
got more exciting when Hadi realised just after we pushed off that he'd
forgotten his lifejacket (which he announced over the coxbox to the amusement
of crews we were passing). A quick stop near the Elizabeth Way bridge for
Charlene to throw Hadi his lifejacket over the railings and we were on our way.
Rowing to the marshalling area proceeded smoothly and we got through some decent
pieces and practice starts.
Queuing before the start line at
Fen Ditton, a thick layer of fog covered the ground and the surroundings looked
drab and grey. Meanwhile Hadi was busy trash-talking our first opponents Jesus M4
over the coxbox. The effect of this show of bravado was probably somewhat
diminished when we couldn't sit the boat properly at back-stops despite our
best efforts. The other crew was a good bit bigger than us as usual, and
didn't seem to make any attempt to respond -- more the strong silent type
perhaps, or just not in the mood for banter.
Hearteningly, our boat felt much
more sat at front-stops right before the race started and remained mostly sat
while we were rowing. We were neck-and-neck with the opposing crew at first but
then unexpectedly pulled ahead within the first 30 seconds or so. Spurred on by
this initial success, we made the most of the opportunity and pushed hard,
maintaining a solid lead for the rest of the race down the Reach (the other
crew stayed within sight but a good distance away). Apparently their #5 had
caught an overhead crab which gave us our early advantage, though it still took
quite an effort from all of us to keep them at bay. We eventually won by two
Visibly tired but in high spirits,
we spun and headed back to park and wait for our next race. A bank party of three
postdoc ladies was there to fuss over us with offers of water, tea, and
biscuits. Rather fancifully, I imagined that this must have been the sort of
hero's welcome received by airmen returning from a hard-fought battle and I
basked in that glorious feeling for a brief moment. But there was no time to lose:
after many cycles of compression going up and down the slide, I really needed
to empty my bladder yet again...
Emerging victorious, the men eventually spun and made their way back up to the start. Having been denied a practice race start, we settled for a wind-up piece - the most beautiful rowing seen this term.
To our surprise, we were met by 3 smiling faces upon our arrival - Trisna, Barbara and Manon welcomed us with much appreciated gifts of tea and Leibniz. The same 3 men as before the 1st round gave into the call of the wild and took the 3 minutes to seek shelter in the shrubbery. Discarding warm kit yet again, we set off to face our next opponent.
Hadi made a decent attempt to break the ice with a little chat - however, Clare were unaffected. Unfazed, we came to the start line being a bit more alert than previously. A strong start from the men, however, the the opposing crew soon pulled away, being a bit on the larger side. All finesse seen on the row up was soon forgotten, however, they men continued to give it their best effort. All in all, a successful morning on the river - if anything, brilliant motivation for crew attendance at weights and circuits.
Satisfied, we started to make our way back to the warmth of the boathouse. However, we soon discovered that the disorganisation of the Pembroke marshals had further disintegrated into chaos. Evading Emma's attempts at Bumps practice, we navigated our way through the carnage and made it back just before 10ams - though whether those in question made it to said lectures is debatable... and now - onto Bumps, M4!
The sun had come out properly by now and the temperature reached a more comfortable 4 or 5 degrees, for which I was most grateful. Less happily, my forearms had completely seized up and felt rock-hard by the end of the first race and there hadn't been much time to recover. I spent most of the second race struggling to control my oar and trying not to crab. As far as I could tell, most of the others seemed fatigued as well and our rowing felt less powerful and coordinated than before, and quite rushed and desperate. We were overtaken from the start by the significantly faster opponent crew and lost the race by a large margin.
We learnt later on that it had been the first race of the day for our opponents Clare M3 as they had drawn a wildcard. It felt unfair that they were so much fresher than us, but in all honesty they appeared technically superior from what I could see of their rowing before our race (and they were also again bigger than us).
On the way back, we saw that one of the riggers in an Emma boat had come off. Freed from its restraints, the offending oar was proudly on display; its owner brandishing it and at times holding it vertically like a mast. In the ensuing (unrelated) traffic jam we were also treated to the spectacle of Cambridge '99 attempting to throw scones from one boat to another, most of which of course landed in the river. A dropped scone, rescued as it floated by, was sent on one last ill-fated flight and promptly disintegrated upon recapture.
It was a beautiful day for a light paddle down the Cam and we rowed back to the boathouse at a leisurely pace with a good morning's work behind us, looking forward to a well-deserved rest.
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