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The Club's Results

Cambridge Winter Head, Mich Term 2022

M1 (b) (Student First VIIIs)

Coxed by: Connor Wood

9th Overall
Time: 8:42.5
After our first race (in div 1), we were back at the boathouse and inside by 9am. A quick crew shower, and only Csongi and I remained, while everyone else left to do work. Csongi ate food and napped on the changing room benches. I ate food. Six bananas, a block of halloumi and a packet of crumpets (Warburtons, not Sainsburys' own as they had run out when I went for supplies). Looking over the stats from div 1 was fairly nice - showing progress from Autumn Head (beaten by City M1 by 40 seconds, rather than by over a minute) and also beating other M1s (Christ's and Robinson aren't massively big names, but after spooning in Mays and losing stern pair, a win is a win).

I then proceeded to do one question of my example sheet before W1 came back, not quite in jubilant mood, but fairly well-content with their race. While I was 'helping' them with great philosophical conundra: "Do I shower now, with 30 minutes until I need to warm up again? What lard should I consume?", M1 coalesced into existence once more, cleverly avoiding M2, NM1 and NW1, who'd also now arrived at the boathouse. It was (very minorly) cramped, with 5 crews departing at once, but Bomber's scheduling won the day. I dealt with a little tardiness from NM1, but once it was time to stretch, it was time to stretch.

Our warm-up was not awful. Our getting-the-boat-out was awful. We spent so long at shoulders waiting for other boats on the region outside the boathouse (the "hard", so I am told) to move that we ended up reracking 805 to save our shoulders - at least, all bar Krisztian's. Paddling down was slow and smoother than I had expected, with the highlight being overtaking a Jesus IV. By Tesco bridge (the white wingéd bridge) we hit a queue. Such joy! As we drifted along, we chatted to the Jesus IV about the evening's swap (turns out their bowman was headed to a Jesus x Clare MCR swap instead, and we didn't realise this for way too long). My suggestion of karaoke was, as usual, voted down, and instead we passed the short time on the water by hearing a certain 3-seat express his need to pass water in a short time. A mere 30 minutes of queueing later and we were off. 

A practice start underneath the railway bridge was delayed by "severely unprofessional behaviour" (in the words of our beloved cox, Connor) from Xander and Isaac. Though their complaints did stop, so I suppose that's a win. The practice start was acceptable, though limited in stroke number after Connor acceded to demands of the marshals by getting us to move on. We catch up with Bomber on Plough Reach, and make it to marshalling without disaster, nor further unprofessionalism. While waiting in the boat, we observe Peterhouse M1 slinking off into the bushes, and appropriate jokes are made.

We're in fairly good humour at this point, having raced well earlier, and aren't expecting much beyond racing hard.

Off our start, we barely hit rate 37, and have already taken 10 strokes at rate 36 before we cross the start line. We settle into rate 33 before we hit the end of First Post Reach (one lower than the first race), but the boat speed still feels just as good. Observing the crew behind crash into the outside of First Post corner is interesting, as I only really process it when we're on Plough Reach, which still feels like good boat speed, even if we're a little slow. Connor calls "1:43" here (thanks to the fancy coxboxes with splits shown on them), and I feel surprised, knowing that our average for the first race was 1:45.5, and that we were at 1:51 here (oops) earlier in the day.  We make it around Ditton, with a good line (as ever - thank you Connor) and are a third of the way up the Reach when we really start digging in, thanks to Connor's stunning - and minorly original - call (not to be repeated here, as it would have resulted in fines in a Bumps race, but it was a step up from "swan mentality, boys"). We push, and push, and push. Ten strokes on from the Railway Bridge, Connor calls once more for power, and I see Csongi go for broke. In the first race of the day, I followed Csongi when he went for more because I wanted to, and had more left in the tank that I could use. Now I follow because I must, as I cannot slow the boat down. We reach rate 34.5 again, and it's a slog through to the end, at which there's clear water as far as we can see behind us. 

In the boat, we're not particularly jubilant after the first ten seconds of exhausted celebration (apart from Connor, Connor was very happy and lifted our spirits), just shattered. George (current Overall Captain) looks particularly out of it, while Matthew and I are competing to see who can spasm their diaphragm the most powerfully. We row back, and even the call of "don't let M2 catch up to us" fails to wring more power from the boat. They're rowing all eight while we row in sixes, and we do pull away in the end. Getting back to the boathouse is a more difficult task than I'd like to admit, with div 5 boats impeding us, and we're not responding with any kind of alacrity to Connor's calls. We make it, we don't crash, and we put the boat away. Bomber left us on Plough Reach, and the debrief is about how gutsy the rowing was that he saw, and that he can hypothesise from the time. High praise from that man. Csongi has a somewhat different take on what changed: "This race I actually finished my strokes." A reminder of how we are all truly at the mercy of stroke seat.

When the times come through (8:42.5, with a 3:34.8 first 1K, compared to the first div 8:47.6, with a 3:33.5 first 1K), we're happy, but a little disappointed. Our TAS is faster than Peterhouse M1 (first race's first 1K, with second race's last 1.5K), but no individual race is, putting us third  by 1.2s behind them and Caius. Maggie didn't enter an M1 VIII. We beat Downing, Pembroke, Jesus and Clare. After Mays, this felt good. For stern three, this is over 2 minutes faster than last year in NM1, and a really good sign of just how far we've come.

George turned out actually to be ill in general, and not just with post-race exhaustion. Presumably with him in good shape we'd have shaved off 20 seconds to beat Caius. 

Luke obtained quite a lot of footage (that can be slowed down to 0.125x speed), and certain individuals have had great fun pointing out errors. I will leave you with but one optimisation that could have been made. Throughout all footage that we have of the race, Krisztian was squaring during his body rock. Taking his "squaring early is good" mentality to its logical conclusion, his next step will be to square as he finishes his previous stroke. 

I am looking forward to Fairbairns very much and hope to see many people at the dinner following.

(Thomas Frith)
So here we are, somehow found myself in four seat of M1. Something I was not expecting, and something that at firsts, I felt uneasy about. Leaving M2 was sad. I always thought of M2 as being my home, given a multitude of factors (let's not mention erg scores). Having thought I'd "peaked" in M2 (7 seat), I was plucked away from what I'd call a safe sanctuary. 

In the weeks leading up to Winter Head, things changed, but for the better. I felt like I was rowing in ways which I haven't before. I'd learnt how to move towards my rigger, something that wasn't really mentioned in M2. I somehow managed to gain a significant increase in my stroke length, as well as learning to push on every stroke, even whilst paddling. 

Unfortunately, a week and a half before Winter Head, my rib started acting up. This was coincidently at the end of the week where I had done two 2ks in near consecutive days. I was hoping it was not a stress fracture. It may have been due to the 'sudden' increase in volume that being part of M1 comes with. Who knows. What it did mean, was maximising the daily dosage of Ibuprofen and other Hungarian NSAIDs that I could find for around a week or so. I soon learnt that this was apparently bad, after having mis-read the back of the medicine box. A lesson learnt. 

Luckily, just before winter head, I learnt how to row properly - by relaxing my inner arm. The pain seemed to have massively decreased having done this, so who knows, maybe everyone needs this injury. After rowing properly, I deemed myself fit to race Winter Head and I didn't want to let the boys  down with a last minute sub. 

Going into the race, things were all about mentality (as they should be). This meant having crew pasta. My first M1 crew pasta. Things in M1 are slightly different to how we did things in M2. For starters, everyone turns up (okay, maybe Thomas didn't but he was with NM1 so that may be a valid excuse). Secondly, there's food, and there's lots of it. A full two-course set menu, specially curated by Xander, M1's sous-chef. There are also crew pickles. After a scrumptious meal of tomato, basil, chickpea and olive pasta, I depart for a long nights sleep before the race the next day. 

The mentality for the race was: we want to go fast, we will push. We warmed up, in time, in sync. Our paddle up was something we'd been practicing for the race. We had to make good use of the limited paddle time we had. The queue outside Cantabs was horrendous. We had been stationary for at least 10 minutes. This was an opportunity to make good friends with an Empacher Jesus IV+. We formed some sort of 'Pacher sandwich...banana sandwich? M2 drifted around in the distance in 804 behind Jesus. Once the previous division finally decided to end, we rowed on to the start. 

The beginning of the race felt good. We constantly heard 'good' splits coming through the cox box. Pushing away from the corners, and hearing the same splits you heard from the beginning was encouraging. I believe the greatest feeling/change during the race was up the reach and just past the railway bridge. We pushed up the reach, with splits still around the 1:41 range if I remember correctly, maybe lower? At this point, Connor gave an interesting call. Something along the lines of: "We're gaining on them, Peterhouse's cox is shit". This motivated us even more. 

Coming out of the railway bridge, we head towards our final push. Csonger ups the rate, and we once again hear reassuring splits. This was a peak 'empty the tank' moment. We knew that this was the final race thus we should give it all we can. We crossed the line knowing we gave it everything we had. It felt good to have this feeling.

Once back at the boathouse, we eagerly await the time. The results come in, and we are a couple seconds faster than our previous race! Less than a second slower than Peterhouse M1 which made me happy. Bring on Fairbairns. 

(Krisztian Hunter)

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