The Club's Results
Cambridge Winter Head, Mich Term 2022
A timed head race over 2500m, from the Motorway bridge to the (no longer extant) Penny Ferry pub.
Sat 12th November
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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.
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.
1. M1 going up the reach
The FaT W1 crew placed 13th in our category for Race 2, an impressive effort for a new crew with a last-minute substitute. We rated 36 off the start and held the rate around 34 over the course of the race, putting our hearts to the test after a month of steady state training. We maintained a consistent split throughout the race and performed a strong wind to the finish line with the help of our truly inspirational coxswain- if you were spectating and thought you heard “Release the kraken!”- yes, that really was a race call. We were serenaded back to the boat house by the sound of 3 seat coughing up a lung, but overall feeling very positive about our performance.
There is certainly more speed within reach for this boat with a few key improvements. First would be having our actual crew in the boat together, second would be having each of them in full health! On a technical note, we need to work on utilizing the legs to drive the boat and maintaining composure at high rates. This connection will come with more time on the water together, and we look forward to hearing more of Bomber’s happy humming as we continue to build speed as a crew.
It’s a good thing that NW1 is generally a high spirited crew seeing as our time spent in the boat prior to racing was nearly two hours. The extra time turned out to be a bonus as the crew had to relearn how to row on our way to the starting line, in the words of our coach ‘ the crew that rowed downstream wouldn't have had much fun racing at all’ but the good news is that the crew who raced upstream had a lot of fun.
Our morning started strong with us learning to pick up the correct blade after pushing off and discovering that bow and stroke did not know which way round ‘1’ and ‘8’ are in a boat. Crisis averted and we did manage to push off in the end, with M2 not particularly pleased that they had to hold their boat above their heads as we got the correct blades. Unfortunately it did not turn out to be our ‘one mistake’ as it was so helpfully put.
It was discovered on the way to the start that we did not know how to start a race, and there was no prospect of any real practice, but surprisingly enough we started (mostly) in time. This was after we had to spin and nearly crashed into the bank, resulting in us having to be pushed off to prevent us from crashing into the bank… dragging our coach into the Cam in the process. Somehow we made it to our position where we spent a considerable amount of time observing the sheer amount of detritus in the river as well as some wildlife, whilst trying not to drift too far. It kept our spirits up and we discovered that, as a crew, we have the ability to be disconcertingly cheerful at all times.
After all of this, and probably some things that I have blanked from my memory, we set off and were surprisingly in time and during the actual race, few mistakes were made. Turns out it is possible to get said mistakes out of your system and leave them behind the starting line. The fact we only had one previous outing as a full crew made our ability to put it together more impressive- that is if you ignore the rating which was a solid rate 20. Great on a Tuesday morning as it means you are actually moving rather than stuck in traffic, but less than ideal during a race. Still, lessons learnt and next time the boat is almost guaranteed to go faster as ‘race pace’ has entered our vocabulary.
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