‘W-Pro’ alumni brave the Bumps

Bow: Lizzy Johnstone (SE 2007)
2: Ellie Healey (SE 2007)
3: Moira Kelly (SE 2008)
Stroke: Emma Dalman (SE 2008)
Cox: Emily Hopkinson (SE 2008)

A boat of recent alumni and hangers-on faced the treacherous waters of the Isis on Saturday to represent the mighty Selwyn in Oxford City bumps. Only the keenest of the keen need apply for an entire bumps week in a single day, with our IV+ including women’s captains from 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, and Tom Page award winner 2011.

We managed to scrounge a boat from ex-Henley Fund Liaison Officer ‘Big Matt’, who’s now the president of Christ Church Boat Club, and were lucky enough to have bank party support from die-hard Selwyn fan James Robinson and (less die-hard Selwyn fan) Emma’s boyfriend Nick (from Robinson).

Preparation for our bumps campaign largely* consisted of making some trestles to leave the boat on between races. This was a major achievement in itself as a) they worked, and b) they had ‘Selwyn W-Pro, Oxford Bumps 2013’ printed on the side. (They did say ‘Oxford Bumps 2012’ until James helpfully pointed out that was the wrong year.)

W-Pro trestles
Proof that the W-Pro trestles could actually hold a boat up.

We expected to start at the foot of the river, but from the start order it appeared that several of the other crews had asked to be put lower down, and we somehow ended up going off sixth in the first division.

Part One – The practice round – Down 3

As with board games, we figure the first bumps race is a ‘practice’ for the real thing. We pushed off from Christ Church and had a 1k paddle up to the start to get used to the boat – and to each other (after 2 years apart!). It wasn’t as bad as might be expected, but felt pretty nervous, with Moira saying ‘normally I’m worried we’ll get bumped, but right now I’m worried we’ll fall in’.

We lined up at the start and got ready to go. As the klaxon went off we tentatively broke into our ‘start’ and were promptly bumped by City of Oxford behind. With torpids rules, only the bumping crew gets to stop, and we had to carry on to row the course out. So we were bumped again. And again. But as the race went on, we started to gel as a crew and, more confident, pushed into the boat in front. Over the last 500 metres we reeled in Oxford Academicals (who had themselves already been bumped twice), bringing them from 4 lengths to a canvas at the finish.

Part Two – Brute strength and Ethereal grace – Up 2

The slight fear that my up 15 bumps record would be annihilated in a single day was quickly overcome by the thought of racing once more for the mighty Selwyn College Boat Club. We pulled into Oxford City boathouse and were reunited with our homemade ‘Selwyn W-Pro, Oxford Bumps 2013’ trestles. Uplifted, Ellie came up with a new aim for the day – to row with ‘Brute strength and Ethereal grace’.

Brute strength
‘Brute strength’

This was all the motivation we needed, and the second race was much better. We pushed off the start with at least some degree of brute strength and settled into a more comfortable race rhythm. We out-graced University College behind and were quickly outside station and free to focus on the crew in front. Again we were chasing down Oxford Academicals, the three boats immediately in front having bumped out within the first 600 metres. We reeled them in over the course of the race, but catching up on four stations proved a little too much, and we eventually finished with about a length and a half between us.

We were feeling confident into our third race, as we had Oxford Academicals immediately in front, and were being chased by University, the crew that had been a long way off us the race before. Even with our somewhat ropey start we were moving in on the bump rapidly. A lift off Donnington Bridge finished it off within the first 200 metres, sadly not leaving us quite enough time to demonstrate true brute strength and ethereal grace. Nonetheless, we pulled in conveniently close to Oxford City boathouse to enjoy an extended cake-break before our final race.

The plan for the final race was to row over and try and keep up with the boats that had bumped us earlier in the day (to see how much we had improved!). On the start line however, we realised that the boat in front, Lincoln College, wasn’t actually one of the ones that bumped us. We had hope for another win, and were fired up when we heard ahead ‘we can’t get got by the Tabs’. It was another quick one, and we got GDBO around ten strokes on from Donnington Bridge. Despite the brevity, rumour has it we still managed to squeeze in some signature brute strength and ethereal grace.

Ethereal grace
‘Ethereal grace’

All in all it was a great day. It was brilliant to catch up with everyone, and we were pretty chuffed to finish 7th on the river. Oxford bumps is one of the best organised and chilled-out races I’ve been to, so if you’re around in Oxford next April, why not try to boost Selwyn W-Pro further up the leaderboard, or perhaps get Selwyn M-Pro in the running.

*Largely = entirely, except for Emma’s carb-loading on a Burger King Big Whopper meal the night before.

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