The 2015 Newton Women’s Boat Race: SCBC’s Hannah Evans reports about her experience

In April this year the Newton Women’s Boat race was held on the Tideway for the first time, and I was privileged to be part of it. However the road to racing on the Thames did not start this year, the move to the Tideway has been known since 2012 and since then Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club has been preparing for the race.

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I came to Cambridge in September 2013 before my course here started to being training with CUWBC, it already was clear that the club was making preparations for racing on the Tideway despite the races being held in Henley that year. Throughout the 2013/14 season we went to London to race and train on the Tideway. At first, I found it very intimidating as the river there is very different compared to anywhere I had trained. However, the more we trained on the Tideway the more comfortable I became. At the end of the season, I competed in the Blondie-Osiris Boat Race losing by half a length. Despite this disappointment, I knew that I wanted to be in another boat race because overall the year had been a lot of fun. Last September with a brand new squad, we saw a various changes to prepare us for racing on the Tideway; 5km weekend pieces at Ely became the norm, there were a greater number of visits to the Tideway to train and multiple sessions watching past Boat Race videos. We also saw the change in our land training sessions, 5km erg tests rather than 2km, and I can promise you a 5km is defiantly worse! Not only had the training changed this year so had the interest from the media and the sponsors to make raise awareness of the race, it made the process more exciting but throughout it all the focus was on the training rather than the excitement of the first women’s race on the Tideway. For me it was a very challenging year, more so than my first year trialing, however when the crews were finalised I had made the Blue Boat.

The most concentrated media attention we had before race day was at the weigh-in which was held just over a month before the race. This marked the official announcement of the Boat Race crews. The event was held in the Royal Academy in London and was probably one on the most bizarre days my year. Standing on a set of scales in a uni-suit in front of many members of the press, whilst Claire Balding read your name and weight was a very surreal experience.

When the race came, although it was the first on the Tideway, it did not feel like we were doing something new or different. It was the course we had trained for all year and the race we were ready for.

We moved to London a week and a half before the race to begin final preparations. The time we spent as a crew in London was some of the most enjoyable of the whole year, being able to really focus on rowing close to the race and come together even more as a crew.

I do not remember much of the race itself, and it was over surprisingly quickly. Before the race I had expected to be aware of the flotilla following us and thought the noise of the crowds would be very distracting, however I noticed neither during the race. Despite losing I know we did our best that day, I can look back on the race and the year proud to have been part of that crew and the squad.

Throughout the year we were often asked ‘What does the boat race mean to you? What does it mean that the women will be on the Tideway too?’ I think the answers I gave were probably always a bit disappointing, I had not really thought that much about the impact the race could have on women’s sport but now feel we are yet to see the full effect it could have. I feel very privileged to have been part of the first race on the Tideway and I look forward to seeing many more Cambridge crews race down that course.

Throughout the process the college has been very supportive, particularly the Master Roger Mosey. Research for my degree has taken me away from Cambridge this term so I cannot race in Mays, which I shall be sad to miss. I had a lot of fun racing with the college last year and I wish them every success this year.

SCBC May Campaign 2015: Gothenburg Training Camp

This Easter the SCBC men’s squad left Cambridge and headed to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, for a training camp on the Rådasjön lake. We stayed at Mölndalls Roddklubb, sleeping on the floor of their well-appointed boathouse and using their fleet of boats for our outings. The weather was a little windier than we are used to from the Cam but once it had settled down we were able to use the large lake to get in some good continuous rowing without interruption from other crews or corners.

The Rådasjön lake, just southwest of Gothenburg.
The Rådasjön lake, just southwest of Gothenburg.

We had a team of eleven rowers of varying experience attending the camp, so this was a useful opportunity for knowledge exchange in an environment without other commitments to take our focus away from rowing. The time spent in the gym working on our power curves on the ergos was very useful and should contribute to making our boats more effective this Easter term, and was simply time that we’d not have been able to find together in Cambridge.

Erging for one.
Erging for one.

On our last full day we joined in with our host club’s circuit training session, only realising that it was two and a half hours long after agreeing to it! It was an interesting event with a lot of energy in the room leading to a real mania coursing through the end of the session, which helped us all push along.

Overall it was a very useful camp to go on, providing a great opportunity to think more about what we’re trying to do in the boat and get closer towards that aim, as well as improve our fitness and strength in the gym. Of course, this would not have been possible without the assistance of the Henley Fund, whose support is greatly appreciated. Hopefully our efforts on the camp will translate into some pleasing results for SCBC this June.

Back at Stansted and better at rowing, if somewhat dirtier.
Back at Stansted and better at rowing, if somewhat dirtier.

Novice Fairbairns

So today we had an incredibly windy novice Fairbairns, with huge gusts and even trees falling down onto the course.

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The results are up here: http://jcbc.jesus.cam.ac.uk/Fairbairns/results.php

NW1 were 8th out of 42 crews
NW2 were 14th out of 42 crews
NW3 were 38th out of 42 crews

NM1 were 23rd out of 52 crews
NM2 were 33rd out of 52 crews
NM3 were 45th out of 52 crews

Well done to all the competing novices and coaches! Hope to see you all out on the river next term.

Tomorrow we’ve got M1 and the W1 squad (VIII & IV) competing in senior Fairbairns so good luck to them – hope the conditions get a bit better!

A belated race report from some slow old alumni

In August, a brave group of intrepid alumni ventured to foreign waters to take part in Peterborough regatta. This was a 4-lane, side-by-side race over 500m. We had originally entered 5 boats, but sadly the regatta was over-subscribed and our mixed events were canceled. Nonetheless, everyone (except Harry ‘I’ll only row if there are women’ Robinson) got to row – in a women’s IV+, men’s IV+ and men’s plus Lizzy VIII+.

The most experienced explorers were there a night early for a camp-out and practice paddle. One of our group was tragically stranded on the German autobahn, and another two delayed ’til the morn by the complex workings of the eastern railways network. Though we were obviously devastated, it was perhaps a good thing that we didn’t have to fit 4 into Chris’s misleadingly named ‘4 man’ tent.

Chris and Chris in their ‘4 man’ tent

Once we had set up tent, we were straight out in the mixed IV+ for some serious training. Lizzy ‘4 points’ Johnstone insisted that she was the best choice for stroke, backed up by Chris ‘Casanova’ Cottingham, Chris ‘ARA member’ Vaquero, Harry ‘I’ll only row if there are women in the boat’ Robinson, and coxed by Emily ‘which way is it’ Hopkinson. Accompanied by tribal beats from the bank, we wound it up to 42 and quickly settled to 26. Several attempts and a mutiny later, we replaced the settle with a push and tricked Lizzy into maintaining a reasonable rate. Satisfied with our start, we headed back to dry land to be reunited with Emma ‘cowgirl’ Dalman and Peter ‘Putney’ Jones.

One terrifying car journey later, we were equipped with barbecues, burgers and buns.* Rigger jiggers and adjustable spanners proved ideal cooking utensils, and we only had one complaint from fellow campers about creating too much smoke. (At the time we blamed Asda’s cheapo barbecues, but looking back at the pictures it may have had something to do with the high charcoal content of our culinary delights.)

Culinary delights

As an ideal end to the evening, Pete turned recruiter and got Super Sub Clemmie from Putney to replace Autobahn Moira in the women’s IV+. As a less ideal continuation of the evening, we were woken up at 2am by someone called Robbie weeing on our tents.

Our first race kicked off at 9.20am. The men’s IV+ was made up of Chris and Chris, joined by ‘Little Dave’ Barton, ‘Big Dave’ Lambert, and Will ‘thank god he’s not called Chris or Dave’ McDermott. To the shock of the crowds (and not least to me, who had told Nines that we’d only need to borrow their boat once), we achieved a comfortable victory. Chris and Chris looked wistfully at the 30 pints they’d bought the night before, working out they’d never sober up in time to drive home after the semi finals.

W-Pro was the second boat to race. Lizzy, Emma and Emily were joined by Super Sub Clemmie and Ellie ‘I hope she knows how good we are’ Healey. Discounting the boat that came first, we won our heat and got through to the reparchage.

Unfortunately, W-Pro had not had the foresight to ask Super Sub Clemmie if she was free for round 2. It turned out she might be in different race ten minutes later and so we went on the hunt for a reserve sub. Super Sub Stina from Clare agreed to be on stand-by. We were delighted to see that both our Super Subs got through to the singles reparchage as this would be an excellent test of their abilities. However, reality soon struck – this was the race that was ten minutes after our own. Eventually we found a reserve reserve sub in the form of Super Sub Julia from FaT and had some cake to celebrate.

By this time, it was the turn of AluminVIII. The Men’s IV were joined by Donal ‘alumni’ Gorman, Lizzy ‘4 points’ Johnstone, and the fashionably late Nick ‘Gucci’ Jones and Ali ‘Prada’ Philpott. Approaching the start line we noticed some of the other crews also had “men” in their two seats, but as ‘4 points’ Johnstone significantly out-gunned them in the bicep department we were feeling pretty confident (shush, I know she also out-gunned the rest of our crew). The heat was again successful, with AluminVIII coming home 2nd and qualifying for the final. She does have 4 points you know.

4 points Johnstone

Despite legs now starting to ache quite badly and desire for burgers and ice cream overcoming any real will to win, the men’s IV rather stupidly came first in the semi-final, qualifying fastest for the final later in the afternoon. Chris ‘ARA membership’ Vaquero and Chris ‘Casanova’ Cottingham now had to accept that the only remaining use for their 30 beers was as a seat in wait of the next race.

W-Pro’s second race was less splashy and on the whole felt a lot more elite. We however came ‘4th of 4’. Looking at the finish times we were shocked to find out that the other crews had not got inexplicably faster, and despite being more elite, we were actually slower second time round. Though slightly disheartened that it was probably just Super Sub Clemmie dragging us down the course for our first race, we quickly consoled ourselves with smoothies, ice-creams and the happy thought that we’d no longer have to stay for the 6pm final.

Whether a sign of old age or a sign that I should have really written this race report a lot earlier, at this point my memory gets rather blurry. Both AluminVIII and the men’s IV came within a canvas of the winning spot in their finals to finish in a safe second place. On reflection, it was very thoughtful of them to hold back at the end and avoid picking up points so that we could all enter again next year. After all, I’m not sure the world could cope with a Lizzy ‘5 points’ Johnstone!

Please do get in touch if you’d like to take part in the next alumni race. We’re hoping to do something on cam – perhaps Pembroke regatta or City Sprints. Maybe we could pick up some shiny shiny things to drink our beers from afterwards next time. Email Emily on ejhopkinson@googlemail.com.

Shiny thing

*Top tip: DO NOT get in a car with Chris Vaquero. Unless you think it’s ok to drive at 40 round a supermarket car park.

The Cam from a different perspective

At the very end of Easter Term out-going women’s captain Claire Hayes took a trip on the Riverboat Georgina – as her prize for winning the best coxing line around Ditton Corner at Champs Head.

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“Taking a trip on the Riverboat Georgina was a brilliant way to spend my final full day in Cambridge, after having spent so much time at the river during my 3 years. What made this even better was the complimentary champagne and the presence of the sun!

On the river a few crews could be seen training for Henley – mainly Pembroke and Jesus, as well as Cantabs. It was also fascinating to watch the Riverboat Georgina spin at Baitsbite Lock (if you look carefully on the non-towpath side, there is a huge dent in the greenery where the bow of the boat pushes into the bank– turns out the Georgina is much longer than an VIII!)

Definitely keen to come back to Cambridge for bumps if I possibly can!”

georgina

 

May Bumps 2013 – Day Three

(M1 – Tit Hall, Churchill, Selwyn sandwich – so close!)

No bumps for S.C.B.C. today sadly, but things are looking promising for the final day thanks to the groundwork laid down today.

M4, freshly arrived in Divison 5 after yesterday’s bump on Homerton, found themselves chasing Corpus III but with a keen Clare V now in sandwich boat position behind them. A strong start saw them gain on Corpus, but quite soon afterwards the division was halted due to carnage ahead. A re-row was announced for Selwyn, Corpus and Clare only and this time Corpus hit a much stronger start. They now had a clean-water advantage as well, and held Selwyn off much better. Clare pushed up and eventually got the bump just on First Post Corner. A disappointing day, and a return to sandwich boat position for M4, but another chance to re-enter Division 5 awaits tomorrow. The Pimm’s boat fared slightly better, achieving a solid row-over along with the crews ahead and behind them. They will start in the same order tomorrow, and will be hoping to at least equal today’s performance.

In Division 4, M3 looked to halt their downward slide, and managed it in style. Aware that they had been bumped by two of the fastest boats in the division, they had a strong start ahead of Christ’s III (their fellows’ boat) and matched their every push, preventing the veteran crew behind getting more than a whistle. Things got desperate for Christ’s on Plough Reach, as Corpus II pushed up on them, but unable to make ground on Selwyn, they were bumped outside the Plough. M3 continued the solid race pace they had held thus far, and gobbled up ground down the Long Reach, looking for the double overbump on Downing IV, who were making heavy work it. Sadly this feat proved a little too much, but M3 were within three lengths of Downing (from a starting station 11.5 lengths behind) at the finish. Tomorrow, they look to give Wolfson II their spoons, whilst denying Corpus II their blades.

With the overbump-and-a-half-ed Pembroke III behind them, whom they had so nearly caught on Day 1, W2 knew they could focus on trying to revenge themselves on Girton II. In the event, this proved too much, but a solid row-over ensued and they chase the same opposition tomorrow. On the other hand M2, after yesterday’s row-over found themselves between a falling Clare II and a climbing St Cat’s II: holding station on Clare through to Grassy, M2 found themselves losing ground to Cat’s slowly but surely. In the end, the Cat’s crew’s superior experience showed and they gained their bump as M2 rounded Ditton onto the Long Reach.

Having the previous day revenged themselves for what has become known as the ‘Historically Disputed Bump’ on Robinson in Mays 2010, M1 knew they would face a tougher challenge today chasing Churchill, not least because of a spooning Trinity Hall ahead of them. The result was one hell of a race, but unfortunately not in Selwyn’s favour: by Grassy all three crews were compressing, and round Ditton all three were pretty much overlapping. Churchill clipped Trinity Hall before Selwyn could finish the job though, forcing Selwyn to extricate themselves and row home, never threatened by Robinson behind. They will be hoping to take out some of their frustration on Trinity Hall themselves on the final day. W1 too are hopeful of a positive ending to the week, after a strong row-over today: never threatened by Magdalene behind, Selwyn made a brave attempt at keeping up with Peterhouse as they caught Girton, and were then left to chase a remote but not impossible overbump on Trinity Hall. They made up a lot of ground on a flagging Trinity Hall down the Long Reach (estimates of around 18 seconds), but didn’t quite have long enough to reel them all the way in. Tomorrow they have another shot at Girton, to whom they got so close on Day 2.

All in all, tomorrow looks promising – bring on the last day and Boat Club Dinner!

May Bumps 2013 – Day Two

Another eventful day on the Cam, with exactly the same overall results as the first day for S.C.B.C.

The day started with the Hermes M4 boat restored to their sandwich boat position at the head of Division 6 thanks to a scratch from F.a.T. V higher up in Div. 5. A strong row over at head was followed by an impressive long-haul bump on Homerton III, which took from the Lock until Ditton. The Hermes boys will be hoping to continue their ascent today. The Pimm’s boat gave a much better showing of themselves on Day 2, gaining one whistle on Clare III, who had had the advantage of W3’s crash yesterday. Sadly, Emmanuel IV, who had overbumped the day before, were steadily pressing up on Selwyn, and despite some sturdy resistence from the girls, got the bump.

M3 were also looking to make up for a disappointing first day, hoping to hold off St Cat’s III for the course. Despite some pre-cannon drama ahead of us, with Wolfson II losing a gate on the row-up (they got it fixed in time, but still only held Jesus halfway down First Post reach), M3 had a much calmer and stronger start than yesterday, and settled into a good race rhythm. Cat’s began creeping up and though M3 held it together strongly, and made them fight all the way to the Gut, they were just unable to muster that extra 10% to start pushing away. Day 3 will see them attempt to learn from this with Christ’s III (their fellows’ boat) behind.

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M3 Row Home. (c) L. Santinelli

After Day 1’s disappointement, W2 were looking for a strong performance to give themselves another shot at Pembroke, whom they had nearly bumped on the first day. With a strong Girton II crew pushing from behind, W2 started well and a massive crab from St Cat’s ahead gave them hope of a revenge bump. Sadly, Girton gave it everything and managed to catch the girls just before they could hit Cat’s, who were parked on the bank. The resulting clearing led to Cat’s being trapped and granted a technical row-over, allowing Magdalene II to power through and get an unconventional ‘Overbump and A Half’ on Pembroke III, with the three crews between them out of action.

M2 knew that Darwin I would be more of a challenge than F.a.T. III had been, especially with a catchable Clare II ahead of them. A strong start saw them stay on station with Darwin and maintain that all the way through to the Railway bridge, where Darwin finally ground down Clare for the bump. A strong row-over for M2 though and high hopes for chasing Clare on Day 3. Meanwhile, F.a.T. behind them were bumped by Cat’s and caused a re-row of the entire division below 6th.

In the 2nd division, M1 continued their climb with a powerful bump on Robinson, who had given Peterhouse a long race the day before. Selwyn looked to finish the job early though, and a few strong shunts in the Gut, combined with some erratic steering from ‘Binson saw them get the bump just before Grassy. W1 had a similar fly or die attitude in their race, pushing well up into Girton, as Peterhouse pressed hard behind. With Selwyn hovering less than half a length off Girton’s stern, Peterhouse put in a push to finish it off though, and got the bump.

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M1 after bumping. (c) L.Santinelli

May Bumps 2013 – Day One

Mixed fortunes on the first day of the 2013 May Bumps for S.C.B.C., with two bumps, one row-over and four crews going down.

The first Selwyn boat in action was M4, representatives of the Hermes Club, who faced a tough row at the head of the 6th division being chased by Darwin III, their fellows’ boat. Their superior experience showed in both their rowing and their choice to wear lycra even in Division 6, and despite some solid racing from M4, Darwin caught them on Grassy (managing in the process to give the bow of Laurie a closer acquaintance with the bank than was ideal). Darwin went on to bump Homerton III as sandwich boat, so M4 will at least have a new target in their sights, although the scratching of FaT V has possibly led to some rejigging of the start order. The Hermes boat’s female counterparts, the Sirens Club, rowing as W3, definitely had circumstances against them in the 4th division: a rushed push-out, the strong headwind and then a snapped rudder line saw them career into the bank before really getting going in their race, leading to them being caught by Clare III. The girls will be hoping to acquit themselves better tomorrow.

Next up was the recently assembled, mostly MCR M3. With a swift Jesus III crew behind, it was a matter of trying to hit Darwin II in front as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Jesus proved too fast, although a collision with Darwin, after they had bumped Wolfson II ahead, led to some confusion: Jesus’ bump was awarded at the time, but The Tab later reported (at 16.13), erroneously it seems, that the decision had been overruled and technical row-overs given instead.

Both the men’s and women’s second boats started strongly in their respective races in the 3rd divisions. W2 had three whistles on Pembroke III in the Gut, but couldn’t quite finish the job before St Catherine’s II behind them came back strongly for the Bump on Grassy Corner. M2 on the other hand took advantage of their strong start to reel in First and Third III and complete the bump just before entering Grassy.

M2 Wednesday
M2 pulling in for their greenery at Grassy Corner. (c) L.Santinelli

And finally to the first boats: M1 raced first, chasing Downing II in the 2nd division. Downing put up a sturdy resistance, but Selwyn steadily ground them down, pushing inside a length by Grassy, and finally getting the bump on Ditton. W1 put in a solid performance in the 1st division, rowing over after crews bumped out ahead and behind them: having gained some ground on St Catherine’s in front, this was soon lost as Cat’s pushed into a flagging Girton, eventually catching them by the Plough. Tomorrow brings an interesting line-up with Selwyn getting a shot at Girton, while being chased from behind by Peterhouse, who caught Magdalene today.

M1 Wednesday
M1 chasing down Downing II. (c) L.Santinelli

A tentative start for S.C.B.C. all round, but one which bears some promise for the rest of the week!

 

UPDATE – Full race reports are now up on the website:

M1 – Wednesday – bumped Downing II

W1 – Wednesday – rowed over

M2 – Wednesday – bumped FaT III

W2 – Wednesday – bumped by Catz II

M3 – Wednesday – bumped by Jesus III

Pimm’s boat (W3) – Wednesday – bumped by Clare III

Hermes boat (M4) – Wednesday – bumped by Darwin fellows