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.

Henley Fund committee meeting

Last week saw the 2013-14 Henley Fund Committee meeting. Captains Tom and Lizzie talked through what was coming up in the next year and we had a look at the architect’s plans for the boathouse (with exciting things like a slope up to the building so that the boat bays don’t flood!).

The prize for the best question however goes to Fiona ‘but when’s the next dinner?’ Morrison. Especially because it meant that the next Henley Fund has been moved forward a year to this Mays. Saturday 14th June – get the date in your diaries now!

 

The old ones are still the best

Bow: Benedict ‘Comrade’ Gliniecki (SE 2009)
2: Sebastian ‘Spoons’ Palmer (SE 2007)
3: Richard ‘Chorizo’ Cartwright (SE 2009)
4: Christian ‘Shorts’ Vaquero-Stainer (SE 2009)
5:  David ‘Flag Dave’ Lambert (SE 2009)
6: James ‘Textbook Boatie’ Robinson (SE 2008)
7: James ‘Silver Fox’ Hugall (SE 2008)
Stroke: Joshua ‘Museum Piece’ Pugh-Ginn (SE 2007)
Cox: Emily ‘Steering for the Bump’ Hopkinson (SE 2008)

Selwyn College Boat Club has, over the course of its 130 year history, produced many fine rowers who have gone on to great things in the sport. It has also produced the nine individuals who gathered from the farthest flung corners of the South-East to race in the alumni division of City Sprints.

It was a fine sunny afternoon when we gathered at the familiar edifice that is the Combined Boathouse. A motley collection of recent graduates and recent retirees from the rowing scene, we certainly had pedigree: 28 sets of Lents and Mays colours between us, and almost as many sets of spoons too. What could a crew of such calibre not achieve with a whole afternoon of training under their belt?

While the rest of us waited for Richard ‘Chorizo’ Cartwright (SE 2010) to finish his daily 2k, we spoke to Captain Matthias about which boat we should use. Offers to M1 of sparring (either with boats or fists) to decide which of us should get Eivind were sadly declined, and we made do with Laurie. We placed the sleek hull in the insalubrious waters of the Cam and then were faced with deciding the crew order. Miraculously, we discovered our crew consisted of four bowsiders, four strokesiders and a cox: from there it was simple. Emily ‘Steering for Bump’ Hopkinson (SE 2008) at the helm was reunited with her stern pair from M2 Mays 2009, Joshua ‘Museum Piece’ Pugh Ginn (SE 2007) and James ‘Silver Fox’ Hugall (SE 2008). Our intrepid and erstwhile captain, James ‘Textbook Boatie’ Robinson (SE 2008) took the six-seat, while David ‘Flag Dave’ Lambert, Christian ‘Shorts’ Vaquero-Stainer (both SE 2009) and Richard ‘Climbing?’ Cartwright comprised the rest of the powerhouse middle four. Bow pair saw Sebastian ‘Spoons’ Palmer (SE 2007) and Benedict ‘Comrade’ Gliniecki (SE 2009) return to their familiar seats.

James 'Silver Fox' Hugall
James ‘Silver Fox’ Hugall

A quick weigh-in session followed, which proved our decision not to enter the lightweight category the correct one. Thence, to the river, where a long intensive training session had been planned and cleared with CUCBC, ahead of our race at 6pm. In the event, after rowing to the P&E, stern pair voted against the rate pyramid and 6 x 1k pieces in favour of just practising a few starts. This we proceeded to do, with not entirely unpleasant results. True, seven sounded faintly asthmatic and our Captain kept shouting to relax the draw strokes (prompting Emily to demonstrate the coxing prowess that got her so far with CUL: “Do it more less rushed”), but we all agreed the rowing wasn’t as bad as we expected: we could wind to 47 quite happily and seemed to settle well on about 35.

We decided that actually doing 400m at race pace was probably a good idea (seven was dismayed to discover that our previous starts hadn’t got us that far). On spinning at the top of the Reach though, we discovered three Clare VIIIs in our way and, learning that they were about to piece, we decided to join in for a ‘bump or bridge’ piece, confidently anticipating the former. Our start gained us some ground on the hindmost Clare VIII, but we failed to capitalise from there and it was with some relief that we reached the bridge before anyone collapsed or pulled something.

We returned to the boathouse for refreshments and to collect the race numbers, confidently asserting that we had just held Clare M1 in a piece, until the Clare VIIIs rowed past and we saw the weedy oarsmen in the wooden VIII that we had raced behind. Chris was the first to realise what had happened: Clare had obviously swapped their crews around entirely at the P&E to save their embarrassment. While this prompted further discussion, including on the aerodynamics of afros, the two Jameses returned, one with the race numbers and doughnuts for later, the other with a satisfied grin, which we later discovered was due to a quick pre-race burger. At least they negotiated the cycle to and from City Boat House safely: Seb, popping home to stock up on performance energy gels, returned with a rather nasty cut on his palm from trying to dodge a parked car. Luckily it was his outside hand, and in any case, us old timers are made of sterner stuff than the current lot, so after the application of some antiseptic and the removal of some tarmac, he was good to row.

A quick pre-race snack

Thoughts now turned to our opponents, Magdalene Alumni: we confidently predicted that if they dated from an era when Magdalene were any good, they would also have to be pretty old. As we rowed down to marshal for our race, the centrepiece of the entire day’s racing, we got our first glimpse of our foe. They were doing pause-paddling. Our hearts dropped. Even James H’s optimism couldn’t come to our aid: on pointing out that their four-man looked quite old, Emily pointed out that Magdalene were probably saying the same of him. As we manoeuvred into position on the stake boats, we all mentally prepared ourselves for the coming contest. Our start was solid (though our draw strokes could have been calmer) and we used our lead into the corner to push off Magdalene, who had the advantage of the bend: there wasn’t much of a settle in evidence. The roar of the crowd spurred us on. Coming to the end of the corner, we still had a lead, Emily sitting level with their five man. She called for a push, but this was not a crew to leave anything in the tank for that sort of thing. Magdalene perhaps were, and crept back at us, drawing level and pushing a few seats ahead as we went over the line.

It was an honourable loss, and when we eventually regained our breath we gave Magdalene three cheers (theirs was worryingly soon after they crossed the line – had they perhaps been training?). James H later admitted to having a mini-stroke (the cardiac type, not an confession of inadequacy in the boat). We rowed home with heads held high, blisters forming and lungs burning: we may not have won the pots we so coveted, but there’s always Champs Head next weekend? Who knows, with a bit of training…

‘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.