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.

Peterborough Regatta


M1 4+, winners of IM3 4+ in 3:26 at Peterborough Regatta (note Will’s t-shirt…very accurate :))

M1 headed up to Peterborough last weekend to race in the 1k sprint regatta. We took an eight, four and pair to race in IM3 and I ended up subbing in for a Rob Roy novice double too. 

Arriving just in time to bundle out of the van, rig up and jump on the water, the first race of the day in the eight perhaps didn’t go so well. With Churchill in our heat we thought we could lay down a marker, having set some pretty quick times over the course in training. However, for one reason or another we ended up rowing very short and sloppily as we settled out of the start and while we were level for the first 500m, they finished 3/4 length up. Still, that was just the heat and the final was yet to come.

In between the eight and the four a bit of inter-club swapping happened. Dave B-R subbed into the Churchill 4+ as one of their guys felt a bit off and I subbed into a Rob Roy double scull (my first sculling race since I parked on Grassy with Vicky!). As it was, the Churchill 4+ qualified for their final and in our race we moved easily away from the field to paddle home at rate 24. I was terrified that I’d cause the junior to lose a race he should easily win. Apparently, he was chuffed he didn’t come last!

The next Selwyn boat to race was the four. Lining up on the start line with a few technical problems (the seats jammed at 3/4 slide because the sliders were worn down) and having fumed and cursed our way to the start line we imagined we were about to get eaten in the heat. So it was surprising when twenty strokes into the race we had clear water! Rowing at 3/4 slide we held onto our lead despite a good push from Milton Keynes at the finish. We qualified fastest in 3:32 and with some quick repairs to Richard Budgett, felt confident about the final. 

Meanwhile, the pair had gone out for a paddle of the main river to get used to rowing together. Unfortunately, Nick and Nigel found the pair difficult to steer straight due to the setup, and despite efforts to change it, we couldn’t get it just right. Perhaps Nick should have steered, given his fantastic efforts at the wheel of the CUSU minivan, and his natural homing beacon towards the nearest McDonald’s drive-through. In the heat the pair got away well but as expected, drifted across lanes and so wound it down to not affect the race. 

Next up, Dave BR in the Churchill 4+ came third in the Novice 4+ finals. I can’t remember much of the race details. We’ll have to get him to debrief us on their tactics and capabilities before bumps! 

Now, the big one…the IM3 8+ final. Well, its tough to know what happened really. We rowed up to the start with much more confidence than the heat, but the start was sloppy and we were down very quickly. Leicester and Churchill, two crews we were expecting to beat, got ahead and stayed ahead, as we came in a length down on Churchill. Congratulations to them, but we didn’t have time to moan. We had to jump straight into Budgett for the 4+ final. 

Rowing down to the start line we had to get back into the underdog mentality that had worked in the heat – hard when you qualified quickest. Off the start we got another good getaway, striding to a long, punchy rhythm at 34. But we weren’t alone, De Montfort Leicester got away quicker and were 1/4 length up on us. Each push we did was matched and as it came to 750m it looked over. But Will screamed at us to finish it properly and in the following 200m we took a length out of them, finishing confidently ahead in 3:26. It was a great race and a good boost after the eight. 

My final race in the double almost resulted in an unlikely win! The double from Deben RC appeared to have actually met each other before the race (surely unfair?) and sculled very well. This didn’t stop us taking a length lead into the 500m mark but as the mistakes started to creep in given my inexperience in a sculling boat they moved through us, winning by a length. Still, second place was not too shabby for a first row together and I think Callum was pleasantly surprised. 

Overall it was a fantastic day of racing, and a good preparation for bumps. Short, sharp 1k pieces, and the amount of times you get to line up on that stake boat (six in total!) are great for confidence and experience before bumps. I’ve definitely felt the difference in the last couple of outings since. We’re now back with our full crew in the eight having had a couple of subs because of exams. Time to fine tune the little details before next week! 

Hopefully Danny will give us a little piece on his racing at Met Regatta on Saturday and Sunday for the Dev squad, where he won the IM3 8+ in a very impressive field. 

Peterborough also run a summer regatta in August, to which it would be great to get an alumni boat to. We could hop on the nines trailer on the Saturday, have a practice outing, camp overnight, then race on the Sunday. Its only 500m too so don’t worry if the legs aren’t quite what they were! Get in touch with the committee, or on the Facebook page if you’re interested in doing this! 

Over and out!

Dave x