A 1100m side-by-side regattafrom Ditton corner to Peters Posts.
Conditions were slightly less than ideal: 20mph wind with frequent 40 mph gusts. It was also cold and wet. Here is a nice photo of Sia, one of our W2 rowers, battling the elements.
First round: beaten by Clare
Trying to do our monster start in such tough conditions was always going to be interesting. With some epicly poor start marshals, and on the worse side of the river, we still managed to hold station with Clare as we went into the slight bend on the long reach. However, coming up to the railway bridge, the pressure in the water went and it just never really picked back up again. It was difficult to get a good rhythm in a strong headwind and it showed here as we just failed to push it to the finish. On a good day, we could have definitely taken Clare, and next week will be all about cementing this thought!
First round: beat Sidney Sussex M2
With a frozen cam rendering M2's time on the water over the past 2 weeks non-existent, Pembroke was always going to be an interesting race. Just for fun, add into the mix 40 knot winds, halfway hall the night before and a bit of rain, conditions were certainly was going to test our crew's resilience.
We marshalled at Chesterton. About to push off David N, sitting pretty in stroke seat, showed us how to best prepare for a big race (Irish style) by having a not-so-quiet vom over his rigger. With chunks of malt-loaf floating by, one rather concerned marshell, and a pair of dogs humping in the background, we pushed off and sailed towards the start line.
Our race plan was simple: to use our recently practiced start to blow Sidney Sussex M2 out of the water in the first 50 strokes. First step though was to line up at the start. Easier said than done. Nonetheless, after a short exploratory inspection of the meadowside bushes and reeds, we eventually got kind of straight.
With the large waves washing over stroke's rigger (thereby cleaning off the remaining chunks of malt-loaf), conditions weren't great. But our start indeed proved superior. By the time we hit the stride we'd pulled away by a length. Another 30 strokes that stretched out to a couple of lengths. Pretty soon, Sidney Sussex were barely visible through the white horses and spray. Settling into a nice rhythm, we tacked our way into the head wind, the crew easily handling the adverse conditions.
Verdict: easy win by a half a dozen lengths.
Second round: beaten by First and Third M2
Pumped after our victory, we cruised down the Cam past the P&E parading our technique in front of the marshalled crews. Several umpires were so excited with what they saw, they chased after us, screaming excitedly. Turns out they were telling us we were supposed to spin. Our next race was against FaT II, a crew an entire division ahead of us in the Lents Bumps table. Nonetheless our race plan remained unchanged, with the exception of no pre-race vomits.
After watching the alumni boat power to a respectable second, we again sailed down to the start line. Lining up at the start line, we noticed the meadowside reeds really needed another close inspection. So the wind obliged. Eventually we lined up. Staring down FaT II. Letting them know a Division 3 crew were about to take them down a peg or two.
A solid start, we held them over the first 30 strokes. Midway through the stride, we hit some impressive waves. People shortened up, and we lost our rythm. FaT pulled away by about a length. With halfway hall now a distant memory, we regrouped and got back into a steady rhythm lead by stroke and his vomitless rigger. To our credit we held station with FaT for the vast majority of the race, and showed that with a bit more training on the water we are really a division 2 crew in disguise.
Verdict: loss by a couple of lengths.
First Round: beat Girton Alumni
Semi final: beat Emmanuel Alumni
Final: Lost to Magdalene
Fitness...finesse...training – these are just some of the attributes to which rowers aspire... and which the THBC Alumni VIII sorely lacked on Sat 18 Feb 2012. A post-race discussion revealed that every rower had put on weight since being ‘in form’ (and what ‘in form’ constituted is dubious in some cases). Indeed, one illustrious former athlete had put on no less than twenty-six kilos (no that’s not a misprint) since being a lightweight - an impressive feat by any measure, and which would be readily improved upon over a burger in the pub afterwards. At a guess, we were on average 7-10kg heavier per man than 3 years ago, essentially adding an extra man of deadweight to the crew.
Of course, the selection process for the VIII had been gruelling, and with so many alumni keen to take part there were always going to be some who were disappointed. One nameless Olympic Gold medallist was incredibly enthusiastic about joining the crew, until being informed in no uncertain terms that with less than 6 months until the start of the London games, a 1000m race along the reach may just have been too strenuous and set his training back several months. Despite the huge oversubscription of members keen to take part, we somehow ended up with 7 strokesiders and 1 bowsider, which for those of you unaware of the technicalities of rowing, presents a bit of a problem. But some of the crew ‘manned up’ and switched sides, and so the final line up was: Ben Goodwill, Tom ‘Fishy’ Robinson, Brendan McMahon, Rhodri Owen, Ian Watkins, Colin Scott, Iain Rist, Dave Lock, and Zoe Fayers as cox (for the record, the most experienced THBC M1 cox in the history of the bumps).
Fuelled by nostalgia, enormous rose-tinted spectacles, and a last-minute diet of chicken nuggets (‘its what Bolt does’), bacon butties and caffeine, the crew assembled at the boathouse at 8am on a windy Saturday morning, travelling from as far and wide as that alien place London. Unfortunately due to safety, insurance, and vanity reasons, the Alumni VIII were unable to use ‘The Aula 100’, a boat which is to rowing what a 56k modem is to the internet (it may have been the fastest about 20 years ago, but it sure isn't any longer!). So we were ‘forced’ to take Zoe's beloved Stampfli. Following the obligatory ‘who can get the lowest split’ challenge on the ergos, we headed off to race. The conditions couldn’t really be described as great: the wind was very strong, the water choppy, and the marshals fairly inept – a poisonous combination which essentially meant a lot of sitting around in the cold, false promises of a race ‘in the next 10 minutes’, followed by a burst of exercise into a 40knot wind, and then sitting around in the cold again. Nevertheless we succeeded in beating both Girton and Emma in the first 2 rounds of racing, improving our racing technique each time, and making the final. A particularly impressive step-change in boat speed would occur whenever Zoe called the battlecry ‘UNLEASH COLIN!’.
Forced to marshal in the middle of the reach for 10 minutes (the only boat to do so), we weren’t best prepared for the final race against Magdalene (who only had to race one round to get the final...not that we were counting), but agreed to give it our usual gutsy rigour. Within the first 10 seconds Magdalene careered into our boat, and what followed was intense combat of both blades and profanity. Their bowman caught a crab, and we pushed away to lead by a length. But at this critical point in the race, the collective aerobic fitness of the boat appeared to wane, core stability gave way to takeaway food, and the reality that none of us had been in a boat for the best part of 2 years came to the fore. In short, we got rowed through, and lost by a length or so.
It was a disappointing final, but a thoroughly enjoyable day. Thank you to the current THBC members for letting us come back and borrow a boat for the day!
First round: beat Queens
After weeks of being off the water due to ice we really had no idea what our opposition would be like. We had done quite a lot of power work which boded well with the outrageous headwind. Jeff was convinced he could see white caps on the reach.
The row down was nice in the tailwind. Lots of run and all that.
Off the start we were up on the first few strokes. Queens two-seat caught a whopper of a crab and didn't get it back until we had a considerable lead. The headwind would have been funny if it hadn't knocked the wind out of our sails completely. We battled the waves coming over the side. The cox could see almost nothing through the back/forward/side/upward/everywhere splashing. We dragged ourselves over the finish line with a nice amount of clear water between us and our opposition.
Round 2: Disqualified
When we span on Plough Reach under sub-optimal conditions and with the cerebrally challenged Pembroke marshals we managed to knock our bow ball. Somewhere right before the start line it gave up on us completely. Pembroke didn't let us race, which was a shame.
We paddled home enjoying the nice connection the wind afforded us.
First round: beat Selwyn W3
Weather conditions approached the intolerable this morning as the Trinity Hall W2 crew left the Boathouse for its efforts against Selwyn in the Pembroke Regatta. Making their race debut, novices Alexis Braun (4 seat) and Sia Togia (bow) were a bit confused when cox Hazel Stubb ordered the entire crew to sit with blades squared and handles to the gunnels instead of ordering the customary 'arms-only' warm-up start. Turns out the wind was so strong that the crew could simply sit motionless, blades affixed, whilst gale force winds blew the boat all the way down the Cam towards Ditton Corner. There the novices then encountered another new type of experience: 'white horses.' Known to many on the Cam, 'white horses' ('white caps' in American English) are gigantic waves caused by the wind. Those prevalent today on Long Reach were suitable for surfing and of the extremely wet and nasty kind (and not of the scotch whiskey kind also well-known to many in the Colonies.)
Tough go to be sure for both crews. Nevertheless, in spite of the terrible weather, when the start call was made the crowd witnessed a race that could only generate the kind of thrills, spills and chills typically produced by the people at Barnum & Bailey.
Yes, the fun started early when on the third stroke of the start cadence, the Trinity Hall 4 seat caught a crab allowing the wind to push the boat east towards Stoke-on-Trent. Unable to tame the wild 'white horses', poor cox Hazel wrestled helplessly with the rudder whilst the Crescent's bow ball rammed the bank on the towpath side of the river. Selwyn, amazed at its good fortune, pulled ahead by four lengths only to (hang on, what?) have its over-zealous 3 seat crab violently, causing the boat's bow to head west towards Cornwall.
Trinity Hall back in the hunt!
Straight and renewed, the Tit Hall crew pushed on into the wind only to (hang on, what?) have its 3 seat suddenly catch a major "shoulder crab". But (hang on, what?) Selwyn 3 seat again crabs!
Thus, half way through the race, both crews found themselves in a temporary standstill trying to straighten their boats whilst the bank parties simply waited and had tea.
Eventually recovering, both crews set off towards the finish line when (hang on, what?) our poor 4 seat yet again catches a crab. Turning frustration into fortitude, however, Trinity Hall, eyes ablaze and blades a-flyin', gets angry and begins to make progess - 3 lengths down, 2 1/2 lengths down, 2 lengths down, (hang on, what?) crab. It was now poor bow seat's turn as she crabbed nicely just as the railroad bridge was coming in to sight. But hang on, what? Selwyn 6 seat - crab.
Advantage neither crew.
Off we go again.............
Down 2 lengths at the railroad bridge, the outlook seemed fairly dim for Trinity Hall. But hang on, what?!!!!!! Selwyn, upset at having received no dates after a recent swap wih Sidney, rams the poor Sidney men's boat marshaled along the towpath!!!
Trinity Hall, ever-vigilant, grabs the opportunity and takes a one length lead before Selwyn can fully recover.
So with just 200 meters to go, Trinity Hall leads! But hang on, what?.....
4 seat crabs again! But by now she has learned to recover very quickly and is up and running toot sweet. But not until Selwyn has closed the gap. It's neck-and-neck with 200 meters to go as both crews begin rowing with some rhythm and flow.
It must now be exclaimed that never in recent times has there been such a 200 meter race at the finish! Bow balls were dead even approaching the line with hundreds of waiting crews and bank parties roaring with excitement.
And then, at that moment, something wonderful happened. Something barely persceptible. Something not of this earth. Something from above. The two novices, about to finish their very first race (and having experienced the humility of the 'crab'), suddenly grew in stature, in experience and in character.
Out of nowehere both Sia and Alexis shed their novice status and became leaders. With legs down, unbridled strength and perfect harmony they together gave the final big push which caused the Trinity Hall W2 boat to cross the line ahead of Selwyn by a bow ball!!!
VICTORY TRINITY HALL!!!
Such a finish this reporter has not witnessed in many a day. Well done Alexis and Sia and well done Trinity Hall W2!
(P.S. - Hang on, what? This reporter is also pleased to note that he has discovered that one can counteract chill from the 'white horses' by nipping into the Green Dragon after the race. Turns out the pub is well-stocked with the other type of 'White Horses' which, together with some ice and lemon, serve to make things much warmer indeed.)