Lent Bumps 2016 – Tuesday

W1 – Rowed over 2nd in Division 2
The first race of lents saw W1 ready to fight for the bump. We had a strong start which saw us gain quickly on Trinity Hall in front, all in the boat surprised to hear how quickly Roger began to call that we were close. Although Selwyn’s start was strong, as warned, it wasn’t strong enough. Although close to a bump on the last corner before the reach we didn’t quite manage it. Trinity Hall, Kings and Selwyn powered down the reach. We managed to keep Selwyn at bay despite a few missed strokes and gave Tit Hall a run for their money until the end. We rowed over, all happy to have maintained our position and having earned ourselves a celebratory trip to the pub for half pints and chips.

W2 – Rowed over
After a series of horrendously early morning outings in which the meet time had been pushed further and further back with the inevitability of an out-of-control novice boat set to crash, Lent Bumps was finally upon us. This was it. Everything we’d put in had got us here; the sweat, the tears, the visors bought on Amazon. Seven of us in W2 had yet to experience Bumps, but our first race was certainly a good start to the week.

Despite a bit of a shaky start, with the lurid pink of Downing W2 initially lurking not far behind, we soon settled into a steady rhythm at a higher-than-expected rate 35. The high rate took a bit of a toll on everyone, not least the cox’s visor which made a determined leap for the water at one point. But with some particularly loud bellowing from the bank, we gained steadily on Tit Hall. Luckily for them they managed to evade the 8 slightly hysterical girls in purple by bumping Caius. After that it was a determined pelt down the river which saw us coming painfully close to overbumping. Notwithstanding a couple of near-crabs and some considerable splashing, we gained steadily on the boat that had started three places ahead of us. When the first three whistles blew, as a novice to Bumps, I thought our victory was assured. Alas, no. Rather than the much-desired “easy there” which I expected to follow, the whistles blew again. What followed were a torturous few seconds to the finish line in which we came within half a canvass of overbumping. In the end we crossed the finish line with Downing well behind us and the next boat only just ahead of us.

Although we didn’t manage to overtake another boat, this was a great start to Bumps. Not only did we avoid the death/ serious injury/ horrible crashes which we had been reassured were a regular feature of Bumps, but we came really close to overbumping. Hopefully with a bit more control we’ll be able to bump Cauis tomorrow.

M2 – Bumped by Jesus

Tuesday 23 February. Bumps, day one. Day broke to the feelings of the excitement, apprehension, and sheer nervousness of the King’s M2 crew.

Consisting solely of ex-novices, our crew knew nothing of the carnage that the Bumps race entails. In fact, it was only the day before that some of us actually learned that ‘bumping’ is no metaphor, but a savage physical brutalism which could send us off flying off our seats and into the murky water below if we fail to get our act together. Or even to our deaths: merely some 150 years ago, the unfortunate five of Trinity Hall’s men’s second boat was spiked by the bow of another, ending his life and the race with it. We all highly value our five in M2, Jacob Toop-Rose, and our discovery of this uncanny occurrence naturally instilled a great deal of fear into us. Fear which was very little alleviated by our coach, Chris Braithwaite, who provided us with some words of support to his usual tune of optimism and encouragement: ‘it’s fucking scary’.

And so, as the sun beamed its glorious rays down onto the Cam, we set off towards our starting point. Fast forward by a few crew photos of us pretending to look happy and not ridiculously nervous, and sounded the 4-minute canon – something which seemed to belong more to a Hunger Games Arena than than to rural Cambridgeshire. The next 3 minutes seemed to elapse in no time at all, and before we knew it Miller was pushing us out into the river.

The countdown started. ‘Fifteen!’ The current started spinning us towards the bank, so Miller called out to two to take a tap – yet before we knew it, we had started to drift down the river and towards the bank. Our cox, Charlie, lest he should suffer an icy and pain-ridden death in the Cam, was forced to let go of the chain. ‘Seven!’. By now our boat was quite sharply angled towards the bank and we had all been thrown into a state of confusion, unaware of the significance of Charlie’s chain dropping. ‘Go!’. There was no time to reorient ourselves mentally, and our boat, physically. Our standing start seemed at first to go reasonably well, and we reached the good rate of 43. Yet when trying to settle our rate our lengths seemed to get shorter and shorter (as our race footage subsequently showed during our post mortem examination, we were as a crew barely reaching ¾ slides). We could clearly see Jesus catching up, quickly too, gaining at least a foot or two with each stroke, and that the end was near. We nevertheless persisted, eager to make the most of our first bumps race and not fall victim to apathy easy defeat. The screams and yells coming from our boat were not riddled with profanities or sighs, but with support and encouragement for one another: ‘come on, King’s!’… ‘we can do it!’. Although our efforts were in vain, for within 200 metres Jesus M3 had bumped us (though, much to our delight, without any physical contact), our comradery and unity as a team never disappeared, even when faced with the gloomy predicament of failure. Although we lost the race, and failed to row over into the next division, we hardly failed in our team spirit and outlook on events. After the face, we truly felt like a united crew.

I could go on but, in the interest of realism, I intend to keep this short – much like our race.

Pembroke Regatta – King’s W2

Pembroke regatta was the first race as a crew for this Lent's W2. Having not yet raced any other W2 crews we were eager to learn how well 
we could perform against the Hughes Hall/Lucy Cavendish boat. Outings up until the race had been reasonably successful, though early 
morning traffic had often prevented us from getting up to race pace and sustaining it for more than a few minutes. During marshalling we 
were all reasonably unsure what to expect, but embraced the "Yeah, King's!" mind set and approached the start.

After a successful standing start, we wound up the rate, feeling the boat lifting out of the water.  After 15 strokes we had half a 
length on Hughes/Lucy and continued to pull away. After no time, we easily had a length on them. Seeing the competing crew drift off 
into the distance, we continued to put the power down, though letting the rate drop slightly as we knew we were destined to win by a 
long way. Perhaps we didn’t realise that the ‘long way’ would end up being 17 lengths!
Exhilarated, we crossed the finish line. What a first race!

In the next race we would be racing Newnham W2, who we knew from Queen’s Ergs would be far more difficult to beat. Again, we marshalled 
up to the starting point and came forward to row, alongside Newnham. On “GO” we all exploded back together, laying that power down in 
the draws, before winding up the rate and lengthening out the stroke, with great timing. After five lengthens we were neck and neck if 
not slightly ahead of Newnham, who had not raced earlier in the day and were therefore on fresh legs! Racing on meadow-side of the reach, 
Newnham had the advantage in the first section of the course, and began to edge away slightly with each stroke. With this, we increased 
the rate to the point where they had only a quarter of a length on us. However, by halfway, they had increased to half a length, and we 
were really feeling tired by now, though keeping clean and giving it everything.

As the gap came close to a length, we started to drop off, feeling as though we had already lost this race. Though, after some loud 
encouragement from our bank party, out rate increased and we started to gain back on Newnham. Approaching the bridge we did a power 10 
and heard shouts of ‘we’re gaining on them!’. Exhausted, we continued our pursuit, rowing well and maintaining only 2-3 feet of clear 
water between the two boats, but we could not catch them.
We learned that Newnham W2 came runners up in the whole regatta for the division, so despite losing, we were extremely pleased with our 
performance.

Fairbairn Cup 2015 – King’s Alumni M1

In the autumn in England, the leaves turn brown and fall to the earth, and
begin to rot away in the cold November rain. The alumni rower is very much
like one of these falling leaves, except that in a few small corners of the
leaf, there is a smattering of green that is stubbornly unwilling to let go,
like a belt that is stretched on its last hole following Christmas dinner.
Every year therefore it transpires that the leaf that is most the most
convinced of continuing greenness organises an alumni crew to row in
Fairbairns. This is a long and arduous process involving many different
forms of communication and cajoling, and meets generally with some level of
success, in that usually some replies are received. Occasionally one of the
people replying doesn’t immediately have a good enough excuse as to why they
can’t attend (going to Brazil only narrowly won out in one potential coxes
mind over seeing Matt Main in lycra again), and therefore puts a tentative
yes down while they go away to plot something just a little bit special this
time around. This year recruitment was hampered by the other, younger,
alumni boat snapping up a whole load of people who would normally have been
gullible enough to volunteer. Happily though, and perhaps somewhat
miraculously, enough people signed up for the boat in good time, and
everything was set.

Then, with about 24-48 hours to go people started to really engage with the
process. Suddenly, inspiration was found and the excuses started flowing. A
variety of illnesses, pregnant wives having to go into hospitals and so on
meant that all of a sudden the boat was missing 2 rowers and a cox. To add
to the problems, for some reason I now forget (we will just say it was the
incompetence of the current men’s captain, as it wouldn’t have happened in
my day), there was also a distinct lack of a boat to row in. As people had
actually taken time off work in order to come, failure to resolve these
problems was not an option, and so I set about ringing everyone I knew who
could potentially help out. Our main saviours in this case were Chesterton
RC who allowed us to borrow a boat, a rower and a cox. Still short a person
however, I needed to keep some level of continuity by finding a skinny
ginger person with a dubious level of banter to replace the withdrawn Matt
Tancock. Fortunately KCBC have been cultivating just such a person in Joe
Gaffney, who agreed, to everyone’s relief and gratitude to bring the average
age down by about 5 years and average training level to above zero.

As the day of the race dawned, we realised that some of the mishaps had been
distinctly to our advantage. Having borrowed a boat, we also acquired pretty
much sole use of the Queens’ boathouse mens changing facilities. Also, being
closer to the start meant that we wouldn’t have to tire ourselves unduly
with having to warm up. Not having King’s baldes was solved by making the
younger alumni crew bring them down to us (I actually have no idea why they
did this). On the downside, the borrowed boat was bowrigged meaning that
choosing a stroke posed some problems. Here, fortuitously a solution was
found by utilising the deep understanding that prolonged alumni friendship
and real world scheming can bring. So when inevitably Chris Smith turned up
late, he found everyone else sitting in the boat, with only the stroke seat
left for him to occupy.

After marshalling, which was mostly self-directed as this year there didn’t
actually seem to be anyone on the bank, it was race time. Keeping the rate
relatively steady, a good start was made and a race rhythm found. Going past
the boathouse, where everyone who hadn’t been in Cambridge for ages wanted
to see what was happening with the new building, passed without serious
incident and then coming round into the reach we could start to look at
where we were in terms of other crews in the race. Peterhouse behind were
not gaining too much initially, which was good, as I knew one of the people
in the boat quite well and didn’t want to get overtaken by them. FaT, ahead,
seemed to have managed to find some people who were less fit even than us
and therefore seemed to be slowly coming towards us (the closing speed of
two slow things is really rather slow). The reason for race plans it to
prevent a rush of blood to the head causing overall defeat, and while the
temptation was there to raise the rating to above 30 and chase FaT down, we
decided to stick to the original plan of making sure everyone got to the
finish in a state where we could actually row home again. However, we did
continue to gain (as did Peterhouse behind, but never really enough to
trouble us), and coming through the gut and onto first post reach there
seemed a very real chance that it would only take a mild screw up on their
part to allow us to overtake. Sadly their competence held, and they crossed
the line approximately a length ahead.

Post-race we met up with the other alumni crew and then rowed back to the
boathouse (which while marginally further to row than King’s, was closer to
the pub) in great style, having actually had a bit of practice. Finally we
all ended up in the pub, which after all was mostly why people had come in
the first place. At some point later the results came out, and we didn’t
seem to have done terribly, which was about what we had thought.

The crew, which owing to increasing senility I had to look at a picture to
remind me of, consisted of:

B. Mark Hancock
2. Chris Diamond
3. Jason McEwen
4. Simon Emmings
5. Chris Braithwaite
6. Matt Main
7. Joe Gaffney
S. Chris Smith
Cox. James Tidy

Fairbairn Cup 2015 – King’s Novice M1

The ‘graduation race’ for 2015’s novices found NM1 a lot more enthusiastic than we had expected to be. As the morning’s grew colder and the winds more gruelling all of ‘NM Voldemort’ knew that Fairbairns marked the end of a long Michaelmas of crabs, spoons, spanners and answering to ‘novice’. Surely upon our rowing graduation we could finally become the tall, strong, purple lycra clad heroes that we had dreamed of since freshers.

With a 7:30 meet the mist still hung low over our fair river as we pushed off and then cleared at the start line to reveal a plague of incompetent coxes. Luckily our main man Charles, seasoned with all manner of unfortunate events (see Winter Head race report), guided the legendary wood workmanship known as ‘Neil Saigal’ safely to the start line. A reluctant power gipped our eight as we accelerated from the start line under Victoria Avenue Bridge, uncomfortably close behind a spannering Sidney Sussex crew. Our rate remained high as Daro and Charles drove us round the twisting waterways of Riverside.

After this strong start we finally passed King’s ‘boathouse’ and into familiar territory… and a familiar position of being stuck behind other boats on the Cam! It was the stern of Sidney fast approaching. Our cox’s calls for water echoed across the water but alas there was no room in this narrow-boat ridden section. “HOLD IT DEAD” bellowed forth from the cox box above the coaches’ clamour. Blades clawed against the stream as the mass of the Saigal was dragged to an unwilling halt. Soon Sidney had spluttered their way forward and our rowing resumed, now with the men of King’s filled with rage (and a sneaky swig of water).

Taking a tight line under the green dragon bridge we thereon proceeded to up the power and rate until we seized the chance to take Sidney on the reach. Inspired by our second ever race overtake the strokes remained hard and fast as we navigated the gut then bust forth from under Newnham Bridge and into seniorship!

I’ve no idea where we placed but we still get called ex-novices so not much good came of it.

Newnham Short Course 2016 – King’s W1

The first race of the term found W1 in great shape. We rowed up to the start knowing we’d have to face a strong wind but determined to give our best.

We had a solid start after which we settled at a rate of 31.5, which we maintained for the whole length of the course. Motivated by our cox’s mid race humor attempts, we rowed confidently past Grassy Corner and then on to the Plough. We kept Queens M4 at a consistent distance behind us as we were steadily gaining on their W1. A strong wind hit us as we came in to the Reach but after a couple of hesitant strokes we regained our rhythm and rowed firmly into the last 500m of the race. The finish line secured us the 11th place in the W1 division and filled us with optimism for a better Lents performance than in the past.

Fairbairn Cup 2015 – King’s Novice W1

Due to some seasonal flu we ended up with a change in the boat, i.e. a different stroke, at short notice and we were all slightly nervous before our first proper race (we’d all had mixed feelings about our first racing experience; in Emma Sprints we had crashed into a tree) – especially as we were told Fairbairns would be the race we’d be entering as novices and leaving as seniors. It was a rather cold and windy day and by the time we were manoeuvring the boat into the marshalling zone, we were more than ready to get going. Before we knew it, we were racing and rowing those 2k away. We were particularly proud, when we realised afterwards we didn’t catch a single crab. After crossing the finishing line, a mixture of elation and exhaustion accompanied us back to the (not-)boathouse, while we celebrated by singing ‘Row, row, row your boat’ in sync with our strokes. We placed 13th in our division – a result we were all proud of, and thus the race definitely made a fitting conclusion to our first term of rowing.

Fairbairn Cup 2015 – King’s W1

W1 started the term with an almost entirely new crew but after eight weeks of hard work we’d made tremendous progress and rowed down to the start of Fairbairns with excitement.

We had a solid start and soon settled into a steady rate 32. Before long, we were coming onto the reach and maintaining an excellent rhythm. We were all starting to feel tired as we came towards the Plough but showed a lot of grit and determination to push round the corners and into the final stretch. We kept the rate up throughout and finished with a strong final minute and a very respectable time, boding very well for Lent Bumps next term!

Fairbairn Cup 2015 – King’s M1

After 16 months of not being able to row for King’s (due to an injury) I was grateful to join M1 halfway through Michaelmas term 2015. Fresh from University Fours, the crew was just getting used to being in an eight again. In 16 months the crew had changed almost beyond recognition – I had rowed with only 2 of the member before. Still, I sensed the same King’s grit and determination I had known in the ‘glory days’.

In comparison to previous years, this crew had relatively little experience. Our best result in Winter Head ranked us 12th fastest Cambridge College, behind many crews around us in Lent Bumps. The pressure was on. M1 responded positively in the ensuing outings, and we arrived at the Fairbairn Cup start line hungry to restore King’s among the top College crews.

It was a glorious December morning – the river was flat calm and the sun was shining. As we pulled up in front of Jesus boathouse, the nerves were beginning to show. “Come forward” commanded Will, our cox, who was also the most experienced member of our crew. We knew that he was our trump card – his lines could gain us crucial time over our competition. “King’s. Attention. Go!” After an impetuous start, we settled into a solid cruising rhythm of 34 strokes/min. Will’s calls kept us sharp and motivated. Soon we were surging past King’s boathouse, then the Green Dragon Footbridge. As we passed under the Railway bridge, we still had our momentum, and Will urged us on: “Bridge-to-bridge from here – you’ve done this many times before”. After a shaky second half of The Reach, we regrouped along Plough Reach, slingshotting around Grassy and raced through The Gut. Along First Post Reach, Will’s voice rang out “Go to that dark place”. Then, it was over.

M1 finished 7th fastest Cambridge College crew. Although not as impressive as results from previous years – 2nd in 2014, 3rd in 2013, 1st in 2012 – we had made significant gains in a short space of time, putting around 20s on crews that had beaten us in Winter Head, just 3 weeks earlier. I am very encouraged by the potential our crew has shown, and look forward to continuing improvements in Lent term 2016.