M1 – Bumped by Magdalene
The final day of Bumps was upon us, and (for the second time this year) the spoons were out to get us. Could we pull something out of the bag? Could we row the race we knew we had within us? We had shown at MET Regatta (the previous weekend) the ability to improve exponentially in a short period of time. However, our results this week told us that while it might be possible to cram for exams and still make the grade, having a term off rowing and cramming for Bumps results in a painful four days of rowing.
Today our race plan was nearly as simple as the previous day – a flat-out sprint to First Post Corner. We knew Magdalene were quick off the start (they had escaped Selwyn on the first day) but were unsure about their speed over the rest of the course. Therefore, we couldn’t go for a simple fly-and-die approach, but rather and fly-and … er … fly. The main objective was: make it to the KCBC marquee.
Before venturing out onto the water, Lachlan gave us one last stirring speech. Our three-man, the one-and-only Joe Gaffney was particularly roused by this speech – venting his energy by tapping the side of the boat at every possible opportunity on the row-down. As we rowed past the marquee, we were greeted by a wall of noise – giving us a great boost.
Our start was ferocious and speedy. Magdalene were not getting anywhere near us and we settled onto a solid racing rhythm – the best all week. As we came into First Post Corner, we could hear the roars from the crowd – willing us on to escape the clutches of Magdalene, who were getting whistles on us. As we straightened out onto the Gut, a couple of airstrokes killed the boat speed and we were going backwards. An umpire gave an optimistic bump and there was some confusion before we were told to wind it down and pull in. They had got us, the spoons had claimed us. But at least it had been a fight. We had made it past the KCBC marquee and we could be proud of that.
On the row home, our strokeman (Lachers) swapped seats with Willer (our cox). Needless to say, the boat moved considerably better with Willer (the legendary M1/M2 stroke) setting the rhythm. Lachers, meanwhile, did his best to crash us into every corner he could.
And so ended a week of passion, frustration, highs and lows. We may be a Mays Spoonbarge, but at least we were dignified in our demise. Lest we forget the Mays Spoonbarge – let its memory spur us on to greater things in the coming years.
W1 – Bumped by Catz
Starting out as Sandwich-boat on Saturday, we were determined not to drop down any further and keep our position to work our way up from there the next year. On the way up to the lock, the crew was slightly uneasy after seeing our loyal supporter and bank party Stan be swiped off his bike by an umpire – we did, however, get it back together in time for a good practice start at the Plough and making our way to the start under the cheering of a large King’s contingent. As we would be chased by Catz, whom we had narrowly escaped on the first day, we knew we would have to fly off the start and count on Tit Hall bumping them. For a last time that year we waited through the nerve-wrecking countdown, and after a strong start pulling away from Catz, we were spurred on by a massive cheer as we passed the marquee. We held Catz around Grassy Corner well onto the Plough; Tit Hall were catching up on them. But at the Plough Catz started sprinting up behind us, getting their second and third whistles in quick succession, and they caught us just before Ditton Corner. Still, kowing we had rowed our best, we didn’t let this bump bring us down and on the paddle back down the Reach we had a spontaneous sprint alongside Homerton, rather than letting them come by. After pulling in at the side and switching all Stroke and Bow siders, we rowed home between air strokes and bursts of laughter, and after rowing as a crew for the last time, we left the boat with smiles on our faces.
M2 – Bumped Clare Hall
An air of finality hung over the last day of bumps, for this would be the last time this group of boys rowed together. But there were few tears, for though Alexander may have wept when there were no more worlds left to conquer, King’s M2 still had one feat left to conquer and that was the elusive first bump. Assembled in the new boathouse, tensions were high. Arm and leg hair sticking out of every orifice in anticipation. Determined, stony faces awaiting destiny and glory on the greatest stage of all.
Marshalling in the place ahead were Clare Hall’s M1. O unhappy Clare Hall! Like the tragic heroes of a Shakespeare play, their fate was sealed from the off. Their hope and prayer was for a typically choppy bumps start that would allow the Hughes Hall screamers to our rear to charge us down before we could bump them, giving them their first bit of clear water in which to race. Yet we were deeply conscious of the parallel desires of the crews on either side of us and William ‘the Admiral’ Miller stirred us with a speech to rival Nelson’s before Trafalgar. Indeed, the stakes were just as high. Nelson broke Napoleon’s strength at sea. King’s broke Clare Hall on Cam.
The crowds amassed at First Post Corner, hungry for the kill like vultures circling a prowling lion. Bumps might not be fatal, but the crowds expected blood as much as those who two thousand years ago passed beneath the Arch that read ‘Mori te Salutant.’ This M2 was a confident crew that knew how to row, had learned from defeat, gained confidence in rowing over and had improved into a truly special group of rowers. We needed something to show for our efforts and the fates gave it to us that day.
Without the gun shenanigans of the day before, M2 launched into what was probably the week’s most aggressive start, flying around our finishes in a dazzling display of synchronised masochism. And then followed the whistles, closer and closer in to our targeted kill. I’ve heard it said that the chase that day was like watching a helpless gazelle be closed down by a ruthless cheetah. However, into First Post Corner, the whistles oddly cease. Shock descended over the boatmen. ‘Have they eluded us, and found some hitherto unseen speed about which we never knew about?’ asked the rowers of M2 under their breaths. Guts and heads started to drop. Was the bumps dream over?
Thankfully, a ‘hold it up’ call from Charles Connor revealed our true fate. Indeed, we had bumped them, and not only that, we’d done right in front of the King’s marquee. The whistles had only ceased because we should well have bumped them earlier. But no matter. Joy was the order of the day. King’s M2 had achieved its goal for the week, and held position in a division where other boats had ruined their chance at blades. The procession back to the Boathouse was joyful and the foliage was aplenty.
Thus ends the tale of King’s M2 in 2016. They will live to fight another day in the 4th division of Bumps. God willing, they will push on and see loftier pastures anew. This was a boat that deserved to be remembered, and will be by all those who took part. Thanks go to coaches Chris Braithwaite, Neil Paul, Will Miller, Olivier Sluijters and especially to our super-sub, Kittiphat Chanthong, who, in spite of ineligibility for the Bumps races, was a true member of M2 throughout.
W2 – Bumped Fitzwilliam
Having been denied blades on Friday, our spirits were not dampened by the lack of a flag-holding bank party as we rowed down to marshall. John’s appearance just as we rowed out from the boat house concluded a week of his adamant ‘I won’t be able to come to watch at all/tomorrow/again’ cries from the bank, with his inability to resist W2 outings due to the importance of work mirroring the pre-exam attitudes of the large majority of KCBC. This further supported our perhaps complacent overconfidence in our ability to bump Fitzwilliam – a boat which, having started in the third division, had already been bumped three times. Whilst their lycra (a nice pinky-reddish colour) may have impressed members of our boat, our practice start (which W2 has come to pride) was arguably more impressive, and we were confident that we looked good on the water. We also knew we were significantly faster than Fitzwilliam based on the performance the day before. Clearly this belief was founded on strong principles, as whilst we had a marginally harder race than Churchill (for whom Anglia Ruskin’s forfeit due to not turning up meant that they got a technical automatic bump), we still managed to bump Fitz just before first post – pulling into the bank directly opposite the King’s marquee in typical W2 stylistic flair. As Fitzwilliam rowed past us on their way back to the boathouse, our ‘three cheers for fitzwilliam’ (perhaps excessive) was met by simply a ‘why couldn’t you bump Churchill?!’, perhaps summing up the frustration felt by our boat as well as theirs. Post-bumps celebrations were had (after a much needed washing of the boat) in the beautiful sunshine of a pub garden, in which certain people’s attempts to even out their lycra/sports bra tan lines resulted in a nice ‘lobster’ effect – which were to be proudly displayed at the brilliant bumps dinner organised by the boat club. Overall, 2016’s may bumps proved King’s W2 to be possibly the fastest boat in the division. It was an incredible experience which proved the dedication and talent of the rowers, the (inexperienced, but at the risk of inflating his already large ego, talented) cox, and our coach, and a performance which we hope to repeat in the year ahead!